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Old February 19th, 2010, 03:37 AM   #1
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"Big day for Tucson"
Tucson secures federal funding for streetcar project

Rhonda Bodfield Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tucson will receive a $63 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the city’s planned streetcar connecting the University of Arizona campus with downtown.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will be in Tucson Thursday morning at the Historic Train Depot to make the formal announcement about the stimulus fund grant, which will be used toward the cost of constructing the four-mile, $150 million project.

“This is a big day for Tucson and a big day for Arizona,” U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva said in a prepared statement. “There are few systems like this in the country, and Tucsonans are once again proud to be ahead of the curve.”

Grijalva said with 10 percent of Tucsonans living, working or going to school within walking distance of the streetcar, the investment “will be repaid several times over through increased transportation efficiency, expanded commercial access, pollution reduction and progress on Rio Nuevo. This is exactly the kind of project that shows why the Recovery Act was a vital step in rebuilding the economy.”

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ spokesman C.J. Karamargin said the congresswoman is pleased with the announcement. “It will bring jobs and economic development at a critical time when we need it most,” he said.

The streetcar would run from near the University Medical Center through downtown to the west side of the Santa Cruz River. The Regional Transportation Plan and tax approved by voters in 2006 included $88 million for it, with another $75 million to come from federal grants. Anything left after construction and equipment is paid for can be used to pay operating costs in the early years.

The city has already received $6 million in federal money for planning and design. It has spent $12.2 million on the project, and plans to spend another $13 million for a Cushing Street bridge to take the streetcar over the Santa Cruz.

City officials hope the streetcar line can be under construction later this year and be operational in 2012.
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Even if it's not the full $75M requested, the Transportation Secretary's visit to Tucson practically guarantees that the city will get some federal stimulus funds for the planned streetcar line:


Transportation chief is coming here this week
LaHood may make announcement about funding streetcar line

by Rob O' Dell
Arizona Daily Star
February 16, 2010

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is scheduled to be in Tucson this week, where he is expected to make a major announcement, possibly about funding for the city's planned streetcar connecting the University of Arizona with downtown. The city applied for a federal grant - through stimulus funds - to build the rail line and has been expecting a response this week, perhaps as soon as today. LaHood has scheduled a press conference for Thursday morning at the Historic Train Depot, adjacent to recently completed Fourth Avenue Underpass, which was designed with the light rail line in mind.

Congressman Raúl Grijalva said he has no details about the visit other than that it involves a "major transportation initiative," but hopes it will result in funding for a major portion of the $150 million cost to build the four-mile rail line. "I'll be very gratified if that's what it is. It's something we've been working toward for three, nearly four years," Grijalva said. No city officials could be reached Monday. Offices were closed for Presidents Day. The four-mile modern streetcar would run from near the University Medical Center through downtown to the west side of the Santa Cruz River. The Regional Transportation Plan and tax approved by voters in 2006 included $88 million for it, with another $75 million to come from federal grants. Anything left after construction and equipment is paid for can be used to pay operating costs in the early years.

The city has already received $6 million in federal money for planning and design. It has spent $12.2 million on the project, and plans to spend another $13 million for a Cushing Street bridge to take the streetcar over the Santa Cruz. If the funding comes through, city officials hope the streetcar line can be under construction later this year and be operational in 2012. LaHood will be the second Cabinet-level figure Grijalva has brought to Tucson this week. This morning Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will appear at the Pima County One Stop Center to announce a major jobs program grant.
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Old February 24th, 2010, 05:58 PM   #2
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Here's quick background on Tucson's streetcar plan
City explains how it will be built, operate

by Rob O ' Dell
Arizona Daily Star
February 21, 2010

This week Tucson learned it will receive $63 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help build a $150 million, four-mile modern streetcar connecting downtown and the University of Arizona. With the money secured and the project on the verge of becoming reality, here are 10 things you might want to know, as answered by city transportation officials:

1. They call it the modern streetcar. What's the difference between this and Phoenix light rail?

The Tucson modern streetcar is a smaller vehicle that will operate by sharing the travel lane with automobiles. METRO light rail in Phoenix is a larger vehicle that usually operates as multicar trains in its own right-of-way. Both use ADA-compliant, low-floor vehicles and allow passengers to enter at the same level as the stop platform.

