Trolley service back on line in Tampa this fall

TAMPA, Fla. -- Electric trolley cars, absent from Tampa since 1946, will return in October, playing a role in transporting visitors and workers between the Channelside area, downtown and Ybor City.

For those unfamiliar with the area, Channelside is the site of dining, entertainment, an aquarium, and the cruise port; downtown has hotels, museums and the convention center, and Ybor City has historic sites related to cigar-making as well as ethnic restaurants.

When the TECO Line Streetcar System inaugurates service Oct. 19, it also will mark the start of a two-day grand opening celebration along the system's 2.3-mile route.

The electric streetcars going into service are replicas of the original Birney Safety Cars used by Tampa's first electric streetcar line in 1892. The eight streetcars reportedly are the first air-conditioned models ever built. They can go up to 30 miles per hour and carry 88 riders each. All are wheelchair-accessible.

An 11-stop ride from downtown Tampa to Ybor City on the TECO Line Streetcar System will take 22 minutes. Streetcars will run daily with extended hours on the weekend.

Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc., a non-profit corporation will manage the streetcar system and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority will operate and maintain it.

Construction of the first phase of Tampa's new streetcar system cost about $32 million and was funded through a partnership between the city, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Florida Department of Transportation.

Intermodal transportation facilities are also being built on both ends of the line. Southern Transportation Plaza ($14.5 million) is under construction across from the Tampa Waterside Marriott. The other site, Ybor Station ($7.3 million), will house a maintenance facility and a streetcar museum.

The restoration of trolley service represents a cooperative effort by Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and an 18-year campaign by the Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway Society.

Pending are the fare structure and group rates. For more information, call the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, (813) 223-6831.

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