Guest Post: Why Cincinnati Needs Streetcars

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Guest post by Randy Simes, editor of UrbanCincy:

Cincinnati has a rich history and one that has grown into a strong, unique and powerful city through the 20th Century.  From pigs and soap, to branding and design, Cincinnati has risen to the challenge of meeting the demands of the new economies.  What will happen over the next century is still to be seen for what was the most important city built west of the Appalachian Mountains for many years.

In order to stay competitive in the 21st Century it has been seen that cities will have to attract the best and brightest talent.  That talent is in turn being attracted to cities where social capital is grown and cultivated, but it is imperative that this talent come and stay here in Cincinnati.  Part of that answer is the Cincinnati Streetcar.  The Cincinnati Streetcar will introduce rail transit to Cincinnati and will make living in the center city easier for those who wish to live car-free or prefer to use other means of transportation like walking, bicycling or transit.

The best and brightest talent has been voting with their feet over the past ten years and they are heading for places like Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, Denver and in the Midwest’s case, Minneapolis.  These cities are working hard to create livable urban spaces that cultivate this social capital experience that is going to determine the winners and losers of the next great economic shift.  The Cincinnati Streetcar is crucial in moving in that direction to stay competitive, and it will help us in other livable qualities.  I want to have a better Cincinnati for not only those of us here now, but the next generation to come.  Support Cincinnati’s future and support the Cincinnati Streetcar.

FAQ’s on the Streetcar

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CAAST has a quick summary of some frequently asked questions about the streetcar: Addressing Common Streetcar Questions and Concerns.

“Just Right”

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The Phony Coney comments on this cartoon that has been making its way around the web:

What Other Cities are Saying about Streetcars

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Ann Arbor

“It gives a much hipper, urban feel to the city,” said City Council Member Chris Easthope.”[1]

Grand Rapids

“Wherever the track goes down becomes ground zero for massive development,” said former Grand Rapids Mayor John Logie, one of the local leaders who went to Portland to study the streetcars and their effect on that city. “But private investment ripples about four blocks away on either side of the streetcar line. So you want to go where development has yet to occur.”

“The successful cities across the United State are at the forefront of mass transit innovation,” Jeanne Englehart, president of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

“I found it remarkably convenient,” said Don Stypula, executive director of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, the regional planning agency.”I close my eyes and I can literally envision these streetcars on our streets.” [2]


There is sufficient evidence that rail can spur economic development, said Lee Alig, chairman of Mansur Real Estate Services. “The models are there, there’s no question about it. The question is can we as a community see the need for this?”[3]


Tampa’s Teco Line Streetcar System has delivered on another front: helping to spur development. Some $450 million in residential and retail space is complete along the route, most of it in the Channel District, a once-languishing maritime neighborhood. With another $450 million in development underway and $1.1 billion in the planning stages, local officials expect the district to be home to as many as 10,000 residents within the next decade.[4]


What we’ve found with streetcars, people who might not use other public transportation will ride on streetcars,” said Rick Sheridan, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation. “It’s an interesting phenomenon.”[5]

[1] Some see streetcars in Ann Arbor’s future Tom Gantert | The Ann Arbor News February 24, 2008

[2] Agency Endorses Grand Rapids Streetcars, By Andy Guy
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

[3] Indianapolis Buisness Journal, Chris O’Malley

[4] A Streetcar Named Aspire: Lines Aim to Revive Cities By Thaddeus Herrick From The Wall Street Journal Online

[5] Some see streetcars in Ann Arbor’s future, Tom Gantert | The Ann Arbor News February 24, 2008