TUCSON’S DOWNTOWN NEW STREET CAR SYSTEM ROLL OUT OVERWHELMINGLY RECEIVED BY 60,000 RIDERS EMBRACING THE NEW RIDE
The new Tucson Street Car System was rolled out for public inspection last weekend much with the fan fare of a Walt Disney Production this pumpkin of a RTA project, might well bloom into a Cinderella story, if the 60,000 riders who participated each buy a monthly pass. Realistically, Tucson expects the daily fare to run around 3600 riders each day, instead of the 17,000 who rode Friday, the 25,000 who rode Saturday or the 17,000 counted on Sunday, today each trip costs $1.50 or $4 for 24 hours or $40 for monthly coverage.The free weekend was a lot like Disneyland’s Log Ride, each car was filled (about a 100 people), and the backup buses picking up overflow from the Street Car were filled of folks too tired to wait for another Streetcar. Saturday night in the middle of the 25,000 crush, the Street Cars filled up, and stacked up somewhere because around 9 pm no street car could be found. Six passed us going West and after more than an hour one East bound street car showed up and filled up remarkably tightly, but riders seemed to embrace the armpit laced journey. I noted Mayor Rothchild on that last Street Car on the “Street Car to NoWhere”… he or someone arranged for stranded voters to be picked up and taken to their cars. Where the rest of those street cars went I can not say, perhaps they all stacked up on the bridge across the Santa Cruz.
In fact, at that point, I noted how “Eastern” an experience this Street Car ride had become. It reminded me of train rides I have had in the “rustbelt” of the East Coast, and found there is an element in Tucson who wants to embrace more of an Eastern lifestyle. Many of those folks live near downtown and now find themselves living along the Street Car route and will no doubt embrace this new conveyance into their travels. There is another part of Tucson who scarcely noticed, in spite of the $OneBillion rollout investment for infrastructure, they will never go downtown and will not benefit greatly from the City’s new toy.
The tightening up of downtown parking continues to push motorists into parking garages. It will continue to get worse, Tucson plans adding parking meters to what little open parking still exists, you don’t like parking meters? Wait until you get one of the $187.50 parking tickets, you won’t like them any better. This is summer, wait until the snowbirds and next semesters students arrive, there will not be any parking at all. Realizing last weekend as a “learning moment” I joined friends on Saturday afternoon, to go downtown and meet another couple for dinner, we parked at the University Medical Center, walked to the Street Car and rode downtown.
Pretty easy travel getting on a car and heading into town (the day before I hit the UA just before 5 pm and the street cars were all packed solid and everyone knew each other) but after 8 pm, when the Street Car was supposed to quit on Sunday (the overflow bus was full also) conductors continued to run because people continued to line up for the street car.
But last weekend was also about adventure. Kids loved it! Most kids saw very little since their point of view was at the belt buckle level-but still they soldiered on… The UA types seemed jazzed since this Street Car is really aimed at them and the 5000 plus UA students now living downtown, they will get the most from this investment, while others will have to pay the freight. Sixty police officers were assigned the New Street Car system last weekend and there will be additional staffing, in addition to the already increased downtown policing to deal with the new reality there. Many have complained the Street Car is not “bike friendly” and recent studies show 87 bike riders who have already had serious injuries and for others, the new system has disrupted their daily commutes. I witnessed a young women bike rider accidentally ride into the track which grabbed her front wheel–froze it–which spun the young rider headfirst into the pavement as the rear wheel continued to travel, paramedics were called. The long roll out has hindered businesses, keeping away shoppers for almost 2 years, the route saw business’s fold and solicited “the Street Car to NoWhere” mood among the survivors. It wasn’t surprising to see members of the Tucson Transportation Staff drinking Friday celebrating the launch of “SUNLINK” Tucson Street Car, their baby to present to the public. At each of the 20 stations along the Street Car route, volunteers lectured those waiting in safety, and they offered cold water bottles from a kid’s swimming pool, filled with bottles and ice.
