Tucson is very much an automobile town. There are some buses, but I cannot imagine how long it must take to get from one end of town to the other via bus.
The problem with Tucson is its sprawl. There is nothing but desert on all sides, so nothing has impeded the sprawl of development. As a result it might take an hour to get from the northwest corner of Tucson to the southeast corner. There are no intercity highways to make the job any easier.
On the plus side, Tucson is ruled by the grid system for its streets and it is virtually impossible to get lost.
No public transportation is available to or within either district of Saguaro National Park.
You must rent a car in Tucson to get there. Hmm... there are many car rental agencies in Tucson to choose from.
I didn't rent a car there I did rent my Buick Century at Budget rent a car agency in San Diego. And I was very satisfied about Budget. So, you can try to rent your car at Budget (6 locations including at Tucson Airport):
Budget in Tucson
Do you look for something cheapest? Check VT link "Cars" at the top of this page and choose " Orbitz - Save on Car Rentals" - it's Orbitz, VT Affiliate - click here
The best way to get to Tucson is either by airplane, train, bus, or automobile.
Once you have arrived, it is recommended that you rent a car. The towns/cities aren't close by like they are in some states. IE Tucson to Phoenix is a two hour drive with very little in between.
FLy to Phoenix or Tucson. You definately need a car to get around..
The traffic is gradually increasing, and I have to be honest some of the worst drivers on the planet are here..so be careful! The bus service is okay, but it doesn't go everywhere. Cabs are pretty good, although they can be pricey.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, unless you are going from Tucson to Phoenix on a shuttle. Although, the direction between Tucson and Phoenix is a diagonal straight line veering northwest, believe me, it is a convoluted labyrinth, or a very expensive one-hundred and twenty mile trek. As a result of “one more airline tale” (another long story), I arrived in Tucson International Airport when my destination was Phoenix ‘s Sky Harbor International Airport. Thus, I needed to transit by ground to hit my target. When I arrived at the transportation terminal in Tucson International Airport, I went to the Arizona Stagecoach Shuttle counter, an on-site shuttle service right in the terminal. Arizona Stagecoach Shuttle service specializes in shuttling around the Tucson area. Nonetheless, they would happily escort me to Phoenix for a hefty sum of $275 for one way. After clearing my throat, and turning to run, I learned the following:
• I should be communicating with Arizona Shuttle, not Arizona “Stagecoach” Shuttle.
• Arizona Stagecoach Shuttle is the only shuttle service inside of the terminal at Tucson International Airport.
• Arizona (No Stagecoach) Shuttle is not on the premises, not in the terminal.
• The passengers must go to the off-site to take Arizona (No Stagecoach) Shuttle.
• This shuttle service leaves from their main business office or a separate shuttle stop.
• The on-site Arizona Stagecoach Shuttle will take the traveler to the off-site Arizona (No Stagecoach) Shuttle for an $18 stipend.
Personally, I felt that the charge of $18 dollars to take me to the Arizona (No stagecoach) Shuttle site seemed excessive. In addition, I would have to wait longer for Shuttle #1 (AZ Stagecoach Shuttle) to take me to Shuttle #2 (AZ “No Stagecoach” Shuttle). Thus, I fled to my trusty computer (better have access to the internet) to the worldwide web searching for this Arizona Shuttle service (no Stagecoach, remember). Instead of booking on line, I called for clarification. I was instructed of the following:
• The fare was $35 for one person.
• The was just about a $10 dollar reduction for additional companion travelers.
• The shuttles went every hour during the day, but the passenger must come to them.
• They have three different locations.
I chose the University of Arizona location being the closest at 8 ½ miles distance from the airport. I believed that a taxicab would be most economical and expedient way to go. The agent advised me that since there were still five seats available I did not have to commit right then, rather get my reservation with the driver and settle up at the time of departure. I learned later that this was either not the correct information or at least, not the best advice. Based on what I was told, I decided to pick-and-pay with the driver in order to save time. In the midst of my urgency, I would not have to standby and pull out my credit card. I was intent on making the next shuttle, soon to depart. I easily found a taxi stand right outside of the terminal, and took the first taxi in line. After a seemingly sluggish $28 taxi ride ($10 more than the Arizona Stagecoach Shuttle), I arrived to a sign on a pole, that seemed to “suggest” a shuttle pickup was nearby. There was a telephone number on the sign. I had just missed the last shuttle by mere moments and would have to stand in the 100 ºF (38 ºC) Tucson heat for the best part of an hour. I thought that I better call that posted telephone number on the sign to corroborate my situation and their actual standpoint station. The agent affirmed I was indeed in the correct place, but did not see my name on the reservation roster. It was then that I was informed:
• I indeed needed a reservation.
• I must give her my debit/credit card.
