The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

83° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Modern Streetcar: shiny, but redundant

    The fancy website dedicated to the City of Tucson’s Sun Link Modern Streetcar brags about all the benefits it intends to bestow upon us: a 100 percent electric transportation system encompassing a 3.9-mile route, connecting the University of Arizona, the Fourth Avenue business district and Congress Street. However, it’s a sure bet the voters who approved the ongoing construction didn’t know it would clog up daily transit and commerce, while distracting from the fact that Tucson already has a very present transportation system in the affected areas.

    The University district, Fourth Avenue and downtown were already adeptly covered by Tucson’s Sun Tran bus system and the University’s own Cat Tran. The streetcar will perform the exact same function, but on a brand new “Made in America” scale that will cost about $196 million.

    The city claims the project will have a positive effect on surrounding businesses. However, in an email to the city manager, Epic Cafe owner Brian Wolff claims to have already seen a 35 percent drop in revenue due to the construction. It’s unclear how strongly nearby businesses have been effected by construction, but the city claims the project will create 2,850 jobs and 1,480 jobs after completion. These long-term jobs stem from the connectivity along the streetcar route allowing for easier commutes and better access for consumers. This connectivity already existed with the use of the university’s and the city’s two bus systems, but again: now, it’s on rails.

    The city’s favorite point about their coveted brain child seems to be that it will bring prosperity and new development to Tucson. They cite the example of Portland, Ore., a similarly-sized city that put in a new streetcar, where residents invested $3.5 billion around the route, including 10,212 new housing units. Tucson’s streetcar website does not mention that Portland’s population grew 10.3 percent from 2000 to 2010, while Tucson grew by only 6.9 percent. Portland also has a median household income that, according to U.S. Census data, is $10,000 greater than Tucson’s, making their streetcar more affordable in relation to taxpayer funding.

    When completed, the Tucson Modern Streetcar will be a lot of things. It will be attractive, efficient and good for the environment. It may even stand up to its claims as a boost for business and overall connectivity. However, the one thing the streetcar will never be is necessary.

    — Tyler Johnson is a journalism senior. He can be reached at or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

    More to Discover
    Activate Search