‘Cincinnati Drive-By’ creatively tours the Queen City’s urban core

In an attempt to capture the many changes taking place in Cincinnati’s urban core, Zachary Herche decided to do what it is he is passionate about and make a video of the city.

“Production and editing is my passion,” said Herche. I think Cincinnati is a beautiful city and I wanted to show as much as I could of it by driving around.”

Herche lives in Mt. Adams and is attending the University of Cincinnati’s acclaimed College Conservatory of Music (CCM) where he is studying Electronic Media. He currently works for Prime Productions and says that he wanted to capture some of the city’s historic architecture and collection of bridges over the Ohio River.

“It is interesting to see some of the transformations happening around the city recently,” Herche continued. “It seems like there is so much in the works here, and I’m excited to see it all come together.”

Cincinnati Drive-By features the song “Grace Kelly” by Mika in the video.

Potential ballot proposal a serious roadblock to Cincinnati’s future

Advocates for job growth, economic development, alternative transportation and Cincinnati’s future have stepped up to the plate once again. What seemed like a grand-slam finish to beginning the first steps to rail transit in the city is now contested and seemingly up for debate. Again.

Despite clear indication from the voters, the city, and (at one time) the state and federal level that the Cincinnati Streetcar project was a positive contribution to changing Cincinnati for the better, there are those who would rewrite the rule books. The first vote was not enough. It is time for another.

A small but persistent group is at it again, collecting signatures to put yet another proposal on the ballot for the fall election.

This petition, however, would prevent ANY rail transportation systems to be funded or built until 2020. A ten-year ban would force Cincinnati to miss out on an entire generation of building infrastructure, in a time when gas prices are certainly not getting any cheaper, and Cincinnatians will be desperate for options to get around.

“Nothing even remotely like this has ever been proposed in any American city. In a era of rising energy prices, Cincinnati would be handcuffing its flexibility to develop alternative means of getting citizens to work and doing the everyday things of life,” says local transit authority and activist John Schneider. “And since regional rail lines wouldn’t be able to connect within the city limits, this has serious regional implications too.”

Cincinnatians for Progress has broken down the exact language of the ballot proposal, to demonstrate how much is at stake:

What it says:
: “The City shall not spend or appropriate any money on the design, engineering, construction or operation of a Streetcar System, or any portion thereof.”
What it means: This phrase prevents the city from spending any money on anything related to preparing any kind of passenger rail transit in Cincinnati.

What it says: “Further, the City shall not incur any indebtedness or contractual obligations for the purpose of financing, designing, engineering, construction or operating of a Streetcar System, or any portion thereof.”
What it means: This language would make it impossible to accept federal grants, to issue bonds, to enter into public-private partnerships for passenger rail. Even private investment in a rail system in the city limits would be illegal.

What it says: “This Amendment applies from the date it is certified to the Charter, and will continue in effect until December 31, 2020.”
What it means: The arbitrary 10-year ban on preparation is designed to force new transit planning to start from square one in 2021. Because permanent infrastructure requires many years to develop, this language would guarantee Cincinnati sees no rail-based transit for a generation.

What it says: “For purposes of this Amendment, the term ‘Streetcar System’ means a system of passenger vehicles operated on rails constructed primarily in existing public rights of way …”
What it means: The term “streetcar system” in this amendment would ban all rail that runs in on Cincinnati streets or rights-of-way. That would prevent commuter rail and streetcars alike; even restoring the city’s historic inclines would be outlawed.

What it says: “…The term ‘City’ includes without limitation the City, the Manager, the Mayor, the Council, and the City’s various boards, commissions, agencies and departments …”
What it means: Under this language, even Cincinnati’s Metro system could not consider taking advantage of future national and regional funding programs.

What it says: “…The term ‘money’ means any money from any source whatsoever….”
What it means: This language would not only lock out local, state and federal funds, but make it illegal for corporations, non-profits and individuals to pay for rail-based transit.


Says CFP co-chair Mark Schmidt: “[The ballot proposal is] the laziest piece of legislation ever written and an insult to the people of Cincinnati… especially those public servants who play by the rules and commit themselves to the slow and steady process of making this a more perfect union through the hard work of collaboration and compromise.”

The deadline to file a ballot with enough signatures is August 10th. If the measure succeeds, there is a tough road ahead to ensure that this debilitating piece of legislation does not get past.

Readers, please don’t give up. Not everyone supports the streetcar plan in its current form- this is not about the streetcar. We are tired and frustrated at the ways the realities of the situation have unfolded. It’s not fair. It’s not right.

It’s not over.

If you’ve been waiting to get involved, to help out with a cause you believe in, Cincinnatians for Progress could use your support. Sign up to volunteer, donate (time or money) to ensure our great city a chance at the future.

At the very least, continue to educate yourself and help inform others. We will see a day in Cincinnati where the economy is improved, jobs have been created, tax and population base in the city is up, and citizens are not chained to their cars in order to get where they need to go.

Comatose comic by Nick Sweeney.

Cincinnati begins electronic upgrade to city’s parking meters

Cincinnati city workers began upgrading 1,400 parking meters throughout downtown earlier this month. City leaders tout the new meters’ ability to accept credit cards (Visa, American Express and MasterCard) along with standard coin payments. Business leaders also expect for better turnover at the meters, which in turn might result in more customers for downtown store owners.

