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Tucson streetcar on international stage

Posted at 10:32 PM, Feb 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 07:55:10-05

Inside a streetcar in the Sun Link maintenance yard there was a meeting set up from around the world Sunday.

About a dozen local government members from Canberra, the capitol of Australia, are in Tucson studying the modern streetcar. They are building a similar, light-rail system in their city.

"We are really interested to see how the economic development can work for Tucson," said Mick Gentleman, Minister of Planning and Land Management for the Australian Capitol Territory.

"We understand those fixed tram lines bring much better patronage. Also, along those lines we bring much better land value," he said.

Gentleman says Tucson is a good study for their project in Canberra because of similar size and climate. 

The project in Canberra has already secured funding through a private-public partnership and was approved during the last election. The planned light-rail project in Canberra is about twice as long as the route in Tucson and will cost them about $700 million. The streetcar in Tucson cost about $200 million.

Jeremy Papuga, the transit administrator in Tucson, says the Australian group reached out to them a few weeks ago. Papuga says he is proud that the Tucson streetcar is seen as a success internationally and are happy to share what they learned with other cities.

"There are a lot of communities that did the same for us when we were in development, we feel we are paying back to the industry and letting others learn from us too," he said.

Dozens of other cities have visited Tucson in the past. This is the largest group coming from an international city.

The Australian visitors will also stop in Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver.