Recently WCPO Channel 9 aired an I-Team investigation entitled “Streetcar will cause accidents & deaths”; a scare story to rack up ratings for February Sweeps. Viewers immediately took to social media to express their outrage of the biased and irresponsible journalism that Cincinnati’s Streetcar project has been subject to for almost 7 years. Referencing incidents with Houston’s MetroRail and the TriMet Light Rail in Portland, Oregon, the four minute exposé misled viewers to believe that streetcars were responsible for traffic collisions and subsequent deaths. Accident numbers overshadowed the facts, which is that motorists and pedestrians were at fault for 96% of all streetcar related incidents. In short, that means that people who failed to yield caused collisions with the streetcar.
Unfortunately, the way WCPO presented their story made it sound like the mere existence of rail in a city was an imminent death trap for citizens. They even produced a fear-mongering chart to list out all the death statistics, which totaled around 300 nationwide over the past 20 years, or 15 annual fatalities.
Here’s how streetcar related incidents compare to other accidents:
Streetcars Are Safer Than…
Snowplows – Ohio State Transportation officials have recorded 80 crashes in the 2013-14 winter
Cows – Cattle kill 22 humans a year
Vending Machines – 38 deaths by people rocking/tilting the machine
Lightning – 23 deaths in 2013
Televisions – 41 fatalities due to TVs falling over in 2012
Helicopters – 420 deaths in 2012, which means you’re 28 times more likely to be killed by Chopper 9, WCPO’s news helicopter, than by the Cincinnati Streetcar
Due to recent cold and icy weather, the long-time holiday tradition of the Mount Adams Reindog Parade was canceled this year after trying to reschedule it twice. Fortunately, this weekend brought clear skies, warmer temperatures, and a burst of creativity. The Over-The-Rhine Kennel Club held an impromptu dog parade along the streetcar route, from Washington Park along 12th Street and ending at Neon’s, a pet-friendly bar. Participants were encouraged to dress up their pups in costume, as was the tradition with the Reindog Parade, and embark from the Washington Park dog park Sunday afternoon. Dozens attended the event with their furry companions clad in holiday cheer and checked out the construction progress along the route.
In their monthly newsletter, Downtown Residents Council once again spoke out in support of the streetcar with the following proclamation:
Adopted September 11, 2007 without dissent, again in 2009 without dissent, and on December 10, 2013 with 90.4% voting in favor.
Be it therefore resolved:
The members of the Downtown Residents Council (DRC) support the implementation of a streetcar system for the urban core. We believe a fixed rail transportation network will enhance the experience of visiting, living and working in the core of our city. Other cities implementing streetcar systems have seen good to great returns on their investment through new construction, new jobs, new business opportunities, enhanced quality of life and a cleaner city environment due to lessened automobile traffic.
The DRC urges the City Council to support a program aimed at installing a fixed rail streetcar system within the boundaries of the Central Business District and Over the Rhine, which could possibly be expanded to the inner ring suburbs. Our members would greatly appreciate the ability to travel short distances from home and work on our lunch breaks, nights out, while running errands, shopping and entertaining friends. More transportation options will make it easier for modern families to live in the urban core by possibly removing the necessity of having multiple automobiles for personal mobility. This transportation option would also make the city more visitor-friendly by linking the many diverse shopping, dinning, entertainment, cultural and historic locations scattered throughout the valley.
As City Council prepares to make a crucial vote on whether to “pause” or continue the streetcar project, designer Giacomo Ciminello compiled a visual of the costs for both pausing and continuing with the project. The initial estimate shows a $400,000 difference between the two options. However with one option, $147 million will result in a streetcar and the other option would leave taxpayers footing a $147 million cancellation bill to have nothing built.
Council argues the $3-4 million annual operating costs of the streetcar rationalize their decision to spend the same amount of money to cancel the streetcar than to complete it, as they would be saving money in the long run. Earlier this week, project executives explained many options to pay for operating costs which would remove the burden from the city budget, and even allow the streetcar to operate “in the black,” turning a profit.
The vote on “pausing” the streetcar will not only define Cincinnati’s view on progress, but also on fiscal responsibility.