14 August 2009

Findlay Market Needs Streetcar

....parking is the big short-term issue facing the market. He said weekend crowds consistently fill the 723 spaces on surrounding streets and 155 spots in a city-owned lot north of the market....building a streetcar system that runs past the market would help...
Then, there’s the matter of more than 40 vacant buildings in the blocks surrounding Findlay Market. The buildings are owned by the city and the corporation, which has development rights but no money to spearhead a project. Three attempts to recruit developers have produced no results.

“We need a local residential population to secure the market’s future,” Pickford said. “If you look at it’s history, the market survived because it was surrounded by a densely populated neighborhood until 20 to 25 years ago.”

-Today's Cincinntati Business Courier

Things are changing in Over-the-Rine. Buildings are being rehabbed and crime is going down. But there continues to be the unsolved problem of access / parking. The neighborhood was built for walking. The vacant housing cannot be profitably rehabbed unless 2 out of every 3 buildings is demolished for the required parking. And then, once those are demolished, what kind of neighborhood do you have left? The 40 builidngs referred to above in the article are all 3-4 stories tall. They have 2-8 units of housing in each. Most of them have a first floor retail space. None of this is viable in a car-based business model.

And, much less can a thriving retail business district be built without better access. The Gateway Quarter can kinda make it because it is immediately adjacent to the Central Business District, but, Findlay is too isolated from the rest of the city to really thrive. It is 15 long blocks from Fountain Square, and it is separated from nearby Uptown by significant hills. It begs to be connected to the rest of the city. The proposed streetcar route wraps around Findlay Market specifically because the market has so much potential. The streetcar connects all the downtown parking garages, the downtown offices, the uptown students and all the residences in the basin to the market. Findlay market is in the middle of all this, and should be the hub of a streetcar system.

Support Findlay Market, build the streetcar.


Jason said...

Agreed, Good Post

Randy Simes said...

I would imagine that the Cincinnati Streetcar would free up more parking for those visiting from the suburbs as those living Downtown and in other parts of OTR like the Gateway Quarter will be able to easily take the streetcar. So not only would it increase business for the Market, but it would free up parking capacity to those that don't have any option but to drive.

John Schneider said...

48% of the families living in the Census tracts the streetcar passes through have zero cars.

45% of the expected riders earn less than $20,000 per year.

Anonymous said...

John Schneider makes an excellent point on how the streetcar will improve the lives of our low-income fellow-citizens by providing them with much-needed transportation. Though something tells me he may not have meant to...

Blue Ash Mom

Mark Miller said...

Feigning concern for the poor isn’t cutting it folks. The poor already take the bus; and there isn't another market within 100 miles that has anything close to the public transit access that Findlay Market has.

Findlay Market's website says:
"Three Metro bus routes stop directly in front of Findlay Market on Elm and Race Streets. You may click on each for a route map: Bus 46, Bus 64, and Bus 78.
Two additional Metro bus routes stop two blocks from Findlay Market at Vine and Elder Streets and Central Parkway and Elder Streets. You may click on each for a route map: Bus 6 and Bus 17.
" And the Metro Master Map shows several more lines in the vicinity.

Those bus routes connect Findlay Market to thousands more people, miles beyond the meager streetcar route. And every one of them can shuttle you the 15 long blocks from Fountain Square to FM.

Come clean and admit it. The streetcar is gentrified transit for people too snooty to take the bus. Sure the bus system has shortcomings, but we could revamp the entire fleet for half the cost of the streetcar.

The streetcar project remains an overpriced solution in search of a transportation problem. Keep searching, this isn't it.

Randy Simes said...

As a bus rider myself I agree that there are lots of things that could be improved, but I really look forward to hearing COAST's plan to upgrade our current bus system. Things like GPS tracking/real time arrival, re-loadable payment cards, articulated buses on highly used routes, dedicated lanes for commuter services and on-board navigation features would all be great improvements.

Quimbob said...

If you have experience with the buses, you know what a PITA it is to lug your granny grocery cart on and off the bus. You know what a nightmare it is getting your baby carriage on and off the buses & the added nightmare of herding a few kids on and off at the same time.
Handicapped people tend to not make the wages of the healthy and if you are experienced with using buses, you know what a PITA it is to use a wheelchair on the bus.
The design of the streetcar is way better for the poor, the elderly, the young mother and the handicapped.

bsherm said...

Starting your comment with "Feigning concern for the poor..." may not be the best way to engage in a conversation, yah think? ;-)

I too would like to see an alternative plan proposed. If the streetcar is not the best solution, what is the alternative? "Do Nothing" is not a good option. We can't keep coasting down hill.

In response to the actual post, I think it is important to start explaining the wider benefits of the system or we will end up with folks voting in the anti-rail amendment and hamstringing light-rail projects for years to come.

CityKin said...

"... gentrified transit for people too snooty to take the bus"

Mark, I am not a daily bus rider, but I use it roughly monthly, and I know its negatives well. When was the last time you used it? And when was the last time you rode a modern streetcar? You really don't get it. It is not about gentry it is about competiveness, usability and increasing the base of users.

It is absolutely not a solution looking for a problem. It is a solution tailored just for the problems we have in downtown Cincinnati and OTR in particular. The problems of livability, walkability, density, vacancies, eyes on the street, crime etc etc.

And BTW, a new ADA compatible city bus cost in the range of half a million dollars and lasts 15yrs if your lucky. And what will the price of diesel be in 15 years? SORTA has 389 buses now. My math isn't that good but replacing all 389 buses would cost over $200million, and that is without updating any ticketing system or implementing any GPS system etc.

What Metro needs and what this city needs is a boost in ridership a boost in the number of people that take ownership of THE CITY, and an increase in density in our half empty center city. The modern streetcar is the first step in that direction.

Mark Miller said...

SORTA says buses cost them $300k/ea. So it would cost $117 million to replace all 390 of them. But since Federal funds bought them, that's only possible after 12 years or 500,000 miles on a bus-by-bus basis.

The streetcar duplicates 5 routes serving Findlay Market in particular, and many more serving downtown & OTR in general. I fail to see how adding yet another transit route is going to suddenly solve longstanding crime and vacancy problems.

All but two of the transit routes serving the entire region run through downtown and OTR. Main drags can see a bus every 2 minutes during most of the day. It simply isn't credible to claim that the transit needs of our urban core are underserved.

Randy Simes said...

Mark Miller:

You're quite good at trying to refute other people's points and trying to discredit their perspectives, but you still lack the ability to come up with a vision and plan that is productive for this city. You mention that it would be better to improve our current bus system, so I will continue to look for COAST's plan on doing just that.

John Schneider said...

True, if we improved our bus service, you'd get a transporation benefit. But you'd miss the unique benefits the streetcar brings to the table - the economic development benefits, which are 90% of the total benefits of the Cincinnati Streetcar. It's not the only benefit -- the value of the streetcar to low-income individuals in downtown and OTR is alone equal to 1/3 the total cost of building it through those neighborhoods -- but it's the most valuable one.

The streetcar will cause less car use and will promote a dense, walkable neighborhood. Buildings will be more vertical, and there will be more customers for street-level merchants. And the streets will be safer. Our city -- us, really -- will no longer have to underwrite the cost of developers' parking where the streetcar operates.

Anonymous said...

John Schneider, my apologies. When I read your first comment, I took it to mean you were saying there was no reason to worry about tearing down buildings to make parking lots because no one in OTR has a car, anyway. It actually sounds like we're on the same page.

And Mark Miller, please don't assume my concern for creating a more socially just society is "feigned."

Blue Ash Mom

hellogerard said...

Great post and comments.