Cold Turkey now open for dinner

Sixth Street’s Cold Turkey is now open for dinner Monday through Friday. Guests are encouraged to dine in and enjoy the “relaxed atmosphere, great food, music and art from local artists.” From 4pm to 10pm Cold Turkey will also be offering local delivery service.

Cold Turkey prides itself on not using any freezers, fryers or microwaves to keep everything fresh. Sandwiches and salads cost $7, soups $4, and sides are $2. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11am to 10pm now (Friday open late until 6am), and Saturday from 9pm to 6am.

Photo from City Beat

What is COAST’s plan?

When discussing transit issues with people who oppose transit you often hear the statement that they’re not against transit necessarily, they just don’t like the proposed plan that you’re discussing. It’s odd, because there never seems to be a plan that these people like.

In 2002, the regional transit plan was too big for COAST’s liking, while the current streetcar proposal is too small. COAST also argues that the proposed modern streetcar (video) is in fact outdated technology since two other American cities currently have it (Portland, Seattle). After hearing these arguments I have repeatedly asked for an alternative proposal of something COAST would support.

Finally Mark Miller let me in on the “latest technology” for mass transit – low-level buses that have an overhead electric power source. The response seemed shocking given the discussion was surrounding a Midwest Regional Rail plan that Cincinnati could be left off. Also shocking was the identification of an electric-powered bus as being the “latest technology” in transit.

The Ohio Hub portion of the larger Midwest Regional Rail Plan that would connect the Midwest’s population and job centers with high-speed rail service. COAST’s Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment would prevent Cincinnati from investing in “passenger rail transportation” without first getting voter approval – a process that would leave Cincinnati out of the funding loop and off of the regional rail network.

Miller did not identify MagLev’s 300+ mph Transrapid train (video) that utilizes magnetic propulsion to avoid friction resistance and attain higher speeds, or the enhanced MagLev systems that could travel within a vacuum tube (air-less) thus avoiding the sonic boom that would come with speeds in five to six times faster than the speed of sound. A “vactrain” would be able to travel at speeds of 4,000-5,000mph at-grade and in normal conditions due to the lack of air resistance. Such a system could take passengers from New York City to London, Brussels, or Paris in about an hour, and would cost less than what the U.S. Government has recently spent to bail out our financial sector.

COAST likes to suggest that an electric-powered bus would some how serve as an alternative to a modern streetcar system. This either/or proposition is based on a false premise, that either buses or modern streetcars should be pursued. In many cities with robust transit choices you will see modern streetcars (aka trams), heavy-grade rail like subways, electric-powered buses and much more.

Buses powered by overhead electric wires run all throughout Athens, Greece. Here one of those buses is running next to a modern tram at a station near Syntagma Square.

Miller went on to clarify what he was describing with an example from Lyon, France. These buses with modern designs are sleek and are powered by electricity like modern streetcar systems, but that is where the similarities end. They still have lower capacities (unless COAST is also advocating for articulated buses), have higher maintenance costs/shorter life spans, and should be used differently in an overall transportation system hierarchy.

Modern streetcar systems aren’t pursued because they somehow represent a fascination for trains and their modern designs. Modern streetcar systems are pursued because they are the best localized transit network for cities. They run smoothly, are ADA compliant, move people very efficiently, they’re durable, produce no pollution in the direct surroundings, and they’re proven to work.

I think Cincinnati is a world-class city, and that it deserves the best. And if COAST wants to advocate for a retooled bus system that operates with an overhead electric power source then great. I will be right there to help them push for an improved bus system, but for some reason I don’t think that COAST will be so jazzed about spending money on articulated buses, real-time arrival GPS systems, overhead electric power feeds, new bus rolling stock that can utilize said power source, or dedicated right-of-way for these new and improved buses.

Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment meeting at City Hall – 9/1

From the Alliance for Regional Transit:

At 10:00a on Tuesday, September 1st, Cincinnati City Council will take up the matter of placing the anti-rail initiative backed by COAST on the November ballot.

The Cincinnati City Solicitor and Council’s Rules Committee will determine the precise ballot language to recommend to the Hamilton County Board of Elections and ultimately to the Ohio Secretary of State. The full City Council will probably vote on the matter the next day.

This is the language submitted by the naysayers for approval by City Council:

“The City, and its various Boards and Commissions, may not spend any monies for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g., a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits without first submitting the question of approval of such expenditure to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same.”

There are serious problems with this language. First of all, it’s hard to understand. Cincinnatians who signed the petition have said they signed it in error, thinking instead they were registering their support for the Cincinnati Streetcar. And, as you probably also know by now, it would require a vote on each and every rail passenger rail project, including light rail and inter-city rail, that would be built within the city limits if it required the purchase of land or the spending of any monies by the city — even if the project required no increase in taxes.

