Tucson modern streetcar creates fire safety concerns

Tucson streetcar to nowhere

The Tucson Modern Streetcar has had its share of problems and created it’s share of problems for downtown business owners and bicyclists. Now, there are looming issues that have been recently brought to light.

As first reported by Tucson radio host Jon Justice, the “modern” streetcar is powered by electricity – 750 volts to be exact strung 19 feet over the cramped streets of downtown Tucson, and fire officials are concerned about access to buildings and the people who occupy them.

While their vehicles can move under the lines, their ladders cannot safely come near the lines. “It’s like suicide,” said the source. “You can’t raise them near power lines and water. Taking the time to contact the power substation to have power turned off costs valuable minutes.”

Tucson Fire Department sources say they were not consulted during the $196 million project’s planning stage. They now say they have concerns that their ladders will not be able to be raised for firefighting purposes until the electric system is turned off, costing valuable time when people are stranded in the area’s high rises.

The proliferation of new restaurants has raised concerns due to their high risk potential for kitchen fires. Just this summer, a small Tucson restaurant fire required the attention of nine units and 23 firefighters.

The sources expressed concern that future buildings will not pass Fire Marshall inspections due to the time it would take to access the building.

Two local insurance experts said that the overhead lines should not increase insurance premiums, as is the case when a property is a distance away from fire hydrants or fire stations. The issue of the lines first arose when local real estate agents began inquiring about added insurance costs for downtown properties.

During Tucson’s Monsoon season, questions were raised about the power lines which can be adversely affected by strong winds bringing the wires down and stopping all trains. Power storms can also knock the power out with lightning strikes on systems with overhead wires, thereby stopping trains if there is a power surge.

One Tucson fire official said he was dismayed that the city planners had not given consideration to potential rescue services.


  1. well the only word that comes right to mind regarding these “after thoughts” they are now having is DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. TFD wasn’t consulted, huh? Well, no one was. Despite the outcry the clowncil was just going to do whatever we wanted to do, and now we’re left with a tourist attraction…the world’s most expensive rolling homeless shelter.

  3. Fire problems? Oh what a surprise. Double duh! After thought, and NO thought at all, just a few dummies running this town.

  4. You have a chance to vote 2 new people on the council. Get out and work for Mike & Ben. I’m tired of throwing money down for which I work hard.

  5. Not a surprise! Tucson should elect new people to represent them. I have not heard of Mike and Ben.

  6. I find this streetcar story utterly hilarious. When I was a kid, in Chicago, years ago, we had street cars of all sorts. The type that Tucson is installing was involved in a horrific fire (Clark St.) in which dozens of people were burned alive because they couldn’t get out of those things. Those trolleys were the first to be replaced by BUSES! Eventually, the entire CTA fleet was transformed, and so it remains to this day.
    I wouldn’t ride a CTA trolley then, and I don’t plan to ever ride in Tucson’s streetcar. Memories of dead, burned-up people and the stench of their burned flesh has left an indelible imprint on me.

  7. This is just the beginning. When this boondoggle finally starts operating on a regular basis there will be accidents involving other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, anything that gets in the way of this behemoth. What a ridiculous notion that we needed a trolley. The commentor who identified it as a rolling homeless shelter nailed it. Wait and see.

  8. Every time I read something about the Town Clowncil or PCBOS and say to myself “this is the dumbest thing I have ever seen,” I have to remind myself to wait a couple weeks.

    After Richard Fimbres “renaissance” comments about In-n-Out Burger and Costco, I can see that wait has “paid off.”

    Can someone say A Streetcar Named Disaster?

  9. come on people —- this system was only 90,000,000.00 dollars… we could have had free bus for everyone in town for 10 years – and that bus will take you to the grocery store… and the bar –

  10. I don’t care what anyone says….those overhead electrical wires are scary….and if fire trucks can’t pass under them…well shame on those who permitted this thing. Has anyone interviewed TFD to see if they are good with this? They are the final authority on whether this works for them…or not. End of the day…women walking through these areas with heels are at risk…there is a wide gap between the tracks and it is dangerous and hope no one sprains an ankle. Bicyclists have already been injured in the “bike friendly” city….we need some solutions. I would be happy to help work on solutions to these problems.

    • Supervisor Miller,

      Our reporter did speak to staff at TFD. They were disappointed they have not been consulted.


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