Streetcars and Development

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Tampa constructed a historic, tourist oriented streetcar system in 2002.  From the Enquirer:

In a central Tampa corridor formerly dominated by deteriorating warehouses, dingy industrial sites and rusting dockside facilities, there now are condominium towers, a waterfront shopping district and four new hotels, two of them downtown high-rises. Since the streetcar line opened in 2002, more than $1.1 billion in residential and retail development has sprouted along its 2.4-mile route, with nearly another $3 billion being planned.

The Tampa system was constructed for $63 million and has contributed to tremendous development.  Upon completion of the planned projects, for every $1 Tampa invested in the streetcar, they will have generated $65 in new development.

“[The Streetcar] may not have been the only reason, but I have no doubt that much of what you see there today wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t built the streetcar,” said former Mayor Dick Greco, who championed the cause and whose name is emblazoned on one of the line’s 10 stations.

Similarly, Bob Abberger, who as Trammell Crow’s senior managing director of Florida development oversaw creation of the Marriott Waterside hotel, the first major project built along the route, said the transit line was “definitely a value-added” that enhanced the hotel’s viability.

Michael Chen, Tampa’s development services manager, points to compelling statistical evidence of the streetcar’s impact. With the exception of an Ikea store that recently opened east of downtown, every other pending development in the city with approved permits or working its way through the zoning process – $2.9 billion in all – falls within two blocks of the streetcar’s existing or planned route, he said.

Larger than Cincinnati in both population and area,  Tampa is 112 square miles.    Two blocks (assuming 400 ft. blocks) from either side of the route and extensions plus two blocks at each end of the line is 0.91 square miles (just slightly larger than Downtown Cincinnati).  The development stemming from the Tampa Streetcar, $4 billion of new or proposed investment in an area about the size of Downtown, is remarkable.

Tampa Streetcar: Cincinnati will NOT be using similar Streetcars
Tampa Streetcar: Cincinnati will NOT be using similar Streetcars

Portland Streetcar
Portland Streetcar: Cincinnati WILL be using similar Streetcars
(a) Rules relating to constructive receipt (1) Plan failures (A) Gross income inclusion

(i) In general If at any time during a taxable year a nonqualified deferred compensation plan—

(I) fails to meet the requirements of paragraphs (2), (3), and (4), or
(II) is not operated in accordance with such requirements,

all compensation deferred under the plan for the taxable year and all preceding taxable years shall be includible in gross income for the taxable year to the extent not subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture and not previously included in gross income.

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.

Re-Envision Cincinnati

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The Cincinnati Streetcar will not only serve 62,163 residents who live along the line, the employees that work in the City’s two largest employment centers (containing 54% of the jobs in the entire city), the 35,000 students of the University of Cincinnati, and the millions of visitors, hotel guests, and conventioneers that come to Downtown each year, it will also transport many of the 65,000 daily riders of Metro, the 15,000 daily riders of TANK, and the riders any future public transportation systems “the last mile” of their trip.

New Map Final

The streetcar will connect the existing subway tunnels that could carry light rail lines that will run parallel to I-75 and I-74, it will connect the Riverfront Transit Center, which would likely be the station for commuter rail to the east and west, I-71 light rail, and the light rail line to the airport, and with a short extension, the streetcar will also connect to high speed rail at Union Terminal. In addition, the streetcar extensions shown above will connect additional neighborhoods that contain 76,964 residents.

We might not know what public transportation upgrade will be next, but regardless of whether it is light rail, commuter rail, or upgraded bus service to Government Square, the streetcar will help these new systems operate more effectively and transport the riders the last few miles to their destination without having to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on expensive tunneling.

Over the next 30 years, rising oil prices and increasing congestion will likely make rail transportation a necessity in Cincinnati. Having the streetcar in place will connect the rail lines that serve Downtown with Northern Kentucky and Clifton, and the streetcar will increase economic development in the neighborhoods that it serves.  More economic development in turn means more tax revenue and increased public services for all 52 of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods.

Previous generations of Cincinnatians have left future citizens their legacy in the fantastic park system, museums, and cultural assets, like Music Hall and the Krohn Conservatory.  Lets have the one of the legacies of our generation be an improved transportation system that benefits the entire City.  Support Cincinnati’s Future—Build the Streetcar.

Building and Running the Streetcar Will Not Take Funds From the Operating Budget

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This earlier post broke down the funds needed to build the streetcar and showed how they would come from the Capital Budget (the budget used to fund roads, bridges, and other long term investments for the City) and not the Operational Budget (the budget that funds fire, police, and the City’s pension fund).

In a recent memo, City Manager Milton Dohoney details the funding structure for operating the streetcar.   The first pool of funds used will be fares from riders of the streetcar.  The second will be from advertising and sponsorship revenues related to the streetcar.  In Portland, streetcars can be sponsored for $25,000 per year and streetcar stop for $500 per month.

In the event that the first two funding sources do not cover the estimated $3.5 million per year operating cost, the City Manager proposes the creation of a Special Assessment District where the property owners directly on the streetcar line (who receive the most benefit from the streetcar) would contribute to a fund for the streetcar.  This funding mechanism is similar to how the Downtown Ambassadors are currently funded.

Finally the last revenue source being considered is the Parking Fund.  Using a portion the Parking Fund is appropriate because the streetcar will allow the city to use its existing parking facilities more effectively.  For an event held anywhere along the line, the streetcar can allow those attending to utilize the thousands of parking spaces in Uptown and Downtown.  For an event in Over-the-Rhine, which has very limited parking garages, those driving to the event could park Downtown or in Clifton and ride the streetcar the last few miles.

According to the City Manager “the local resources we have identified can not be used for public safety salaries or general expenses associated with the General Fund.”  The Cincinnati Streetcar will spur economic development along the line and will do so without using resources that could fund police, fire, or the pension system.  The Cincinnati Streetcar is a good investment—too good of an investment for the city to pass up.