TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Thousands of rides on the road, the Sun Link streetcar is driving more than people around downtown Tucson and the perimeter.
It’s been five years since the streetcar’s inaugural ride on July 25, 2014. For Gentle Ben’s General Manager Richard Fifer, the addition through Main Gate Square was well worth the wait.
“We are right next to campus, but I would say the majority of our business in families and other people in the area,” said Fifer. “During the construction it was painful, but ever since everything has opened up, it’s done nothing but great things.”
With each ride, the streetcar has been busy driving new development to the area.
Since its launch in 2014, there has been more than $1 billion of private and public investment along the streetcar route.
According to a press release from Sun Link, much of the investment, which has funded significant housing, retail and corporate business expansions along the streetcar-corridor, has been led by Rio Nuevo projects.
In addition, ninety new restaurants, bars and cafes, and retail businesses have popped up along the route over the last three years.
Something Pat Richter with Sun Link Administration said is worth celebrating.
“I mean, you look at all the development that’s happened along the street car route and you think, how could that have possibly happened in just five years?” said Richter.
Sharing the street with drivers, walkers and bicyclists has been pretty smooth over the last five years. With electric scooters hitting the streets of Tucson in a pilot test program soon, Richter said there is no concern over losing customers or safety.
He said Sun Link is hopeful the e-scooters will help the service, rather than hurt it.
“If they can go farther and faster, then that improves their transit experience," said Richter.
The e-scooters could be a way for people to get to the streetcar stops, or their final destinations, quicker, Richter said. Less work in walking could push more people to get to the streetcar for a ride after a quick ride on an e-scooter to get to the stop.
As for the next five, ten, or 15 years? Richter said there are talks about extending the routes with the Regional Transportation Authority and City of Tucson.
“Nothings been decided, but it’s a fun conversation to be a part of,” said Richter.
The free rides are thanks to sponsorship from Rio Nuevo. There will also be free events along the 3.9 mile route, including brunch at the Mercado District, Sun Link tours, a block party on 4th Avenue, story time at the UA Bookstore and a concert at Main Gate Square.