Ronstadt Transit Center: Community Space or Capitalist Dream?


Privatize316-sig-sm72by Pamela Powers Hannley

The Downtown Tucson Partnership— like other business groups before them– has designs on the Ronstadt Transit Center (RTC). Since the early Feb. 5 City Council vote approving a 60-90 day public comment period before throwing the RTC to the dogs… er … developers,  the Tucson Bus Riders Union held a public forum at the Rialto, compiled and organized hundreds written comments collected at the forum, met with City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, and participated in collecting 2800 surveys from bus riders. 

When the Ronstadt Transit Center was constructed in 1991, it was billed as a community gathering place. Dance and music performances at the RTC were featured during Downtown Saturday Nights (pre-cursor to Second Saturdays but twice per month in its heyday). At the April public forum, dozens of speakers talked about improving the transit center, making it a focal point for community activities (as it once was), and building community– not commercial develop– at the site.

The big question is: in making its decision regarding the fate of the Ronstadt Transit Center, will the City Council listen to the 41-member Downtown Tucson Partnership or the thousands of Tucsonans who have voiced their opinion on this issue?

Today, May 17, a group of transit activists, downtown residents, and members of the Tucson Bus Riders Union will gather at the Ronstadt Transit Center in a community-building exercise. Wear white, bring your musical instruments, signs, and your community spirit to the RTC at 5 p.m. and let's see what happens. Meet under the clock, and don't disrupt the buses. This is a bus-friendly, community event– not a protest.

For background on the most recent Ronstadt Transit Center struggle, check out stakeholder opinions after the jump.

Downtown for Everyone, Part 1: What Business Wants

Downtown for Everyone, Part 2: What Downtown Neighborhoods Want

Downtown for Everyone, Part 3: What Bus Riders Want

Downtown for Everyone, Part 4: What Tucson Citizens Want

Tucsonans have pushed back unwise development in the past. The proposed downtown Tucson hotel– financed by the taxpayers– is a perfect example of the people rising up and telling the City Council what to do… loudly and clearly. The people won that battle in 2010.


  1. I went to the Ronstadt Center gig this evening, and the usual suspects were there– representatives from PDA, Occupy, the Green Party, the Bus Riders’ Union, and some other miscellaneous folks. For a last-minute event, it was a decent turnout– approximately 20 people.

    The big ah-ha for me was what has been done to the inside of the Ronstadt Center with the federal “improvement” funds. The original decorative brick work where the dance performances took place in the early 1990 has been replaced with dirt-colored decomposed granite (yuck), the SW trim color is now baby blue, any esthethics that were once inside are gone, ugly cage-like fencing was added to contain the rif-raf. Who decided how the federal money was spent? They made the Ronstadt more instutional. Thanks for downgrading an archetectural jewel.

    The other ah-ha is that there is plenty of space to accomplish some of the things that people said they wanted there– like picnic tables, a garden, and a small playground for kids waiting for the bus. Pictures and more to come.