It is unprecedented. No city in the United States has ever voted to restrict its options in this way.

Please come to City Council Chambers at 801 Plum Street at 10:00a on Tuesday. Anyone may testify by filling out a Speaker’s Card that can be obtained from the Council Clerk at the right side of Council Chambers. Each speaker will have two minutes to testify. Please strictly observe this rule of Council.

This is about much more than the Cincinnati Streetcar. It’s about the future growth and prosperity of our city. As written, it will restrict all passenger rail transit and hinder our city’s ability to be competitive. Cincinnati is now one of two of America’s Top 25 Metros without rail. If adopted, this Charter Amendment — a permanent change to our city’s constitution — will ensure that status.

City Hall is well-served by Queen City Metro routes 1, 6, 10, 32, 33, 40X, 49, and 50. To see which route is most convenient for you, and to plan your trip now, use Metro’s Trip Planner.

Steve Driehaus at Findlay Market – 8/29

Congressman Steve Driehaus (D, OH-1) will be at Findlay Market tomorrow from 9am to 11am to discuss local concerns and current issues that are before Congress. The event is being called “Congress on Your Corner” and will include Driehaus and his casework staff to help answer questions and discuss the issues.

Findlay Market is open from 8am to 6pm on Saturday and is well-served by Queen City Metro routes 21, 46, 64 and 78. To see which route is most convenient for you, and to plan your trip now, use Metro’s Trip Planner.

Short-sighted policy decisions ruling budget debate

Difficult budget decisions combined with an election year, make for a truly wonderful time to follow politics. That is if you enjoy constant bickering, grand standing and get nowhere fast style of government.

What is happening now in Cincinnati is not unusual. A projected budget deficit during an economic downturn has resulted in City leaders having to make very tough decisions about where to make cuts in order to balance the budget until revenues once again increase. What this has led to is a back-and-forth political mud slinging contest.

The City Manager laid out his plan to balance the budget and that included the unpopular decision to cut 138 members from the police department. Making political matters worse, the Fraternal Order of Police has refused to make any concessions in order to help preserve their own workforce, saying that the cuts need to come from other departments.

This is not new. The police and fire unions across this country are some of the strongest around and hold a hard position. They are fighting for their constituents which is reasonable, but it is up to the policy makers to hear their argument and make an informed decision based on more than just the hard stance of one or two city departments. Over the past several years other departments have been sustaining cuts, while the police force has actually grown.

Yesterday a group of four City Council members announced their plan to save all 138 police positions. Their solution: delay a $2.5 million payment to Cincinnati Public Schools that is due in October. This would save the jobs through the rest of 2009, but not help out the cause in 2010. So they go on to suggest cutting the Planning Department, Comprehensive Plan funding, and the Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ) to name a few.

What is interesting is that the Planning Department is already undersized for the a city as large as Cincinnati, the Comprehensive Plan money is coming from the Capital Budget and therefore can not be used for operational costs like police or fire, and the OEQ is basically a skeleton staff that was recently formed and has been bringing in money and making city services more efficient.

Data from Office of Environmental Quality

A recent report comparing recycling program costs for 2010 found that the proposed cuts to the enhanced recycling program would actually cost the City more money than it would save. The reason is that the current recycling contract costs the City $1,179,360 each year, while the enhanced program costs $980,519 each year, thus resulting in an additional $198,841 in costs for recycling while having a less effective program. The financials work out this way due to increased revenue and savings with the enhanced program. The current recycling contract recoups about 46% of its total contract cost through revenue and savings, while the enhanced program recoups around 77% of its total contract cost – offsetting the additional cost of the program and then some.

Data from the Office of Environmental Quality

At the same time the elimination of the Office of Environmental Quality would cost the City roughly $17 million in lost revenue. The OEQ had a budget (pdf) of just under $3 million in 2009, but saved the City $650,000 in energy services performance contracts and other energy management efforts. Furthermore, the OEQ brought in $19,319,500 in grant money that would more than likely be lost as a result of cutting the department.

The numbers speak for themselves, but nobody seems to be discussing them. A reasonable debate about these tough budget decisions should be had, but said debate should be done on facts and available resources instead of political will and lobbying power.

Do we know if these 138 positions in the CPD are needed? Do we know the optimum level for a police force in order to reach the desired safety levels in our community? Maybe we need more, maybe less, or maybe everything is at an appropriate level right now. All I can say for sure is that I do not know, and I would love to see an audit that would investigate just how much we should be allocating to public safety each year to reach desired results before we keep pouring more and more limited resources into a single department at the expense of the rest.

Please contact City leaders and let them know how you feel on this issue. You can find all of the necessary contact information and additional action items HERE.