Streetcar fares could drop to as low as 50 cents in a concept HART planners will study before next year's budget is finalized.
Worried that Teco Line Streetcar fares might be too high to sustain ridership, planners for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority will look into the impact on the budget and ridership of different fares, from 50 cents up to the current $2.50.
The nonprofit streetcar HART operates carried 25,123 passengers in April compared with 41,116 in April 2003. HART planners have projected a loss of 80,000 streetcar passengers in fiscal 2013 to a total of 330,000.
Possible reasons ridership is in decline include streetcar fares 75 cents higher than the current bus fare, fewer downtown special events because of the recession and less frequent service necessitated by budget cuts.
In addition, the streetcar route between downtown and Ybor City is targeted more to visitors than residents, an issue exacerbated by the lack of connectivity with other downtown transit modes.
"We are pricing ourselves out of the market," HART chief executive Philip Hale said, without recommending a price. Streetcars fares in Memphis, Tenn., and Little Rock, Ark., for example, are $1.
Hale said he talks with tourists checking out the fare boards at streetcar stations who tell him they decided not ride because of the cost.
Rick Hamilton, director of the Tampa Convention Center and a streetcar board member, concurred, saying conference visitors don't want to ride short distances for $2.75.
The fiscal 2013 budget will be approved in September, following public hearings.