Over-the-Rhine

Guest Blogger Daniel Baisden

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I am honestly not certain how to be a guest columnist, so I decided that writing a post may be the best way to do so.

Growing up in Cincinnati, my grandfather owned several Pizza restaurants and would take me to the Cincinnati Reds home games every chance he would get. As we walked down the steep hillside of Mount Adams hand in hand we would talk about the most amazing city in the world.

I was born and raised in Cincinnati with the majority of my childhood on Celestial, what a great place at the foot of Immaculata and all of its glory, the city seemed to glisten, like twinkling Christmas lights every night from my small bedroom window. Its that view that I remember seeing every night that would make me dream and think of all the amazing things that Cincinnati was and could be.

Then we moved north, into the heart of Amish Country. A place that seemed so separated from the world, a place that was so peaceful, but would never be Cincinnati. I graduated from high school and began working in the radio business moving all over the Midwest.

Modern Streetcar

I still dream of what Cincinnati could and will become in the future. It’s my wish that Cincinnati could eventually come to replace Columbus as the largest city in the state…a vibrant economy that beckons visionaries. Think of what our families settled upon. What Losantiville became as the days grew.

I look at neighborhoods that will tremendously benefit off a streetcar system, such as OTR and even the desolate and abandoned village behind Christ Hospital, a thru connection to one of America’s most established and well regarded zoological societies, a college that is only growing year after year and what I consider the most amazing downtown in the world.

I look at the kind of revenue this will garner to unique businesses and botique shops as well as the local chains that are along the same route. The city will collect fare money and it will potentially bring new growing companies to a city that desperately needs them.

Of all the cities in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana – Cincinnati is the only city that is putting plans in place rapidly to build a streetcar network. While other cities desire to have one, they aren’t nearly as advanced as the citizens of Cincinnati. Recent Site Selection magazine named Cincinnati one of the best cities in America to start a new business. Home and Family ranked Cincinnati one of the best cities to raise a young family.

These are all great attributes for a city that we all LOVE AND ADORE. We all need to rally behind the CINCINNATI STREETCAR and tell those who don’t yet believe it will better the city where they have gone off track (pun intended).

Daniel Baisden lives in Lima, Ohio

The Project

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There have been a lot of numbers thrown around for the cost of the streetcar and where it runs. This map breaks it down by section on what the project really costs. There are essentially 3 different legs in the initial phases.

  1. Banks/Downtown/Over-the-Rhine $102 million
  2. Over-the-Rhine/University of Cincinnati $30 million
  3. University of Cincinnati/Uptown/Zoo $53 million

This map illustrates the initial phases and possible extensions. View a larger interactive GoogleMap version here.

Cincy Streetcar Network

Cincinnati Declines after Abandoning Streetcars

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In 1950, after six decades of electric streetcar operations, Cincinnati had reached its peak population of 503,998. The next year, in 1951, Cincinnati discontinued streetcar service and its population went into a steep decline, especially compared to the rest of the region. This chart breaks down population changes in the region 1950-2006.

Cincy USA Population TrendsThis clearly shows the decline of the City compared to the rest of the region. When Cincinnati operated a rail based mass transit system, they had the advantage of being the center of the region. Streetcars brought customers into Downtown and the Neighborhood Business Districts that lacked enough parking spaces.

After the streetcars were removed, bus ridership declined, and suburban malls, with massive parking lots began to dominate the retail scene. Cincinnati lost its advantage of centrality and easy access. It couldn’t function properly. With cars as the only viable form of transportation, the City, which was designed for walking and transit, couldn’t compete with suburbs built for cars. The suburbs flourished and the City declined.

Now we have the opportunity to put Cincinnati back on the path to growth. A strong center city will help the entire region. When people think of Detroit, they think of a vacant downtown, not an affluent outer suburb. People’s perceptions of a region are shaped by their urban cores, as most visitors to the area spend their time in or near a city’s downtown.

Modern Streetcar_PortlandThe Cincinnati Streetcar will make the city more competitive and more appealing to visitors. By contributing to a vibrant Downtown, it will improve the image of Cincinnati in the minds of the rest of the country. It will help us attract more graduates from out of state colleges and help us retain those who graduate from our great local institutions.

The same conventional thinking has caused 50 years of decline in this City. Why would people expect the same failed strategies to suddenly be successful? A new strategy is needed, one that capitalizes on the City’s strengths centrality and walkability. The streetcar, along with the Banks and the Gateway Quarter in Over-the-Rhine is part of that new strategy. Revitalize Cincinnati—Build the Streetcar.