Thursday, March 29, 2007

Some find streetcar desirable, even at $25M a mile

[Source: Garry Duffy] -- Tucson's modern streetcar system, at $25 million a mile, will be an expensive experiment in spurring increased transit use and downtown redevelopment. Planned for a 2010 start on a four-mile route from University Medical Center to west of the downtown area, the system will be a "great people mover" that will attract new mixed development along its route, especially in the area of the city's Rio Nuevo downtown rejuvenation project, proponents say. Voters approved the streetcar system last year as part of the Regional Transportation Authority's 20-year transportation improvement plan, which will be partly funded with a half-cent sales tax passed in the election.

At an open house Wednesday night in the Historic Downtown Train Deport, residents and business owners mixed with city transportation and Rio Nuevo officials to learn about the streetcar project, a new Fourth Avenue underpass, the completion of the Barraza-Aviation Parkway north to Sixth Street and Rio Nuevo. "If the streetcar gets people to go downtown, it probably will help make that area a lot better," said Vladimir Chetochine, who works at the University of Arizona in marketing. That was one of the selling points of the system when marketed to voters. "It can be a contributor to both historic preservation and bringing new development," said Bryan Copp, an engineer with HDR, a consulting firm designing the system for the city. It has happened that way in other cities where modern streetcar systems were approved by voters and then built. They include San Diego and Portland, Ore. Some who have seen the results in Portland agreed Wednesday that the marriage of a modern streetcar with new, high-quality development has been successful. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]