10 May 2008

Times Change

For those of you not on John Schneider's protransit email list, I had to pass this along:

Gas pushes above $3.67 a gallon, while oil passes $126 on Venezuela supply concerns

And the Cincinnati backstory is ...

At $126, a barrel of oil now costs $100 more than it cost on November 5, 2002 when Hamilton County voters defeated an extensive plan for transportation choices here. Economists hired to study the plan concluded that it would cost an average Hamilton County family $68 per year, about what I paid for a tank of gas last week.

The plan defeated in 2002 would have built sixty miles of light rail in five corridors: along I-74 to Green Township; I-75 to Tri-County; I-71 to Blue Ash; and a line from Uptown through Hyde Park to Newtown. Another rail line would have enabled Cincinnatians to travel across the county without having to go downtown and transfer. There were two streetcar lines, a 25% increase in the bus fleet, new bus routes and neighborhood hubs and more hours of bus service. When the plan was fully built-out by 2030, 95% of Hamilton County residents would have transit within a mile of their homes. It would be nice to have that option now.

The first line to be built, the Northeast Corridor, would have linked Downtown with Uptown, Xavier and Blue Ash on a route roughly parallel to I-71. At the time of the Hamilton County vote in 2002, the Federal Transit Administration rated the expected performance of the Northeast Corridor project to be equal to similar rail project planned for Norfolk. Neither city's project was recommended to receive Federal funds at that time because Cincinnati and Norfolk hadn't yet agreed to match a Federal commitment with local funds. At the time of the vote here, rail opponents waved the bloody shirt of Cincinnati's "Not Recommended" rating as proof of our project's unworthiness. The plain truth was, and is, the Feds won't commit any money for rail projects unless the locals do. As it should be.

Cincinnati said no. Norfolk said yes, got its Federal commitment, and its project is now under construction.

As we ponder a breathtaking 500% rise in the price of oil in less than six years, maybe it's time to start planning for a balanced transportation system here once again. Building the Cincinnati Streetcar is a start.


DP said...

How does one get on John's email list?

Also, do you know where one can find the planning docs associated with the 2002 plan?

I'm still a bit in the undecided category on the streetcar and think it might be more effective if done as part of a more commuter-oriented light rail system. It would also be easier to get suburban support if those areas more directly benefited. Any movement toward resurrecting the whole plan?

Anonymous said...


CityKin said...

" Any movement toward resurrecting the whole plan?"

No, at least not in the immediate future.

"It would also be easier to get suburban support if those areas more directly benefited"

Who needs 'em?

DP said...

dp said: "It would also be easier to get suburban support if those areas more directly benefited"

citykin said: 'Who needs 'em?'

Maybe 'suburban' isn't the right word. The project will not be self-supportive (fare box never covers costs) and, therefore, will require money both capital and O&M money that could used for other purposes. If the money comes from city sources, the project will need support from across the city. If the money comes from the county, etc. I think there are a lot of people whose support is needed that will not see the direct benefits. Sure you can tell them that what's good for downtown is good for the city, county, region, etc. But most are going to think that this is a plan designed to help some urban pioneers, UC, and probably some developers, but not them and that $100 million is a lot of money that could be used to fix a lot of other things that are higher priorities for them.

I think I'm a moderately good example of the type of person that needs to be convinced. In principle I'm very pro-transit (I have helped plan transit projects for a living), I live within the City of Cincinnati, but I neither live, nor work in OTR or downtown. Tell me why I should support my tax dollars going to the streetcar. For the 5-10 times per year that I might use it?

I hate pork barrel spending as much as anyone, but there's a reason it proliferates: political deals required to get support for something else. Maybe not a perfect analogy, but the point is that for something this new/progressive/expensive, the people that are going to help foot the bill are going to want to see something in return. And I think a broader system that benefits more people would increase that level of support. That and I think it would be more effective from a transportation standpoint (reducing peak hour auto trips, parking pressures, etc.).

I want to support transit where it's effective. Convince me and the majority of voters in the city who are like me.

[sorry this ended up so long]

Anonymous said...

^ I don't think anyone planning the Cincinnati Streetcar believes that only the Downtown-Uptown leg is all that will be built. It's just a logical place to start -- dense, flat, and under-parked.

Personally, I see lines someday going to Price Hill, Northside, Clifton, Avondale, Obryonville and Columbia Tusculum.

When President Eisenhower proposed the 47,000 Interstate Highway System, someone decided where the first mile would be built.

hellogerard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hellogerard said...

CityBeat had a blog a couple weeks ago about the 2002 light rail plan along the same lines as this one.

Barry Floore said...

HI! I'm a bus rider now, by choice after my car broke down. We passed a gas station today... $3.98.

I just giggled and giggled and giggled.

Oh, I'm totally stealing this article because it's about time I updated the world on my blog about the joys of a suburban kid learning the busses.