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 Streetcar ticket machines suffering humidity related jams
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1 week ago

Streetcar ticket machines suffering humidity related jams

TUCSON - More than a few streetcar riders over the weekend complained that the ticket machines weren't working properly.

Some say the machines ate their cash. Others say they never accepted their credit cards.

Heat, humidity, and frequent use could all be reasons why a ticket vending machine could malfunction. All three of those factors were present this past weekend, when a couple of machines failed to work.

The same thing happened to Dani Greene when she tried to use plastic Monday afternoon.

It turns out, the ticket vending machine she was using on Fourth Avenue and Fifth Street was jammed.

It was repaired around 3 p.m. according to city representatives, but riders had to improvise until then.

"But I really need to get to class and it's hot so I don't want to walk, so I just get on. I'll pay if I can but I can't," said Greene.

Afraid to break the rules, others walked away empty handed.

"The machine won't take my cash," said Kendall Kroesen. "I think I can probably walk down there in time for my meeting, I'd rather ride."

Sun link officials offer up a third option.

"We don't want them to not ride the streetcar so you still have the ability to board but what we do is ask you purchase a day pass when they get off the car rather than prior to boarding," said Transit Administrator Jeremy Papuga.

It's essentially an honor system. But fare enforcement officers do try to check about 20 percent of riders to be sure they paid.

Those officers have not issued any tickets yet, they've focused on educating riders up until this point. But soon they will be, one hundred dollars for a first offense.

Other riders say they don't notice the machines are exact change only. If they put in too much money in, they don't get it back, except in the form of more tickets.

Despite a few riders paying too much, others not at all, Sun Link says there's no noticeable revenue changes on their end.

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2 weeks ago

N4T Investigators: City faces multiple claims over streetcar tracks

It's been more than two months since Tucson's modern streetcar began revenue service. In that time, ridership has been higher than expected. But, as the News 4 Investigators uncovered, Tucson taxpayers may end up on the hook for the cost of injuries caused by the streetcar tracks.

We've been closely following developments leading up to the launch of the Modern Streetcar, and what it may mean for Tucson taxpayers. We found a slew of claims filed against the city. Some of those claims date back months, even years before the streetcar began rolling.

Ian Johnson with the Living Streets Alliance, has seen plenty of cyclists who've ended up on the wrong side of the modern streetcar tracks.

"They'll hit the tracks, you know, whether it's someone pulled out in front of them unexpectedly, or a car was parked very far outside the lines. They'll just find themselves, for one reason or another, riding across the tracks, and they'll get injured," Johnson said.

They're not alone. Based on information uncovered by the News 4 Tucson Investigators, there have been a half-dozen claims filed against the city for injuries that are being blamed on the streetcar tracks. Though, so far there have been no claims based on injuries caused by the streetcars themselves.

Turns out, it's not just novice cyclists who are getting injured.

"The vast majority of people who crash on these tracks are actually experienced cyclists, who actually know that the tracks are dangerous," Johnson said.

One of those experienced cyclists, who didn't file a claim is Laura Balis. She was hurt earlier this year near East University Boulevard and North 4th Avenue, when a car stopped right in front of her, forcing her into the tracks, and off her bike..

"I definitely didn't expect someone to stop right in the middle of the street. So, yeah, unexpected. I mean, it hurt a bit, but as I started to ride home, it hurt more. My elbow got really stiff, later I found out that it was broken," Balis said.

Living Streets Alliance has a streetcar crash tracker on their website. They tell us, while the city and the UA have worked to educate cyclists on the danger of the streetcar tracks, it still might not be enough.

"No matter how good your education is, there's always going to be a case where something happens unexpectedly, and there's just not enough room to safely maneuver around the tracks," Johnson said.

For her part, Laura tells us she's not sure any amount of education can help keep cyclists out of harm's way.

"I think it's just hard with the tracks being parallel to the road. I think the way they're designed is really dangerous. The more I looked into it," Balis said.