And last weekend was festive. Folks turned out for the new ride and showed great patience and few seemed disappointed. Many supporters believe the new street car system is breathing new life into Tucson’s once dead downtown. The truth is–Downtown has been growing and gathering critical mass for the past few years, local investment, the Rio Nuevo projects buoyed by key local movers and shakers who continue to mold this city around the history that built it. Projects like the San Augustin Mercado on Tucson’s westside, or the greening of the San Augustin Mission Gardens at the base of A-Mountain, are still buds of growth, which few Tucsonan’s have yet discovered. Perhaps the completion of the Street Car which now runs into that development will provide the incentive needed to launch west side infill. In the next 3 to 5 years, developers plan to build 700 to 800 additional residences, both high and low end. That construction should begin in the fall, while more retail and a questionable “boutique hotel” are also planned.
Advocates look forward to the day when the system expands further east to Wilmot Road and eventually north up La Cholla to the Pima College North Campus. Light rail in Phoenix which runs from Mesa to downtown has been really successful and has helped make downtown Phoenix vital, but so has moving ASU’s Walter Cronkite School there. Presently, the Tucson Street Car runs 3.7 miles from the University of Arizona along University Blvd to North Fourth Avenue through Downtown on Congress across the bridge spanning the Santa Cruz River back under I-10 along Broadway back to Fourth Avenue.
Regular fares will now be charged on the streetcar. A one-way trip is $1.50. Kiosks at the Streetcar Stations will sell for $4 for the next 24 hours, and these machines accept only exact change and credit cards. Passes can be purchased online or at any of the municipal transit system three centers.
Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every 10 minutes 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every 20 minutes
Thursday-Saturday nights: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every 30 minutes
Saturday: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every 20 minutes
Sunday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every 20 minutes
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THERE’S A BUS COMING IN ! WAS THE ORACLE IMMIGRATION PHOTO OP, A PROTEST OR WAS IT PERFORMANCE ART, YOU DECIDE ! THE U.S. POLITICAL WORLD IS A STAGE NOT REALITY !
The Mexico-U.S. Border across the SouthWest has long been ground zero for political debate between the American liberal left and conservative right, today, that debate finds new strength in the thousands of Central American children hot-footing it across our fences in hopes of finding safety in the long reported “Land of the Free”. In spite of recent press, this has been happening for years and has again reached critical mass due to the numbers of children finding sanctuary in Texas and now overflowing into new states like California and Arizona where locals have long been divided over whose responsibility it is to provide for those who arrive here in the newest invasion.
Much like the American Civil War, a battle for human rights masked as a struggle for states rights, some have opened their arms and embraced those crossing our borders in need for safety and others, like in Murrieta, California have chosen to repel them from their communities. Murrieta named after Basque immigrants who first settled what is now one of the fastest growing communities in California surfaced in headlines recently when the city’s mayor and residents blocked the arrival of buses carrying Central American immigrant children who were to be processed there.
In Arizona, a politically-damaged Sheriff, whose sees his political future embolden by the onslaught of illegals in the state made a point of alerting the Conservative Right of a busload of Central American immigrant children arriving in the small community of Oracle, 30 miles north of Tucson, a 100 mile drive to the U.S.-Mexican Border.
This calculated move had the desired effect, all the Nation’s media fearing another Murrieta, converged on the bottleneck in the road where the buses carrying 50-60 children were expected to be stopped there and turned around. Any media organization who missed this potential slow-summer news story, would have looked likes fools and perhaps biased.
Any Conservative political who missed this opportunity to show up and preach their hatred for the Obama Administration was obviously asleep at the switch knowing full well this was going to bring out a charged community of activists who seldom missed an opportunity to push their agendas, aka, another Murrieta, and lots of national press.
“This is a lawless and godless administration putting Americans at risk and we’re not going to take it” said Russell Pearce of SB10-70 fame who was escorted by the Arizona State Militia as he milled around in the crowd, speaking into every microphone he could find. “I’m here as an U.S. Citizen'” he said. “I came here to stand up for the rule of law and I’m going to do whatever it takes. (Stopping that bus by whatever means it takes) I will defend America and will stand with these people.”
Perhaps 200 activists, sheriff deputies and an entire posse of media from all the big outlets arrived hours before the buses was expected to pass through their choke point on the back road to Southern Arizona’s highpoint, the Santa Catalina Mountains, which lead to the Sycamore Canyon Academy, a home from troubled youth, many of whom are in the Arizona criminal justice system. Speaking to a charged audience–the Sheriff made his case for everyone obeying the rule of law and promised that “everyone’s rights would be protected”… The Arizona State Militia “was asked by the State to provide security” for dignitaries who showed up to speak their minds. As you might expect, arguments broke out — people spoke their minds while music played in the background, tunes like Dixie, Born in the USA, set the tone for the day.
