Tucson Streetcar’s Route to Success

There is quite a bit of buzz – and some strong opinions – about Tucson’s new Sun Link streetcar. Lots of criticism and jokes, lots of turf and business battles, and lots of time actually bringing the Streetcar from dream to reality.  So what do I think? Bring it on!

streetcar-tucsonHas the streetcar already brought millions of dollars to downtown development?  Yes.  Has the building of the streetcar encouraged private investors to build student housing for University of Arizona students along its route? Are downtown’s cool, hip and delicious restaurants packed almost every night? “And were these streetcars made in AMERICA even though other streetcar manufacturing has primarily taken place in Europe?  Yes, they were and they have added hundreds of manufacturing jobs to the U.S. economy and the result is a sleek, modern, high-quality vehicle made in the U.S.A. 

How about we let facts get in the way and review this Environmental Benefits Fact Sheet?  I am so serious. Read about how this 3.9-mile route with 18 stops will help us with air quality – the very air we breathe every day.  Let’s be proud of it.  It was only a few years ago when the streetcar project was approved as part of the Regional Transportation Authority’s 20-year plan. As the streetcar project moves closer to passenger service, my desire to get on board is growing stronger. Let’s plan to ride it.  Let’s stop wondering if it is going to be a good thing for our city and help make it a GREAT thing for our city.

More information about the streetcar is available at www.tucsonstreetcar.com or www.RTAmobility.com.

Sun Link Streetcar Environmental Benefits Fact Sheet

Sun Link Modern Streetcar Basics

  • 3.9-mile route with 18 stops
  • Approximately 140 passengers per vehicle
  • System consists of 8 Made in America, electric-powered streetcar vehicles
  • Service frequency will be every 10 minutes peak period, 20 minutes off-peak
  • Estimated capital cost:  $196 million

Environmental Benefits

Energy Consumption

  • Vehicles that run on rail require only 5 percent of the energy as the same vehicle on rubber tires

Land Use

  • Streetcar routes promote in-fill residential development projects that can reduce urban sprawl
  • Streetcar projects also stimulate transit oriented developments that result in high-quality, compact, mixed-use pedestrian-oriented developments around transit stations that increases transit ridership and encourage use of other alternatives modes such as cycling and walking
  • Downtown Tucson is already showing signs of changing land uses since the streetcar construction with the addition of more than 50 new restaurants, bars and cafes, some 1,500 new student housing apartments, 58 new retail businesses and a mixed-use housing development.

Air Quality

  • Streetcars in other cities have attracted a high number of choice riders that do not choose to ride the bus system, but do choose to ride streetcar.  Each person who chooses to use streetcar over their personal vehicle will save an estimated 4 pounds of carbon dioxide per trip.
  • Using the modern streetcar instead of a diesel bus to provide the same level of service along the streetcar route (assuming one per bus per streetcar) reduces CO2 emissions by 3,420 lbs. per day/ 1.2 million a year.