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Streetcar ridership on track: 13k over 4 days

In the first four days of paid ridership, nearly 13,000 Tucsonans jumped aboard the new Sun Link streetcar system. Last weekend, some 60,000 took advantage of three days of free rides on the four-mile route.

Officials said the fares were just less than projections, but cautioned that ridership should be judged over time.

"We reached 3,500 for our first day, which we are very pleased with considering the UA is not even in session yet," said city spokeswoman Lane Mandle on Tuesday.

Monday, 3,500 rode the streetcar. Tuesday saw 3,140 riders on the four-mile route. On Wednesday, 3,130 took a ride, while 3,200 rode on Thursday.

City officials had previously estimated that early ridership would be about 3,600 daily.

That forecast of "average daily ridership," provided to the Federal Transit Administration in 2009, covered the first months of operations, not just the first few days.

"Let's talk next Monday and see where we are," city spokesman Mike Graham said Wednesday. Ridership shouldn't be judged by the first days of paid operation, but over time, he said.

With the University of Arizona about to start the fall semester, and weekend events such as 2nd Saturdays attracting thousands Downtown, ridership may meet the projections even if the occasional weekday is less than the forecast, Graham said.

Graham noted that widespread reports that the streetcar was projected to have 5,000 daily riders are based on an outdated projection. A ridership estimate of 5,700 daily included UA students being assessed a mandatory fee and given semester streetcar passes. That methodology was dismissed by the FTA and the 3,600 figure was included in the city's 2009 winning TIGER grant application. 

An earlier projection, made in 2006, estimated that ridership would be 4,200 daily in 2020.

A breakdown of how many riders purchased one-way fares, daily or monthly passes wasn't yet available, nor was the amount of operating revenue over the first two days, Graham said.

"There is no 'break even' number. We are providing a public service. Fare box recovery doesn't cover 100 percent of the operating costs," Graham said Monday.

Fares are $1.50 for a one-way ticket, with $4 daily passes and $42 monthly passes available. Fares and transfers are good on both the Sun Link streetcar and Sun Tran bus system.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 14 »

Aug 1, 2014, 10:07 pm
-4 +1

Cactus Dave got up on a soapbox and yelled:

Brett can’t help it ...he listens to Tucson’s number one right wing brainless zombie Jon Justice..Do you even live in Tucson Bret?

No, not at all. I am really in Portland, and just confused the streetcar here for the one down there in Tucson. SMH.

Take off the tin-foil hat and start working on your logic, your reason, and your reading comprehension skills. All three of those things can use A LOT of work.

Aug 1, 2014, 7:07 pm
-1 +3

Brett can’t help it ...he listens to Tucson’s number one right wing brainless zombie Jon Justice..Do you even live in Tucson Bret?

Aug 1, 2014, 11:21 am
-5 +2

dsmith25 reported:

Time will tell whether is will be a huge success or a failure, but your responses don’t reflect the current reality.
Additionally, cut back on the “Choo Choo Train” label. The humor in the joke left long ago and you use it too much.

First of all, the only thing Cactus Dave got right in his posts was that I use the choo choo train label to belittle the project, because that is what it deserves.

Second, my responses in this thread not reflecting the current reality…that was what I experienced first-hand. I saw it, I lived it. Are you or Cactus Dave or some others really going to sit there and try to convince me that what I experienced first-hand wasn’t really what happened? I don’t understand…maybe you can tell me what exactly it is that I posted here isn’t true. Are my numbers wrong? Did I misquote someone somewhere? Help me out here.

The only thing I typed here that could reasonably be considered subjective is that this project was a horrible waste of money, once that could have been purchased for FAR less had the city better leaders. And, you’re right, time will tell whether or not that’s correct. But, as to everything else I typed…what exactly didn’t reflect the current reality?

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

Streetcars rolling through Downtown were packed Saturday night.