January 31, 2009
54% of all jobs within the entire City of Cincinnati are in Uptown and Downtown, the two areas the initial phase of the streetcar will connect.
From the Go Cincinnati Report:
- Downtown accounted for 34% of all jobs in the City in 2005 and has the highest average annual wage, followed by Uptown at 20% of the City’s employment. With more than 50% of the City’s jobs it is clear that Cincinnati’s economic growth strategy should continue to focus on these two areas
January 30, 2009
Streetcars can run in the snow. Toronto, which operates the largest streetcar network in North America, averages 52 inches of snowfall a year—considerably more than Cincinnati.
In the past, many cities attached plows to their streetcars and used them to clear the streets.
The snow and ice are off the roads, but most of the sidewalks Downtown are another story. The plows have pushed large banks of grey snow into two foot high piles that are either frozen solid or complete mush that your foot sinks to the bottom of almost immediately. It isn’t very pleasant to walk even short distances. It would be great to hop on a streetcar right now and avoid trekking through all the muck.
Toronto Streetcar Operating in snow/ice
January 29, 2009
As each day passes, it seems another voice comes out with their thoughts on what the proposed modern streetcar system means to them and how they see it impacting the City. On Tuesday, The News Record ran an opinion piece from Heights Community Council President Brad Hawse.
“When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always 20 years behind the times.” – Mark Twain
How many more years does this old adage have to hold true?
More than 40 other cities are interested in implementing modern streetcars, including our neighbors – Columbus and Indianapolis. These peer cities of Cincinnati perceive the development and investment potential that a streetcar system will bring and each is working on securing the development of a system of their own.
For once, Cincinnati is ahead of the curve and is moving quickly. Cincinnati is one of only a handful of cities that has made diligent efforts in securing funding for its route and has also passed funding through its city council.
We have a unique opportunity to change the light the nation views our great city. We have a chance to do something new, something progressive, and we, as students living in this city, need to support this changing mentality.
As students of the University of Cincinnati, many of us have come to love the Queen City. We are a city built upon potential, but in recent memory, little of that potential has been realized. We are moving ahead with projects to revitalize Over-the-Rhine, an area that has for too long cast a negative light cross the entire city.
We are building the tallest skyscraper in the city, at a time when other cities have halted construction on their most prestigious projects.
We are continuing to strengthen our neighborhoods throughout the city, which especially in Uptown new projects are changing the area for the better.
We are seemingly edging out the competition, even in these tough times, and we have the potential to get out of this tough economic mess ahead of our competition.
But will we?
January 28, 2009
I’ve heard some people recently claim that Cincinnati shouldn’t have streetcars because they are too expensive. They say that if we have $200 million to spend on streetcars, then we ought to have enough money to buy more buses, or for a jail. I see your point, but several problems exist in these statements.
First, the city is not going to spend $200 million on the streetcar. The most ambitious streetcar plan proposed by the City is a 7.9 mile route running from the Zoo in Avondale to the Riverfront for a cost of $185 million. That figure represents the total capital cost, which will be divided between Federal investment, State grants, city capital, TIF revenue, private donors and other sources. The city capital contribution will be in the neighborhood of $60 million. That $60 million is either Tax Increment Financing, which must be spent Downtown, or capital funds, which are used for building infrastructure and making long term investments. Capital Funds can’t be used to hire more police officers or fund recreation centers—bridges and sewers are examples of capital projects.
Second, a streetcar is not a bus, and a bus is not a streetcar. While both are intended to move people, the results are quite different. Buses rearrange their schedules to follow where people are, whereas rail transit directs and creates development. Opponents of the streetcar often boast about how flexible buses are, but the reality is much different. When the bus routes change, it seems they only cut service altogether or follow jobs farther into the suburbs.
If we want to bring new jobs, vitality and a larger tax base to a specific area – a beautiful, historic area like Over-the-Rhine for instance – then we need to install the infrastructure to do so.
In city after city, rail transit causes development. Cities across the country have implemented these systems, and when they do, development occurs at a much higher rate around the tracks than elsewhere in the city. Kenosha, Wisconsin’s 2-mile downtown streetcar loop had an economic impact of 23:1, and Little Rock, Arkansas saw an economic impact 10:1 when they installed their streetcars. These numbers are possible because developers want to know that several thousand transit-riders per day will roll past their property. Because streetcar routes are permanent, they attract permanent investment.
Finally, stop using the jail or stadiums as justification for why streetcars aren’t a good idea. The jails and stadiums you are referring to are controlled by the county, not by the city. There are completely independent pools of money dedicated to these issues, so an investment in streetcars will not detract from funding dedicated to the jail. On the contrary, investing in infrastructure will grow the tax base, increasing the revenue of both the city and the county. If you want more money in the county to build a new jail, support an investment in streetcars, don’t oppose it.
Instead of complaining that there isn’t enough money to go around, start looking for ways the city can make more money without taxing the people. Council did just that, and found that a modern streetcar system will generate more money. That’s called an investment.
