31 July 2009

Business Courier on Streetcar

I am still on vacation for another week or two, but I really wanted to post this. Starting with the Mayor's speech earlier this week, and ending with this editorial, I think that this is the week in which the momentum has started to shift away from the anti-rail to the pro-rail crowd.

From the Cincinnati Business Courier. Wow. (Quoted in full because a subscription is required)
Now is not the time to give up on a Cincinnati streetcar

With state and federal plans emerging to bring long-awaited rail service to our region, it’s more important than ever for a convenient and economic development-based transportation system to be built serving downtown Cincinnati.

Sure, the economy is generally burnt toast right now – but history tells us that some of the most important companies, inventions and decisions were made during great economic strife. The Cincinnati streetcar should join that list.

Cincinnati’s operating budget is upside down, and City Council will continue to need to make difficult decisions about cutting the size of its government to match its reduced revenue. But a streetcar is a long-term investment, not an annual budget item.

To be more specific, I agree with critics that a downtown streetcar in a vacuum doesn’t necessarily work the best. Sure, economic analysis does justify the nearly $200 million cost of building both phases, riverfront to the University of Cincinnati area. But connect that streetcar to a rail system that conveniently brings visitors to Greater Cincinnati and local suburbanites into downtown, and the streetcar will pay even more dividends for decades to come.

If Cincinnati and its voters turn their backs in November on a streetcar and rail system this time, we once again will be cutting ourselves out of significant state and federal shifts toward this type of transportation system that are sure to propel other metropolitan regions far ahead of us.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jolene Molitoris, appointed in January and the state’s first female state transportation director, has been described as a “rail nut.” With her boss, Gov. Ted Strickland, somewhat damaged in the budget-making process, it’s time for Molitoris to step up and show some leadership on this issue – including coming out in favor of the Cincinnati streetcar plan.

Ohio’s 3C Corridor will connect Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati as part of President Obama’s nationally prioritized Chicago Hub Network – which connects with Toledo, Louisville, Indianapolis and Chicago. With funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Ohio’s plan would have initial conventional-speed service running by 2011. Cincinnati’s streetcar system could be put on the same timing, but the wrong vote could keep streetcars and a rail line out of Cincinnati as the rest of the nation adopts this new mode.

If you never plan to use Cincinnati’s streetcar, you should see it as a job creator. Permanent investments will be made along the routes. Portland, Ore., and Memphis provide direct evidence of that happening.

Still not convinced? Take a tour of the nearly daily posts at Cincystreetcar . Need to know the opposite point of view? Go to COAST. There’s a big difference in the quality of the content, favoring those who want to see a better Cincinnati than we have now.

We need a coordinated approach to transportation, using the streetcar to help get visitors and suburbanites downtown and out of their cars to enjoy all the benefits our great city has to offer. Giving up now would be so typical of Cincinnati and its historic conservatism. Let’s not be typical on this issue.


Todd McFarland said...

I love Doug's quote "there's a big difference in the quality of the content". That's the understatement of the year.

kid-cincy said...

Unfortunately for the pro-streetcar crowd, it's the quantity of the votes, not the quality of the posts, that count. I predict 70/30 against, maybe 75/25. No way it comes close to passing.

kid-cincy said...

Sorry, I was a little unclear above. I meant to say "no way it comes close to failing." Ther will be no streetcar in Cincinnati in our lifetimes, unless its built with private money. If the Business Courier is so hot on the idea, why don't they get a few businessmen to get together and take the risk on funcding it? We all know the answer to that question.

CityKin said...

Sometime quality of posts and logic do not matter to the electorate, but I remain optimistic about both the streetcar and this city.

CincyCapell said...

If there is going to be a massive vote against the streetcars, than why did it take the COAST nutters so long to gather those signatures?

CincyCapell's Dead Cat said...

Nevermind my last post. I just realized that it takes time to get signatures because the We Demand volunteers can't be everywhere at once. Dumb question. I'm going to get back to eating my dead cat with my wife.

ThatDeborahGirl said...

The anti-rail people (myself included) are still quietly steamed about the whole thing and feel like our council has engineered the debate so that we're going to be railroaded into accepting the Cincy Choo Choo like it or no.

I'd much rather that money were spent on health clinics or schools or even swimming pools than a stupid trolley that will only benefit a few drunk folks going from bar to bar.

CityKin said...

A modern streetcar is not a choo choo or a toy. It will serve the the city center neighborhoods that have the densest living and working environment in the city. This "toy" has been predicted (by two serious studies) to have income returns to the city of many many times the amount needed to build and operate it.

For the past 40 years Cincinnati has been shrinking with results of less benefits for everyone including the closing of the pools and the health clinics. I've used Elm Street Health Clinic and often use the public pools. I want to live in a city that can afford to fund these things in the future, and that means a city with at least the population it had in 1950. I don't think there is anyway that we can return to that level of population unless we have a greatly improved public transit system that includes rail. The Cincinnati Streetcar is the most affordable first step in this direction.

I have used similar systems in other cities and I am quite certain that it will be successful here and that even skeptics like yourself will be convinced once it is up and running for a few years.

Think about it this way. If we had an existing streetcar system, would you be in favor or removing it or improving it? This is excactly what our city needs.

And by the way, this is not forced on you by Council. There is no tax increase, and you can vote for or against each of the 8 council members that support this.

Support a stronger city, support the Cincinnati Streetcar.

John Schneider said...

Deborah -- hope that's how you like to be addressed,

You should read the city's study. Fully 45% of the expected riders are estimated to earn less than $20,000 per year. And 48% of the persons living along the line do not have cars.

To me, this is hardly a toy. Its' a tool for helping people.

ThatDeborahGirl said...

I would much rather support Cincinnati neighborhood endeavors. But I am tired of the "re-build downtown to increase revenue approach" that has been tried over and over again and never works!

That way of thinking is so ridiculously outdated as to be laughable. The money they will waste on a streetcar could be laudably spent on so many other needs.

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