The Downtowner service will now survive longer with financial backing from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

The Downtowner is an electric shuttle that carries about 500 passengers a day in Tampa and operates through the Channel district, River Arts district, the University of Tampa area and more recently into Tampa Heights. The Tampa Downtown Partnership first launched the service in 2016 with financial commitments from private businesses, CRAs, state and federal funding.

The service has provided roughly 500,000 trips; however, the service is now short of funding.

As of July, funding for the service has run out other than a Florida Department of Transportation grant of $360,000 that must be matched by a local source — such as HART.

“If we don’t make a decision today, it shuts down,” board member Marvin Knight said during a Monday meeting, supporting a move to fund the service. Commissioner Mariella Smith suggested the board reach out to get financial support from various sources before agreeing that HART accept paying the full bill.

HART members agreed to move the item forward during the meeting to execute a memorandum of understanding between HART and the Tampa Downtown Partnership to assist with operating the Tampa Downtown on-demand transportation service through March 31, 2020 in an amount not to exceed $568,000. Although HART will be paying $568,000, it will be reimbursed for a portion and will be able to use the funds for another circulator service in downtown Tampa.

The financial commitment does not include the use of the Tesla vehicles that HART will provide for through 2020.

The presentation given at the meeting showed that the majority of people using the Downtowner service use it to connect with popular downtown destinations. The top five destinations from the Downtowner service are:

  1. Publix
  2. University of Tampa
  3. Tampa Marriott Water Street
  4. Marion Transit Center
  5. Armature Works/ Tampa Heights

The service is helping HART by bringing passengers to the Marion Transit Center, commissioners and members pointed out.

HART may eventually seek a formal solicitation to take over the service on a full-time basis.

Karen Kress, director of transportation and planning for the Tampa Downtown Partnership, previously spoke about HART taking over the service.

“We’re talking with HART about potentially absorbing the service under their umbrella as first-mile, last-mile service for downtown,” she said. “We’re ready to hand off our baby to a new parent; HART seems logical.”

“Tampa’s Downtowner service to continue with funding from Hillsborough transit authority” – Tampa Bay Business Journal (subscription required)