Cincinnati to install second on-street bicycle corral in OTR

Cincinnati’s second on-street bicycle parking facility will be installed on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine (OTR) this week. The on-street parking is part of the city’s overall effort to dramatically improve its bicycle infrastructure over the coming years.

The new on-street bicycle corral will be installed just south of Park+Vine (map) and will accommodate 14 bikes. City officials say that the bike corral has been ready since November 2010, but warmer weather was desired for installation.

“Bockfest seemed like the perfect opportunity to showcase the burgeoning use of bicycles in Over-the-Rhine,” explained Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE) planner Melissa McVay. “This will also be a great way to demonstrate the City’s support for bicycles as a viable means of transportation.”

The location is currently a no parking zone and will avoid the loss of any on-street automobile parking spaces. Fabrication, of the bike corral, was performed by Cincinnati-based Vulkane Industrial Arts. The first corral installed in Northside last year cost $1,000, while the new OTR corral cost $4,000.

ArtsWave presents free art, CAC party

The arts are an essential part of a vibrant neighborhood. From Paint the Street to serindipitous performance art, local nonprofit ArtsWave is actively engaging Cincinnati through music, visual art, and performance. The organization raises money to assist over 150 arts organizations in the area with sharing art experiences in their community.

“Greater Cincinnati’s diverse arts scene is part of what makes this city so great,” said Margy Waller, VP of communications at ArtsWave. “The fantastic anchor institutions pull artists into the community – along with students at UC, in DAAP and the Conservatory of Music. Now these students and recent grads are doing all sorts of experimental, innovative artwork in Over-the-Rhine, on the streets, and in community arts centers.”

For those looking to get involved with local arts, ArtsWave’s group Friends for the Arts are for individuals who want to get more involved in Cincinnati’s vibrant arts community. There are both volunteer opportunities as well as social events – the annual Party is this Friday, March 4th at the Contemporary Arts Center.

$30 tickets ($26 in advance) are the gateway to an evening of celebrating arts in the community with friends, food and serendipitous art. Admission also includes access to the galleries.

Another fun way to get involved with local arts is through the ArtsWave app – now for iPhone, coming soon for Android. With iSpyArt, community members are encouraged to record the “art all around us” by taking pictures and submitting them to a hosted “gallery” – even those without mobiles can participate through the website.

In past years ArtsWave has hosted one Saturday Sampler Weekend, crammed full of free arts activities to participate in all over the region. To celebrate their 25th anniversary, this year the events have been spread out over the course of six weekends. The ArtsWave Sampler Weekends celebrate the creative things — music, dance, theater, museums, and festivals — happening in large and small ways throughout the region. These weekends are great opportunities for families, friends, and neighbors to connect with one another and experience the arts through free events.

There are four Sampler weekends left in which to experience a dizzying array of free art experiences – March 12, March 26, April 10 and April 16. There is a searchable online tool on the ArtsWave website as well as downloadable PDFs that will make planning easier. Not only are many of the events family friendly, but there are also interesting offerings for a (slightly) more grown up crowd.

Check out the Cincinnati Ballet on March 12 from 12.30-5 to see and participate various performances – belly dancing, martial arts, ballet and a ska band. The Sunday Gospel Brunch on April 10 offers free breakfast and a concert from a choir composed of area churches (RSVP 513.632.0112). Calculus: the Musical! explains math in a fun way at the Know Theatre, also on the 10th. And on April 23, take a tour of various ArtWorks murals along the Central Parkway corridor.

The wide variety of arts organizations in Cincinnati is a treasure. Take the time to check out some of what they have to offer soon.

Disclosure: Jennifer Kessler is currently employed at ArtsWave. The article was written independently and does not necessarily reflect the views of ArtsWave. Paint the Street photograph by Scott Beseler.

$122M urban stream reclamation project includes potentially huge impacts

The Cincinnati Business Courier is reporting that city and municipal sewer district officials are looking at a bold project that would completely transform South Fairmount, reclaim a currently buried creek, and solve the county’s largest combined sewer overflow (CSO) problem site.

Located at the western end of the Western Hills Viaduct, South Fairmount has been in an extended state of struggle. Vacancies and low property values plague the small neighborhood, and investments to rebuild Queen City Avenue have done little to spark new investment. But now officials are looking at a $122 million plan they hope will finally reinvigorate the area.

The crux of the five plans presented to community members is to fix a long-standing CSO problem which results in 1.7 billion gallons of dirty water flowing into the Mill Creek annually. In order to solve the problem engineers and planners would remove an underground sewer pipe dating back to 1910, and replace it with separate underground storm sewers and a reclaimed natural stream above.

The majority of the plans also call for a rebuilt park and recreation area, bike and walking trails along the reclaimed stream, potential mixed-use infill, civic gathering space and even a small lake at the eastern end of the project site.

