OKI seeking public input on 2040 regional transportation plan

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) has been working to adapt and produce a transportation plan that would affect the Cincinnati area for the next 30 years.

The regional council released a presentation in August outlining the goals and plans meant to address Greater Cincinnati’s current and projected transportation needs. Citing objectives like mobility, environment, economic vitality and efficiency, the presentation describes OKI’s projections for both population and job growth in the future, and hints at how the council plans to address the region’s transit needs.

According to OKI’s projections, the regional population is expected to grow from 1.9 million (in 2005) to nearly 2.4 million people in 2040. Every county is expected to grow in population and job creation. With these numbers in mind, the council has planned, or is carrying out, a total of 33 highway projects and six transit projects, which include bus purchases, park and ride facilities, transit centers and the Cincinnati Streetcar project.

According to OKI, transit currently accounts for approximately two percent of trips taken throughout the region. Whether lack of ridership is due to an inadequate and struggling system remains to be seen, but for whatever reason, OKI appears to be putting the majority of their focus for the future into highway maintenance and construction, with multi-modal transportation options as an afterthought.

While the August presentation only mentioned freight rail, Robyn Bancroft with OKI had this to say about the future of commuter rail in Cincinnati:

“The current plan includes rail transit (Eastern Corridor and Cincinnati Streetcar) and right-of-way preservation for regional rail transit corridors,” Bancroft stated. “How the public feels about these issues is important to us and we hope the meetings may provide some feedback. It is our goal to produce a multi-modal yet fiscally constrained plan, so we have some limitations.”

OKI leadership expressed concern, to UrbanCincy, about the potentially harmful effects of Issue 48 (the anti-rail amendment on the ballot this election) could have on future systems.

Brian Cunningham of OKI said, “[passage of Issue 48] will absolutely have an effect on the streetcar project, but it’s very possible that projects like the Eastern Corridor, Oasis Line, and securing future right-of-way for multi-city rail is also in jeopardy.”

Cunningham emphasized the importance of public input to help shape the future of the region’s transportation system. “If regional commuter rail is a priority for Cincinnatians, they need to let us know. We very much value community input, and every form of communication – whether at public meetings or through email and mail – helps us to understand where the priorities are for our constituents.”

If an effective, regional commuter rail and transit system is something you would like to see in Cincinnati by 2040, please speak up and let the OKI Regional Council of Governments know. There are three community open houses coming up – one of them is today, September 15, at the Crestview Hills City Building (map) from 4pm to 7pm. The other two meetings will take place September 27 at Xavier University’s Cintas Center (map), and September 28 at Butler County’s Government Services Building (map).

Today also marks the official kickoff of the No on Issue 48 Campaign. Cincinnatians for Progress is looking for volunteers to help get the word out about this damaging amendment to the City’s Charter. Sign up here.

Your voice makes a difference. Speak up for Cincinnati and let it be heard.

  • Dan

    It still amazes me that COAST can spread enough lies to get a ballot issue that could hold Cincinnati back in such extreme ways. It also infuriates me that our local media won’t take COAST to task on ANY OF IT. The endless lies about Streetcar funds and firefighter brownouts, such total BS. The REAL truth is that if COAST weren’t suing the city left and right maybe those firefighters could get paid.

  • What’s amazing to me is that COAST asked voters in November 2009 if they wanted to vote on every rail transit issue that came about. The voters clearly said no then, and now what do you know, COAST has put a new measure on the ballot. This one even worse than before.

    Now voters are being asked to simply ban any investments in rail transit whatsoever for the next decade. I’m not sure what is special about the next ten years, but it would certainly set Cincinnati at a massive competitive disadvantage to virtually every other city in America that is developing some form of rail transit.

    Denver, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Tampa, Atlanta, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Austin, New Orleans, San Francisco, New York City, Indianapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit, and Washington D.C. Those are just some of the cities advancing their rail transit plans at the moment.

  • Not even being a downtown resident I can not wait to see this. Living in Europe for awhile, makes you appreciate it. I never had to worry about a car, and wish I still didn’t. Especially on longer trips, to the airport or the casinos in Lawrenceburg, I could actually be productive!! And if these can make it out to those suburbs even better!