David Ben graduated from Xavier University in 2008 with an Honors Bachelor of Arts double major in Philosophy, Politics, & the Public and History. David has studied public transportation as an economic and community development tool since 2007, and will soon begin working for Steve Driehaus’ (D-OH) Congressional office. David intends to enroll in the University of Cincinnati’s Masters in Community Planning program in the Fall.
January 27, 2009
At the Cincinnati Neighborhood Summit held last Saturday the participants were asked this question:
Do you think that a streetcar system is a valuable investment for the City of Cincinnati?
The response was two to one in favor of the streetcar with around twenty percent undecided. It was great to see such support for the streetcar from some of the most active and involved members of every neighborhood. Another great result from the survey was 90 percent of the respondents thought the City and County should take the lead in “Going Green.”
If you are reading this and still undecided about the streetcar as an investment for the City, check out the Economic Analysis (.9mb pdf) and the independent evaluation of the Economic Analysis conducted by the University of Cincinnati (.5mb pdf).
January 26, 2009
Cincinnati’s city limits have essentially been unchanged for the past eighty years. Unlike Columbus and Indianapolis, we have not integrated our city and county governments. Therefore the only way for Cincinnati to grow is to increase its population density. Infrastructure allows for greater population density and infrastructure investments, like the Cincinnati Streetcar will be a key part of restoring Cincinnati to her former status.
How does infrastructure increase density? Start at the most basic level. A sewer system can support more people on the same amount of land than septic tanks can. Running water can support more people than well water. A paved road can support more traffic than dirt or gravel roads. Rail can support more people than automobiles alone. In places like New York or Chicago very few people own cars. If everyone owned a car, there simply wouldn’t be any room for them.
Each year we have to raise taxes or cut services to prevent the City from running an operating budget deficit. One of the reasons is because we have a city with most of the infrastructure to support half a million people, but a population of only 332,458 paying for its upkeep.
We have the sewers for half a million people, a parks systems built for half a million people, the waterworks for half a million people, and the housing stock for half a million people. One of the reasons vacant buildings are such a problem is because we are under populated, creating hundreds of vacant buildings.
It doesn’t matter if there are 30 people or 500 people living on a block, it will cost the same amount to plow the snow and repave the street, the difference is on the more populated street, you have 470 extra taxpayers sharing the burden.
The streetcar is part of that infrastructure we need to achieve greater population density, fill vacant buildings, and increase the tax base for the city. An increased tax base will balance our budget and avoid painful service cuts in the future.
It is important to remember the Cincinnati Streetcar will be funded with the capital budget, the budget used to invest in roads and bridges, not the operating budget, the budget used to pay police and operate pools and recreation centers.
Before Cincinnati had streetcars, the city’s population was around what it is now, about 300,000. The population rose over the 60 years we operated streetcars and fell over the fifty that followed.
Since 1950 this City has tried virtually ever urban renewal scheme, except the one that worked in the first place, investing in rail.
Revitilize Cincinnati—Build the Streetcar.
January 23, 2009
Posted by CincyStreetcar under Uncategorized
| Tags: Bus
| 1 Comment
In addition to providing connectivity and stimulating economic development, streetcars improve the urban environment in additional ways. Because they are electric, they don’t produce street level emissions. Diesel fumes really detract from patrons enjoying sidewalk cafes or people enjoying the parks along the route.
Same with the noise. Buses are very loud, especially when as they reach the end of their service life, while streetcars quietly glide along the rails. Think of how many times you have been walking down a street missed what someone was saying on your cell phone due to the noise of a passing bus.
If we want to attract more residents to live downtown and in Over-the-Rhine, we need to focus on improving the urban environment. The streetcars will do that more than adding more buses on a downtown loop ever could. Streetcars will bring economic development, population growth, and mobility. Buses will bring mobility, but the increased noise and emissions, along with their impermanence, will cut down on their potential to create growth and development.
January 21, 2009
Posted by CincyStreetcar under Uncategorized
| Tags: Bus
|  Comments
That is a question the proponents of the fake vintage bus trolleys need to know the answer to. A bus is a 12 year investment. If one of these trolleys is purchased today, it will last through two terms of President Obama, a term of President Biden, and still be rolling around for the inauguration of President Palin in 2021. That is of course, unless the “pilot bus trolley program” costing $14 million is abandoned after two years.
In 1999, diesel was around $0.99 a gallon. In 2007, it almost $5. What will diesel prices be in 2021? I have no idea—and neither do the fake vintage bus trolley proponents.
In 2021 we will still have an electric grid, but I don’t know what will power it. Electric streetcars can be powered by whatever fuels we discover, or whatever new technologies we create. They can run off of wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, tidal, nuclear, or coal power. In a time of transition for our energy supplies, streetcars, with their flexible sources of power, represent a smart investment for the uncertain future.
Image from: www.starlinetours.com
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