Rebuilding Cincinnati’s once proud city-wide streetcar network

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Cincinnati’s great collection of neighborhoods were built off of streetcar lines.

Cincinnati boasted some 222 miles of streetcar tracks that reached all parts of the city. The area became famous for not only its inclines, that allowed streetcars to move passengers up and down the city’s steep hillsides, but also its streetcar vehicles like the Cincinnati PCC, open-air viewing cars, or double-decker streetcars.

The massive network, at its peak, moved approximately 100 million passengers a year and allowed for many of the city’s neighborhoods to grow and prosper. This network, however, was completely ripped out and dismantled by 1951 when lines servicing Clifton and Westwood were shuttered.

Current plans for Cincinnati’s modern streetcar system include lines that would connect Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Mt. Auburn, Clifton Heights, Avondale, Corryville and potentially University Heights and Fairview. Subsequent extensions could quickly expand the network to Newport, Covington, Queensgate, Walnut Hills, Clifton, Camp Washington, Northside and the West End.

While those plans for future extensions have yet to be completed, construction is moving full steam ahead on phase one and preliminary work on phase two has already begun. Take a look at what those phase one and two lines would look like overlaid on the city’s historical streetcar network. We have lots of work to do!

Cincinnati Streetcar Network

Pete Witte and John Schneider discuss the streetcar on WVXU’s Cincinnati Edition

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John Schneider is getting more and more popular. Fresh off radio appearances on 700WLW and 55KRC, he was invited to discuss transit and streetcars with Price Hill business owner Pete Witte on WVXU.

The two discussed the project with host Mark Perzel on the Cincinnati Edition show from 2-3pm today.

The discussion ranges from the current status of the project to where the next phases of streetcar and light rail work may go next. Some of the items brought up by John were similar to what he brought up on his previous radio appearances, but the group also discussed some different aspects of the project.

The show included one of the more reasonable discussions on the topic to-date. Pete Witte shared his skepticisms about the project, and shared his desires for a larger system that connects people with “jobs and books”.

The interview is split up into two segments that last a total of about 30 minutes.

Part One:

Part Two:

John Schneider joins Brian Thomas on 55KRC to discuss the Cincinnati Streetcar

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John Schneider, aka Captain Transit aka Mr. Streetcar, was back on the radio this morning. He was invited to join Brian Thomas on his regular morning show on 55 KRC.

The two discussed the first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar project in detail, and also discussed the merits of rail transportation in general.

The discussion started with Brian Thomas going on an uninterrupted prelude where he discussed the City of Cincinnati’s finances and its lack of ability to proceed with the project.

“The fundamental problem with Cincinnati, and the fundamental opportunity is we’ve lost population and we need to repopulate our city. We have a city that was built for 500,000 people, but we only have 300,000 people today,” Schneider explained to an agreeable Thomas. “But the snow still falls on Martin Luther King Boulevard and it has to be plowed, the grass still grows in Mt. Airy Forest and it has to be cut.”

Schneider went on to explain that investing in the Cincinnati Streetcar will help stabilize the city’s tax base and repopulate the city, in perhaps the greatest challenge and opportunity the Queen City has.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Thomas spent almost the entire interview using anecdotes and anti-city hysteria to support his points, but he did loudly profess how much of a bus fan he is. You can listen to the full interview on 55 KRC’s website, or stream it below. The interview lasts approximately 30 minutes.

City signs construction contract, phase one opening set for September 2016

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The City of Cincinnati signed a contract for construction of the Cincinnati Streetcar system yesterday with Messer/Prus/Delta JV.

According to City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., the signed contract means that materials will be ordered and preparation for construction of the trackway, Maintenance & Operations Facility (MOF), power system (including overhead power lines and substations), and station stops can begin immediately.

Duke Utility Relocation - Image Provided
Duke Utility Relocation – Image Provided

Due to the delays in signing the contract, City Manager Dohoney says that the contract price has gone up $492,933, which will be covered through the project’s contingency funds that are already in place.

The vast majority of the increased costs come from increased material ($240,000) and labor ($215,648) expenses. The remainder came from increased cold weather protection ($30,000) and increased bonding costs ($7,285).

Following the allocation of this money, the city will still have another $9.4 million in the project’s contingency fund.

The update from City Hall also included new project schedule milestones. It is now anticipated that test track and MOF substantial completion will be March 1, 2015. Track work, meanwhile, in Over-the-Rhine will be substantially complete by June 29, 2015 and completion on all of phase one work is anticipated for March 15, 2016.

Should these contract milestones hold up, city officials believe passenger service will commence on September 15, 2016 – just in time for the Bengals regular season.

Utility relocation work is continuing throughout Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District. Over the weekend, intensive utility work by Duke Energy took place along Walnut Street at Fifth Street. Work, the city manager says, will continue along Walnut Street this week and gas main relocation will begin along Elm Street in OTR this week as well.