Hillsborough Area Regional Transit
Unique Public-Private Partnership
STEVEN M. CARROLL
Recognized not only for its nostalgic
charm, but also for being a clean and cost-efficient mode of transportation, the
electric streetcar is today enjoying a revival in Tampa and across the United
States. In 1996, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit formed a partnership with
the city of Tampa and the community to develop the first line of a streetcar
system. This first line, approximately 3.77 km (2.34 mi) in length, is
strategically located to allow for convenient front door service between six
hotels, the convention center, major entertainment venues, multiple cruise
terminals, the Ice Palace, Florida Aquarium, parking facilities, and residences.
The system will enable visitors and citizens alike to move safely and
efficiently from one place to another without the need for an automobile. The
capital cost of the project, approximately $27 million, is derived from six
different funding sources spread over a period of 6 years. Operating revenues,
estimated at $1.2 million annually, will be derived from earnings on an
endowment fund, a special assessment district, fares, and advertising. Unlike a
government agency, Historic Streetcar, Inc.—a nonprofit corporation formed to
manage the operation of the system—will have the ability to invest available
revenues to support future operation of the system. With system construction
under way and two of eight new double-truck Birney replicas delivered, the
private sector has responded with over $800 million in new capital investment
along the line. In addition, the private sector has committed $6.5 million to
date toward the endowment fund.
Enthusiasm for the return of
streetcars to Tampa led to the formation of the Tampa and Ybor City Street
Railway Society in 1984. Through the initial efforts of the Street Railway
Society, the concept was discussed at meetings of civic associations, government
agencies, chambers of commerce, and other places between 1984 and 1995 and
culminated in a report outlining benefits, costs, and alternative routes that
might comprise the system.
At the same time, the first
wave of redevelopment was occurring in three areas, totaling approximately 121
hm2 (300 acres) in the heart of Tampa—the central business district (CBD), the
Channel District, and historic Ybor City. Redevelopment activities included the
construction of eight high-rise office buildings, a new convention center, the
Florida Aquarium, the Ice Palace hockey arena, 1,400 new hotel rooms, and more
than 80 entertainment establishments in Ybor City. This added thousands of short
automobile trips because it is too far to walk between many of the venues during
Tampa’s long, hot, and rainy summers.
In 1996, Hillsborough Area
Regional Transit (HART) formed a partnership with the City of Tampa (COT) and
the community to develop the first line of a streetcar system. The estimated
cost of the first line segment at that time, including the construction of eight
double-truck replica Birney streetcars, was $23 million. Working with the
Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the Florida Department of
Transportation (FDOT), and the FTA, the partnership put together a capital
funding strategy for the project. The strategy relied on a contribution by the
COT of $5 million and proceeds generated by the COT sale of gas tax bonds to
provide short term financing that would be repaid from $18 million in grants to
be received by HART over a period of 5 years.
Efforts by the partnership
then turned to the development of a business plan to operate the system without
subsidy by HART or the COT. The business plan estimated a revenue need of
approximately $1.2 million annually. A number of potential revenue sources were
explored and the partnership decided on a strategy that included revenues from
four sources: (a) the creation of a new tax assessment district that
covers the approximately 21 hm2 (300 acres) comprising the area
served by the streetcar; (b) an endowment fund created from private
sector contributions for naming rights of the system, streetcars, stations, and
so forth; (c) advertising; and (d) fares.
The system is scheduled to
begin operation in the late spring of 2002. Currently, facility construction is
under way, the first two of eight Birney replica streetcars have been delivered,
the nonprofit corporation has been formed and a board of directors appointed,
the endowment fund has approximately $5 million currently earning a return and
an additional $1.5 million in commitments, and the city will put in place the
special assessment district by October of 2000.
The first line segment
extends from Ybor City through the Channelside and Garrison Seaport Districts to
the Tampa Convention Center in the CBD. The system is designed to operate as a
single-track bidirectional line with six passing tracks to permit the meeting
and passing of streetcars traveling in opposite directions. This configuration
provides the flexibility needed to allow up to eight streetcars to operate
simultaneously and serve 12 station stops every 6 to 9 min in either direction.
The ability to meet this schedule with this limited design configuration is
possible because the streetcars have their own separate right of way (ROW) and
thus are not competing with automobile traffic. The vast majority of the ROW,
approximately 70 percent, is owned by public entities. The remaining 30 percent
in private ownership is being donated to the project.
The line will operate with
hard meets, and the location of the meets depends on the number of streetcars
operating at any one time. All of the sidings are directional with spring-runthru
switches to control meets. Power for the system will be 600 volts direct current
(DC) supplied by an overhead power distribution system. Each of the stations
includes a covered waiting area, a specially designed high block and bridge
mechanism to comply with guidelines established by the Americans with
Disabilities Act. In addition, each station site will have appropriate patron
amenities, additional lighting, and security cameras.
