Cincinnati is a city blessed with a wonderful heritage. Our traditions live on to this day in our Opening Day Parade, the world’s second largest Oktoberfest, and one of the longest running Juneteenth festivals in the county. We honor our heritage with these events and in our communities of faith that have flourished over the generations, but too often we have neglected our history and have suffered from it.
In Over-the-Rhine we allow one of the country’s largest and most impressive historic districts to slowly crumble, at the height of anti-German hysteria, we renamed many of our streets to hide our past, and over the few decades we have failed to restore the streetcars and inclines that gave rise to our treasured neighborhoods.
Walnut Hills and Northside grew around the streetcar junctions of Peebles and Knowlton’s corners. The inclines brought development to Price Hill and Mt. Adams. When we removed the streetcars, the city no longer could function the way it was designed, as a dense, walkable city. Cincinnati has 13 neighborhood business districts, none of which have enough parking to compete with suburban malls.
Our population has declined as well. In 1890 when the first electric streetcar was installed in Cincinnati our population numbered 296,908. During the 60 odd years our city operated streetcars, our population exploded. When the #15 streetcar went of duty at 5:55am on April 29th, 1951, Cincinnati’s population stood at its all time peak of 503,998. But our population growth ended when our streetcar service did. Over the next half century, Cincinnati’s population rapidly declined, by the year 2000 it was 331,258—virtually the same population one hundred years earlier.
Investing in streetcars linking Downtown and Uptown, the region’s two largest employment centers, will reconnect us with our heritage, grow our population, and spur over a billion dollars of economic development.
Losing our streetcars and over a third of our population was a mistake that Cincinnati has not recovered from and one we must correct. Revitalize Cincinnati—Build the Streetcar.