In developing a new historic transportation system for San Diego or anywhere, one will need to be able to reasonably project the potential challenges, outcomes, and benefits. Feasibility studies, environmental studies, examinations of local transit patterns and traffic flow, funding logistics, and a myriad of other issues must all be taken into consideration. However, from the early outset, we think it is particularly important to have a model for development that can be used to guide and shape the direction and goals of a project. While no two transportation systems can ever truly be the same given the complexities and uniqueness of travel patterns in American cities, much can be learned from the successes and shortcomings of historic streetcar lines that have preceded us.
One of the most rousing success stories of historic streetcars in modern America would have to be the TECO Line Streetcar System in Tampa, Florida. Opened on Oct. 19th, 2002, this historic streetcar line consists of one restored original “Birney” car from the Tampa streetcar system that started in 1892 and ran through 1946, as well as nine Birney streetcar replica’s and one open-air “Breezer” model replica that were built by the Gomaco Trolley Co. in Ida Grove, Iowa . Connecting downtown Tampa with the robust cruise industry at Garrison Seaport, the Tampa Convention Center, the Ice Palace Arena, the Florida Aquarium, the historic Ybor City district, and a number of outlying parking structures, this historic line shattered ridership projections in its first year, carrying 420,000 passengers (20% over original predictions) . The initial line ran about 2.4 miles through downtown, Channelside, and Ybor neighborhoods, but with annual ridership remaining at a consistent 400,000 plus, Tampa decided to expand the system to 1/3 of a mile to further parking areas  . Since the conception of this historic streetcar line, the Tampa Downtown Partnership has identified over $800 million in private development within two blocks of the TECO streetcar line  . As a result, other areas of Tampa are currently lobbying the city to expand the system into their neighborhoods so they can enjoy similar benefits .
All that is impressive in itself, but we also like that the Tampa system was spearheaded and is now operated by an independent non-profit, Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc., in conjunction with the city of Tampa and the local transit authority, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) . They also funded this historic in unique and creative ways, combining special assessments of streetcar serviced districts, a private endowment fund fueled by naming rights to the stations and cars of the system, advertising, and fares  .
We see the Class 1 project playing out in a surprisingly similar fashion. Once we move a little further along, we’ll be announcing our detailed vision for Phase 1 of a historic Class 1 streetcar system in San Diego. Are you as excited as we are?