• Travel for the same day of booking is $45 dollar not $39, but with a commensurate
differential for companion travelers.
I was further informed that there was no accommodations (inside or out) at that station. I could find a shady spot to stand (100 ºF = to 38 ºC), or I could take shelter inside the convenience store that was just behind me, if need be. After going into the air conditioned refuge, I felt obliged to purchase water and a snack so that I could guiltlessly make use of the facilities. As the time approached, I waited outside as not to miss the shuttle and to prevent the air conditioned cool air from escaping from the convenience store with an enter-exit strategy while checking for the shuttle. As a result, $73 dollars and a tip to the driver later, about a $10 snack with water (convenience store, remember?), $85 lighter in the wallet, on a scorching, clammy, typical summer day in Tucson, I waited an elongated hour, minute by minute before I was on my way to the Valley of the Sun. A couple of other reserved passengers arrived, so my apprehensions about being left behind waned for the most part. One of the passengers who had traveled on the shuttle previously told me that it was her first time waiting in this Park Avenue-University location. She indicated that the location of the main office on Speedway Boulevard was significantly superior because a comfortable air-conditioned office with accessible and obliging staff, tidy restrooms, snacks, complimentary water, and a fleet of shuttles right outside, with one ready to board . The distance of this Speedway location was just a bit more than 11 miles from the airport. With the price of my convenience store water and snack, my vacillation between wilting and icing, I would have easily compensated for the two plus mile discrepancy in my taxicab fare. Who knew?
Returning to the reality of the situation, our driver was on time. He organized the luggage for the now six passengers, which took about 15 minutes for check-in and loading. Ultimately, we were on the route to the next pick-up, which was the final pickup off of Interstate 10, about 10 minutes away. It took then took another ten minutes to be in the direction of Phoenix Sky Harbor terminals . The driver was polite and drove the SUV-like shuttle carefully and unhurriedly to the Airport. We were about fifteen minutes behind schedule of a two hour journey. My frustration was not with Arizona (No Stagecoach) Shuttle service that did meet their provisional obligations, albeit, with a tug and pull here and there. My annoyance was and remains with the poor planning of the City of Tucson where there is no direct and affordable shuttle service from Tuscon’s “International”Airport to Phoenix’s “International” airport….really? The prevailing costs for this direct service were extortionate for me and I dare say most reasonable travelers, whether one could afford it or not. There was another less affluent option, which I will mention now:
• West Express Shuttle, a family owned company departs from the subway district, about a mile from the airport.
• Again, you have to get there on your own.
• It would have been a much less expensive taxi ride, and who walks a mile in 100 ºF (38 ºC) temperature?
• Their fare was a standard $35 anytime you travel.
• The caveat was that they traveled every three hours, and the next one was not until 6:00 p.m., wherein I would have arrived after 8:00 p.m., much too late for me.
• The tradeoff is time versus money.
• You can get a door-to-door pick-up, including the airport for $149.
The problem is that in either one of these scenarios, Arizona (No Stagecoach) Shuttle or West Express Shuttle, the convenience factor is woefully lacking!
The direct route options may be a “budget-buster” for the average vacationer, such as:
• Arizona Stagecoach Shuttle - $275 one way from airport to airport.
• Limoport – a limousine service that sported three types of vehicles - $293 for a sedan,
$320 for an SUV or MiniVan for a one way ticket.
I would stake my good sense that the City of Tucson will justify this “claptrap” with their official gibberish, righteous ordinance, or some supreme certitude. Perchance, it has something to do with someone’s “squatter’s rights” or another preposterous shenanigan. I honestly do not know. What I do know is that the commuter customers should come first. If the City of Tucson is seeking favorable tributes, they need to figure this out this ridiculous conundrum. Ultimately, and dimes to dollars, this bad dream has something to do with greenbacks coming out of the public’s pockets and going into someone else’s pouches. My modest advice would be that if you find yourself flying into Tucson - in order to get to Phoenix….don’t! You might find yourself winding through the same wormhole. It was during this wacky excursion that I was reminded of Yogi Berra’s idiom:
• "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else."
If you're coming as a tourist: yes, you do need a car. The most popular sites in the city, such as the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon and Mount Lemmon are virtually inaccessible without a private car. Public transit just does not reach them.
However, as a resident, it is very possible to navigate the city on the area's bus systems (yes, "systems" as in the plural) and get around without a car.
The easiest areas to deal with on the city's bus system, SunTran, are the area around the UA campus and Downtown. At UA, various buses cruise the perimeter and many stop at the large bus stop on the UA Mall (University Blvd east of Cherry), although not all of them. The center of activity Downtown is the Ronstadt Transit Center, although many routes can easily be caught from other, more active stops, such as the stop on Broadway west of Church.
