Visitors to Tucson have a new way to get around the city's historic downtown. After years of construction and months of testing, the city officially debuted its new single-line streetcar system on in July 2014.
The Tucson Sun Link, also known as the Tucson Modern Streetcar, runs from the eastern edge of The University of Arizona campus to just past Interstate 10 on the city's historic west side. The 3.9-mile route stops at several points of interest around central and downtown Tucson, including Main Gate Square, the 4th Avenue Shopping District, the Tucson Convention Center and the newly developed Mercado District.
Tucson's new streetcar system was tested for months before its inaugural ride on July 25 — Photo courtesy of Tucson Modern Streetcar
The streetcar line has eight cars that can each hold about 150 people. There are more than 20 stops along the route where riders can board. To ride the streetcar, riders must purchase a ticket or pass at a Sun Link vending machine, available at all stops. A one-day pass costs $4; it's good for unlimited riding for 24 hours.
The streetcar will run seven days a week, with varying hours. The streetcar is active from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. On Saturdays, the schedule is 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., and on Sundays, it's 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. On average, riders can expect to catch a streetcar every 20 minutes.
One of the perks of riding the streetcar is getting to enjoy several new works of art commissioned just for the line. Local artists created public art for 22 streetcar stops, as well as the Sun Link operations facility. Eleven of the stops feature signature public art installations, and 10 of the stops have artwork with LED panels that display poetry provided by The University of Arizona Poetry Center.
Local artists have created public art for 22 streetcar stops along the new Tucson streetcar line — Photo courtesy of Tucson Modern Streetcar
All stops and cars are ADA accessible. Service animals are welcome on board, as long as they're with their handlers. Bicyclists are also encouraged to ride the streetcars.
The Tucson streetcars were built in Oregon and transported to Tucson on flatbed trucks. The streetcars are nearly identical to those in the Portland streetcar system. The major difference is that the Tucson streetcars have an upgraded air-condition system - not surprising, considering the triple-digit summer temperatures in the "Old Pueblo."
The overall cost for building the Tucson streetcar system is estimated to be about $196 million. So far, the streetcar appears to be a success, with about 60,000 people riding the streetcar on its opening weekend.
For more information about riding the Tucson Modern Streetcar, call the Sun Link office at (520) 624-5656 or visit SunLinkStreetcar.com.