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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Streetcar safety problems unsolved

    The four-way stop at Park Avenue and University Boulevard is dangerous for everyone involved. Pedestrians, bikers and drivers have to be well versed in traffic law to avoid accidents. The worst idea would be to add another item to this dangerous mix. Enter Tucson’s modern streetcar, which will be yet another hurdle in the traffic obstacle course.

    When the light rail in Phoenix opened up, the damages outweighed the benefits. During its first three years in operation, there were more than 100 accidents with cars and pedestrians, which caused around $2.3 million worth of damages and about $275,000 for public education campaigns, according to an Arizona Daily Star article.

    Car accidents already occur with the Tucson trolley. In 2010, Old Pueblo Trolley routes were cut short after a loosened nut caused the brakes of a trolley to fail. With passengers on board, the trolley rolled into a car. That car rolled into another, which pushed into another car. Old Pueblo Trolley officials removed the Fourth Avenue Underpass from routes because the incline of the underpass was too steep and a safety concern.

    No one knows how to drive with the trolley because few people have experience being on the road with it and Tucson’s signage is terrible. There need to be many improvements in order for the streetcar to be a benefit, not a hindrance.

    According to Valley Metro’s website, the most common types of accidents involving the Phoenix light rail include pedestrians walking in front of the moving rail, drivers running red lights or turning and crossing illegally and in front of the light rail.

    To combat these problems, drivers had to be educated about the new system and traffic signs. If this is happening up north, there’s no way Tucson will magically be unaffected by similar problems.

    The Daily Star also reported that, in 2009, there were 53 car crashes in the Phoenix light rail’s first full year of operation. After educating drivers, that number decreased to 28 crashes in 2011. Tucson officials are spending millions on this new transportation system. Where do they expect to get the money for the inevitable new safety measures and issues that will arise?

    Portland, Los Angeles, Dallas and Denver are a few similar cities that share the same light rail operating systems as Phoenix. Portland’s light rail runs through Portland State University similar to the route that Tucson’s streetcar will take through the UA. After a slew of bike accidents with the rail, Portland will shell out more money for safety improvements for the next three years, according to Oregon Metro’s department.

    There’s an avid biking community in Tucson that will undoubtedly have similar issues, and no money to solve them. Tucson City Council members have said they’re already worried about staying under budget, and the streetcar hasn’t even been built yet.

    The Modern Streetcar Project will run from the UA to downtown. Its estimated completion date is Sept. 30. But this $197-million project won’t just stop with the finished streetcar, and the city has no money set aside to handle emergencies for after it starts running.

    If there’s one lesson to be learned here, it’s driver education and safety measures need to be parts of the planning process. The City Council should start preparing for safety issues sooner rather than later.

    — Ashley T. Powell is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinion .

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