2. How much will it cost to ride?

The fare will be the same as local Sun Tran buses - to create a regional integrated fare policy. The city is working with the University of Arizona on a universal pass program, where students, faculty, and staff can ride the modern streetcar with their CAT card. The city will also be working with special events to have their admission tickets include streetcar rides for a minor surcharge.

3. Will city taxpayers have to subsidize the streetcar the way they do buses?

As with all transit systems, there will need to be a subsidy. Sun Tran is working to increase fare-box return through the use of "smart card" technology that will allow the system to recapture a higher percentage of operating costs.

4. Since Rio Nuevo is a beneficiary, will Rio Nuevo or the Regional Transportation Authority help cover any operating deficit?

The Tucson modern streetcar has not approached Rio Nuevo to help fund operations. RTA funds approved by voters for the streetcar include an estimated $13 million for operations. But the amount has not been determined because the city of Tucson currently has an application in process for a Federal Transit Administration grant for operations.

5. How fast will it go? How long will it take to run from one end to the other?

The modern streetcar will travel at speeds similar to buses. A travel forecast was done in 2008 projecting that it would take roughly 25-30 minutes to travel from one end to the other - University Medical Center to the area downtown west of the Santa Cruz River.

6. Does this mean residents and businesses along the line will face two years of traffic delays and disruption from the construction, à la Interstate 10?

No. Construction for the Tucson modern streetcar will be phased in sections, which will minimize disruption. Construction will be accompanied by extensive community outreach and education, and a business assistance program.

7. As long as they're tearing up the streets, are they going to get rid of those extended curbs and diagonal parking on Congress Street that is eating up a traffic lane so other vehicles have room to maneuver around the train?

No. The Tucson modern streetcar will be constructed in the left lane on Congress Street and will not require the addition of a third westbound traffic lane in place of the existing curb bulbs and angle parking on the north side of the street. Any decision regarding the number of lanes on Congress Street will be made outside of this project.

9. Will it stop at traffic lights? How often will it stop? How many trains will there be?

Yes. The Tucson modern streetcar will stop at traffic lights. Because it shares the travel lane with automobiles, it will follow all of the same traffic control devices. There will be seven modern streetcar vehicles.

10. What hours/time will it run? What kind of ridership is projected for Tucson's streetcar?

The current plan is for the modern streetcar to operate 20 hours per day (most likely from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.) with 10-minute frequency during the day and 20-minute frequency during the evening. The current ridership estimate for the Tucson modern streetcar is 3,600 boardings per day.
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Old February 24th, 2010, 11:04 PM   #3
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Congrats Tucson! This will help in the further revitalization of downtown and connect U of A with 4th street and congress street. It will transform Tucson into a more urban, more liveable and lively city. I hope they will then add another line along broadway, connecting the malls with downtown.

I always wondered why they havent built a mall in downtown - it would solve all the revitalization problems. Particularly as downtown is anyway well connected to the Interstate. They could build a huge Mexican style plaza next to the conference centre/the court house. But thats only my dream...light rail is already good news.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 02:41 AM   #4
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Congrats Tucson! This will help in the further revitalization of downtown and connect U of A with 4th street and congress street. It will transform Tucson into a more urban, more liveable and lively city. I hope they will then add another line along broadway, connecting the malls with downtown.

I always wondered why they havent built a mall in downtown - it would solve all the revitalization problems. Particularly as downtown is anyway well connected to the Interstate. They could build a huge Mexican style plaza next to the conference centre/the court house. But thats only my dream...light rail is already good news.
Almost 100% of downtown Tucson is independent business. I think there is only one Subway in all of downtown. If a mall is built downtown, it will kill a lot of business.

Besides, there is a mall of sorts near downtown: Main Gate.

And I would love another route on Broadway to at least Campbell.
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Old February 27th, 2010, 09:03 PM   #5
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Almost 100% of downtown Tucson is independent business. I think there is only one Subway in all of downtown. If a mall is built downtown, it will kill a lot of business.

Besides, there is a mall of sorts near downtown: Main Gate.
Tucson downtown is dead and its independent shops have problems because the malls are outside and there is no draw for most people to go downtown during the day (at weekends nights its a little better). In Europe we have had very positive experiences with malls that are intelligently integrated into downtown, they actually brought back business to the independent shops. It was a win-win situation. There is a smart mall developer in Europe - its malls have strenghtened many downtowns accross Europe:
http://www.ece.de/en/geschaeftsfelde...attvorurteile/. People want downtown to be "useful" that means that you can get everything you want and that includes mainstream shops. A couple of hippy shops will not revitalize downtown at all.

