In an effort to keep the Sun Link streetcar free, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona — the UA’s student government — is encouraging students to attend a town hall hosted by Sun Link this Wednesday, Aug. 24. The event will begin at 5 p.m. in the Santa Cruz room of the Student Union Memorial Center.
The Sun Link streetcar runs through the UA and is frequently used by students to get across campus and to downtown Tucson. It is operated by Sun Tran, the city of Tucson’s public transportation system.
“This is going to be an opportunity for students to learn what the goals of Sun Link are going to be after December 2022, and for us to have an opportunity to voice our concerns or opinions of what to expect — what we would like to see — in terms of Sun Link fares and Sun Link services,” said Patrick Robles, the ASUA student body president.
Fares for all Sun Tran services were suspended in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the financial burden of the pandemic. The city used federal CARES Act funding to support the fare suspension.
Streetcar fare collection will continue after December unless the city council extends the suspension again. According to Patricia Yango, director of campus culture and climate for ASUA, this town hall could prove instrumental in keeping the streetcar free.
“We know that on paper, the Sun Link has plans to return to fares after January first, but we’re really hoping that, because this town hall is happening, that’s a sign that the Sun Link is looking to get the student perspective on how this impacts the [UA] community as well as the areas surrounding it,” Yango said.
ASUA officials distributed flyers at the Bash at the Rec on Sunday night to advertise the town hall. Though the student government is not co-hosting the town hall, it‘s investing resources into promoting the event because it sees streetcar fares as an important advocacy issue for the university community.
“I think our job as ASUA is to advocate for the students. We’re taking it to different routes we’ve never taken before. We’re using the platform that we have as appointed officials for the student body to really push this out,” said ASUA Policy Director Eddie Elías Barron. “I think it’s in everyone’s best interest, especially the students, and our responsibility to advocate for this to be free.”
A Sun Link demographic study conducted in 2015 found that 61.1% of streetcar riders are students. Ethan Larson, a junior majoring in film & television, used the Sun Link during both the school year and summer break to travel to campus, Fourth Avenue, Speedway Boulevard and Sixth Street.
“I think it makes it easier for college students, and it gives them more freedom to easily get around,” Larson said.
For some students, the Sun Link is key to exploring Tucson beyond the boundaries of the UA campus.
“It’s been free since I first arrived in 2020 and it’s made it very accessible for me to get around outside of campus and explore other areas, hang out with friends – it’s been very useful,” said Penelope Stuart, a junior majoring in neuroscience & cognitive science, linguistics and Arabic.
“I never would have gotten to downtown in my first semester without the Sun Link,” she said. “I don’t think I would have had the initiative to explore without that resource.”
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