Eight replica double-truck
Birney streetcars capable of handling up to 84 passengers are being constructed
for this first line. These will be the first streetcars with four wheelchair
positions, door sensing edging, a voice attenuation digital display system,
interior bicycle racks, insulation and air conditioning, and an inverter to
convert DC power to alternating current to run the air conditioning system. Each
car is equipped with four 122-cm (48-in.) doors and a 102-cm (40-in.) clear
opening to accommodate wheelchairs.
Project Purpose, Goals, and Objectives
The stated purpose of the
project is to provide mobility and connectivity between Ybor City, the
Channelside and Garrison Seaport Districts, and the Convention Center in a way
that will stabilize existing and stimulate new economic development and preserve
the historic character of the area. Goals and objectives to be realized as a
result of project implementation include:
Completion of a community
Provision of transit
Provision of a safe and
Provision of passenger
Enhancement of urban
Provision of an efficient
and dependable operation,
Provision of intermodal
Reduction of roadway
Connection of parking with
Improvement of air
In 1984, a group of
streetcar enthusiasts formed the Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway Society. This
organization was formed with one goal in mind—to promote and seek support for
the resurrection of a streetcar system in Tampa. Society founder Thomas Ruddell
authored a number of papers outlining a concept for a vintage streetcar system
in Tampa to enhance mobility and economic development in the downtown and the
surrounding area. In 1986, the COT commissioned a study to evaluate the
feasibility of the society’s proposal.
The study, entitled A
Feasibility Review of the Proposed Tampa and Ybor City Street Railway, by
Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan, Inc., concluded that the society’s proposal was
feasible and that the system would enhance mobility and economic development as
proposed. In addition to these conclusions, the study recommended the
implementation of the streetcar system. Despite the study’s recommendation, the
proposal lacked political support. However, members of the society remained
undaunted, and their numbers continued to grow as they made presentations at
numerous civic and governmental agency meetings in support of a streetcar
Whereas these early efforts
by the Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway Society provided the impetus needed to
bring the first streetcar line to fruition, it was not until completion of the
Downtown Tampa Transportation Master Plan in 1994 that the project finally took
root. It was this study that recommended preservation of a transit corridor
between the Convention Center and Ybor City, possibly for rail or a streetcar.
Project Planning and Development
On April 19, 1995, the HART
Board passed a resolution authorizing the creation of a streetcar task force to
develop the concept for a streetcar line between Ybor City and the Convention
Center in response to the recommendations of the Downtown Tampa Transportation
Master Plan. Including more than 90 members from both the public and private
sector, the task force was chaired by Michael English, a member of the planning
commission and chairman of the Street Railway Society. The membership was then
subdivided into four committees: steering, alignment, technology, and funding.
Each meeting of the various committees was noticed and the public invited.
Thirty meetings were held over a 6-month time period between the various
committees. In December 1995, the committees’ recommendations were published in
a stand-alone document titled Tampa’s Electric Streetcar. Concepts and
data developed for this document formed the basis for the first grant
application as a Livable Communities Initiative Project sponsored by the FTA.
On June 4, 1996, FTA
Administrator Gordon Linton presented HART with a check for $1.4 million for the
project, one of only two projects funded by the FTA in 1996 in this category. A
staff technical team was formed in February 1996 to refine the concept developed
by the streetcar task force and advance the project to the development phase.
Led by representatives from HART and COT, the team included staff from the
Hillsborough MPO, the FDOT, Hillsborough County, and Tampa Electric Company.
Team goals and objectives included the refinement and selection of a preferred
alignment and development of both capital and operating cost estimates.
Since the Downtown Tampa
Transportation Master Plan had already identified a portion of the route from
the Convention Center to Ybor City, the team focused its efforts on the Ybor
City portion of the route. Approximately 15 alignment alternatives were
developed and evaluated before the final alignment was selected. Once the
alignment was established, the team identified station locations, developed ROW
requirements, typical sections, design criteria, and capital cost estimates. The
estimated cost of the project was $19.5 million (in 1996 dollars).
Using operating data
obtained from other streetcar systems, stringline diagrams were developed to
identify vehicle requirements and determine headways based on the proposed route
and track configuration. This information was then used to develop schedules and
establish an operating budget. The operating budget was estimated at
approximately $1.2 million annually.
Armed with the information
developed by the team, representatives from HART and COT made numerous
presentations to civic organizations, business associations, and government
agencies, for the purpose of seeking support for the project. Project financing
includes both capital and operating funding.