What is also missing in Tucson is a culture of sitting outside, like in Europe. I was always wondering why people in Tucson sit in air-conditioned restaurants at evenings while the climate is ideal to sit outside. Perhaps it is because of some alcohol regulations. But again that kills the atmosphere...

I am a big fan of Tucson, because the city has a big potential of which it is using only 10%. With simple actions, like building arcades on the street to provide shade and to promote outside sitting places in front of bars and restaurants downtown could be much more lively. I wished the urban planners in Tucson would do an excursion to France, Spain or Italy to see what can be done in cities with such a great climate...
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Old February 28th, 2010, 09:54 PM   #6
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Is this street car yet another step in Obama's ploy to turn the US into a socialist country by subsidizing means of transportation that deny the citizen's right to use PRIVATE and INDIVIDUAL cars?
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Old March 1st, 2010, 05:05 AM   #7
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Is this street car yet another step in Obama's ploy to turn the US into a socialist country by subsidizing means of transportation that deny the citizen's right to use PRIVATE and INDIVIDUAL cars?
WTF , no its another way to get our selves off the dependency of Oil , jeez what is your problem. Roads and Transportation are already subsidized. Why don't you look up your facts , before you say things like that.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 06:12 AM   #8
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WTF , no its another way to get our selves off the dependency of Oil , jeez what is your problem. Roads and Transportation are already subsidized. Why don't you look up your facts , before you say things like that.
I think he was being sarcastic.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 10:02 AM   #9
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WTF , no its another way to get our selves off the dependency of Oil ,
There is, indeed: electric-powered vehicles, with coal, nuclear, biomass, wind or whatever other electric source.
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 02:47 AM   #10
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What is also missing in Tucson is a culture of sitting outside, like in Europe. I was always wondering why people in Tucson sit in air-conditioned restaurants at evenings while the climate is ideal to sit outside. Perhaps it is because of some alcohol regulations. But again that kills the atmosphere...
Well...I think that's because it gets near 110 degrees here 7 months out of the year. Plus the daily monsoon thunderstorms in the summer added to the gross humidity that follows them. Tucson has very unique summers. Plus it's a well known fact that heat and alcohol do not mix.

But I agree that Tucson has tons of potential. As one of the 3 core cities in the American Southwest (Phoenix and Las Vegas being the other two), I think that Tucson needs to get it's stuff together. There is culture here that surpasses both Phoenix and Vegas and an overall sense of authenticity that those other two cities lack. Too bad the city leaders don't know what the hell they are doing half the time.
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Old March 4th, 2010, 05:38 AM   #11
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Is this street car yet another step in Obama's ploy to turn the US into a socialist country by subsidizing means of transportation that deny the citizen's right to use PRIVATE and INDIVIDUAL cars?
Yeah Obama's just about got you guys crawling round on your knees now, hasn't he?

Congratulations, Tucson and Obama- for having some sense.
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Old March 4th, 2010, 11:55 PM   #12
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Well...I think that's because it gets near 110 degrees here 7 months out of the year. Plus the daily monsoon thunderstorms in the summer added to the gross humidity that follows them. Tucson has very unique summers. Plus it's a well known fact that heat and alcohol do not mix.
No, I think its a typical "US thing". There is very few pedestrian zones, very few outside sitting bars / cafés anywhere in the US compared to Europe. It doesnt bother me because many other things in the US are awesome and better than in Europe, but it is just weird between November and April in Tucson, when the weather is perfect, particularly in the evenings. People sit in air conditioned restaurants and are not in touch with the outside. I mean 4th street for example - a great place with nice bars - does barely not provide any sitting places outside. You always have to go inside the place. Its so weird to me.

I had a wonderful garden in Tucson and I enjoyed the evenings so much.

