Thursday, February 3, 2011


TECO line in Tampa/Ybor City, Florida
Streetcars rolling in Florida???? It had the same effect on me as hearing “elephants roaming in Florida” in my high school geography class. It was a strange but true fact, indeed. I always imagined Florida to be like Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, Sanibel Island or some other seaside resort. After all until my recent trip to the Clearwater/Tampa Bay area, this was the extent of my exposure to the peninsula state. The vision of urban mass transportation in Florida just never entered my imagination. But my friends took me to Ybor one day in January so we could walk around and eat Cuban food. Imagine my delight when I spotted the historic, bright yellow streetcars of Ybor City which dates from 1880. The neighborhood began as a Cuban/Italian community of cigar factories. The architecture is stunning. Lots of 1920’s style bungalow houses surrounding the big warehouses and factories which have been converted to retail shops and restaurants.

A nicely restored bungalow house typical of the region.

We boarded the TECO streetcar at Whiting, the beginning of the line. There was a bit of lag time so I took the opportunity to talk to the conductor. He said the cars were reproductions made in 2000 but the trucks of the cars were authentic. Tampa’s first streetcars reached their peak ridership in the 1920’s so more than likely the trucks that carried us were from that era….or so I imagined.

The line is barely three miles long and really just a right-of-way path but nevertheless we thoroughly enjoyed our ride as did all the passengers. I was wishing that there were a turnaround but these cars remind me of the double-ended Riverview car at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum – at the end of the line everyone stands and flips their seat to face the opposite direction. The conductor moves to the front and the overhead trolley is readjusted for the return trip. Adios! Ding Ding!

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