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TECO Moves Beyond Tourism: Could it Make Rush-Hour Easier to Manage?


Thanks to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority’s newly launched six-month pilot program, the TECO streetcar will now run from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The six-month pilot program aims to see if the streetcar, previously considered a tourist attraction, could become a viable commuting option for residents.

Will the new TECO Line streetcar schedule have an impact on [Tampa Bay’s rush-hour traffic by attracting a new group of public transit commuters?

Road Congestion Between Ybor City and Downtown Tampa

The 300,000-passengers-a-year TECO streetcarbor City and Downtown Tampa, an area where road congestion is rampant due to the high volume of commuters.

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In fact, Tampa recently ranked 15th nationally for the worst traffic congestion, according a report by GPS manufacturer TomTom International, and this congestion spikes during morning and evening commuting hours.

Potential Impacts on Rush-Hour Traffic

The Tampa metro area also ranks for some of the highest rates of fatal car accidents in the nation, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By channeling even some of the rush hour traffic into public transit alternatives like the TECO streetcar, reduced road congestion could lead to fewer instances of car accident injuries and fatalities.

"This is a golden opportunity to make the TECO Line Streetcar System service more convenient than ever before," HART CEO Katharine Eagan said in a statement. "Plus, it will provide a new way for residents and workers in Downtown Tampa, the Channel District, and historic Ybor City to take transit without the hassle of driving."

However, this requires a sizeable number of residents to use the TECO streetcar, and as of its first day, there were very few passengers, according to news reports. HART employees believe this will all change once news of the extended hours spreads. But along with word of mouth, what will incentivize Tampa residents to make the switch from roads to rails?

What HART Wants Out of the Program

In order to convince residents who are used to driving that a streetcar is a viable commuting option, there must be a number of incentives that make the streetcar a more pleasant and convenient way to get to work.

Potentially Shorter Commute

Although the commute by streetcar — approximately 20 minutes — would be slightly longer than the drive into work assuming no traffic, says the Tampa Bay Times, factoring in rush-hour congestion makes the TECO streetcar a potentially quicker way to get between Ybor City and Downtown Tampa. However, commuters would have to worry about aligning their morning with the streetcar’s schedule, which runs every 30 minutes from 7 a.m. to noon, and every 20 minutes from noon to 10 p.m.

Avoiding Driving and Parking

Because commuters are not driving to work, they avoid the potential for car accidents and injuries. Residents can save their driving for when the road is less congested and treacherous. And on top of avoiding traffic and dangerous driving conditions, commuters will no longer have to take the time to find parking in the downtown area when traveling to work.

“Commuters can let someone else do the driving and don't have to deal with traffic or parking,” explained HART spokeswoman Sandra Morrison to Tampa Bay Times. They can simply get out of any of the TECO streetcar’s 11 stops and walk to their destination.

More Affordable than Driving

Visits to the gas station add up over the span of the month. The TECO streetcar’s fare is set to $2.50 per ride, or $5 roundtrip. However, residents can purchase 20 rides for just $25 at select locations, according to the TECO streetcar's Twitter account. This makes the streetcar an even greater bargain compared to the costs of driving to work.

But Will This Program Even Work?

At the end of the six-month pilot program, HART and the city of Tampa will decide if there are enough riders to warrant the extended hours and streetcar volume during commuter hours. If the TECO streetcar’s new schedule is here to stay, Tampa Bay might just benefit from reduced road congestion and fewer traffic accidents. If it doesn't attract more riders, the streetcar will return to its more novel service when tourists use it the most, reports say.

Until streetcar ridership picks up, Tampa] residents must still deal with rush-hour traffic and the accidents that inevitably result from it. If you’ve recently been hurt in a car accident, our attorneys may be able to help. Read more to learn how our car accident attorneys will fight for compensation that you deserve for your pain and suffering. If you are ready to pursue a claim, please fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.