Mission Statement

Establish the foundation for an expanded regional transit system by initially connecting major activity centers in the Tucson metro core with a new form of high capacity transit service that is easy to use, affordable, and supported by the community.

Project Goals

The overall long-range transportation goal is to provide a safe efficient, economical, attractive, and integrated transit connection that offers convenient, accessible, and affordable mobility within the study area. More specific goals include the following:
view study area boundaries
City of Tucson
Federal Transit Administration
Regional Transportation Authority

  • Provide connectivity
  • Support land use and development goals
  • Provide a compatible transit investment
  • Promote economic and transit-oriented development
  • Ensure the study recommendation is compatible with the finance plan
  • Ensure compatibility with existing transit services
  • Attract new riders to the system
  • Gain community understanding and support

Who is Involved?

The COT and Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) partnered with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to identify a potential transit solution to connect the central core activity centers such as Downtown Tucson, the Rio Nuevo Master Plan, the 4th Avenue/University Boulevard retail corridors, the University of Arizona, and the Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC). Project boundaries are Grant Rd. to the north, 22nd St. to the south, Campbell Ave. to the east and Grande Ave. to the west.
What is a Modern Streetcar?

The Modern Streetcar is a fixed-guideway electric rail system that typically operates at street level in existing urban environments. In most cases, the modern streetcar shares a lane with other vehicles and can be coordinated with the traffic signal system so that overall route operating speed can be maximized. The modern streetcar is usually operated using a single vehicle and can operate safely in high traffic and/or high pedestrian activity areas to link neighborhoods with activity centers. It was chosen as the recommended technology because after evaluation of criteria such as mobility, ridership, cost, compatibility, economic development, environmental issues, design, traffic issues, and community support, it was determined to achieve the best overall rating. It also can provide incorporate the Old Pueblo Trolley (OPT) as a potential supplemental system.

The modern streetcar is currently being used in Portland Oregon’s Pearl District and on the Portland State University campus with stellar reviews. View video footage of the Portland Modern Streetcar.

Why the Downtown/University Boulevard Alignment?

The overall philosophy of the project is to keep things simple and inexpensive by using as much of the existing infrastructure as possible, with a route that will avoid utility construction issues, and designing the system that compliments adjacent urban and neighborhood environments. The Tier 2 evaluation found that this route had higher boardings and ridership projections, no peak hour delays, and no major road capacity or turn restriction issues.


Phase One was completed in 2006. It included extensive input from the general public, project stakeholders (e.g. adjacent neighborhoods, business owners, etc.) and local, regional, state and federal agencies and elected officials.

It was to develop the Alternative Analysis and ensure all steps met FTA guidelines. The Alternative Analysis outlined the scope of work, a Public Involvement Plan which included a community outreach program, review of existing and future neighborhood and area plans, an On-Board public transit survey, updating of the Pima Association of Governments’ (PAG) travel demand forecasting model and methodology, establishment of measures used to evaluate alignment and technology alternatives, identification of different transportation modes and alignments, recognizing the respective environmental impact, and preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

To develop the Alternative Analysis, certain assumptions were necessary. The assumptions included completion of the 4th Ave underpass construction with trolley tracks, a one-way downtown street system, the Downtown Area Master Plan, the UA Master Plan, and the Arizona Health and Science Center Master Plan. The assumptions were crucial as they represent future construction projects that impact the Alternative Analysis’ transit requirements and infrastructure compatibility.

At the conclusion of the study, a locally preferred alternative (LPA) for the major transit investment was recommended for further evaluation through the FTA’s New Start program for potential funding.


Phase Two is to prepare the Environment Assessment (EA) and conduct a Preliminary Engineering (PE), record a design, select a maintenance facility site, and begin Right of Way (ROW) acquisition. These efforts will incorporate the newly calibrated PAG model and a full travel forecasting model to provide information on all modes of travel and traveler characteristics so that what if scenarios regarding fare increases, decreased highway capacity, and land use intensification can be studied as well as determining user benefits information and special events modeling. This second phase will start in early 2006 with an estimated completion date to be 2007.


Phase Three is the final design, construction, and operation of the alternative transit system. Phase Three is estimated for completion in 2011.