TECO Line Streetcar

December 21, 2010 80 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a look at the transit oriented development that has been stimulated along Florida's only operating streetcar line: The TECO Line Streetcar.

The TECO Line Streetcar System is a streetcar line in Tampa, Florida, run by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transportation Authority and managed by Tampa Historic Streetcar, Inc.. It connects Downtown and Channelside to the historic Ybor City district. There is also an "In-Town" trolley (bus) system that connects Downtown, Channelside, and Harbour Island.

The line opened on 19 October 2002. The line is 2.3 mi long with 12 stations. The track is single with several passing sidings. The track mostly follows a reserved right-of-way.


Tampa's first electric streetcars were introduced in 1892. The streetcar reached its peak of popularity in the 1920s. In 1926, almost 24 million passengers were carried. The first line shut down in August 4, 1946. The first streetcar system used the Birney Safety Car and, probably, other streetcar types.

Streetcars returned to Tampa in 2002, when the 2.4 mi long heritage line was opened. Its operating costs are financed through a streetcar endowment stemming from settlement money received by the city for the demolition of the Harbour Island People Mover. In its first year of operation, the streetcar carried 420,000, 20% more than projected. In 2005, 434,498 passengers used the streetcar.

A new 0.333 mi extension is under construction (August 2009). It will connect Franklin Street and the Fort Brooke parking garage. The new station at the Fort Brooke parking garage will be the largest station on the line. Under the current station configuration it will be able to accommodate up to three streetcars at one time at the station and a further four streetcars on the siding tracks.

The recently completed 0.333 mile extension to the southern edge of downtown Tampa.

Rolling Stock

The system has eleven operating streetcars: nine modern replica double-truck Birney cars, one restored original Birney car, and one replica open-bench "Breezer". All except the original Birney were built by the Gomaco Trolley Company.

The replica Birney cars have a welded steel body with cosmetic rivets added to make them look older. The cars are wheelchair-accessible, air-conditioned and have automated stop announcements. The seats are made of wood and are reversible for when the car changes direction. The cars are also equipped with on-board ticket dispensers; however, they do not provide change.

The one original Birney was found in Sulpher Springs, a neighborhood in Tampa. When the car was found it was being used as an apartment. After extensive restoration the car is back to its former self and is used for special events.



19 October 2002

Line Length

2.3 miles / 10 stations

Daily Ridership


Hours of Operation

11:00am to 10:00pm - Monday - Thursday
11:00am to 2:00am - Friday
11:00am to 2:00am - Saturday
Noon to 8:00pm - Sunday

Service every 15 minutes, except as follows:
Service every 30 minutes 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Service every 20 minutes from 3:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays.

Streetcar Fares

 $2.50 - One-Way Cash Fare
 $1.25 - Discount Cash Fare (seniors age 65 or over, youths 17 and under)
 $5.00 - 1-Day Unlimited Ride Fare Card (for streetcar, In-Town PCT Trolleys and HART local buses)
 $2.50 - 1-Day Discount Unlimited Ride Fare Card (seniors age 65 or over, youths 17 and under)
$12.50 - Family All Day Ticket (for 2 adults/3 children or 1 adult/4 children)
$11.00 - 3-Day Unlimited Ride Fare Card
$25.00 - 20-Ride Streetcar Assessment Member Special Rate Fare Card
$200.00 - Annual Streetcar Pass

Pre-existing Development

Several attractions the TECO Streetcar Line serves opened well in advance of the streetcar system.  These attractions include the Tampa Convention Center, Tampa Marriott Waterside, St. Petersburg Times Forum and the Florida Aquarium.

Tampa Convention Center

Tampa Marriott Waterside

St. Petersburg Times Forum

Florida Aquarium

Examples of Transit Oriented Development

As a transportation system, this city's $63 million streetcar line is a dud.

Since the project opened in 2002, its financial losses have exceeded expectations. Last year ridership declined 10% to its lowest level yet. And the vintage system spans only 2.4 miles between the edge of downtown and a historic district called Ybor City.

"It goes from no place to nowhere," says Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair, an opponent of the project.

But proponents say Tampa's Teco Line Streetcar System has delivered on another front: helping to spur development. Some $450 million in residential and retail space is complete along the route, most of it in the Channel District, a once-languishing maritime neighborhood. With another $450 million in development underway and $1.1 billion in the planning stages, local officials expect the district to be home to as many as 10,000 residents within the next decade.
Wall Street Journal - A Streetcar Named Aspire: Lines Aim to Revive Cities - 6/20/07

Embassy Suites Tampa

USF Health

Located at the end of the recently completed streetcar extension, will soon become the home of University of South Florida's Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS).CAMLS with an estimated $20 million project cost, will be a 56,000 square foot training and research facility to attract surgeons and health care professionals from around the world. USF Health purchased this parking lot from the City of Tampa for $3.5 million in October 2010.

Tampa Bay History Center

The Tampa Bay History Center is more than a mere repository for historical facts. Functioning as a liaison between the past and the present, the museum honors our community’s character and heritage, stirring the spirit of adventure found in all its visitors with the generations of stories it has to tell.

