It is not quite two months since the Tucson streetcar Sun Link started operation and inspired more city travel in Tucson. The streetcars, filled with passengers, initially met projected expectations of around 3,600 passengers a day. However, the ridership expanded rapidly and almost doubled as classes at the University of Arizona started.
Sun Link Project Manager Shellie Ginn explains, however that it was not just students using the new transportation system:
“Well, what really is exciting to me is that it’s not just one type of rider…It’s exciting to see every generation’s out there – families, young people…university students, working class, people who are attending events, social events, cultural events, athletic events.”
Local businesses are also noticing more foot traffic, more activity, and more business. Reports from Kim Bower, general manager of the restaurant Proper, located on Congress Avenue, says that business has “significantly increased compared to this time last year – something she said she attributes to the streetcar.”
They notice new people who would not be venturing down to this area of town if it were not for the streetcar — about double from this time last year.
If you don’t believe anecdotal evidence, as we’ve reported in a previous article, “Streetcars Boost Local Economies, Light Rail Gets People Out Of Cars,” streetcars and light rail do indeed get people out of cars and help the economy. “A couple of recent studies have shown that modern US streetcars have been able to stimulate economic development and shape land use development in their vicinity, and that light rail lines actually do get people to switch from their cars to transit.”
Arizona Public Media continues it coverage of the Tucson project with one of the riders, Paula Wilk, a retired Tucson resident who lives in Armory Park. Paula was interviewed while waiting at a stop on Congress Street. She explained its benefits:
“One thing I think it may do in the long-run, particularly if it’s expanded, is help people think more about mass transportation, and finding ways to live and get around that, let them walk and meet each other, and use the smaller stores that are all around and the restaurants. So, I think it’s likely to build a good sense of community, as well as just being a good means of transportation.”
According to Arizona Public Media, the only downside is that some streetcar riders say that the price could be a deterrent even with the extra convenience of the streetcar. “Though the cost of the streetcar is $1.50 each way, kiosks located at the stops only sell day passes for $4 each. Riders can purchase what is called a SunGO card, which are re-loadable passes that are charged $1.50 per ride, at Ronstadt Transit Center downtown or online.”
Related Story: Why Streetcars Are Important (And Cool)
Image: Sun Link