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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | Last updated: 9:50am

Streetcar to increase testing with arrival of additional vehicles



With the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar going through full testing and driver training, the UA community will see streetcar vehicles run through campus more often this semester.

The Sun Link Tucson Streetcar project was approved by voters in 2006 and construction started in April 2012. While revenue service was initially intended to start in late 2013, delays in vehicle manufacturing from Portland, Ore., company Oregon Iron Works caused that date to be pushed back to the summer of 2014.

The streetcar will run along with traffic for 3.9 miles from the University of Arizona Medical Center to the west end of Interstate 10, stopping at 18 points near the UA, Main Gate Square, Fourth Avenue and downtown Tucson.

All eight vehicles will be delivered by May, according to Shellie Ginn, Sun Link Tucson Streetcar project manager. This will give the management team enough time for pre-revenue service, the final testing process where the management team has to run through simulation rides before allowing passengers on board. Testing before revenue service allows management to ensure the scheduled stops are accurate, and helps the community get used to walking, bicycling and driving with a new kind of vehicle on the road, Ginn said.

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The City of Tucson tests the three new streetcars on University Blvd. Monday.

“We want to make sure that as the system is in testing that folks understand how to function safely along the line,” she said.

Three of eight streetcar vehicles have been delivered to Tucson and will be running up and down the corridor during its future hours of operation in order to go through full testing through all kinds of traffic, Ginn said.

The city hired a streetcar management team, RATP Dev McDonald Transit, whose staff has been working with the initial Tucson Department of Transportation employees and will be in charge of operations, maintenance, safety and customer service once Sun Link is open for revenue service.
Steve Bethel, general manager of Sun Link Tucson Streetcar, said management has started to hire and train supervisors and will soon start hiring streetcar operators as more vehicles arrive.

“We’re getting the folks here in Tucson and in the university area very familiar with us,” Bethel said. “I think it’ll become very seamless after we become more pronounced in the area.”

The management team will also continue to promote its safety campaign, Streetcar Street-Smart, and reach out to students and other community members with tips on how to be safe while traveling with the streetcar. The campaign teaches safe practices, using videos on tucsonstreetcar.com, brochures and posters. The management team will also try to attend special events where it can answer the public’s questions about safety and the streetcar.

Some of these safety tips include for pedestrians to be aware of their surroundings, as the streetcar travels quietly, and for bicyclists to cross the track at as close to a 90 degree angle as possible to avoid getting tires stuck. Drivers should keep in mind that the streetcar will be following regular traffic rules, and they shouldn’t try to drive around it.

A group called Friends of the Tucson Streetcar will also be hosting events to spread the word in the community about the local businesses along the streetcar’s route. The group’s mission is to promote the economic and social benefits of the streetcar.

Friends of the Tucson Streetcar will host an event near the University Boulevard and Tyndall Avenue streetcar stop today, to promote the businesses at Main Gate Square. Besides an information table where community members can sign up to become part of the friends group, there will also be performers and information about discounts at some of the businesses.

“I want people who are seeing the streetcar maybe for the first time getting excited about it,” said Donovan Durband, a founding member of Friends of the Tucson Streetcar. “We’d like to see as many people as possible who … decided to come down and hopefully spend some money at the businesses and learn something about the streetcar at the same time.”


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