Have you heard people referring to the Cincinnati Streetcar as a “trolley?” It’s a dated and inaccurate term. Here’s why:
Fifty-eight years ago, Cincinnati’s last streetcar went off duty. At that time Cincinnati’s population stood at over half a million—the 18th largest city in the country. Over the next fifty years, the city’s size declined. By 2000 our population had fallen by over 170,000, a loss about 33%. Not all neighborhoods lost population equally. Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, some of our densest and most transit dependent neighborhoods both lost more than 70% of their residents over the past half century. Over-the-Rhine alone lost twenty-three thousand residents — more than the entire population of Norwood. The historic and irreplaceable architecture of Over-the-Rhine remains, but much of it stands vacant.
Cincinnati needs to grow its population in order to grow its tax base. It costs the city the same amount to plow a street full of vacant buildings as it does to plow a street with a hundred residents. Vacant buildings need police and fire coverage, but produce little in the way of tax revenues.
Streetcars are a good investment for the City. An analysis by the University of Cincinnati confirmed that for every $1 the city invests in the Cincinnati Streetcar, it will reap $2.70 in benefits.
The Cincinnati Streetcar will connect our two largest employment centers, Uptown and Downtown, which contain over half off all the jobs in the city. It will help redevelop empty parking lots and vacant buildings in our urban core by reducing the amount of parking needed to build new condos or apartment. The streetcar will make the city safer by increasing the number of pedestrians, putting more eyes on the street. And building the streetcar won’t raise taxes.
But the main benefit of the Cincinnati Streetcar is the economic development that will occur from attracting new residents and businesses into our city. To often those people who want to live in a dense, walkable and lively urban neighborhood served by public transportation go to Chicago, Portland, or somewhere else away from here. Our Universities graduate thousands of students every year, but too many of them leave the city, never to return.
Building a streetcar will help create those vibrant urban neighborhoods here, which will help retain some of the best talent in our region. Increasing our population and the new investment along the streetcar line will increase our tax base and provide Cincinnati with more resources to use to improve all 52 neighborhoods. Investing in the Cincinnati Streetcar will help the entire Revitalize Cincinnati — Build the Streetcar.