Two of the half-dozen claims filed against the city have now become lawsuits. We'll keep you updated on the status of those lawsuits, as they make their way through the court system.

If you have something you would like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us, at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.

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1 month ago

Streetcar patrols costing the city overtime

TUCSON - On opening weekend police presence on the streetcar line was funded by a $153,000 grant from FEMA which was spent within during the first few days of service.

Police are still monitoring the system, and paying for that extra time has fallen on the Tucson Police Department.

"There's a need for police presence, and we have to be there to make sure that things are running smoothly, and people are going about their business safely and enjoying their time out," said Lt. Rich Anemone with TPD.

So far, Anemone said police have had no reports of violence or unruly passengers.

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, officers can be seen riding the streetcars or directing traffic.

"We didn't take any resources from the patrol squads, the resources that we use are mainly bike officers, walking beat officers," said Anemone.

Councilman Steve Kozachik said Tucson officers worked 200 overtime hours on streetcar duty last weekend.

"It seems like it's a little overboard," said Tucson resident, Kamon Lilly.

According to the city's website, TPD officers make anywhere from $23 to $32 per hour. Do the math, and it means the department dished out between $7,000 and $10,000 in overtime pay last weekend alone.

"If it's just something to help with guarding an investment, then it's fine," said streetcar rider, Nathaniel Yang.

Friday marks the 6th weekend of increased police presence TPD has funded. The extra enforcement is expected to lessen, but won't completely disappear for at least a few more weeks.

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1 month ago

Streetcar briefly shut down as TFD crews clean up after rollover

TUCSON- The streetcar has briefly come to a halt as Tucson Fire crews clean up after a rollover accident near Cushing Street and Interstate 10.

Tucson Fire said there is one car currently blocking the tracks and those in the car suffered minor injuries.

We will bring you more information as soon as we get it.

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2 months ago

Many students use streetcar on first day of class

TUCSON - It's back to school for thousands of U of A students. This year many are taking advantage of the streetcar.

From 4th Avenue to downtown, students living off campus are using the streetcar on the first day of class. One of most popular stops to get on to get a ride to campus has been Fourth Avenue.

Students get a free month on the streetcar if they registered online. Many riding Monday say after the free month they plan to buy a pass.

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2 months ago

Fourth Avenue closed to cars to help streetcar

TUCSON - Cars were not allowed to go through the underpass from 4th Avenue to Downtown Thursday night.

The city is trying to fix the gridlock that is delaying the streetcar in traffic. The biggest problems start around 11 p.m, according to Carlos de Leon, the city's Deputy Transportation Director.

"This is a good bad thing that happened," he said. "It's good that we have this activity in Downtown and Fourth Avenue. The negative consequence of that is additional traffic."

Transportation department workers tried to fix the traffic signal timing last weekend, but it was not enough.

This weekend, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, the underpass is restricted from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Northbound traffic is not restricted. Bicycles and pedestrians are still allowed to use the underpass in both directions.

"We still haven't figured out yet what's going to happen next weekend," de Leon said. "We're evaluating this weekend, and we'll be meeting again early next week and deciding how to move forward for the following weekend."

The transportation department might consider diverting traffic off Congress Street if the underpass closure does not work.

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik said he has heard from some Fourth Avenue businesses that are worried about traffic problems. He also said residents and businesses should have been part of the decision-making process. He sent an email to the transportation department.

"If the problem is traffic volume, all this does is shift it into surrounding neighborhoods and back up 4th Avenue," Koazachik wrote. "If the problem is traffic flow, you could have addressed that by dedicating the south lane to the streetcar and taking out north side parking along Congress during heavy demand periods."

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2 months ago

Streetcar getting stuck in traffic

TUCSON - Transportation officials are trying to figure out how to keep the streetcar from getting stuck in traffic.

Last week's "Second Saturday" festival attracted more than 15,000 people Downtown, the biggest crowd ever, according to the Downtown Tucson Partnership.

