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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tucsonans should support RTA’s plan.

    The fact that four attempts to alleviate the transportation problem in Pima County have been voted down in recent years reflects more on the hem and haw of the voters than it does the actual quality of the proposals. It reflects Tucsonans’ inability to come together and support a common good.

    There is an urgent need for transportation improvements in developing Pima County, and it’s time we stopped our nitpicking and learned to compromise.

    In May, Pima County residents will have another chance to seriously address the transportation problem when they vote on the Regional Transportation Authority Expenditure Plan.

    RTA’s plan, estimated to cost $2.1 billion, focuses on improving cross-region mobility, reducing congestion, increasing transportation modes and expanding bicycle and pedestrian options. It aims to unclog roads through the improvement of public transit, bus pullouts, roads and intersections.

    To help fund the plan, voters will be asked to approve a half-cent sales tax that will be implemented over 20 years; the plan will be completed in roughly the same amount of time. A sales tax is the only fundraising method allowed by the state Legislature, and Pima is the only county in Arizona without a sales tax to fund transportation.

    RTA manager Tim Ahrens says that the plan addresses the needs of all area inhabitants and is crucial to solving the county’s traffic problems.

    “”If something isn’t done soon, over the next 20 years congestion in Pima County will reach monumental levels,”” said Ahrens.

    According to the RTA, Pima County’s population will surpass 1 million by 2007, increasing travel congestion by 550 percent over the next 20 years. As a resident of Pima County, I know this congestion means I’ll have to leave extra early for school, only to be faced with “”university congestion”” caused by idling motorists looking for empty meters or dropping people off.

    A proposed electric streetcar would help alleviate the university’s problem by giving students another travel option. According to the RTA’s Web site, a streetcar would eliminate 259 bus trips per day between downtown Tucson and the UA. If UA students, faculty and staff who make frequent trips downtown were to utilize this alternative option, overcrowding would decrease and parking would become more convenient.

    The streetcar is designed to transport 100 to 130 people at a time through major activity areas between downtown and the UA campus.

    Although probably not as advanced as the Bay Area Rapid Transit or Boston’s “”T,”” the proposed streetcar represents a much-needed step in modernizing Tucson by making it more urban. It would take pressure off the current parking situation, ease the flow of traffic and give us cleaner air. And if voters approve the Rio Nuevo plan that includes moving the UA Science Center downtown, the streetcar will give students a more efficient way to get there.

    President Peter Likins said the UA has a big stake in the outcome of the plan, considering the extraordinary effects it will have on the campus parking situation.

    “”If the streetcar is developed, many parking problems faced by UA staff, students and faculty will be alleviated,”” he said. “”Congestion will clear up, diminishing the traffic problems we cause for our neighbors.””

    Some opponents of the plan are bitter that it won’t include a bridge over Sabino Creek at Snyder Road or an east-west freeway. What they fail to realize is that no plan, no matter how brilliantly designed, will ever satisfy the wishes of every single resident.

    It is selfish to only want a transportation plan that caters to individual interests; rather, we need to choose a plan that best benefits the community as a whole. RTA’s plan plausibly attempts to alleviate Tucson’s traffic problem, and it is the best alternative to what we currently have.

    Yusra Tekbali is a junior majoring in journalism and Near Eastern studies. She can be reached atletters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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