TAMPA (WFLA) – Tampa is looking to expand and modernize its streetcar line and funds from the recently approved federal infrastructure program could speed up those plans.

The streetcar first returned to Tampa in 2001 with new cars based on historic models. From the start, the streetcar line failed to meet ridership projections. Money from fees never met the costs of operating and maintaining the line.

Now, the service is offered at no cost to riders and city leaders maintain it adds to the Tampa experience.

Data provided by the city shows 68,412 people rode the line in September 2019, with the number falling off by 13% in September 2021 to 59,416. Despite the decrease, however, the city said 60,000 trips is still roughly three times the monthly ridership prior to the start of fare-free service.

Overall, streetcar ridership from October 2020 to September 2021 was 777,741 trips.

City Transportation Director Vic Bhide insists the streetcar line is a success.

“Our streetcar system has done, by far, better than most streetcar systems nationally,” said Bhide.

Now, the city wants to expand the line by taking it up to Florida Avenue and Tampa Heights as week as modernizing the cars.

“Faster, better access, so flush level boarding, so you can bring your bicycle or wheelchair on there as well and shorter headways, but that comes at a cost,” said Bhide.

In 2020, the city announced the Florida Department of Transportation has committed $67 million to the expansion project, but Bhide says the plan is still being worked out.