Almost 6,700 riders boarded Sun Link, but the roads were also full of cars. Streetcars were getting held up in gridlock near 4th Avenue and Congress Street.

City of Tucson Deputy Transportation Director, Carlos de Leon, said that is why the city wanted the streetcar running a month before classes start at the University of Arizona.

"We had an opportunity to really see how people would interact with the system, learn some things and make adjustments," de Leon said. "So it's kind of a learning period for us and for our customers."

Transportation officials tried to find solutions in a meeting on Wednesday.

"We have a variety of measures that we have on our list that we'll try one at a time," de Leon said. "And then collect data and see how the response is before we implement everything."

The first step is adjusting the timing of traffic signals around 4th Avenue and Congress Street. De Leon said they might also divert cars away from the area or even have Tucson Police officers conduct traffic.

During the Wednesday evening rush hour, there were no problems at that intersection. So far, more people ride weekends than weekdays.

Josh Proctor is the general manager of Gio Taco, which is on the corner of the worst choke-point.

"We definitely want to make sure there's access to the restaurants and businesses that are Downtown," he said. "But I think that when something is popular, and something is busy, that helps feed that popularity, that business. And I think that the struggles with getting in and out of Downtown are going to be alleviated quickly."

On Saturday, Sun Link was only running 4 of its 8 cars. City officials do not think more cars would solve the problem because traffic was not moving at all through the 4th Avenue underpass.

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2 months ago

Second Saturday Downtown packs streetcar

TUCSON - The Sun Link streetcar was still packed on its first Second Saturday Downtown.

Tom Skinner lives in the Armory Park neighborhood. The past couple weeks he has enjoyed the nearby transportation option, but on Saturday, he just rode for fun.

"It's like Disneyland," he said. "Everybody's having a great time."

Paul Kukich's food truck, Burgerrito, was busy earlier than usual, even though it is usually a slow time of year.

"Sometimes it's good, bad and ugly when you're dealing with losing about 100,000 people in the summer time," Kukich said. "With all the students gone, snowbirds, people going on vacation, it can almost be a ghost town at times."

Kukich thinks the streetcar will have longterm benefits for the businesses in the area, despite the problems during construction.

"People are starting to take it more welcoming, more open arms than they have in the past," he said. "I think they are starting to see the impact it is able to make within the community with all the small businesses, including mine."

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2 months ago

TPD deploys special patrol along streetcar route to educate public

TUCSON - Tucson Police deployed a special patrol for the first two weeks of the modern streetcar's operation, focusing on educating the public on potential problems.

Some of the main issues officers are speaking to people about include obeying traffic signage, being cautious in narrow lanes, parking properly and not driving in the underpass located beneath Speedway Blvd.

"So if there is somebody coming through here other than the streetcar, there is a good chance for a head-on collision because there are a lot of blind spots coming though," said TPD Lt. Rich Anemone.

"This is a really important thing for folks to be aware of ... that they cannot go through this area," he said.

Sun Link estimates that 3,500 passengers paid their way onto the streetcar's first day of normal operation. There were a few technical glitches with pay stations and validators -- however, most of the problems were addressed quickly.

Photo Courtesy: Tucson Modern Streetcar on Facebook

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2 months ago

Some free rides still happening on the streetcar

TUCSON - Monday marked the first day Sun Link riders were to be charged for rides on the modern streetcar, but some riders tell News 4 Tucson they were still able to ride for free.

Michael Graham with the City of Tucson confirmed there were some validators on board Sun Link streetcars that were malfunctioning and some ticket machines not working properly. Sun Link Ambassadors are riding the streetcars and waiting at stops to help with the process.

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2 months ago

Streetcar passengers begin paying fares

TUCSON - Roughly 60,000 people boarded Tucson's new streetcar for free during the opening weekend celebration. Monday marked the system's first day of normal operation and ridership was considerably calmer.

Mark Robinson, who first rode the streetcar during its free-ride days, noticed fewer passengers boarding the train.

"There is no comparison because today is slow... very slow," Robinson said.

