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ABC-7 Xtra: City leaders review impact, future of El Paso’s streetcar

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The City of El Paso is reviewing a new study that looks at streetcar operations and costs. The streetcar has been at the center of debate due to low ridership.

The newly refurbished system opened in late 2018, but since the pandemic, ridership has dipped dramatically. Now city leaders are discussing the future of the program.

In 2014, the state granted El Paso $97 million to restore the streetcar system and get it running again.

Economic Impact

The researchers warned the data is skewed due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple migrant crises, and limited downtown growth.

The city looked at land values in 2018 and 2022, comparing the increase experienced by properties citywide and those within the streetcar corridor. Citywide, most properties increased 24.56%. Within the corridor, property values increased 25.39%.

The city estimates that sales tax revenue within the streetcar corridor in 2022 was $4.08 million. Researchers point out that retail sales and the resulting taxes have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The city credits the streetcar with creating $121 million in investments, 60 jobs, and renovations to three historic buildings.

Researchers estimate the streetcar area will generate an additional $156.7 million in property tax revenue for the city in the next 25 years. They believe the streetcar itself is a big part of that development.

"Streetcar utilization is tied to retail sales and housing development," they stated in a research report.


Ridership dipped dramatically due to the pandemic, as well as the limited hours put in place during the pandemic.

In 2019, approximately 22,748 rode the streetcar. Experts estimated that about 22,773 people would have ridden in 2020, however, the pandemic caused ridership to drop dramatically.

From January to August of 2022, when the streetcar operated for only 24 hours a week, only 3,802 people rode the streetcar. Once operation hours were expanded to 34 hours a week, ridership increased. From September to December of 2022, the streetcar attracted 8,783 riders.

Researchers warn that currently, the streetcar is not able to accommodate early morning riders like students or those attending early evening events. 83.63% of the current streetcar service schedule overlaps with special events. In a survey, 82.5% of El Pasoans asked said they would be more likely to use the streetcar if service were to be expanded to the morning.

Also, the report states that ridership declines significantly after 9 p.m. on weekdays.

The Streetcar's Future

In the end, researchers suggested streetcar service be expanded from 34 to 81 hours a week, and from 5 to 7 days a week. They also suggest having six operators working and two on-call to maximize taxpayer money.

If implemented, the plan is expected to cost $2,640,000. If the streetcar continue to operate as it does now, the city will pay an expected $3,000,000.

If the streetcar were to operate only during special events, the city estimates it would cost taxpayers $2,610,000. If the streetcar were to shut down and offer no public service, taxpayers would still be paying $2,044,000.

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Emma Hoggard


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