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.
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.
That is a question the proponents of the fake vintage bus trolleys need to know the answer to. A bus is a 12 year investment. If one of these trolleys is purchased today, it will last through two terms of President Obama, a term of President Biden, and still be rolling around for the inauguration of President Palin in 2021. That is of course, unless the “pilot bus trolley program” costing $14 million is abandoned after two years.
In 1999, diesel was around $0.99 a gallon. In 2007, it almost $5. What will diesel prices be in 2021? I have no idea—and neither do the fake vintage bus trolley proponents.
In 2021 we will still have an electric grid, but I don’t know what will power it. Electric streetcars can be powered by whatever fuels we discover, or whatever new technologies we create. They can run off of wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, tidal, nuclear, or coal power. In a time of transition for our energy supplies, streetcars, with their flexible sources of power, represent a smart investment for the uncertain future.
Image from: www.starlinetours.com
From yesterday’s Enquirer:
“(The Brent Spence Bridge) is not a transportation project only,” Mark Policinski, OKI’s executive director, told the Covington Business Council last month. “It’s also an economic development tool.”
Very true. Investing in transportation infrastructure creates economic development.
I wonder if an economic benefit to cost study for the Brent Spence Bridge has been done, and if so, how it compares to the 2.7 to 1 benefit to cost ratio of the Cincinnati Streetcar?