Step inside the 60,000-square-foot History Center in Tampa’s bustling Channelside District and take a journey through 12,000 years of powerful stories. Follow in the footsteps of the first native inhabitants, Spanish conquistadors, pioneers, sports legends and railroad tycoons. During your journey, you will stroll through a 1920s-era cigar store, row up the Hillsborough River, ride along with a cattle drive and learn about the early exploration of Florida in a dramatic theater presentation.  

Explore exhibits about the places and people who shaped the Tampa Bay area. The waterfront History Center boasts a stunning atrium, interactive and immersive exhibits, theaters, map gallery, research center, event hall, an eclectic Museum Store and the signature Columbia Cafe. The history of the Tampa Bay region comes alive within these walls.

Centro Ybor

Centro Ybor features an exciting mix of retailers, restaurants and entertainment venues situated around a palm-lined plaza that captures the flavor of Tampa 's historic Latin Quarter . Anchored by the Muvico Centro Ybor 20 Theater and featuring such names as GameTime, The Improv and Urban Outfitters, Centro Ybor is a unique and unforgettable experience you'll not find anywhere else. Centered on the historically restored Centro Espanol building, Centro Ybor surrounds you with echoes of the past while allowing you to participate in the excitement of the latest in entertainment and retailing.

The Channel District

The Channel District has undergone an urban transformation since the opening of the TECO Streetcar Line in 2002.  Below are a few examples of infill and adaptive reuse projects that have been developed within walking distance of the streetcar route.

The character of the Channel District, from its beginnings over 75 years ago, was maritime - related; a hardworking, industrial and commercial area, developed to serve the Port of Tampa, and the private shipping interests which gave Tampa its earliest reputation. Until the mid-1970's, when the commercial use of containerized shipping displaced general cargo shipping in Tampa, the District, known over the years as the Estuary, La Draga, and the Ybor Channel area, was home to ships' chandlers, shipping companies, bonded warehouses and thousands of longshoremen loading and unloading general cargo ships.  

The late 1970's and 1980's were a period of decline and transition for the area, lagging behind redevelopment efforts in Downtown and Ybor City. It was a time when property ownership struggled to keep tenants in buildings and property values dropped. During that period, the larger property owners in the area, including the Gulf Florida Terminal Company, the Tampa Port Authority, Anthony Distributors, Inc., the Coca Cola Bottling Company, and Bonanni Ship Supply formed the Ybor Channel Redevelopment Association, which promoted and positioned the area for eventual redevelopment

A key turning point for the area was the decision by the Tampa Port Authority to acquire waterfront property on Garrison and Ybor Channels in the mid - 1980's, and develop an ambitious master plan for the property's redevelopment. The original master plan was never constructed. However, it was revisited in the early 1990's, and has evolved today into Garrison Seaport.
Source: City of Tampa

1000 Channelside features 10 condominium units across the street from a TECO Streetcar Line stop.

The Place @ Channelside is an eight story, 244 mixed use condominium building (above and below).

Victory Lofts contains 89 loft condominiums a block away from the streetcar line.  

The Meridian (middle left) is a six story, 37-unit loft complex adjacent to Victory Lofts (right).

The eight story Slade is home to 280 condominiums.

Infrastructure upgrades for roads, rail (freight & passenger), pedestrians and bicycles have taken place throughout the district.

Grand Central at Kennedy contains 392 condominiums in 12 and 14 story buildings with street level retail space.

The Ventana, two 11 story mixed use towers with 84 condominium units, can be seen from the inside of a streetcar headed to Ybor City.

A former warehouse now used as an office building.

Channelside Bay Plaza

Channelside offers the retailer or restaurateur a unique location with 230,000 square feet of leasing opportunities. We enjoy a unique location on the water where cruise ships embark and disembark. Channelside is host to several restaurants and retailers, such as Hooters, Gallager’s, Stumps Supper Club, Howl at the Moon, Bennigan's, Taverna Opa, Splitsville,Thai Thani, and Tina Tapas as well as a 10 screen 65,000 square foot movie theater.

The restaurants and shops host visitors from the 950,000 cruise ship travelers, 300,000 convention center conventioneers, the 1.9 million attendees of the St. Pete Times Forum, and the 750,000 Florida Aquarium visitors. We are at the center of this activity and easy walking distance to the attractions mentioned as well as nearby hotels.

The TECO Line Streetcar attracts less riders than Jacksonville's Skyway.  Unfortunately, Tampa's streetcar line was constructed to serve tourist as opposed to serving tourist and local residents.  Even with the recently completed extension, the streetcar still fails to connect the heart of downtown with adjacent walkable neighborhoods.  

Tampa's challenge will be to find ways to integrate the TECO streetcar into their mass transit system in a manner that makes it accessible to a larger amount of the urban population.  Nevertheless, despite its shortcomings, the TECO Line Streetcar has been a highly successful stimulator of economic reinvestment and revitalization for the areas of the urban core that it does serve.

Photos by Ennis Davis