This piece was sent in by a friend and supporter of the Bus Riders Union. Thanks for your thoughts M!
The City of Tucson has been irresponsible throughout the entire Streetcar project. Initial negotiations regarding the Streetcar included major contributions from the University of Arizona, yet when the UofA changed their mind the City plowed on with little regard for the impact the streetcar would have on the budget or the community.
The primary purpose of the Streetcar, which has a price tag of over $190 million, will be to take intoxicated college students from bar to bar and will not help increase business for many merchants along the route or help the general public with their transportation needs.
Initially, potential contribution from the UofA made the Streetcar project appear viable, but the project should have been scrapped as soon as the University money was no longer on the table. Financial decisions such as this are no surprise from the University, given the institutions history of balancing their budget on the backs of students while paying Athletics Coaches close to $2 million per year plus allowing $6 million in gifted stocks.
While the streetcar will cost $3-5 million a year to run along the 3.9 mile route, the city has tried to save at least $2 million by cutting bus routes in parts of town where residents rely on the bus as their only mode of transportation to basic needs such as accessing food and medical care.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that governments cannot use funds in a racially discriminatory manner, and if a public agency does, all federal funding can be cut off. Yet the city will be using $69 million in federal funds for a streetcar project that serves a small, increasingly gentrified area and primarily privileged population while potentially cutting bus routes elsewhere. Cutting bus routes, mostly on the City’s south and west sides of town, and raising fares is transit racism and would disproportionately impact people of color and could put the City at risk of violating the Civil Rights Act.
For the majority of working class people that ride the bus, the proposed bus fare increases cause a hardship and represent financial exploitation of already marginalized communities, making the classist mentality of City leaders clear as they propose to balance the budget on the backs of poor people while providing a Streetcar for the transportation of an elite few.