TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — There is a chance people could soon have to pay to ride the popular streetcars in downtown Tampa.

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) is running out of money to provide fare-free service.

There are 1.7 million people expected to ride on the free historic streetcars this year, but those passengers might have to start paying up.

“The streetcar system was actually the backbone of transportation in Tampa 100 years ago in the late 1890s all the way to 1946,” HART Planning and Scheduling Director Justin Willits said.

Now, the 2.7-mile streetcar line connects downtown Tampa, the Channel District, and Ybor City providing passengers a fare-free ride for the last three years.

It has been funded by HART partly through a Florida Department of Transportation grant– a grant that is coming to an end.

“Right now, we’re trying to figure out how to keep the service free and frequent but we’ve got to find operating dollars to do that.”

Willits said they will find out in the coming weeks if FDOT has more grant funding available to keep the streetcar service free. Another possibility is getting money from the city.

If not, they will run into several operational problems– especially after big events like lightning games or other Amalie Arena affairs.

“That takes a long time just to get 30-40 people onboard,” Willits said. “If each of them were paying that would triple or more the amount of time that it takes them to get on and it really slows down the operation.”

HART is contemplating going back to a fare charge of two dollars and fifty cents one way or $5 all day if they can’t find the funds.

Riders could have to start paying as soon as October.