Work began on the installation of the new solar-powered meters on the east side of downtown and has been working westward throughout the month. City officials expect work to be completed on all 1,400 meters by the end of summer.

“This keeps you from having to walk around with a roll of quarters in your pocket,” Mayor Mark Mallory said in a prepared release. “It will make feeding your meter faster and more convenient, and actually decreases your chances of getting a parking ticket.”

The upgrades to Cincinnati’s old parking meters was first recommended by Walker Parking Consultants in a 2009 study. The study made a variety of recommendations to improve the system’s efficiency and total revenues by becoming more competitive with market rates. Approved in April 2011, the $1.7 million initiative will also include the installation of 50 multiple-space meters similar to those found on Court Street and 3rd Street. In total, the upgrades will impact approximately 25 percent of the city’s 5,600 metered spaces city-wide.

Last year UrbanCincy discovered that a potential privatization of Cincinnati’s parking services could generate approximately an additional $3 million annually for city coffers. Currently the city collects around $9 million annually from its on-street parking meters, off-street parking garages and lots. Parking meters make up a small portion of that revenue, and a privatization of those assets could prove to be beneficial for the city.

City officials say that those using the new meters will still get their first 10 minutes of parking for free. The city has posted additional information about how to use the new parking meters on their website.

Parking meter photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.

Officials Break Ground on New West Side Transit Hub at Glenway Crossing

Community leaders gathered with local transit officials and representatives from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) last Monday to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new west side transit center.

The Glenway Crossing Transit Center will serve as the major connection and transfer point for several local and commuter bus routes. Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) officials say that they will announce those routes later this summer. Furthermore, the construction of a west side transit center is a part of the transit agency’s larger effort to build more transit centers throughout the region and capitalize on ridership growth on express bus routes.

Glenway Crossing Transit Center [Image Provided].

In June 2011, Metro announced that it would add express bus routes to Cincinnati’s western and northern suburbs by cutting service elsewhere. The difficult service decision was forced after then newly elected Governor Kasich (R) cut $70 million from express bus route funding for Ohio’s transit agencies.

The Glenway Crossing Transit Center (map) will cost approximately $624,000 to build and will be located in the parking lot for the Glenway Crossing shopping center. The key west side location was previously home to a collection of rail lines that were vacated and cleared to make room for the Glenway Crossing retail development which has seen spotty success, at best, since its opening two decades ago.

Once complete this fall, the new transit center will include four bus boarding areas, passenger shelters, 70 park and ride spaces and electronic real-time arrival displays.

Metro officials say that the majority of funding for the project came from federal sources including the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, Surface Transportation Project (STP) and Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality funds made available through the OKI Regional Council of Governments. The region’s next transit center is anticipated to be located uptown near the University of Cincinnati and medical district.

The time is ripe for a central intercity bus terminal in Cincinnati

Megabus is experiencing tremendous ridership growth throughout the Midwest, and is working to expand their intercity bus service to and from places like Cincinnati. In 2010 the company experienced amazing growth of 65 percent and now records $100 million in business annually on 135 buses to 50 different U.S. cities daily.

The growth has been so profound that the company has spawned the “Megabus effect” which is driving up ridership for providers such as Greyhound and BoltBus. And cities all across the U.S. are scrambling to offer prime locations for Megabus to utilize.

Megabus picks up passengers at 4th & Race Street in downtown Cincinnati – Photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.

The European-based company prides itself on its low fares, and does so in part through its low overhead. The intercity bus service accomplishes this by picking up and dropping off passengers along the street. Thus no facility or overhead costs are needed for their operations, but passengers must deal with inclement weather and lack of waiting area typically provided at other transport facilities.

Greyhound historically located its facilities on the edges of downtowns in otherwise rundown areas. This model is changing though as Greyhound attempts to attract new choice riders to its operations. The new Greyhound Express services include buses similarly equipped to Megabus and BoltBus.

Fortunately for Cincinnati, city leaders have an underutilized piece of infrastructure built beneath 2nd Street. The $18 million Riverfront Transit Center (RTC) was completed in 2002 as part of the reconfiguration of Fort Washington Way (FWW), and has sat there rarely used ever since. Its presence presents the opportunity for Cincinnati to create a consolidated bus terminal in the heart of its urban core without negatively impacting the quality of life of those around it.

Riverfront Transit Center interior photographs by Ronny Salerno.

The opportunity of both bus service providers being able to locate within a consolidated, covered and modern facility in the heart of Cincinnati’s downtown would seem to be attractive. Passengers could wait inside and out of the elements; hotels, shops and restaurants would greet arriving passengers above at The Banks; easy access to local bus and streetcar service would be available, and the providers would have a protected area to park their buses.

Meanwhile, the city would be able to finally utilize one of its most unique pieces of infrastructure. Future bus service providers could also tap into the RTC until capacity is reached. This would allow the Queen City to have a centrally located, consolidated intercity bus terminal convenient to travelers and beneficial to service providers.

Financing of maintenance costs would have to be determined, but a deal on Greyhound’s land and some sort of a license fee agreement with Megabus and others could be reached to help offset costs.

Building the RTC today would most likely prove to be cost prohibitive. Fortunately, city leaders had the foresight to build this piece of infrastructure beneath 2nd Street. City leaders should move to free the already congested 4th Street of Megabus operations, open up land adjacent to the city’s new casino for future economic development, and establish a center that will facilitate the addition of other intercity bus service providers.