With the support of the
public and the business community, HART and COT staff worked with various
funding agencies to develop grant applications and reprioritize existing and
proposed projects. By May of 1998, $20 million in capital funding had been
identified for the project over a 5-year time frame.
In October 1996, HART
retained a consultant to develop a business plan and an implementation strategy
for the plan. The plan was completed in February 1997. In addition to a funding
strategy, the plan also identified institutional operating strategies and
outlined how each might meet budget requirements. From a revenue perspective,
the plan recommended a strategy that included the creation of a special
assessment district, the creation of an endowment fund derived from private
sector contributions for naming rights of the system, streetcars, stations, and
so forth, and fares and advertising to support operations. To manage the
operation of the system, garner private sector support, and provide for growth
in revenue through investment, the plan recommended the creation of a nonprofit
corporation and a board with members appointed by the HART Board and the mayor
of Tampa. The plan was creative and heavily reliant on private sector support.
This was important since both HART and COT were not agreeable to subsidizing
operations. The plan also included the use of $700,000 in congestion mitigation
and air quality (CMAQ) funds during each of the first 3 years of operation in
lieu of endowment fund earnings. The strategy was to allow the endowment fund
time to grow to a level that it would generate sufficient revenue to operate the
system without government subsidy.
Because of the heavy
reliance on private sector support, FDOT was not comfortable with the proposed
plan. As a result, FDOT wanted to see the plan implemented with positive results
or a commitment by the COT to cover any potential operating deficit before
releasing state funds committed to project construction. In May 1997, HART
retained the services of a consultant to develop marketing materials and a
strategy to both market the endowment fund and solicit support from the business
community, since residential properties would be exempt from the special
In September 1997, with the
support of the mayor, HART and the COT entered into a partnership to implement
the project. The partners agreed that the implementation process should occur in
two phases to provide refinement to the capital and operating cost estimates and
to answer questions needed to solidify support of the project before committing
to construction. The first phase focused on the completion of an environmental
assessment (EA), 30 percent engineering, and initial implementation of the
business plan. The second phase, currently under way, includes:
Final design and
additional funding sources to support construction,
Creation of the
institutional operating structure for the system, and
Establishment of the new
tax assessment district and endowment fund to support operations.
This phase of the project
was initiated in September 1997 and completed in May 1998.
HART retained a consultant
to prepare an EA and by February 1998 had received a finding of no significant
impact from FTA on the project.
30 Percent Engineering
The COT retained a
consultant in November 1997, and 30 percent engineering for the project was
completed by May 1998. On the basis of this effort, a refined cost for the
project was estimated at $23.5 million. As a part of the scope of work, the
consultant also prepared performance specifications for the construction of the
streetcars. HART issued a request for proposals in April 1998.
Efforts in this phase of
implementation centered on the institutional operating structure for the system,
establishment of support for the creation of the new tax assessment, and
initiation of marketing efforts for the endowment fund.
Institutional Operating Structure
HART and the COT agreed to
create a nonprofit corporation to oversee operation of the system and to select
an operator based on competitive bid. They also agreed that HART could bid to
provide the service. The corporation would be led by a board consisting of seven
directors, four of whom were from the COT (and were appointed by the mayor) and
three of whom were appointed by the HART Board of Directors.
Tax Assessment District The first
step in this process was to determine the property values for the three existing
districts to be served by the first streetcar line—the CBD and the Channel
District, both represented by the Tampa Downtown Partnership, and Ybor City,
represented by the Ybor City Development Corporation. Based on property values,
it was determined that a millage rate of .00033 mill would generate
approximately $400,000 needed to fund one-third of the cost of operation after 3
years, at which point the CMAQ funds were to be discontinued. HART and COT
representatives subsequently made presentations to each of the organizations.
The organizations then polled their memberships to determine whether sufficient
support for the additional tax existed. Both organizations indicated that a
majority of their members would support the additional taxation for the
operation of the streetcar system.
Endowment Fund Marketing Endowment
sponsorship was established at three levels:
System sponsorship (a $1
($250,000 per vehicle), and
($75,000 to $125,000 per station, depending on station location).
The marketing campaign, led
by the mayor, was kicked off in October 1997. During this phase of
implementation, a number of verbal commitments were received.
Phase 2 of the project began
in June 1998, following a commitment by the Tampa City Council to fund any
potential operating deficit. Following this commitment, FDOT released the funds
it was withholding for final engineering and construction. Completion of this
phase is scheduled for December 2001 with the startup of operation.
This effort is currently
under way and is scheduled for completion in June 2000. Plans were completed
early for two segments that were adjacent to large entertainment venues
scheduled for opening in August 2000.
