Guest Post: Why Cincinnati Needs Streetcars

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Guest post by Randy Simes, editor of UrbanCincy:

Cincinnati has a rich history and one that has grown into a strong, unique and powerful city through the 20th Century.  From pigs and soap, to branding and design, Cincinnati has risen to the challenge of meeting the demands of the new economies.  What will happen over the next century is still to be seen for what was the most important city built west of the Appalachian Mountains for many years.

In order to stay competitive in the 21st Century it has been seen that cities will have to attract the best and brightest talent.  That talent is in turn being attracted to cities where social capital is grown and cultivated, but it is imperative that this talent come and stay here in Cincinnati.  Part of that answer is the Cincinnati Streetcar.  The Cincinnati Streetcar will introduce rail transit to Cincinnati and will make living in the center city easier for those who wish to live car-free or prefer to use other means of transportation like walking, bicycling or transit.

The best and brightest talent has been voting with their feet over the past ten years and they are heading for places like Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, Denver and in the Midwest’s case, Minneapolis.  These cities are working hard to create livable urban spaces that cultivate this social capital experience that is going to determine the winners and losers of the next great economic shift.  The Cincinnati Streetcar is crucial in moving in that direction to stay competitive, and it will help us in other livable qualities.  I want to have a better Cincinnati for not only those of us here now, but the next generation to come.  Support Cincinnati’s future and support the Cincinnati Streetcar.

8 thoughts on “Guest Post: Why Cincinnati Needs Streetcars

    Joe M said:
    September 8, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Thanks for this piece. I just moved my younger daughter and her friend to Chicago. She’s there for grad school, but Cincy’s not on her map after that. Moving into her apartment, we saw lots of young adults in their building as well as throughout her new neighborhood. Her new apartment is four blocks from the El stop and they have purchased their transit pass for the month to get around easily.

    Our older daughter will be leaving in about a month to move to Washington, DC. She has many friends there from an earlier job in that city, but another big draw is that she can get around without a car because of the capital’s fabulous mass transit.

    We are losing some very bright people to these cities that have easy transporation.

    Jason said:
    September 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    To Joe M: Well said! And you are absolutely right. Improving our city’s mass transit will help attract and retain alot of that young talent that this city has typically turned its back on for so many years. The streetcars are just a first step, but a very important one.

    This is just one example of why defeating this November’s ballot initiative (Anti-Passenger Rail Charter Amendment) is so important.

    Jason said:
    September 8, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Oh and to add my own two cents to this conversation, my wife and I just moved here about a year and a half ago, for two reasons: 1. Because we have family in the area and 2. Because we heard that Cincinnati was getting streetcars and we loved all the renovation happening in OTR.
    As I finish up residency and my wife continues to finish her masters, we are going to be in a situation about 1-2 years from now where we’ll be forced to decide what our next move is. If the Anti-Rail Charter Amendment passes this fall we will likely be moving somewhere else altogether.
    Though we love Cincinnati and we really love OTR, we don’t want to live somewhere that doesn’t take its urban core seriously and ignores the need for good public transportation.
    However, if the streetcars are built, we’re staying and we’re staying for good.
    Believe me that we’re not alone in feeling this way, lots of our friends agree and have a similar outlook for the near future.

    Jeff said:
    September 8, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Here’s some more proof:

    My wife and I just moved to Cincinnati three months ago and a large part of our decision was the city’s advanced streetcar plan. It symbolized to us that the city was committed to solving problems and not just treating symptoms (like crime and blight), which is too often the norm. My wife (a Surgeon) and I (a designer and architecture grad student) had a rule that the next city we lived in had to have advanced mass transit. This was due to the obvious fact that car-centric cities eliminate the individual’s FREEDOM of transit. This fact was made clear to us after we were involved in a car crash that not only highlighted the insanity of overcrowded roads, but also caused a fear of driving that we could not escape. We considered Chicago, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Portland and Seattle. We both had good opportunities and loved the people here, so in the end, we took the gamble on the future of Cincinnati’s transit plan.

    Obviously, we are very disappointed to find that a fearful group of people has had success in manipulating and deceiving so many people into a distrust of the current city government, which has done a tremendous job of planning for a free, diverse and sustainable urban future. My wife and I will stick it out and do what we can to promote the truth in hopes that the streetcar might still become reality. However, the next turning point in our lives is in 5 years and if the streetcars aren’t running by then, we may be moving. By that time, the city we moved from (and still love), Milwaukee, will have their own streetcars, a plan they committed to this year that is based on Cincinnati’s brilliant research and planning.

    (This is a great blog! Thanks for the frequent updates!)

    Mike said:
    September 8, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    I’ve got a handful of friends who have left Cincinnati with no plans to return. Better public transportation and the many benefits it brings would have definitely helped keep them here.

    John Schneider said:
    September 8, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Would all be good letters to the editor of the Enquirer. Need to be less than 100 words to get published.

    Adam said:
    September 8, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Most of my friends who have visited (from Chicago) say that they would be much more willing to consider living if there were better public transportation.

    Randy Simes said:
    September 9, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    When I toured a prospective student around UC’s campus several years ago she and her mother commented that they were happy to see Cincinnati had rail transit (fooled by the subway entrances on 2nd Street). Once I told them that those led to a bus bay that is a place holder for future rail they became less enthusiastic. I’m not sure what their final decision was, but it was clear that after academics and campus life that the quality of the city in which the urban university existed was very important.

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