Some commuters, like Andrew Flagg, embraced the new mode of transportation and is excited to use it to get to work. "For people who live near the line it's easy and convenient - and not too expensive," Flagg said.

Fare enforcement agents were also deployed on Monday to make sure everyone riding the streetcar paid for their tickets.

No citations will be issued immediately, though, because Sun Link intends to give the public enough time to get familiar with the system.

For a project facing a lot of criticism, some critics are having a change of heart.

"At first I didn't think it was a good idea, I thought it was a waste of money until I started riding it I kind of changed my mind because of where it goes and they're going to improve on it eventually," Robinson said.

For more information about the streetcar: www.sunlinkstreetcar.com

2 months ago

Packed Streetcar on kick-off weekend

TUCSON - The city estimates 60 thousand riders tried the streetcar over the 3 day free, kick-off weekend.

Today, riders will have to pay $1.50 for a 1-way fare.

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2 months ago

'Tremendous' opening day for Sun Link Streetcar

Guess how many people rode Tucson's new Sun Link Streetcar opening day? 17,000.

City of Tucson officials calling it a tremendous first day.

The hours of operation on opening day were 10 a.m. to 2 a.m with up to eight streetcars operating on the four-mile long route.

The hours of operation for this weekend are 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Beginning Monday, July 28, 2014, Sun Link begins collecting fares with riders needing a SunGO card or a one-day SunGO pass available at the streetcar stops along the route.

The four-mile Sun Link Streetcar route connects five districts: the University of Arizona, Main Gate Square, Fourth Avenue, Downtown, and the Mercado.

For more information on the Streetcar, click here.

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3 months ago

Tucson streetcar boosts night-life

TUCSON - The SunLink streetcar looks like it will improve the night-life along its route.

All day Friday, cars were packed with people.

Kurt Tallis with the 4th Avenue Merchants Associations said he expects the construction pains to pay off.

"Imagine going on date night and having, let's say, pre-drinks at Mercado," he said. "Go have dinner Downtown. Dessert on 4th Avenue. And after dinner, a little dancing at Main Gate."

Stephenie Stevens lives on the West Side and enjoyed one of the first rides.

"It was really nice," she said. "It was really packed, but everybody had a smile on their face, which made it all worth while."

She expects to take advantage of several of the stops on the line.

"It's going to be great," she said. "Just hop on the ride, come down here, play a little. Safe travels."

John Bedford drives a cab and said many of his riders live in the University area.

"Hopefully it makes it better," he said. "But maybe not. It might take a lot of our customers away."

Free rides are being offered through Sunday.

3 months ago

Mind the joint; streetcar riders learn to keep their hands to themselves

TUCSON - A new streetcar system in Tucson has officially made its debut. The nearly 4-mile Sun Link Streetcar was ushered in with a grand opening celebration on Friday morning.

The 18-stop route will be covered by eight streetcars, which can each hold about 150 people. The line connects the University of Arizona, the University of Arizona Medical Center, and the downtown area.

During their rides, some passengers encountered an issue. When the streetcar rounds a corner, its two joints bend, posing a possible risk to any body parts that get in the way.

Several men who had their arms wrapped around the hand rails got caught when the car began to turn. They say it surprised them, but did not cause too much pain.

But the issue could pose a larger threat to small children who try to stand between the joint and the handrails.

One mother said, "parents are really going to have to watch out for their kids on here. I'm sure it will be a learning experience for everybody."

There are signs warning passengers to watch their hands and finger around the joints. One passenger suggested, "they need a bigger sign of maybe safety stripes on here."

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3 months ago

Excitement builds on streetcar eve

TUCSON - City officials expect thousands of people to ride the SunLink streetcar Friday morning.

Shellie Ginn has been the project manager more the 10 years.

"I'm not sleeping tonight," she said. "I'm going to be excited, worried, anxious, thrilled and not have a chance to sleep at all."