I think the cars killed a lot of urbanity in the US. Parking places have destroyed the urban atmosphere in many cities. I always wondered why parking places have always the highest priority in the US. Cars in masses look so un-aesthetic. Why not put them in underground garages and hide them from the city. It would be a dream - but lets imagine a pedestrianized Congress street with fountains, arcaded sidewalks, street cafés - I mean the thing you find in any European or South American town. Why is that not possible in the US (except for a few exceptions like Madison, WI, Ithaca, NY and perhaps Denver, CO; Santa Monica, CA; New Orleans)? Is it because people in the US dont like to mingle with other people or because its inconvenient to walk or because more people in the US than in Europe are just not enjoying urban lifestyle? Is it a cultural difference? I like the US so its no criticism, I just want to express my "sufferings" when I walk through cities in the US and think how sad it is that the urbanity of the early 20th century that you can see in old pictures has been lost.
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Old March 5th, 2010, 02:27 PM   #13
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And what does this have to do with the streetcar?
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Old March 5th, 2010, 04:39 PM   #14
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In response to your question about the aesthetics of parked cars, putting parking below ground would cost far more money; we tend to take the cheapest way here regardless of aesthetics (generally seen as waste of tax money).

In my opinion, people in the U.S. (for all their friendliness) are far more reserved about strangers than in most other western countries (I'm comparing them with those in France, Germany, the U.K., and Spain, which I've been to); we tend not to have a culture that emphasizes interacting with random people on the streets, or even in bars or restaurants. Even comparing large cities (i.e., London to New York City) in one country to another I find this to be true.

We also tend to emphasize private space over public space. The prominence of autos has contributed a great deal to this in many ways; you can travel from your house in the suburbs to the private shopping mall and never have to interact with anyone randomly in a public environment. Poor urban planning has contributed to making communities that aren't walkable, whether because the distances are too great, the streets are not pedestrian-friendly (no sidewalks, dangerously high speed limits, etc.), or urban divestment has made the neighborhood dangerous, or at least given them the perception of undesirability.

We've also become so reliant on autos for travel, that many people would just as soon not walk. I don't think it was always this way, it was the rise of suburban sprawl post-WWII that created most of these attitude and perceptions (most Americans would consider a mile-long walk to be an onerous burden). The main problem now is we're realizing this entire system is based on the continued availability of cheap petroleum--a phenomenon that is going to come to an end quite soon.

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No, I think its a typical "US thing". There is very few pedestrian zones, very few outside sitting bars / cafés anywhere in the US compared to Europe. It doesnt bother me because many other things in the US are awesome and better than in Europe, but it is just weird between November and April in Tucson, when the weather is perfect, particularly in the evenings. People sit in air conditioned restaurants and are not in touch with the outside. I mean 4th street for example - a great place with nice bars - does barely not provide any sitting places outside. You always have to go inside the place. Its so weird to me.

I had a wonderful garden in Tucson and I enjoyed the evenings so much.

I think the cars killed a lot of urbanity in the US. Parking places have destroyed the urban atmosphere in many cities. I always wondered why parking places have always the highest priority in the US. Cars in masses look so un-aesthetic. Why not put them in underground garages and hide them from the city. It would be a dream - but lets imagine a pedestrianized Congress street with fountains, arcaded sidewalks, street cafés - I mean the thing you find in any European or South American town. Why is that not possible in the US (except for a few exceptions like Madison, WI, Ithaca, NY and perhaps Denver, CO; Santa Monica, CA; New Orleans)? Is it because people in the US dont like to mingle with other people or because its inconvenient to walk or because more people in the US than in Europe are just not enjoying urban lifestyle? Is it a cultural difference? I like the US so its no criticism, I just want to express my "sufferings" when I walk through cities in the US and think how sad it is that the urbanity of the early 20th century that you can see in old pictures has been lost.
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Old March 6th, 2010, 10:27 AM   #15
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And what does this have to do with the streetcar?
Much indeed. You cannot drive to the streetcar, you have to walk there. Perspective of a pedestrian is different than that of a driver or car passenger. To attract people, streets must offer spectacular quality of public space, otherwise noone willl use the streetcar.
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Old March 6th, 2010, 08:13 PM   #16
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Much indeed. You cannot drive to the streetcar, you have to walk there. Perspective of a pedestrian is different than that of a driver or car passenger. To attract people, streets must offer spectacular quality of public space, otherwise noone willl use the streetcar.
Tucson has been doing that actually. All throughout downtown, there has been facade improvement, landscaping, as well as widening the streets and sidewalks all to accommodate the streetcar. The 4th Ave Underpass was built with the option for a modern streetcar (it already has a historic streetcar).
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Old March 7th, 2010, 12:50 PM   #17
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Tucson has been doing that actually. All throughout downtown, there has been facade improvement, landscaping, as well as widening the streets and sidewalks all to accommodate the streetcar. The 4th Ave Underpass was built with the option for a modern streetcar (it already has a historic streetcar).
@Dan78: Thanks to Dan78 for this excellent explanation. I did enjoy also the more reserved life style in the US and the freedoms that it gives. You cant have everything everywhere - and still despite these shortcomings I love Tucson. Its a great city.

