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Modern Streetcar in Traffic

That’s the number of residents, according to the 2000 Census, in Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and Uptown, the neighborhoods served by the streetcar line running from the Riverfront to the Zoo in Avondale. That is the about the same number of people who live in the neighborhoods of:

  1. California,
  2. Camp Washington,
  3. Carthage,
  4. Columbia-Tusculum,
  5. The East End,
  6. East Walnut Hills,
  7. English Woods,
  8. Fay Apartments,
  9. Hartwell,
  10. Kennedy Heights,
  11. Linwood,
  12. Lower Price Hill,
  13. Millvale,
  14. Mt. Adams,
  15. Mt. Lookout,
  16. North Fairmount,
  17. Queensgate,
  18. Riverside,
  19. Sayler Park,
  20. Sedamsville,
  21. South Cumminsville,
  22. South Fairmount,
  23. Spring Grove Village, and
  24. Winton Hills


Infrastructure allows greater density

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Cincinnati’s city limits have essentially been unchanged for the past eighty years. Unlike Columbus and Indianapolis, we have not integrated our city and county governments. Therefore the only way for Cincinnati to grow is to increase its population density. Infrastructure allows for greater population density and infrastructure investments, like the Cincinnati Streetcar will be a key part of restoring Cincinnati to her former status.

How does infrastructure increase density? Start at the most basic level. A sewer system can support more people on the same amount of land than septic tanks can. Running water can support more people than well water. A paved road can support more traffic than dirt or gravel roads. Rail can support more people than automobiles alone. In places like New York or Chicago very few people own cars. If everyone owned a car, there simply wouldn’t be any room for them.

Modern Streetcar

Each year we have to raise taxes or cut services to prevent the City from running an operating budget deficit. One of the reasons is because we have a city with most of the infrastructure to support half a million people, but a population of only 332,458 paying for its upkeep.

We have the sewers for half a million people, a parks systems built for half a million people, the waterworks for half a million people, and the housing stock for half a million people. One of the reasons vacant buildings are such a problem is because we are under populated, creating hundreds of vacant buildings.

It doesn’t matter if there are 30 people or 500 people living on a block, it will cost the same amount to plow the snow and repave the street, the difference is on the more populated street, you have 470 extra taxpayers sharing the burden.

The streetcar is part of that infrastructure we need to achieve greater population density, fill vacant buildings, and increase the tax base for the city. An increased tax base will balance our budget and avoid painful service cuts in the future.

It is important to remember the Cincinnati Streetcar will be funded with the capital budget, the budget used to invest in roads and bridges, not the operating budget, the budget used to pay police and operate pools and recreation centers.

Before Cincinnati had streetcars, the city’s population was around what it is now, about 300,000. The population rose over the 60 years we operated streetcars and fell over the fifty that followed.

Since 1950 this City has tried virtually ever urban renewal scheme, except the one that worked in the first place, investing in rail.

Revitilize Cincinnati—Build the Streetcar.

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.

Streetcars a Part of Cincinnati’s Heritage

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Modern StreetcarCincinnati is a city blessed with a wonderful heritage. Our traditions live on to this day in our Opening Day Parade, the world’s second largest Oktoberfest, and one of the longest running Juneteenth festivals in the county.  We honor our heritage with these events and in our communities of faith that have flourished over the generations, but too often we have neglected our history and have suffered from it.

In Over-the-Rhine we allow one of the country’s largest and most impressive historic districts to slowly crumble, at the height of anti-German hysteria, we renamed many of our streets to hide our past, and over the few decades we have failed to restore the streetcars and inclines that gave rise to our treasured neighborhoods.

Walnut Hills and Northside grew around the streetcar junctions of Peebles and Knowlton’s corners. The inclines brought development to Price Hill and Mt. Adams. When we removed the streetcars, the city no longer could function the way it was designed, as a dense, walkable city. Cincinnati has 13 neighborhood business districts, none of which have enough parking to compete with suburban malls.

Our population has declined as well.  In 1890 when the first electric streetcar was installed in Cincinnati our population numbered 296,908.  During the 60 odd years our city operated streetcars, our population exploded.  When the #15  streetcar went of duty at 5:55am on April 29th, 1951, Cincinnati’s population stood at its all time peak of 503,998.  But our population growth ended when our streetcar service did.  Over the next half century, Cincinnati’s population rapidly declined, by the year 2000 it was 331,258—virtually the same population one hundred years earlier.

Investing in streetcars linking Downtown and Uptown, the region’s two largest employment centers, will reconnect us with our heritage, grow our population, and spur over a billion dollars of economic development.

Losing our streetcars and over a third of our population was a mistake that Cincinnati has not recovered from and one we must correct.  Revitalize Cincinnati—Build the Streetcar.