The first car will leave the Mercado District on the West Side around 7 a.m. The main celebration will be at Congress Street and 5th Avenue around 9 a.m. The public can start riding around 10 a.m.

Ginn said people can expect long lines and crowded cars this weekend, but she hopes that does not discourage future riders.

Rides are free through Sunday. A one-way ride is regularly $1.50. A day pass costs $4. A 30-day ticket is $42. Enforcement officers will mostly educate riders at first, but will give citations in the future.

SunLink has thoroughly tested all 8 cars simultaneously, even trying to put the maximum load of 150 passengers on board. But that doesn't mean the first few days will run perfectly.

"There's always a surprise or two that happens when you go live," Ginn said. "We have tested everything. We've tried to test it over and over, worse case scenarios, tried to break it, so to speak."

There are 18 stops along the 4-mile route that runs from the Mercado District through the University of Arizona campus.

City officials say 100,000 people live, work or go to school along the route, which also has 11,000 parking spaces.

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3 months ago

Tucson kicks off the historic launch of the Sun Link streetcar

TUCSON - With Friday being the launch of the new Sun Link streetcar, Tucson is hosting some events in honor of the new addition to central Tucson.

Each of the five districts Downtown, 4th Avenue, Mercado, Main Gate, and the University of Arizona will be sponsoring free activities, music, and entertainment, while many shops and restaurants will offer discounts.

Some of the many events include a pop up beach, outdoor movie screen, an instrument petting zoo, farmers' markets, and karaoke on the new Luis Gutierrez Bridge over the Santa Cruz River.

A full listing of activities at the Friends of the Tucson Streetcar website. The streetcar will be free to ride July 25-27 starting at approximately 10 a.m. Friday morning.

Rides will be free for the first three days, and the City of Tucson expects many citizens to get on board. There are plenty of places to park, about 11,000 spaces in all. Sun Link has a map of garages and surface lot parking along the route.

3 months ago

The Beach arrives in Downtown Tucson

TUCSON- Can't get to the beach this summer? No problem because the beach has come to you.

That's right sand, water, sun and plenty of food. It's all part of the Tucson Modern Streetcar celebration.

To be exact, The Beach is located in what's known as the MLK parking lot on the corner of Toole and 5th Avenue. One-hundred and seventy tons of sand was needed to fill half the lot.

As for the water, according to Michael Keith with the Downtown Tucson Partnership, they are still trying to figure out how to add in that component.

"we will have some kind of water feature," Keith said. "I think Friday night Mayor Rothschild will come down and dedicate the beach. So I think we're going to try to have a fire truck that will mist the crowds as they make their proclamation."

The Beach officially opens to the public Friday July 25 to coincide with the Streetcar launch.

It will be up for six weeks. For more information on activities being held at the beach click here.

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3 months ago

TRAFFIC ALERT: Sun Link Streetcar road closures

TUCSON - According to the Tucson Police Department, there will be several road closures due to the Sun link streetcar kick-off celebration.

Road closures begin Thursday evening and last through Friday afternoon.

Here are the details from the TPD Facebook page:

Thursday - Road Closures at 7:30 P.M.
Congress between 4th Ave and S. Arizona Ave. Right lane closed Thursday night. Left lane open until Friday morning. Center barricades.

5th Ave. between Broadway and Toole: except crossing of single lane on left side of Congress. No Turns off Congress.

Eastbound traffic on N. Toole from Pennington to 4th Ave Toole: turns into a two-lane, one-way, westbound street during that stretch. No left turn from N. Toole to 5th Ave., except residents of MLK or One N. Fifth apartments.

Friday - Close Remaining lanes at 7:00 A.M.
Between 4th Ave and S. Arizona Ave. No access except for 6:45 a.m. pre-positioning streetcars and arriving VIP streetcars between 8:45 - 9:00 a.m.

All lanes are expected to be reopened at 11:30 - 12:00 noon.

3 months ago

Downtown businesses prepare for the streetcar

TUCSON - The grand opening event for the launch of the Sun Link Tucson streetcar is Friday, July, 25th.

