TAMPA (FOX 13) - Passengers on Tampa's historic streetcar will be able to ride for free beginning later this year, the Florida Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.
Free rides will last for the next three years, beginning late this summer or early fall. It's thanks to a grant from FDOT of more than $2.6 million.
FDOT hopes it will help boost ridership and increase the efficiency of the system.
"Providing greater opportunity for the system to grow with the growing needs of Tampa’s downtown community," said FDOT spokesperson Kris Carson. "It'll be easier to get on, quicker to board, you won't have to buy the fare or deal with the ticketing or pass process."
Although the streetcar route was recently extended to 2.7 miles, ridership has been steadily declining during the last decade, averaging about 285,000 passengers during the last five years.
If that total begins to increase again, FDOT will consider extending the route north to Tampa Heights.
"I think it's a great idea. There are so many types of families in Tampa that will definitely take advantage of this I'm sure. I know we will," said passenger Mariella Carreno, referring to the free rides. "Traffic delays probably are one of the biggest headaches in Tampa and for families and as commuters as well. I'm sure it's going to be really helpful."
The streetcar service will also increase the frequency of service from every 20 minutes to every 15 minutes and provide extended service hours.