Streetcar operation sees delays, new management team arrives in Tucson
A further delay in the building and delivery of Tucson’s streetcars has pushed back the Sun Link Tucson Modern Streetcar’s projected date to start running, possibly to the second quarter of 2014.
The Portland, Ore., company, United Streetcar, was initially set to deliver Tucson’s first streetcar in February 2013, and then one about every month until all eight were delivered. The streetcar was scheduled to begin operating with passengers in October 2013, but the streetcar team realized in a December meeting that was not going to happen, according to Carlos de Leon, deputy director for the Tucson department of transportation.
De Leon said United Streetcar is working with the department of transportation and the streetcar management team to refine the schedule.
“We’re still going back and forth on what I would call a draft schedule, so nothing’s solid yet,” de Leon said.
Despite the delayed streetcar delivery, construction and plans for managing the operation are both moving forward. The city recently hired RATP Dev McDonald Transit, RDMT for short, to take over operations, maintenance, safety and customer service for the streetcar.
“Once the schedule is re-established for the vehicles, that’ll help the management team develop their plan for setting up the operations,” project manager Shellie Ginn said. “We’re still kind of in a waiting mode waiting to hear how the vehicles are doing and what kind of impacts to schedule that’s going to have.”
Four RDMT core management employees arrived in Tucson in the first week of January, all with at least 20 years of transit experience, de Leon said. RDMT will make more than $900,000 in its first year, according to its contract.
“We’re basically expecting the RDMT staff to manage all the details of running all the streetcar system and to do that with a high degree of professionalism and competence,” de Leon said.
Once the team settles in and is caught up with the construction schedule, the team will review, change and approve preliminary plans for streetcar hours of operation and smart card system.
“What we need to do in the next weeks is finalize those plans and get ready for revenue service,” said Steve Bethel, RDMT Tucson general manager.
Until streetcar operation, RDMT will be working closely with Sun Tran, the department of transportation and the Sun Link management team to integrate and take over all systems of the streetcar, including the maintenance and storage facility, the streetcars themselves and the electrical and rail systems.
RDMT will also be working closely with Sun Tran to decide prices and how riders will transition from riding a bus to riding the streetcar. A smart card system being built into the streetcars will be installed in Sun Tran buses this summer, de Leon said.
This will allow for a smooth transition for customers, he added.
“Our goal is to provide safe, clean, reliable means of transportation with the streetcar project, and provide the public with a state of the art streetcar system,” Bethel said.