@soup or man: Yes, but all this Rio Nuevo project is painstakenly slow. In a country that normally moves so fast, little things like urban revitalization takes so much time because only a minority understands and wants it. While outside Tucson huge urban sprawl has developed and cities of the size of more than 100,000 people have been built, a renovated facade in downtown is called and celebrated as "revitalization". Ridiculous! Revitalization for me is when there are lots more people frequenting that area than before and thats not true for downtown. Lots of money for very low impact. Just look at Barrio Viejo south of Downtown. Why are there no cobblestoned streets, no historic street lighting - I mean this could be similar to a small andulician town - yet despite the beautifully painted houses, the potential is not used at all!

Most of the bigger projects of Rio Nuevo have yet to realize - and Rio Nuevo is in place since a decade. The USA is quick at building NEW things but very, very slow at reinventing or renewing OLD things. Its more a culture of taking things down and rebuilding. When you go to "historic downtowns" in the US - which in my opinion are indeed beautiful they are normally considered as a museum than a place that vibrates and constitutes the center of the city. In Arizona at least, "historic downtowns" are mostly equal to esoteric and new age stuff, its something "odd" where only "odd" people go shopping (take Bisbee for example). That is really amusing for us Europeans. Even Phoenix downtown has some great buildings "art deco style", but in this city of 4 Million people downtown is as dead as the center of a 5,000 people town in Europe. I mean this city is bigger than Berlin - and despite that Berlin was a divided city with a dead and destroyed center it has created a new urban space (Potsdamer Platz - with a "mainstream" shopping mall by the way). What prevents Phoenix from taking similar steps?

As to Tucson: A true change would be to make Congress a pedestrianized street to create a plaza with cafes, restaurants and most importantly mainstream shops. Even very few U of A students have been to downtown because they see no reason to go there. The streetcar will therefore, change a lot - but just a streetcar is not enough. The approach in downtown should be more radical. Tucsonians have to learn to appreciate downtown over mall places like Tucson Mall or Park Place. However, they will only enjoy downtown if it provides the same opportunities and that means offering mainstream shopping including electronics, food, consumer goods, chains stores etc.. If 2000 old cities with narrow lanes can integrate a shopping center into downtown sensibly, Tucson can surely do it as well. There is so much open space in downtown and moreover, I-10 runs just next to downtown. It cries for life!

A congress center, a new hotel or a bridge over I-10 will change nothing. Downtown will remain as dead as it is today.
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Old March 12th, 2010, 11:48 PM   #18
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I've only lived in Tucson a little over a year and whenever I hear about a proposed development in Tucson, I always hear Rio Nuevo in some sort of negative way.

But it should be said that Tucson in many ways has a more alive downtown than Phoenix. I do agree however that despite the numerous strides that I've seen in the year I've been here, there needs to be so much more. There needs to be people living downtown. And I don't mean in areas near downtown like Armory Park but IN downtown. Retail is a must. A streetcar will connect the U of A to downtown but while there is quite a lot of activity on University Blvd and 4th Ave, not a whole lot in downtown aside from The Rialto and Hotel Congress. There needs to be more. But things are improving. And the streetcar will surely help.
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Old March 14th, 2010, 03:19 AM   #19
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im jealous
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Old March 14th, 2010, 10:32 PM   #20
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I've only lived in Tucson a little over a year and whenever I hear about a proposed development in Tucson, I always hear Rio Nuevo in some sort of negative way.

But it should be said that Tucson in many ways has a more alive downtown than Phoenix. I do agree however that despite the numerous strides that I've seen in the year I've been here, there needs to be so much more. There needs to be people living downtown. And I don't mean in areas near downtown like Armory Park but IN downtown. Retail is a must. A streetcar will connect the U of A to downtown but while there is quite a lot of activity on University Blvd and 4th Ave, not a whole lot in downtown aside from The Rialto and Hotel Congress. There needs to be more. But things are improving. And the streetcar will surely help.
I agree. In any case Tucson has a great future!
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