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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Tucson City Council to review budget increase proposal for modern streetcar

Management for the Tucson Modern Streetcar and the city of Tucson will be working on changes to the runtime schedule for the SunLink streetcar and a proposed increase in the budget for the project over the next few weeks.

The streetcar is now under the management of RATP Dev McDonald Transit, or RDMT, which was awarded the contract in December and officially began operations in January. Originally, the project was predicted to cost $197 million; now, however, that number is expected to rise, according to project manager Shellie Ginn.

“The very preliminary costs that were submitted earlier last year have changed, and it looks like they are going to be more than we had originally anticipated,” Ginn said. “But we don’t have final numbers yet.”

RDMT Tucson general manager Steve Bethel explained that the mayor and Tucson City Council are reviewing the budget this week, and they will need to take some time to mull over the newly proposed budget.

The city may also be making adjustments to the operating hours schedule, Bethel added. He said surveys may be distributed to the public to gather feedback and that the schedule isn’t “100 percent solid” as of now. Although there has been no discussion about opening before the originally planned time, there will be a discussion about extended hours.

Ginn said the schedule will probably not be finalized until April because the hours of operation are not as critical right now as some other items, such as the budget.

“We’re still maintaining the original schedule that we had started with when we went out for the [request for proposal] for the management services, but that, too, is going to be under discussion,” Ginn said. “Currently, we are trying to mirror Sun Tran’s extended hours on Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings, and we still are maintaining that, but we are not discussing opening past our time.”

Planned operating hours, according to the request for proposal, are Monday through Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday and Friday 6 a.m. to midnight, Saturday 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Because the Portland, Ore., company, United Streetcar, is still working on Portland’s cars, the management team in Tucson is unable to finalize the service schedule.

“We’re watching the Portland cars, which are ahead of the Tucson cars right now,” Ginn said. “Once we can feel comfortable that the Portland cars’ production rates are actually happening as scheduled, then we’ll be able to finalize our schedule and move forward with confidence.”

Due to the continued delay in manufacturing, Ginn said the service start date might be farther off than previously thought.

“We’re looking at the delay of the vehicles arriving here, and we were trying to see how that’s going to impact our revenue service state,” Ginn said. “That’s probably going to shift us out further, but we don’t have that date yet.”

As of now, the new management team is preparing for the next step after construction, which is the pre-revenue service of operation, and the revenue service for when it actually opens for the public, Ginn said.

“We’re in [the] process [of] updating the operation documents, safety documents and management documents,” Bethel said, “and trying to get ready to do some hiring in the later spring and early summer. We will start bringing on [administrative] staff and some financial folks. Not a lot changed; we are just continuing on with getting the documents prepared for revenue service.”

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