A frequently asked question about the Cincinnati streetcar is, “When is it coming to my neighborhood?”
Currently, the City of Cincinnati is focused on building the current 3.6 mile loop around the Central Business District and Over-The-Rhine, where the most employers and revenue-generating entertainment is located. The next phase of the streetcar is expected to travel north on Vine Street to Uptown, Corryville, and Clifton.
But then where will it go?
It’s hard to say, as the City of Cincinnati is only 30% into its research on planning the Uptown phase. In the meantime, a University of Cincinnati student earning his Masters of Architecture outlined a longer streetcar route for an academic project. The design for this theoretical streetcar route is based on the current streetcar route, the 2002 Metro Moves light rail initiative developed by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, and the 2030 Regional Transportation Plan unanimously adopted in 2008 by the OKI Regional Council of Governments.
The light green route represents the streetcar line, and its possibility to expand outward to such neighborhoods as Westwood, Price Hill, and Camp Washington on the west side, northward to Avondale and Northside, and encompass Walnut Hills, Oakley, and Columbia-Tusculum on the east side. The academic project, entitled Metro|Cincinnati, also includes route projections for commuter rail, heavy rail (such as a subway), and extensions into Northern Kentucky.
While it will be up to the city to chart the course of the streetcar to its next neighborhood, it’s likely that it will be one or more of the communities highlighted on the Metro|Cincinnati map.
Messer, Prus, Delta (MPD), constructor of the Cincinnati Streetcar, today reported they have met their inclusion goal of the project, awarding 18% of construction contracts to Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs). A DBE is defined as a small business owned and operated by minorities or women. recognized as socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The contracts total more than $12.5 million to nine companies with DBE certification. MPD is building the 3.6-mile streetcar loop with total construction costs estimated at $70 million.
The streetcar project receives money from the federal government as well as local sources, and therefore, the project must use a DBE goal rather than a Small Business Enterprise (SBE) goal as seen in other locally-funded building projects.
The DBE goal for the civil construction contract for the streetcar project is 18%. The goal was based on an analysis of the highly-specialized scopes of work outlined in the construction contract, and available registered DBEs in the area. Disadvantaged businesses are involved in many areas of the construction, including: preparing streets for rail, building the Maintenance & Operations Facility, installing the street signalization and poles, and the station stops.
“MPD is committed to inclusion and we are pleased to have met the 18% DBE goal for construction contracts,” said Mark Luegering, senior vice president of Messer Construction Co. “We sought-out disadvantaged businesses during the bid period and award of contracts to play a significant role in construction and are pleased with the quality of our subcontractors.”
DBE Firms awarded contracts include:
- ABEL (Louisville, KY)
- Bansal (Fairfield, OH)
- Bowman (Marion, IN)
- Cannon (Lincoln Heights)
- Ezzie Trucking (Loveland)
- Firstar (Cincinnati)
- Jostin Construction (Walnut Hills)
- Rod Tech (North College Hill)
- TriState Construction (East Price Hill)
Construction work is on schedule to be completed fall 2016.
The most common misconceptions about the streetcar project involve concerns about return on the city’s $133 million investment. However, feasibility studies conducted by urban planning and risk assessment firms state that both the local economy and families can benefit financially from the streetcar.
SAVING FAMILIES MONEY
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) research explains that households located in transit-oriented communities (within a half-mile to a mile of a fixed rail station) save an average of $250 per month or $3,000 per year per household in auto-related costs as compared to households in auto-oriented areas. These savings are associated with the ability to walk to a wider range of destinations and to transit access itself.
EARNING MONEY FOR CINCINNATI’S 52 NEIGHBORHOODS
Benefits, costs, net present value, and benefit cost ratio were examined to calculate the risk of building a streetcar in Cincinnati. According to the Benefit-Cost Analysis conducted by HDR, a financial risk assessment company:
The value of total benefits for Cincinnati’s streetcar system is expected to be $430.9 million over 35 years between 2008 and 2042. Benefits are expected to exceed the total costs by $315.1 million. This represents a return on investment of 2.7 times, meaning for ever $1 that is invested, the streetcar will generate $2.70 for the City of Cincinnati.
The HDR analysis notes that there is a 90% probability that the Cincinnati streetcar will succeed. Once operational, it will earn more money to be shared throughout the city’s 52 neighborhoods than the costs needed to build and operate the route. The Benefit-Cost Analysis results recommend that investing in streetcar system is economically worthwhile with minimal risk of economic failure.
Those of you who have been to Portland have been able to see first-hand how transformative their modern streetcar system has been. Several neighborhoods have seen massive private investment as a result of the system’s various lines, and the latest extension east across the city’s river is now causing the same impact there.
Hassalo on Eighth, a $200M mixed-use development, is the largest in the city’s history and sits right on the streetcar line. It is located in a part of town called the Lloyd District, which has long been dominated by automobile-oriented buildings.
The new project has already torn down parking garages and will replace them with a 21-story tower, a 6-story structure and a 5-story building. Those three buildings will house 657 residential units and 58,000 square feet of commercial space. The project will also retrofit 240,000 square feet of existing commercial space.
Modern streetcar systems have the ability to be game changers if done right. Cincinnati’s will be no different.
Instead of investments being focused on cars (parking garages and travel speeds), they will be focused on people and how they move about their urban environment.
We may not see a massive $200M project like this along the first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar, but there is no doubt that a project like this will come along at some point. And that will just be the icing on the cake after all of the other private investments.