While all of this immediately sounds exciting, there is an existing neighborhood located in this location. Dozens of historic structures, a park, businesses and residents would all have to be relocated during the potentially decade-long rebuilding project. Officials have begun acquiring land in the area already, and the city owns a good deal of land in the project site. Additionally, eminent domain is already being discussed for what is identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a critical problem.

The impacts of such of project could and will be profound if it becomes reality. More than 40 acres of urban land would be completely rebuilt in what is considered to be the largest stream reclamation project, intended to solve a CSO problem, ever.

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls also sees the massive project as an opportunity to create a bus rapid transit center in South Fairmount that would connect the city’s western neighborhoods with uptown.

“For a community that’s been racked by poor transportation choices and declining homes and businesses that left, it would be a significant economic development project. This could be a really thriving community,” Qualls told the Business Courier.

Myriad of events at Final Friday offer fun start to weekend

Head down to the Over-the-Rhine arts district tomorrow, February 25 for an evening of interactive and interesting activities during February’s Final Friday gallery walk.

* The Urban Expansion Development office at 1344 Vine Street will be hosting a Grand Opening and Art Show with wine, cheese, music and work from three different artists – Molly Reckman from Chicago, Linda Loschavo from Mt. Adams, and photography from Joshua Timmermans.

* The YES Gallery at 1417 Main Street will have an interactive art display from 6-10pm – a 24 foot mural that visitors can help to color, using 5 foot paint markers. The artists will be giving out free screen prints by the artists with regular sized markers.

* Rumor has it window shoppers will be in for a surprise on the 1200 block of Vine. Be sure to wander by between 7pm and 8pm.

* 4U Fashion Boutique and Sebastian Rey Skin Awareness will be hosting an organic and natural skin care demonstration from 5-9pm at the boutique, located at the corner of 12th and Jackson Streets. Sebastian Rey will be hosting product demonstrations throughout the evening, and product samples, refreshments and music will be available through the evening.

* After a terrible storm canceled the Bockfest Parade in 1998, participants have held a “Precipitation Retaliation” – burning a snowman effigy to ward off any potential bad weather for Bockfest weekend. This year’s party will be at Grammer’s bar at 9pm.

All of these events are in addition to the rest of the galleries, restaurants and bars that will be open on Main Street, Vine Street and numerous other places in between. Kick off your weekend by taking in some art, music, performances, food and libations in the renaissance that is Over-the-Rhine. And most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you that there’s nothing to do in Cincinnati.

Final Friday photo provided by 5chw4r7z.

Cincinnati’s new transport payment system should be world leader

As Cincinnati’s transport officials prep for the introduction of a modern streetcar line in 2012, and potential bus rapid transit in the coming years, further improvements need to be made to the network. One of the most striking improvements needed is a new payment system for those using Cincinnati’s various bus systems, the streetcar, taxis and bike and car share programs if they ever materialize.

In Korea the T-Money Card rules. Based off of a simple yet wildly successful tap-and-go pay system, the card can be used all over the place. In Seoul, one can use the T-Money Card to pay for taxis, trains, buses, museums, vending machines, stores, fines, taxes and more. And in addition to the transit stations, the card can be purchased at convenience stores all over the metropolis.

The functionality is brilliant, and policy makers there have decided to use the data collected, from the system, to determine funding allocation for transit routes. This means that the most heavily used routes and stations get the most investment. Furthermore, the efficient tap-and-go system allows for quick payments and faster boarding on crowded buses and trains.

London has recently decided to go a step further. Their new Oyster Card not only offer the same benefits of the T-Money Card (minus taxi use), but the system also allows for people with contactless bank cards to use those as their tap-and-go payment. Both the T-Money and Oyster cards offer customization as well. The Oyster Card has custom holders and card designs, while the T-Money Card has custom card designs and sizings.

There are flaws with both systems from which Cincinnati can learn as it upgrades its payment system over the coming years. The first lesson is to have broad appeal. Cincinnati should engage various stakeholders to help develop a system pay card that can be used on all of the regional bus systems, streetcars, pedicabs and water taxis. While doing this the city should keep in mind future integration with any bike or car sharing programs.

Flexibility should also be a part of the new payment system being discussed in Cincinnati. The beauty of electronic pay is that the payment plans are limitless. A rider should be able to choose from buying a certain number of trips, specified time frame (i.e. 30 days) or even just a certain dollar amount. Offering riders choices will help fuel ridership and attract riders of choice.

While Cincinnati has been late to the game when it comes to upgrade its decades-old payment system, it allows transport officials to learn from others around the country and world. Innovative technologies and approaches should be used to make sure Cincinnati is on the cutting edge. London and Seoul have great payment system solutions, and Cincinnati should combine them for an even better one.