Happy anniversary! Sun Link marks 7 years of service

Seven years ago, Tucson’s Sun Link streetcar started rolling on its fixed tracks through the University of Arizona campus, the West University neighborhood, North Fourth Avenue, Downtown and the Mercado District near the foot of Sentinel Peak, offering the first new transit option in Tucson in many years.

Since July 2014, even more new transportation options have launched, including the prevalence of ride-sharing apps, and short-term bike and scooter rentals. All the while, the streetcar continues attracting riders to move through one of the more congested parts of town – without traveling in a single-occupancy vehicle.

The streetcar route was constructed with a combination of local, federal and Regional Transportation Authority funding, which initially included $75 million from the RTA’s half-cent excise (sales) tax voters approved in 2006 to build the projects in the RTA’s 20-year plan. The RTA also continues to contribute to annual operating costs.

Here’s a review of the service using the latest data from the Sun Link May 2021 operating report:

  • Ridership is up year-over-year. This was expected, given that the summer of 2020 was the heart of business, education and recreation closures in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. A year later, restrictions are lifting and more people are riding.
  • Sun Link was on schedule 98 percent of the time.
  • The service averaged 28 passengers per hour.
  • The busiest weekday was May 5 with 3,011 riders.
  • May 15 was the busiest weekend day, with 3,485 riders.

Typically, Sun Link’s schedule adjusts seasonally when demand drops during the summer. However, to continue to support downtown businesses that were significantly impacted by the pandemic, the service hours remain steady through summer, said Luz Navarette, Sun Tran Community Outreach Manager. The Sun Link schedule is not anticipated to change until approximately May 2022.

All Sun Tran services, including the Sun Link streetcar, are free to use through Dec. 31, 2021.