Construction on the first
[approximately 457 m (1,500 ft)] of two segments began in November of 1999 and
was completed in March of 2000. Construction on the second segment
[approximately 366 m (1,200 ft)] began in April 2000 and is scheduled for
completion in July 2000. Bids solicitation for the remainder of the line is
scheduled for June 2000. Completion of construction is scheduled for October
HART awarded a contract to
GOMACO Trolley Company of Ida Grove, Iowa, for the construction of eight
double-truck Birney replica streetcars on January 4, 1999. The first car was
delivered on March 1, 2000, and the second on May 17, 2000. All of the cars are
to be completed by March 2001.
On the basis of the 90
percent design revised capital cost estimate of $27 million, HART—working with
FDOT and the MPO—identified additional grant funding of approximately $6
million, for a total of $26 million in capital funding, and COT agreed to
provide the additional $1 million. In December 1999, the city council authorized
the sale of bonds supported by gas tax revenues to fund its original $5 million
commitment, plus the additional $1 million for the project and $10 million to
provide short-term financing during construction. HART will repay COT from
subsequent grants up to $21 million.
Like final design, this
effort is currently under way. Some of the issues identified in Phase 1 have
been resolved and others are still works in progress.
In addition to capital
funding, HART has now identified $2.1 million to support the first 3 years of
operation, at $700,000 per year.
Tax Assessment District: In April
2000, Tampa. The city council issued a notice of intent to create a new
assessment district covering 121 hm2
(300 acres). The city council will pass an ordinance that will impose a special
assessment of .0033 mill on the approximately 121 hm2
(300 acres) comprising the CBD, Channel District, and Ybor City, following a
public hearing in August 2000. The revenue will subsequently be collected by the
tax collector on an annual basis and distributed by the city council to the
Endowment Funding: Approximately $5
million in funding has been received to date. Commitments totaling an additional
$1.5 million have also been received. Tampa Electric Company contributed $1
million in order to be the system sponsor and both SUNTRUST Bank and Time Warner
Communications have sponsored vehicles for $250,000 each. In addition, the Tampa
Port Authority, Carmine’s Restaurant, the Tampa and Ybor City Street Railway
Society, and Household Finance have either bought or made commitments to sponsor
Nonprofit Incorporation: The
Nonprofit Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws for Tampa Historic Streetcar,
Inc., were completed and approved on November 24, 1998, by the state of Florida.
Board members were appointed in October 1999 and the board convened for the
first time in November 1999. The board is currently preparing a request for
proposal to secure an operator for the system.
were first developed in late 1996, to support CMAQ grant applications for the
project. At that time, ridership was projected at 264,000 for the first year of
operation. However, with all the new development in the corridor ($800 million,
including 1,600 upscale high-density units), 750,000 projected cruise ship
passengers passing through Tampa’s port annually, and a 60 percent increase in
convention bookings, this figure is now being revised. Early projections at this
time appear closer to 600,000. Although the nonprofit corporation board has yet
to establish a fare structure, the consensus is for a one-day pass in the range
of $2.00 to $2.50 for adults. There could be single-trip fares as well as
discounted fares for children and seniors. The bus system has a similar fare
structure. Ideally, a fare structure and a fare instrument that could be used
for both would provide residents and visitors alike with optimum flexibility.
Both HART and COT are
committed to bringing the project to fruition, with an opening of the system in
the late spring of 2002. Government agencies that partner to implement a project
of this nature face many challenges; however, the results can be very
satisfying. Just the announcement that the project was going to be implemented
has resulted in heightened development activity all along the corridor. An
estimated $800 million in new development is either currently under way or will
be under way before completion of construction of the line. This includes
approximately 1,600 units of upscale high-density residential development never
contemplated at the time that the project was in the development phase. As most
of these projects were not public during the development of the business plan,
neither the taxable value nor the additional ridership potential was considered
in the analysis.
The realization of what is
happening along the first line has other areas of the city asking when they will
get their lines. The second line, which is slated to be an extension into the
core of the CBD, is already in the planning stages. In fact, HART has already
received first $500,000 from FDOT to support environmental and engineering
efforts for Phase 2, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Without the support of the
community and without its refusal to give up, this project would not have been a
reality. Community support was instrumental in securing the capital funding and,
even more important, in obtaining funding to operate the system. Partnership
with the community on this project will be the key to its success.
AUTHOR CONTACT INFORMATION
Steven M. Carroll
Director, Engineering and
Hillsborough Area Regional
201 East Kennedy Boulevard,
Tampa, FL 33602
Phone: (813) 223-6831
Fax: (813) 223-7976