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City of Tampa to host public meetings regarding potential expansion of streetcar

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The city of Tampa and the Florida Dept. of Transportation are currently conducting a $1.6 million study to explore the idea of expanding the Tampa Historic Streetcar, a system that has previously been considered something of a white elephant since it began operating 15 years ago.

As part of that study, city officials will hold the first of three public meetings next month to get input from the community.

With no prospects for any new sources of funding to pay for transit on the horizon, FDOT announced in 2015 that they would conduct the study in conjunction with the city of Tampa, evaluating the potential extension of the streetcar system from its current western terminus at Whiting and Franklin Street in downtown, up through to the Marion Transit Center and potentially to Tampa Heights.

The first meeting with the public will take place on Tuesday, March 7 at the Tampa Bay History Museum from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. City officials are calling it a “community brainstorm session” where residents will hear about the planning process and then provide input back to the planning team about the purpose of the project and about the needs of the downtown Tampa community for transportation options.

“Our urban core demands more transportation options. The streetcar system is an underutilized asset and we are taking a hard look at its future. A potential extension of the system through downtown could open up connections to new neighborhoods, jobs, and entertainment.,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “The goal of this planning process is to take the first step towards creating another viable transportation choice for Tampa.”

Other meetings are scheduled for April 4 and May 2. The first phase of the study is expected to be completed early this summer.  If the results of the feasibility analysis are positive, a second phase will be initiated to select a preferred alternative and refine plans and strategies.

The $2.7 million Historic Streetcar system opened in 2002 and has struggled ever since to build ridership. Part of the problem some official said is the lack of frequency of routes. Traditionally the service doesn’t begin until 11 a.m. , but there is a pilot project that has been ongoing for months experimenting with beginning service at 7 a.m.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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