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Free ride: 60k hop on Sun Link in first days of streetcar ops
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Free ride: 60k hop on Sun Link in first days of streetcar ops

  • Streetcars rolling through Downtown were packed Saturday night.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comStreetcars rolling through Downtown were packed Saturday night.
  • Streetcars rolling through Downtown were packed Saturday night.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comStreetcars rolling through Downtown were packed Saturday night.
  • Dexter Hall was at the controls of the first streetcar on the line as service opened.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comDexter Hall was at the controls of the first streetcar on the line as service opened.

The offer of a free ride was taken up by about 60,000 Tucsonans over the first three days of streetcar operations, as the opening of the Sun Link streetcar led to long lines of potential passengers waiting to board.

All eight of Tucson's streetcar fleet were pressed into service on Friday, with no-cost rides on the system offered through Sunday night.

The streetcar had "great first day of service," said Shellie Ginn, Sun Link's project manager.

"We were able to provide a comfortable, cool ride for thousands of people and the streetcars were consistently overflowing with passengers," she said in a news release.

Although cars were scheduled to run every 10 minutes Friday, the crowds pressing to board slowed service for at least the first 90 minutes after opening, as times between streetcars crept up to 20 minutes or more.

City and Regional Transportation Authority officials estimated 17,000 riders took a trip on Sun Link on Friday, on a day when temperatures peaked at 101 degrees.

Saturday, things were even busier. About 25,000 riders jumped aboard. Sunday, about 18,000 rode the line, said city spokesman Mike Graham.

"This weekend's ridership numbers are a clear indication of the interest and support the Tucson community shares" for the streetcar, said Ginn in a news release Monday.

Packed cars rolled throughout the evening Saturday, with ridership only tapering off after midnight. Just before 2 a.m., one of the last runs of the night carried about a dozen passengers.

Regular revenue service begins Monday, with rides costing $1.50 one-way, or $4 for a day pass. Normally, six of the cars will run on the line, with two held back as reserves.

The four-mile project cost $197 million, with much of the funding coming from a federal stimulus grant. The streetcar was part of the 2006 Regional Transportation Authority package approved by voters.

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