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Updated Aug 1, 2014, 11:42 am Originally posted Jul 29, 2014, 5:11 pm
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.
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Graham noted that widespread reports that the streetcar was projected to have 5,000 daily riders are based on an outdated projection.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.