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.