Monday, January 31, 2011

A Truly Grand Opening

HART CEO David Armijo, US Rep. Kathy Castor,
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff and Mayor Pam Iorio
unveil the newest section of the streetcar system.
When Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio took the microphone this morning to help officially open the new section of the TECO Line Streetcar System, she couldn't help but find the humor in her surroundings.

"The city was taken over by pirates on Saturday, and here we all are, back to work on Monday morning," she said. "Only in Tampa."

We're unique, all right, in lots of ways. And with today's grand opening, a Tampa original has taken the next step into the future.

The TECO Line Streetcar System, the modern version of the historic streetcars that were the only mode of public transportation many years ago, now stretches from Ybor City, through the Channel District, and into downtown. That 1/3-mile extension from the Tampa Convention Center to the doorstep of the central business district provides a vital link between the city's hotspots, and makes the streetcar system an even more attractive amenity for the city.

"When the people who plan events like the Republican National Convention, the Super Bowl, the Frozen Four and all the rest come to visit, they look at transportation," Mayor Iorio said. "It matters - big time."

Mayor Iorio stressed the important role transit plays in
our community.
And it isn't just drawing big events to Tampa Bay that makes the streetcar so important. As the speakers said at Monday's ceremony, public transportation in Hillsborough County is an economic engine that will help drive us into better days.

Administrator Peter Rogoff from the Federal Transit Administration, who gave the keynote address at the grand opening ceremony, said that transit is a good-news story in this area.

"Tampa and Hillsborough County are unique because you're still growing," Mr. Rogoff said. "Even during the economic downturn, transit ridership in Hillsborough County is still growing. It's an example of how we can work together to meet the needs of people who are going to work, school and entertainment in this area."

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor also noted the economic boost the project has provided.

"Every morning as I was taking my husband to work on Harbour Island," Congresswoman Castor commented, "I would see the men and women working hard to build this extension."

And the investement will continue to bear fruit, said FTA Administrator Rogoff, in the form of new jobs along the line.

All aboard!
"There's been an estimated $1.2 billion in investment along the line to date, which means jobs not only on the line itself, but in every hotel, restaurant and business along the way."

Businesses that now have a whole new group of customers coming their way: all the hungry folks who were partying like pirates on Saturday, and are now hard at work in those gleaming downtown towers on Monday.

Only in Tampa.

UPDATE 2/1: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood gives a shout out to the TECO Line Streetcar System, and Tampa transit in general, on his blog.

UPDATE #2: And check out all the photos on our Facebook page here.