February 26, 2009
From Mayor Mallory’s 2009 State of the City Address:
“Another crucial component of GO Cincinnati calls for the development of a Streetcar system and Streetcars will have a dramatic and lasting impact on the future of Cincinnati. It will spur economic development, creating new jobs and growing our local economy. And in its first phase, it will connect uptown and downtown, our two primary employment centers.
Now, we have done our homework and the benefits of a Streetcar system are clear. Tampa developed a Streetcar in 2002 and they have seen $450 million dollars in new development, and another $450 million dollars in development is underway. In Charlotte, developers have invested $1 billion dollars since their Streetcar system was installed. And in Seattle, $1.4 billion dollars in new real estate investment has been made along their Streetcar route.
Those results are no coincidence. When a city puts rails in the ground, economic growth follows. The exact same thing will happen right here in Cincinnati. We expect to see at least $1.4 billion dollars in economic impact in the first phase, alone. And that will give us additional resources to put to use in our neighborhoods all across the city.
The benefits of the Streetcar system are too significant to allow the naysayers to derail our efforts. The facts are clear. Streetcars must be a part of Cincinnati’s future and we will fight to make it happen.”
February 25, 2009
I see people make this comment a lot on the Enquirer’s website. It is kind of remarkable that some people would call a route that connects Downtown and Uptown, the region’s two largest employment centers “nowhere”, especially when it serves the following destinations within a few blocks of the line:
· The Banks Project
· The new Central Riverfront Park
· The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
· The new Tallest Building at Queen City Square
· The Red’s Stadium
· The Bengal’s Stadium
· US Bank Arena
· The Taft Museum
· The Taft Theatre
· The Convention Center
· Fountain Square
· The Contemporary Arts Center
· The Aronoff Center
· The Weston Art Gallery
· New Stage Collective
· Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
· Know Theatre
· Ensemble Theatre
· The Emery Theatre
· Macy’s Department Store
· Sak’s Fifth Avenue
· The Carew Tower
· Tower Place Mall
· The busiest library in the country
· Hamilton County Courthouse
· Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals
· Federal Courthouse
· Music Hall
· Memorial Hall
· Washington Park
· Piatt Park
· Inwood Park
· Classen Park
· Findlay Market
· The Over-the-Rhine Brewery District
· Main Street business district
· Vine Street business district
· Clifton Heights business district
· Short Vine business district
· The Over the Rhine Gateway Quarter
· Antonelli College
· The Cincinnati Art Academy
· The School for the Creative and Performing Arts
· The University of Cincinnati
· Nippert Stadium
· Fifth Third Arena
· Marge Schott Field
· The University of Cincinnati Medical Campus
· University Hospital
· The EPA
· Seven Hotels, and
· The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens
February 24, 2009
…do streetcars shape development. From Cities in Full:
Toronto area developers are more attracted to rail routes than to bus routes, according to a transit official: “Our developers tell us we can’t get them to develop an area with private capital along a bus route that could be taken out tomorrow. They want to see tracks.”
-Belmont, Steve, Cities in Full (Chicago: Planners Press, 2002) p. 243
February 21, 2009
That’s right, Utah. According to a recent University of Utah survey, 79% of Utahns said continued funding for rail projects either is very important or somewhat important.
Although skeptical at first, Utahns, after experiencing rail firsthand have become incredibly supportive.
“It’s no surprise to Wasatch Front Regional Council Director Chuck Chappell, who said nine-plus years of riding the rails have convinced once-skeptical Utahns that they need transportation choices.
‘There’s huge support for that on the part of the council and now, apparently, the public,” he said. “I think it’s [because of] experience with congestion on the highways and the need for alternatives in the peak periods’.”
Public Transportation isn’t a partisan issue. John McCain won Utah by his second largest margin in the most recent presidential election (Wyoming was first), but this heavily Republican state is incredibly supportive about expanding rail.
February 20, 2009
WCPO reports Mayor Mallory will be meeting with President Obama this morning to discuss the stimulus package. One of the stimulus priorities for the Mayor is the Cincinnati Streetcar.
With an economic impact ratio of 14.1 to 1, the Streetcar represents exactly the type project that allows the City to get the most ‘bang for its buck’ out of the stimulus.
In the short term it will employ engineers, designers, and construction workers. In the long term it will lead to compact development in the core of the City which will help reduce our dependence on imported oil by creating walkable communities served by public transportation.
February 19, 2009
Watch last week’s debate online, at your own convenience, on Explore Cincinnati or UrbanCincy. Sorry can’t embed videos on WordPress.
