Six months of streetcar in Tucson

Six months of streetcar in Tucson

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - College students, winter weather and service changes have all affected the first six months of operation for the SunLink Streetcar in Tucson.

Revenue exceeded $160,000 for the first two full months each, according to city records. By October, the revenue dropped by nearly half and has continued to drop to roughly $42,000 for the month of December.

The large start to sales and the subsequent decline is attributed to passes, according to a city spokesperson. Riders who bought passes for the month or for the fall semester at the University of Arizona did not need to spend more money in the second half of the six-month time span.

December also had the lowest number for total ridership, according to city records. The 81,350 trips is the only monthly amount that didn't reach six figures. Holidays, students on break and bad weather are partly to blame for the lower number, according to the city. Large turnouts for the Fourth Ave Street Fair and New Year's Eve didn't happen because of a rain storm and the first snow of the season respectively.

Kate Randall, co-owner of Antigone Books, said she didn't know what to expect from the streetcar, but she's enjoying the new option for public transit through Fourth Avenue. She can't say for sure that all of the extra foot traffic comes from the streetcar, but she said some customers have told her they're stopping in after a ride.

"It passes all the time and I'm often looking to see, 'are people on there? Are people on there?'," she said. "And they are and that's so good to see."

Ian Johnson, with Living Streets Alliance, said he's seen a decrease in bicycle accidents along the streetcar route. He's tracked crashes since the tracks first appeared through a self-reporting system on the LSA website. The survey registered 4-5 accidents a month during the year before the streetcar even started operations. Since the end of July, there have been 17.

Johnson said he credits the city for its effort to educate the public about the streetcar and its nearly 4 miles of track. In fact he believes the presence of the streetcar has slowed drivers down in congested areas, which helps protect the cyclists through more reaction time.

Still, Johnson said there's room for improvement when it comes to space for cyclists along the streetcar route.

"There are a lot of places where there's still so little room that I think we're never going to see bike accidents go away until we really look hard at what we're using this space for," he said.

Two of the five car accidents involving the streetcar are considered preventable by the city. That means they were streetcar operator error.

Since the streetcar started operation, traffic flow and timing for green lights have changed at the intersection of Congress, Toole and Fourth Avenue. Even the streetcar's schedule has shifted since opening weekend to accommodate for the demand.

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