Tampa Bay Times

Downtowner departing Tampa as funds dry up

- BY NATALIE WEBER Times Staff Writer

Downtowner will depart Tampa due to lack of funding at the end of April, according to an email the company sent consumers.

The Tampa Downtown Partnershi­p launched the free ride service in 2016 and it was funded mainly by the City of Tampa and the Florida Department of Transporta­tion. In early 2020, various government agencies debated how to continue the program and its future was uncertain. On April 30, the program’s funding will run out.

“The entire Downtowner team will miss serving this great community,” the company said in its email. “We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for riding with us over the years.”

In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, the Tampa Downtown Partnershi­p said it hoped the city would find a replacemen­t for the rideshare.

“We have greatly appreciate­d the partnershi­p with the City of Tampa, HART, and Florida Department of Transporta­tion to deliver the Downtowner,” the statement said. “Unfortunat­ely, funding for the program has run out. Service will discontinu­e on April 30. It is our hope that either the City or HART will eventually find a replacemen­t service for Tampa’s downtown.”

The city of Tampa, Downtowner and HART could not be immediatel­y reached for comment.

The popular ride service is similar to Uber or Lyft except free and limited to the downtown Tampa area. It launched with electric carts and quickly gained popularity, with riders experienci­ng waits of 45 minutes or longer at peak times.

Organizers tweaked the offerings, replaced the carts with electric Teslas then Chevy Bolts, and eventually brought the average wait time down to 15 minutes. The email to customers said it has provided nearly 700,000 rides since the 2016 launch.

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