Bus riders worry Tucson may cut down or close Ronstadt Center
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - You'd probably fight anything that affects your ability to move around town. Now some Tucson bus riders are gearing up to fight what they fear is a plan to cut back or shut down an important transit center: Ronstadt Transit Center in downtown Tucson.
The center can be a real lifeline for people who use the bus as their main transportation.
But now there are fears as downtown develops, the center is on land too choice and too well-located to use for buses and the people who ride them.
Ronstadt transit center has been helping bus riders get in and out of downtown for 21 years.
But as downtown wakes up and millions in money pours in to nice new places work, shop, work and live, longtime bus riders worry the center will be carved up into retail and they'll be driven out.
Brian Flagg of the Tucson Bus Riders Union is planning a protest Monday afternoon to organize opposition to any development on the site.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Flagg: "when I look for projects regarding Ronstadt Center the main thing I find is a brand new project up grading the place. What do you hear that makes you think it's a target for development?
Flagg: "Businesses downtown talk sometimes about how they want to make it so people are not afraid to go downtown; and people don't have to be afraid of bus riders any more than they have to be afraid of bankers or other people that do bad things."
Smith asked bus rider Tony Jenkins: "Do you find it believable that there might be forces trying to run people out of downtown?"
Jenkins: Oh yeah. That's everywhere you go, you know what I'm saying?"
Other bus riders look at more than 800 thousand in improvements going into Ronstadt Center and find cutting it back or shutting it down hard to believe.
Michael Hemenway says:"Look at all the money they're doing to rebuild this and the new track system coming in. It doesn't make sense what you're saying."
The tracks are for the new modern street car to run through downtown, and right next to Ronstadt.
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild says to help settle a lawsuit over land issues unrelated to the transit center, the city is considering a land swap that could give developers what he calls a small slice of the Transit Center but nothing big enough to degrade bus service.
He says, "We've been assured with modern technology and the way buses can run now that the same amount of services will be there at the bus station. I know Brian likes to stir the pot a little but he should not be concerned."
There's no firm information on how quickly a deal could come together, if one does come together but the mayor does want to move fast because of issues related to the lawsuit that is leading to consideration of a land swap.
As for the more than 800 thousand dollars in security and bus land improvements just being finished at the transit center, the mayor says developing a portion of the site for another purpose should not affect the improvements just installed.