A Darwinian struggle for survival.
That’s one city official’s description of Tucson’s plans for how bikes, cars and the streetcar will coexist along the 3.9-mile route in the downtown area when it opens this summer.
Councilman Steve Kozachik rode his bike, with a few others, last Friday down the length of the streetcar route. Along the way, he recorded several examples on University, Fourth Avenue and Congress ripe for accidents.
He found so many pinch points, it was almost as if the route was tailored for hurting bike riders, he said.
“If we don’t start now, we’re going to see people seriously injured, and the streetcar service model we’re selling to the feds won’t have a prayer of reflecting reality,” Kozachik said.
He believes some parts are so dangerous, the city needs to rip out some of the meters downtown and get rid of some parking on Fourth Avenue, while only allowing bicycles, or in some cases motorcycles, to park there.
If the city doesn’t take action, the current setup will not only endanger bicyclists, but also hamper streetcar performance.
That’s because certain points on the route put bikes in the same lane as the streetcar, Kozachik said.
Unlike a car, which can pass a slow-moving bike, the streetcar will have to wait out the cyclist before regaining normal speed, he said.
And that’s going to wreak havoc on the city’s carefully calibrated 10-minute wait times for riders, he said.
He broached the subject at last week’s City Council meeting and told Parkwise, which oversees the city’s on-street parking, garages and parking lots, it would likely have to adjust some revenue projections since the current on-street parking arrangement is unworkable.
Kozachik called on the city’s streetcar honchos to fix the problem now before it’s too late.
However, there are no plans to remove any more parking spaces along the route, said Donovan Durband, Parkwise program administrator.
The city has already eliminated a few dozen spaces along the route and can’t afford to take away any more, especially along Fourth Avenue, he said.
Durband said he’s sensitive to Kozachik’s concerns and will work with city staff to address problems as they arise, but the idea is to make adjustments so all forms of transportation can coexist.
“The intent of the streetcar was to not eliminate other modes of transportation. The idea was to make it all work together,” he said.
Parkwise is working with the city transportation department, the Tucson Police Department and other agencies to make sure that happens, he said.
The agencies are revising some parking codes to address motorists who park too close to the tracks and block the streetcar, while changing towing procedures that would allow those vehicles to be quickly removed.
The city plans to install signs warning people to stay within the designated lines that mark a parking spot, Durband said.
He referred to the new adjustments as a combination of “signage, education and enforcement.”
There’s also the issue of how limited parking would affect merchants and shoppers on Fourth Avenue.
Merchants should support a potential move to get rid of parking spots because “you can fit more customers parking with bikes than you can a car,” Kozachik said.
But Durband said removing more spots would likely be problematic for those businesses, especially since parking in the area is already limited.
“To build parking is expensive,” he said. “You don’t want to give up parking that doesn’t cost anything.”
Down the road
The construction of a major drainage facility will close a number of streets in the area near the Fourth Avenue shopping district for the next several months.
The Pima County Regional Flood Control District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin construction of the facility Monday along East Eighth Street and between North Third and Fourth avenues.
Crews will also work on Third Avenue, from Eighth Street to the Tucson High Magnet School stadium.
As a result, the following streets will be closed or restricted until November:
- Intersection of Eighth Street and Third Avenue.
- Eighth Street, from Fourth Avenue to just east of Third Avenue.
- Third Avenue, just north and south of its intersection with Eighth Street.
- Bean Avenue will be converted temporarily to southbound one-way travel between Eighth and Seventh streets.
- Hoff Avenue will be converted temporarily to two-way travel between Seventh and Eighth streets.
- In addition, crews will close the intersection of Hoff Avenue and Eighth Street until June.
Most sidewalk access will be maintained around the work area.
However, there may be brief closures to accommodate utility connection and relocation work.
Public parking will not be permitted in the construction work area until November.
Crews will lower a 48-inch waterline along Third Avenue and build a 12-by-8-foot cast-in-place drainage facility along Eighth Street and Third Avenue.
When the project is complete, rain flow from High School Wash will get diverted to the new facility.
The project is expected to improve flooding problems in the area and may allow properties to be removed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floodplain.