Audit Report 11-09, Tampa Historic Streetcar, Released

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The Internal Audit Department released their audit report of the Tampa Historic Streetcar.

Streetcars in Tampa date back to the 1890s when it was the only form of mass transit, and for many, the only form of motorized transit. Lines at one time extended from Ballast Point to Sulphur Springs and Ybor City. Ridership peaked in 1926 with over 20 million passengers. The streetcar system discontinued operating in 1946, largely replaced by automobiles and buses.

Interest in streetcar travel revived in the 1980s and 1990s. A nonprofit organization, Tampa Historic Streetcar (THS), was established in 1998 to oversee Streetcar operations. THS contracted with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) to operate the Streetcar. All Streetcar operators, mechanics, and other personnel associated with the Streetcar are HART employees. The line currently extends from Centennial Park in Ybor City to Whiting and Franklin Streets in downtown Tampa. Funding for construction was provided through state and federal transportation grants. In addition to fares, operating revenue is supplemented with:

• A special assessment on properties near the streetcar line.
• A $5 million endowment, which was established when the Harbour Island “people mover” (monorail), was discontinued.
• City (Tax Increment Financing), State, Federal, and Tampa Port Authority grants/contributions.
• Advertising.
• Streetcar leasing (private charters).

The streetcar has consistently incurred operating losses and drawn down the endowment fund to cover shortfalls. Due to withdrawals and investment losses, the endowment is nearly depleted. Under the terms of the 1998 agreement between the City of Tampa and HART, the City is responsible for "any shortfall in the budget for basic services."