Businesses, both old and new, in downtown are preparing for the launch and celebration.

Long established Hotel Congress has a number of events planned to help celebrate the launch. Just up Congress Street the co-owner of Saint House and 47 Scott, Travis Reese, said he has big hopes for the streetcar.

"You sort of have a captive audience who is going to go by the different stores," Reese said." That's what we all talk about, We are going to have eyeballs sitting there looking at your storefront, restaurant and maybe saying, next time I'm going to get off at this stop and come in. "

Service frequency will be from 6:00 AM to 2:00 AM daily. The streetcar is expected to reach a stop every 10 minutes during the day and every 20 minutes during the evening.

For more information on the streetcar, visit there website by clicking here.

The Sun Link Tucson Streetcar team is also recruiting volunteers to assist riders on the streetcar, July 25 thru July 27. For information on how to help, click here.

The City of Tucson has created a video explaining how drivers should park downtown so they don't block the streetcar. Watch the video here.

They also created a video to help keep cyclists safe around the streetcar and it's tracks. Watch the video here.

3 months ago

Sun link works to educate public ahead of street car launch

TUCSON - A city-wide campaign ramped up this week to educate the public on how to ride the modern streetcar.

Sun link is the first "Made in America" streetcar system in the county in nearly 60 years. After several years of planning, the streetcar project was made possibile as part of the $2.1 billion in RTA funds approved by voters. Days ahead of the official launch, there is a new push to teach the public "How to Ride."

"This is a little bit different than on a bus, on a bus you would stand in line and go to an operator and tap on a validator at an operator station. Here you actually board through two wide doors and walk up to a validator," said Shellie Ginn, the project's manager.

Sun link has launched a campaign through social media, public service announcements and even word of mouth.

While passengers will be offered the first three days of rides for free, fare enforcement agents will soon crack down on offenders.

"We will have fare enforcement agents who will be out checking to make sure everyone is buying their faces once we start taking fares on July 28," said Ginn.

Along with logistics of ridership, Sun link's educational campaign also pushes for extra caution and safety amongst motorists, cyclists and pedestrians sharing the road with the streetcar.

"This is a dense area now. It's very popular and that means we have a lot of motor vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians as well as the street cars running so we ask people to be patient," Ginn said, adding: "Be tolerant. On the roadway and we want to be respectful of each other as we're using it."

The streetcar officially launches on Friday.

Learn more about the streetcar:

http://www.sunlinkstreetcar.com/rsvp

3 months ago

Countdown begins for the Tucson Modern Streetcar

TUCSON-The countdown is on, in just five days the modern streetcar will begin service.

The 3.9-mile streetcar route connects The University of Arizona, parts of downtown including 4th Avenue, Congress and the Downtown redevelopment area west of I-10, including the Mercado District.

According to Sunlink an estimated 1,480 long-term regional jobs were created as a result of the streetcar.

The modern streetcar project is part of the $2.1 billion Regional Transportation Plan, approved by Pima County voters in May 2006. The project is funded by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and through federal and other regional funds. The City of Tucson and the RTA are co-managing the project.

According to Shelly Ginn from the Tucson Modern Streetcar Project, the road to Friday's grand opening wasn't always an easy one.

"We were included in the 2006 regional transportation project list,that was huge for us we got $87.7 million in voter approved funding," Ginn said. "That's what helped us start discussions with the federal government to match it with federal funds."

Service frequency will be from 6:00 AM to 2:00 AM daily. The streetcar is expected to reach a stop every 10 minutes during the day and every 20 minutes during the evening.

For more information on the streetcar, visit there website by clicking here.

The Sun Link Tucson Streetcar team is also recruiting volunteers to assist riders on the streetcar, July 25 thru July 27. For information on how to help, click here.

The City of Tucson has created a video explaining how drivers should park downtown so they don't block the streetcar. Watch the video here.

They also created a video to help keep cyclists safe around the streetcar and it's tracks. Watch the video here.

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