Your views

In response to “Streetcar project doesn’t deserve extra funding from UA” by Nathaniel Drake, April 28:

Dear Editor,

I would love to add more supporting context regarding the Tucson Modern Streetcar because I think the UA community should know more about its involvement in this project and the impact it is having on Tucson and the UA campus.

The issue I have with the article was its implication of mismanagement of funds at a grand scale and who is at fault. This argument was the main reasoning why the streetcar was not “worthy” of any UA funding. I would like to point out that the Tucson Modern Streetcar had received $63 million of its funds from a federal TIGER grant and the majority of its local funding from a voter-approved RTA fund. Additionally, the Tucson Mayor and Council are elected officials trying to represent the interests of their constituency in the creation of this public transit project. Although there has been some delay in its planning and construction, no project is without roadblocks and the streetcar has the impact of spurring further investment in the core of our city, specifically in and around downtown, Fourth Avenue and the UA Campus.

If you look at case studies regarding this type of project, you can see the enormous impact that transit-oriented development can have. In a similar project in Portland, Ore., there has been $3.5 billion of development invested within just two blocks of their streetcar alignment. Money of that magnitude can really shift the landscape around the UA campus and the desirability of the UA perceived by prospective students and parents.

Six hundred million dollars of private sector investment already exists along the route of the Tucson Modern Streetcar to date and the streetcar isn’t even completed yet. One hundred-thousand people live and work within a half-mile of the route and with people riding the streetcar, car trips will be reduced, reducing congestion, and encouraging healthier alternatives of getting around like walking and biking. These factors play into transforming Tucson into a more vibrant place.

The public has also been encouraged to voice their opinions through the planning of this project, including business and community stakeholders and effected parties. The UA has instead quietly passed on stepping up and committing to help fund this project, except for the money for subsidizing passes for its affiliates. While that is a good start, I would encourage the UA to commit to help pay more for this project that primarily benefits the UA community that will have greater access around the places where they live, work and play.

This opinion piece also stated that if the mayor and council wanted UA funding that they should have locked them into a contract. In my view, the City of Tucson is giving the UA the opportunity to show its commitment to the community. By not explicitly naming a number, the UA has the ability to support a project worth funding while simultaneously creating a better working relationship with local government, and community/business stakeholders who will benefit from the Modern Streetcar.

Sincerely,
Ben Elias
Sustainable Built Environments junior


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