SunTran operates two types of service: local and express. Unlike many other systems, there is no difference in fare structure between the two (with the exception of the two express routes running to the Raytheon in southern Tucson, which are slightly more) and the fare structure is consistent for peak periods. $1.25 at all times on almost all buses. A transfer can be obtained from the driver when the fare is paid. The transfer is good for a few hours but cannot be used on the same route in the opposite direction. An unlimited day pass is also available for $2.50. There is also an unlimited monthly pass available for purchase at one of the transit centers around town (Ronstadt in Downtown, Laos in southern Tucson and Tohono Tadai near the Tucson Mall) during the information kiosk's business hours.
If you're working in Tucson, many organizations offer discounts on bus passes. For instance, Pima County offers a significant discount on monthly passes. UA has its own pass available for students, staff and faculty which can be purchased through the Parking and Transportation Services office (or on their web site at parking.arizona.edu), and is available by semester (Fall/Winter or Spring/Summer) or by academic year (renewable each July).
SunTran is one of the most punctual bus systems I've encountered, especially for such a small system. On the printed schedules, timed stops are followed almost exactly, particularly on the express routes.
Express routes operate Monday thru Friday, excluding holidays, in the mornings going into town and late afternoons coming out of town only. In the more outlying areas, express route stops are typically flanked by free park & ride lots. Large shopping centers are usually good for this.
Local routes operate seven days per week, but on limited schedules on Saturdays and further limited schedules on Sundays and holidays. All local routes currently operate 7 days per week.
Routes generally run along the larger streets in the grid system. Most larger streets have at least one route. Transfers at intersections are common, but at transit centers (often the route's terminus) are more common.
Ridership, as with most public transit, is mixed. Although peppered with the homeless and drug addicts, peak periods are often mostly workers and students. Buses to the south side of the city are often the most crowded and any bus to a high school campus (particularly the #3, which hits two separate high schools) will be particularly crowded near school start/release times.
There are three other bus systems in the area though:
- CatTran: UA's shuttle system operated by Parking and Transportation Services. The Orange, USA and Mauve routes are the most useful for off-campus travel as they provide travel to their destinations. Orange travels north on Mountain Avenue to Prince Road, USA travels to Downtown and Mauve heads south to the Broadway/Campbell intersection. Outbound travel is unrestricted, but inbound travel on the Orange and Mauve lines requires a pass which is only available to UA student, staff or faculty residents of the areas served. Orange and Mauve do not run in the summer while USA does. http://parking.arizona.edu/alternative/cattran.php
(TICET Red line no more because of budget cuts)
Arizona Sunshine Tours & 3 Canyons Transit Co will provide for your transportation and touring needs around Southeastern Arizona. They provide a daily Tucson Airport Shuttle (with a complementary driving tour along the way!) to points south including Sierra Vista, Fort Huachuca, Tombstone, Bisbee, Sonoita & Patagonia (Arizona Wine Country), Benson and Kartchner Caverns, Texas Canyon and more!
They offer both INDIVIDUAL and GROUP travel in comfortable well equipped vehicles.
Forget the expense of a rental car and relax and enjoy the journey with your own personal guide and driver...
Check out their website (shuttle or tour page) and click on the "Concierge Tour Planning" button for affordabe half day, full day and overnight trips from Tucson or Sierra Vista (an excellent hub for day trips!)
Helpful links for area attractions around "The Land of Legends" : www.explorecochise.com
and Safe Travels...
Tucson's bus system is slow, and unreliable. Let alone, the homeless and scary people that ride the buses make the trip even more daunting. Distances are great, and you can have a bust stop ever half a mile, so sometimes you have to walk a distance to your destination after getting off the bus. Driving your own car is the best bet. Downtown driving is very confusing. Lot's of one-way streets and crazy drivers. Traffic on the freeways isn't to bad unless we get an accident or it rains. You sould see the traffic jams we get when it sprinkles. 1 1/2 hour commutes..... It's ridiculous. Cabs are expensive. Just going a few blocks can cost you over 5 bucks. I took a cab home one time from downtown (4 miles) and it cost me twenty bucks!! Half the drivers don't know where their going anyway, so make sure you know the directions to where your going.
You will need to rent a car. Also you will need to develop some "super hero" patience because driving is a headache in this town. There is only one highway, I-10, that goes East/West. If you want to move North/South you will be doing it on streets in heavy traffic. God help you if it rains because the locals are not used to driving in it.
The best way to get around is with a car. The public transit system is not very good. Tucson is sprawled out so you may find yourself going from one end to the other in the course of a day. In the summer traffic is not too bad because the students and the snowbirds are gone. In the wintertime, traffic is very heavy especially on Grant Rd., Campbell Ave., Ina Rd. & Oracle Rd. Try to avoid them if possible.