Sun Link streetcar experiencing record ridership after fare lifted because of COVID-19 pandemic

Sun Link streetcar experiencing record ridership
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 7:16 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Tucson’s Sun Link streetcar is breaking ridership records after the city council’s decision not to implement a fare because of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year and a half ago. Leaders at Sun Link now worry ridership will drop once a fare is required again and are discussing ways to ensure volume remains.

Rhett Crowninshield, the transit administrator for the city of Tucson, said they don’t know when that fare will be required once again but said the streetcar costs $8 to $10 million a year to run. Before the pandemic, riders would pay $4.25 to ride the streetcar.

“It’s obviously less expensive to ride our buses, but the city council decided they wanted to give back to the community during the pandemic. They wanted to keep people propped up,” Crowninshield said.

Since the fare has been lifted, Sun Link has seen 30% more riders taking the streetcar in comparison to 2019. Crowninshield said students have been utilizing Sun Link as well. In comparison to 2020, 50% more student riders are taking the streetcar.

“The fact they can get on and off and don’t have to worry about paying that fare is also a part of it. We have discussed universal access in the past and that may be something we do if we do go back to fare collection,” Crowninshield said.

On family weekend, more than 9,000 riders took Sun Link. Crowninshield said that’s the highest ridership seen in a single day in years.

“Parking isn’t a hassle and you can jump on and jump off, I think it’s an awesome alternative and that’s why it’s so popular,” Crowninshield said.

Crowninshield said Sun Link hopes the increase in ridership will remain, especially now that so many riders have made public transportation a part of their daily routine. He said a fare will need to be put into place at some point, but the discussion is still ongoing as to how much that will be and when it will go into effect.

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