It wasn’t until Ruben Moreno, a leader of Mariachi Luz de Luna, a Tucson Mariachi group arrived from behind the checkpoint and took everyone by surprise when the group of a dozen musicians and activist came walking up the road holding signs that read “Open your Hearts, not your Hate!”, “Show the Children Love” (heart) and the large group greeted them with some yelling, pushing, then attempted to drown out the traditional mariachi sound with their own refrain until Moreno’s trumpet solo broke out with “America the Beautiful”. Literally quieting and taking the wind from the sails of the hatred raining down on him–his group of mariachi and hispanic activists, all the cameras were on him. TV loves good video and great sound.
Then the buses arrived! Children on board pressed their faces against the windows, peering out at the crowd holding signs, waving U.S. flags (some upside down), POW-MIA flags, “Don’t Tread on Me” said some and screaming at the children “Go Home”. It was great sport for the YMCA campers who had every right to be there and had never had as much fun as being the center of a national news story they scarcely understood. Still one political tweeted from the scene “Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law”. He later reported, “I was able to actually to see some of the children in the buses. And the fear on their faces … This is not compassion!” When Adam Kwasman was then told by a reporter that the children on the yellow school bus were actually YMCA campers from Marana, Kwasman said, “They were sad, too,” and admitted he made a mistake. The kids I saw, and photographed on the bus were having the time of their lives.
Tuesday was a day for performance art! When I arrived in Oracle, I first encountered a large group of Oracle protesters six were costumed as Guardian Angles aligning the road that the Central American children would see first, signs screamed “Bienvenidous a Todos”, “All Children deserve Human Rights, All Children are Children of God, So are You !”, a 25 foot white banner lined the roadway proclaiming, “AMOR (heart) LOVE”…not the worst first impression!
Several miles further up the back road to Mount Lemmon you ran into the main protest, a pickup with a generator and a stereo, truck loads of water for the participants and two outhouses were setup for those attending. Impromptu, I don’t think so, this was a planned political event and the target for the whole event never showed up, the buses from Nogales carrying 40-60 illegal Central American Children. Around l pm, everyone was told by sheriff deputies that they had received word that the buses would not be coming that day. So pretty quickly people folded their signs, downed their water bottles and took off for lunch someplace cooler and less toxic. Conservative politicians had turned out to make this day all about them and their upcoming race for election.
“They are using fear and hatred in hopes of generating demonstrations like those in Murrieta” says Latino civil right group Somos America. Republican Rich Nugent (R-Florida) told a radio show Monday, that the children crossing into the U.S. are “gang affiliated”, he promised listeners. “When you have those types coming across the border, they’re not children at that point. These kids have been brought up in a culture of thievery. A culture of murder, rape. And now we are going to infuse them in the American Culture.” It’s just ludicrous, Nugent said.
Bob Moore standing on a hill overlooking the protest said, another sheriff, would have created this day differently. Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is on our side he said to me. Turning to his phone video Moore does a “selfie” of himself in front of the protest and speaks into his phone. “Lot’s of patriots here–lot’s of freedom-loving Americans”. Then he turns back to me and says, I’m 62 years old ! I figured by now I would be traveling the USA in an RV but instead I’m buying beans and bullets and protesting the government he said. “I’m here for my grand kids, he concluded.
Another sign that caught my eye read: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuge of your teaming shores. Send these, your homeless, the tempest tossed, to me!
I will lift my lamp beside the Golden Door …” taken from the inscription carved upon the Statue of Liberty that greeted all of our ancestors when they arrived in New York harbor, decades ago.
TEXAS GOV. RICK PERRY SENDS 1000 NATIONAL GUARD TO THE US-MEXICO BORDER TO AID THE HUMANITARIUM CRISIS CAUSED BY CENTRAL AMERICANS REFUGEES…CLICK HERE
THE WITCHES BREW: DESPERATION AND HOPE, CHILDREN ON THE BORDER
There is a perverse irony to the Murrieta protests, given that the rallying cry for the anti-illegal immigration movement is “What part of illegal don’t you understand?” By blocking the buses, the protestors were engaged in the illegal act of interfering with law enforcement.
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