TECO Line streetcars extend service hours for convention
TAMPA - The city's bright-yellow TECO Line streetcars will be available for three extra hours daily to accommodate the crowds in town for the Republican National Convention. But with three stations within the security zone shut down during the convention, there is no telling if the rail cars will serve record crowds, said Marcia Mejia, spokeswoman for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, or HART. The station closest to the convention that riders can catch will be The Tampa Tribune station located on Channelside and Beneficial drives. Ridership in the month of August has averaged about 25,000 fares the past couple of years. For big events, though, the streetcar is heavily used.During Super Bowl 2009, for example, January ridership was 77,784. Some 40,000 of those riders took the streetcar during the weekend of the game — the busiest weekend in the streetcar's history. During Gasparilla weekend, the streetcar typically carries 15,000 to 20,000 riders in just one weekend. But heavy security during the RNC makes it difficult to predict ridership during the RNC week. The main terminal, Dick Greco station outside the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel, will be closed because it is in the security zone. So will the Whiting and HSBC stations near the Forum. "We definitely hope people hop on board the streetcar," Mejia said. "But, considering some of the circumstances of the RNC," it's difficult to predict. Beginning Monday the streetcars will run from Channelside Drive to Ybor City from 12 noon to 1 a.m. daily through Friday, Aug. 31. Typically, they only run until 10 p.m. on weeknights. Extra buses will mirror the route of the streetcar earlier in the day when the rail cars aren't running, Mejia said. They will begin running at 4:30 a.m. and will begin a 15-20 minute pickup schedule at 7:30 a.m., continuing until noon when the streetcars are back in service running their 2.7-mile route. "We're going to focus on those late-night hours" but will pick up the slack with the buses earlier in the day, she said. She said HART is prepared to add streetcar runs to the schedule, should demand warrant it. The price for a one-day pass is $5, but HART is recommending the three-day pass for $11, which can be used on both the streetcar and the bus, Mejia said. Those can be purchased at vending machines at the open streetcar stations. The regular schedule will resume at all stations on Saturday, Sept. 1.
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