The Streetcar and Renewable Energy

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On May 1, 2008 Governor Ted Strickland signed Senate Bill 221 into law. This bill established a renewable energy mandate for the State of Ohio.  Under this law, 25% of all electricity generated in Ohio must come from renewable and clean energy sources.  When the Streetcar is constructed and operational it will reduce pollution not only by taking vehicles off the road, but also by running on a combination of conventional and renewable energy sources. Support Less Pollution in Cincinnati–Build the Streetcar.

Final NRDC Over-the-Rhine Post

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The Natural Resources Defense Council Blog has its fourth and  final post about Over-the-Rhine:

A central location is by far the most helpful to reducing driving rates, followed by the presence of transit service, neighborhood walkability, a mix of commercial and residential locations in the neighborhood, and neighborhood density.

OTR has all of these in abundance and, as a result, has terrific transportation performance.  Census data indicate that OTR residents drive alone to work only about a third as much as residents from the state of Ohio as a whole; OTR residents are 12 times more likely to take transit to work than residents of the state as a whole.  And, while one might be tempted to dismiss those differences as simply the product of OTR’s low average income, there’s another telling number that cannot be so easily dismissed: 27 percent of OTR residents walk to work, compared to only 2.4 percent for the state as a whole.  That is location efficiency, and that is also why I contend that inner-city revitalization is one of the very best things we can do to lower our overall per-capita carbon footprint.

These numbers will only get better with the arrival of the streetcar, which now has a development team appointed by the city, and with the ongoing and planned upgrades to the neighborhood’s sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly streetscape.

From the Secretary of Transporation

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The US Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood (R-IL), wrote this on his blog.

We love our cars, but sometimes there can be a better way to get to work or to the beach, or simply to the drug store. And providing Americans with those choices can also be good for the economy.

In fact, each 1% of regional travel shifted from automobile to public transit increases regional income about $2.9 million, resulting in 226 additional regional jobs. Other economic benefits include increased productivity, employment, business activity, investment and redevelopment.

Cities with well-established rail systems have less traffic congestion, lower traffic death rates, lower consumer expenditures on transportation, significantly higher per capita transit ridership, lower average per capita vehicle mileage, and higher transit service cost recovery than otherwise comparable cities with less or no rail transit service.

Moreover, whether in Houston, Texas, or Portland, Oregon, rail transit systems not only provide economic, but social and environmental benefits.

Social benefits of transit include improved public health, greater flexibility in trip planning and accessibility for non-drivers.

Rail travel consumes about a fifth of the energy per passenger-mile as automobile travel. Electric powered rail produces minimal air and noise emissions.

Streetcars Benefit the Environment

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According to the City of Cincinnati Climate Protection Plan, building the Cincinnati Streetcar will reduce pollution and CO2 emissions. The environmental benefits of the streetcar are numerous. People riding the streetcar rather taking private automobiles or taxis will prevent 4,321 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere each year.

The streetcar will increase the number of residents in Downtown, Uptown and Over the Rhine. These dense, walkable neighborhoods allow residents to run errands and do their shopping without ever having to use an automobile. With the Streetcar linking all these neighborhoods together, someone living along the line could access virtually everything they need by streetcar. In addition, dense settlement patterns reduce greenhouse gases because housing units are generally smaller, more energy-efficient, and have reduced thermal losses because of attached construction compared to older, single-family homes. The Climate Protection Plan estimates that the denser settlement patterns of along the streetcar line will result in an additional 25,995 tons of CO2 not being emitted a year.

Powering the Streetcar may result in emissions, but because the Streetcar is run on electricity, it gives the City considerable flexibility in determining a power source. Renewable energy like wind, solar, hydroelectric or geothermal could be purchased for the Streetcar through programs like this one from Duke Energy. Even if the Streetcar is run on conventional electricity, generation would only result in 2,248 tons of CO2, resulting in a net reduction of 28,068 tons of CO2.

The Streetcar not only reduces emissions, but it also displaces them. Cincinnati sits in the middle of a valley that traps pollution and smog. The streetcar will transfer the emissions that would otherwise be emitted by tailpipes at street level to distant smokestacks outside of the valley—moving the emissions off the streets on which children play and the elderly and other sensitive groups traverse.

Help the Environment—Build the Streetcar.