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People driving less

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The trend is unmistakable and it is a trend now.

For the past ten years, people have been driving less and it shows no sign of reversing. A new study just released by Arizona PIRG shows the trend began three years before the recession hit in 2008. 

So it's not just economic.

"Young people are more likely than the rest of the population to use public transportation," says Diane Brown, who was one of the authors of the study. And young people also tend "to walk and ride their bike to their destination." 

In some respects, it appears to be a generational thing. Millennial, which is the largest population in America, "has led the trend away from driving."

But also, many working class people no longer need to commute. They can work from home. Shoppers can shop on the internet reducing the number of trips to the store. 

Also, seniors who can no longer drive still need to shop, go to doctors and visit others. They tend to live near transit hubs.

All of this appears to be good news for the Modern Streetcar, which makes its public debut this week.

"The demand for transit is increasing and has been for some time," says Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. "Wd don't need to be telling people they've got just one transportation option and that's the car,"

But it's sort of a conundrum for transportation planners and elected officials.

Tucson recently passed a $100 million bond to fix the streets which had been badly neglected because of a dwindling revenue source.

But it's also concerned about a $46 million transit subsidy.

How to keep the roads in good shape and pay for increased transit is an issue which will face local politicians in the years ahead.

It's hoped voters will extend the RTA, which they approved in 2006 to build roads and pay for the streetcar. But that's not a sure thing.

Many people are not happy about the $200 million spent on the streetcar, even if they support transit.

Cade Schaeffer is one of those. He supports transit for the people who need it but says I think they should find their money somewhere else, it's ridiculous to put it into a streetcar." 

Josue Zuniga says "It's stupid. We need streets fixed and they put it into a stupid train."

Those are the attitudes which will have to be overcome if the city planners are going to be able to sell the half cent sales tax into the future.

But the mayor is optimistic.

"We need to tell people, 'You've got choices. You can drive, take transit, bike, walk or any combination of them,'" he says.

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