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Tucson streetcar makes historic debut amid concerns

Front of the Streetcar
Front of the Streetcar
Kim Kloes

Events began early on July 25, 2014, in Tucson, Arizona. A small crowd gathered around 7:00 a.m. to watch the ribbon cutting and launch of the modern-day streetcar at the Mercado San Agustin near downtown Tucson.

Opening day
Kim Kloes

Most of the group appeared to be politicians and press. Some brave souls who will most likely be the users of this mode of transportation were also present.

The streetcar has been fraught with controversy and price overruns. One unidentified man at the Mercado attempted to engage one of the ‘suits and ties’ by asking about the routes and why the cars weren’t running to the Menlo area of Tucson. There were no responses to those questions.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild launched the $197 million project into service stating, “It is a great day for a streetcar ride.”

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Councilwoman Regina Romero said the streetcar opening created the start of a new epoch in Tucson history. “Today marks a very delineated date on how the future of our city is going to continue to prosper and grow.”

The tour continued to stops at the University of Arizona, Main Gate Square and Fourth Avenue. The final destination was Fifth Avenue and Congress Street where hundreds waited to take part in the inauguration.

Dozens of local, state and federal officials were present.

Amid all the celebrations, Tucson Bus Rider Union members have concerns that the streetcar will cause the city to skimp on bus service to pay for this new transportation mode. “We just want to make sure that the bus money stays with buses and they do the trolley on their own budget,” said Bus Rider Union member Jim Thomas.

Downtown resident Jorge Ruiz is glad that the streetcar is here; however, he is concerned that lower-income people don’t have a place in the revival that’s current happening.

The festivities continue through the weekend with free rides on the streetcar through Sunday.

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