Infrastructure allows greater density

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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.

Modern Streetcar

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.

8 thoughts on “Infrastructure allows greater density

    Mark Miller said:
    January 26, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Where’d you get the notion that we have any excess sewer capacity?!? MSD is operating under a federal judicial consent decree as a result of Greenpeace’s lawsuit against it for combined sewer overflows. The city/county deferred so much maintenance for so long that our infrastructure is not only inadequate for current operating levels, it’s literally crumbling beneath us.

    One of the biggest obstacles to (re)development in older areas is sewer permits. Dozens of projects are on hold indefinitely until MSD gets their act together, or the developer completes their work for them.

    What’s more, MSD is proposing enormous rate hikes to cover more than $1 billion in anticipated repairs and upgrades. Is it any surprise that most development is taking place just over the county line in all directions?

    Adding insult to injury, when all this came to light, MSD got busy; not on sewer projects, but constructing a fancy new office building at a cost of approximately 1/3 of your streetcar system. They should be living out of job trailers until the work is done.

    I’m sorry but our government has a miserable track record prioritizing capital expenditures. And Mallory raiding the rainy-day fund during a recession rather than cutting costs, proves they aren’t any better about operating expenditures.

    Extravagances need to take a backseat to necessities until we get back onto a solid footing. And to do that, citizens need to exercise some oversight by voting directly on mammoth niceties like the streetcar.

    Randy Simes said:
    January 26, 2009 at 10:24 am

    The problem with our sewer system is not as much capacity related as it is functionality related. Combined sewers are an old set up for sewer systems. During heavy rain falls the water level rises in the sewers and then spills over with the solid waste that shares the same sewer (hence combined sewer). As a result we have solid waste in our streams and rivers during these heavy rainfalls.

    It is a major mess that the government has required be fixed. The thing is that it is yet another unfunded mandate from the federal government. This type of a project is far too expensive for a local government or body of resources to bear. It would be like asking Cincinnati or Covington to pay for rebuilding I-75 and the Brent Spence Bridge.

    The streetcar system that Cincinnati once had built our inner-city neighborhoods. These are the neighborhoods that have been hardest hit over the past couple of decades. It is quite difficult to repopulate an area that was built off of a mode of transportation that has been eliminated. Think of it this way, would Union Centre Boulevard be what it is if all of a sudden we closed off and shut down I-75? Or would Florence, Hebron, and other Nky communities be able to survive without the Brent Spence Bridge connection and I-75?

    John Schneider said:
    January 26, 2009 at 11:12 am

    And the overloading of our storm sewers is principally due to the paving of hillsides, forests and farms. As a result, a lot of the rainfall that was naturally taken care of before development … now it has to go somewhere. And most of it ends up at the sewage treatment plant.

    Alastair said:
    January 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Trying not to miss the overall point however, infrastructure in general..

    It’s one thing to have infrastructure. Regardless of how many you say the city is capable of supporting right now, it’s really not the issue. You have to get people to move there first for any of that to matter. And as far as infrastructure goes, people aren’t going to make a big distinction between West Chester and downtown on that. Roughly the same things are offered (A simplification, but from the perspective of the individual there’s little to no difference). They have to be lured into greater population density areas by other advantages (public transit would be one of those if we had an adequate system).

    citykin said:
    January 27, 2009 at 12:30 am

    There is no problem getting permits to use existing sewers when rehabbing vacant buildings, or even building new on sites like those in OTR with existing infrastructure.

    Randy is right. This city was built around an infrastructure that has been removed. People tried to remake this city to serve the automobile instead of people, and in the process, they destroyed it.

    Travis said:
    January 27, 2009 at 11:00 am

    I live in Fairview, and I am fortunate enough to rent from a landlord who maintains his properties, fixes them up, takes care of issues like leaky roofs, etc. However, I see many houses on my street owned by landlords who couldn’t care less about their properties. There are even a few abandoned houses on my street, although most are slowly being purchased and renovated.

    When I see the range of architecture on my street, I can’t help but think of the overwhelming potential of this part of town. You will never get this unique style of housing in a subdivision, or even a new urban project like City West. We need to treasure what we have now and build infrastructure that will allow these gems to survive for decades, perhaps centuries, into the future.

    Why do we, in the United States, tear down buildings that are only 30 or 40 years old, while many European countries are preserving buildings that are older than our country itself? Automobile orientation results in more demolition for highways and parking lots. Save our cities and invest in our urban infrastructure.

    avaweelty said:
    February 9, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Hi, cool site, good writing 😉

    George E Ferguson said:
    February 21, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    A. In times such as this, a streetcar line represents a bad case of misplaced priorities. We have sidewalks and streets which are crumbling. People and families are
    hurting badly.
    B. Early streetcar lines were built with private capital from which people received
    dividends. Cities awarded franchises to streetcar operators in exchange for hefty
    financial payments which allowed companies
    to establish routes AND provide for repair of streets in the event that the cars left the city.
    C. It is dishonest to say that ‘economic
    development’ will follow the develop of
    a streetcar line: there is already millions
    of dollars being poured into Over-the-Rhine and the area around UC. How much MORE do we
    D. WHo will operate the system if it is established? OC Metro/SORTA has said nothing
    about what role (if any) it will have in maintaining and operating the system.
    E. If we HAVE to “go RETRO” we should follow
    the example of Dayton OH and build a system
    of hybrid electric trolley buses which run under wire in the city and on synthetic LNG
    while on the expressway or on non-wired streets. Maybe NOW is the time to start
    planning and building such a system to replace the current fleet of buses as their
    usefulness ends. That gives us the best of
    both worlds, is cost effective and does NOT
    involve tearing up streets to lay track.

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