After seven months in operation, Tucson’s Sun Link streetcar appears to have exceeded ridership estimates.
Streetcar ridership has been averaging more than 4,000 people each weekday, the Tucson Department of Transportation’s Jeremy Papuga told the Pima Association of Government Management Committee last week.
The city had estimated 3,600 weekday riders.
On weekends with large downtown area events, Papuga said the streetcar averages 8,000 daily riders.
Cost recovery is about on target, too, Papuga said.
Currently, fare boxes are on course to bring in $1.2 million per year. With annual operations costs at about $4.2 million, that’s in line with cost recovery ratios for most transit systems.
Papuga said a new mobile ticketing app also is in the works.
In other words, things look like they’re coming together for the streetcar.
But while the ridership numbers look good early on, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik said we shouldn’t get too excited.
“I’m glad that we’re not at the bottom of the pool looking up, but we aren’t exactly walking on water yet, either,” he said.
He also noted the problems the city faced with streetcar manufacturer Oregon Iron Works in actually getting the cars on the tracks.
“They weren’t on time or under budget,” Kozachik said, adding that the company still owes the city damages for not meeting the construction deadlines.
Kozachik also said Oregon Iron Works isn’t planning to stay in the streetcar business, which could make getting parts for the machines a problem in the future.
“What’s that going to do to our ability to get parts?” he said.
He also thinks much of the initial ridership has been driven by the novelty of seeing a train gliding through downtown- and university-area streets.
“The question is: Are they going to change people’s transportation habits?” Kozachik said.
Perhaps that won’t be clear for another two or three years, when we have much more ridership, cost recovery, and maintenance and operations data to reflect on.
For now, at least, the streetcar experiment appears to be on track, so to speak, despite the production delays and other early setbacks.
Down the road
Beginning Monday and running through Friday, April 3, Pima County Department of Transportation workers will be paving three roadways.
Work on Freeman Road from Broadway to Speedway will take place March 16 and 17 between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Crews will return the week of April 9 to complete the work.
Also, workers will be on Soldiers Trail from Tanque Verde to Fort Lowell roads from March 18 through March 20, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Work will continue the week of April 9.
Another project on Houghton Road from Catalina Highway to Fort Lowell will start March 23, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Like the other projects, crews will come back in April to complete work.
Minor delays may occur.