February 19, 2009
My last post about Portland rail will explain the Light Rail system. First listen to the terminology: light rail. It may be lighter that a locomotive, but the light rail struck me as heavy, especially compared to the Streetcar.
Here is a train pulling up to a stop on a city street:
Instead of raising, just the area, where the stop is (as with the streetcar), for the trains, the entire sidewalk is raised to exactly meet the train floor:
In this photo, notice that the curb closest to the camera is raised with truncated domes and it sticks out a bit further than the rest of the curb. Also notice that there is no on-street parking here, and that there are only 2 drving lanes. This was probably a four lane street before conversion to Light Rail:
My experience is that the streets with the lightrail had lots of pedestrians and less car traffic. However, please note that the entire street, from building face to building face must be re-built to accomodate the LR. For the streetcar, only a strip of street is removed and only the stops are raised.
Here is a shot that I believe shows the Light Rail tracks crossing the Streetcar tracks:
LR at Pioneer Square showing the widened sidewalks:
People getting on and off at Pioneer Square:
Showing level entry and bike inside:
Inside a crowded train:
Another interior shot:
Wheelchair on LR train:
Stroller on LR train:
We took the Blue line three different places. First we took it west, out to Orenco, a newer suburb. Then we came back into town and on the way stopped at their zoo. The next day we took the train the other direction, to the airport. The train runs extremely smooth. After getting out of town, and off the streets to separated grade tracks, I was initially dissapointed, because the train didn’t seem to be going very fast. Later, I noticed that the we were keeping pace with cars on the freeway, so it must have been going at least 50mph.
This western route passes their minor league team stadium a few blocks before going into a long sloping tunnel:
Here is a development at the Beaverton Stop:
Bagel shop, parking lot and housing at another suburban stop:
Here is multi-family housing under construction near the stop:
Here is the train at the Orenco stop:
In this shot you see the suburban street and sidewalks crossing the tracks:
Train discharge at the airport:
Here is a picture of the train maintenance building. The sheds for the streetcar were much smaller:
Here is a train parked at the maintenance yards. I think the typical train is two of these backed up to each other:
The fare system is similar to the Streetcar, and all tickets are transferable to bus and rail. The trains seemed very popular, especially to the airport. I made the trip to Orenco on a Sunday so I didn’t witness much commuting. Most of the people were getting off at the Washington Park stop to go to the zoo or to hike.
February 18, 2009
This will be my last big Portland post on the streetcar.
I will preface this by saying that I am NOT a rail nut. I am however a city nut, and transportation is key to making a city livable. Especially important are transportation alternatives to cars (and to a lesser extent buses). This is because cars tend to destroy the things that make cities attractive. They make streets less safe for pedestrians, they add pollution, they segregate populations, and they make rehab of pre-auto cities difficult. But the biggest problems with autos in the city is that they require lots of dead space for parking and they generally lead to dispersed development. The whole attractiveness of cities is based on the concentration of activities not the wide dispersal encouraged by cars. The car and the removal of old streetcars in the 1940′s destroyed cities like Cincinnati. Freeway construction and parking lot development demolished thousands of buildings. Housing and shopping was dispersed and the urban core entered a decline that it has yet to recover from.
It is a hard to ignore fact that most beautiful and successful cities have rail transport as part of their transportation solution. I would love to see a rail line in Cincinnati connecting UC, XU, downtown, Covington and beyond. And maybe we will get there someday. That day is many many years away, but a streetcar system is a near term possibility. What surprised me in Portland was that the Streetcar is not just a slower and cheaper stepchild of “real” rail transport, but that it is in many ways even better.
The evidence that it is better is the number and type of users, and the successful business districts surrounding it. Because of the ease of use, the clear route, the digitized stops, and the handicapped accessibility, it’s use is very popular. It was obvious to me that many older and disabled people have become dependent on this for daily errands.
A streetcar would never be a quick way to get from Xavier University to downtown, or to the airport. These connections should be made with a faster, separated-grade system. The strength of the Streetcar is it’s ability to tie the downtown area together and to make living, shopping and working here more competitive with the suburban alternatives. And this is something that cities all over the Midwest have been struggling to do for several decades. Many tricks have been tried, from subsidized parking lots to urban shopping malls. Still not many people live or shop in downtown Louisville, Indianapolis, Cleveland etc..
