Month: January 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
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
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?
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.