The problem is that most people here drive everywhere. If they are enticed to come downtown, they want to park near their final destination, and they are not going to take public transportation. They just aren’t. What the streetcar does is lower the barriers. You could hardly come up with a simpler, easier to use and easier to understand system. And if you can get people separated from their cars, then you have begun to break the system that has destroyed cities and made them uncompetitive.
But a streetcar is not just for suburbanites when they come to the city to visit. Quite the opposite. It mostly serves those who live and work near it.
I’ll start with some photos of developments in the Pearl District, along the Streetcar line. The Pearl District has some similarities to our OTR. However they are also very different. OTR has much more to offer both in existing population and sturdy buildings and infrastructure. The Pearl offered more low-rise and vacant land for larger developments. The Pearl:
New construction apartments in Pearl district. I believe this is an “earlier” development:
Old loading docks converted to condos on the streetcar line. There is some criticism of this kind of development because there is no street front retail here:
The Gregory. New condos styled to look like an existing building. This building, as most new buildings, has commercial storefronts at the street level. I believe this is a zoning requirement:
Condo tower in Pearl. Also notice a bus stop and one of the solar-powered centralized, well-marked parking meters:
What looks like a very expensive condo building, as seen from the bakery we found:
Playground in the Pearl District:
Park with out of season spray ground, surrounded by new condos in the Pearl District:
New smooth glass condo building, just south of CBD on the streetcar line:
There is a new downtown grocery near this project, and I believe this is the project in which the developer has reduced the number of parking spaces from the typical 1.75 per unit to .75 per unit.
Condos under construction in Pearl District:
Next I would like to show a few photos of new tower condos at South Waterfront. This area is somewhat comparable to our riverfront, and some of the condos look like what is now being built in Newport.
Here is a map of the area:
New kitchen in high-rise housing at South Waterfront:
View out of the South Waterfront condo looking down onto other condos and the Willamette River:
View of river and downtown from codo:
View down onto condos and the riverfront park and trail. Compare to Cincinnati’s beautiful riverfront parks:
Next I would like to show a few photos of development around the suburban light rail stops. I think they are less successful than development around the streetcar. I think many books and articles have been written about the mixed success of such Transit Oriented Development (TODs). I you are interested in such things you can google TOD or Orenco and you will get some reading info. I think it is a decent attempt but I didn’t see much mixed use. They all seemed heavily residential.
Suburban rail stop showing bus connection, concrete chairs and multi-family development:
New housing near Quatama, a suburban stop:
The Quatama stop:
Just to show that not all is new, here is a trailer park along the tracks:
And to round out the photos, I would like to show some other sites that I found interesting around the streetcar line:
Older apartment building, on the streetcar line:
Low rise condos under construction on the streetcar line:
Low rent apartments in downtown area:
Soup Kitchen near streetcar line:
This place was packed with older people with walkers and wheelchairs and getting here by streetcar would be very easy.
Goodwill, by downtown library and on streetcar line:
A few more points:
The streetcar is successful at supporting lively node of activities. People are attracted to these nodes. People want to go where other people are. This is what urban life is about.
The streetcar is a system that treats handicapped people as equals. This is true even more so than light rail, because with the streetcar, you truly can live car-free. I saw more bicyclists and travellers with luggage on the lightrail line. If you are in a wheelchair and get off at a suburban stop, you are potentially stranded. Also compare this system to other types of lightrail such as elevated trains and subways. Both of these require elevators, whereas the streetcar is inherently ADA friendly.
One last thing. The Deters argument and the gentrification argument:
Deters got lots publicity for comparing the streetcar to Jurassic Park, implying that the residents of OTR are criminals waiting to prey on trolley riders. Conversely, others are concerned that the streetcar is just a way to further gentrify the neighborhood. For both of these camps, I would point out that OTR is already changing. District One has the lowest crime rate of the City’s five districts. Related to this, OTR already has lost thousands of residents, many of these since 2000. We had riots in 2001 and in 2003 Tom Denhart sold all his property. This neighborhood is not the old neighborhood. The question is, what direction do we want to go from here, and how successful will we be at attracting more people?
There are many people working to provide both condos (3CDC, Urban Sites, et al) and affordable housing (OTRCH, Model) in OTR. But the results will be mediocre if everyone who lives here still needs a car and dedicated parking spaces. Certainly the retail will never come back if it is auto dependent. And providing parking spaces for new apartments is expensive and a waste of space. This city must explore all alternatives to get people out of their cars. Being a pedestrian in a car-oriented city is no fun. The best way to support urban life is by supporting the pedestrian. Support pedestrians with stopsigns not stoplights, widened sidewalks, safer streets and low-barrier public transit like streetcars.
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