  • I think the most important part will be getting trains out to the suburbs. With the OKI projections predicting the majority of population growth hitting outside the 275 loop, connected commuter rail can really transform the way people travel and live in the area.

    I don’t think about New York City or Boston in terms of highway exits – comprehending how the city works involves transit stops… I want to be able to think about Cincinnati like that.

  • Dale Dykes

    Anyone care to venture how the vote on Issue 48 is going to go ? And early indications at all ?

  • Tom A

    If Cincinnati wants to grow and be taken seriously as a major city, and not just be some small town with a couple major league sports clubs and some large corporations, it needs to have a serious mass transit system available and useful as a leading transportation option. This streetcar we’re fighting over is just one mode of transport in a comprehensive network. Jenny is right about the notion of reading Cincinnati as a network of transit lines. We don’t have posters of Cincinnati’s highway network in young peoples’ bedrooms. Just building outward beyond I-275 doesn’t mean growth- our region needs to grow within, not just out. I say be bold – go with rapid transit. Expensive, and costly, but done right, it will be such a magnet. A magnet for development, business, and culture.

    I presently don’t live in the City of Cincinnati, and may possibly be moving away to start a career. I see myself moving to one of the cities that has a strong transit network- places people like me, around my age, are choosing, in droves. The Tri-State needs to get on board, and just maybe, I’ll re-settle here. I want my hometown to flourish.

  • COAST Supporter

    We will not pay for your boondoggle libs. Marxist Rail has been a proven failure over and over again.

    The voters were hoodwinked last election. Now this vote is on the ill advised streetcar to nowhere and only the streetcar. This crime train trolley folly boondoggle must be stopped immediately! We have the police, fire, 700wlw and everyone else on our side for November. This will be a bloodbath.

    RIP Cincinnati Trolley

  • Ryan L

    I’m hopeful Cincinnati will be able to break through. I hope I can stay in Cincinnati until it does so, but I think the city has to be ambitious about job growth, transportation, and culture.

    The city needs light rail more than a streetcar, but the streetcar definitely can help jump-start the idea of bringing light rail to the region (and provide further revitalization of OTR). The ballot initiative is the worst thing that could happen to the region. I hope some day Cincinnati can be discussed in terms of where the different transit lines run.

    Also, the Hamilton County Commissioners need to stop the nonsense about prohibiting MSD from relocating sewers for the streetcar. I work at MSD, and most of the sewers along the route downtown are considered high to extreme risk of failure. The sewers along the route in OTR are considered medium to high in risk. Most of the sewers here were constructed in 1861 or earlier. A small stretch along Main Street downtown was installed in the 1960’s, and a couple spots along the route were installed in the 1910’s, but almost all are from the 19th Century dating back to as far as the 1840’s and 1830’s. These sewers will need to be replaced soon anyway. Why not let the city finance half of it and save money on contractors and street repair? They say they want to protect the rate payers, but prohibiting the expense could end up costing them more money if they are not done at the same time as the other utilities along the route.

    We also need to provide incentives to get companies on the cutting edge to invest in the area. Why not create special incentives for manufacturing jobs focusing on green energy? Provide incentives for these companies to relocate or start up in Cincinnati. If these companies succeed, the employees provide income taxes to the city and spend money in the region. Why not try to make Cincinnati THE capitol of green energy?

    And we need to provide more public art in the city’s neighborhoods. I love the murals that ArtWorks is providing! But we need to go far beyond that! We need sculptures, monuments, abstract art, and much more populating the various gathering spots throughout the city.

    I’m hopeful that the new candidates for city council (Seelbach comes to mind) will provide a good vision and end the constant bickering and nitpicking that goes on in council. We need members of council who LOVE Cincinnati and truly want it to prosper.

  • @Jenny:

    I went through OKI’s PPT presentation. How believable do you think their population projections are? They all seem based on historical trends, and if the urban revitalization that’s gripped the nation FINALLY succeeds here, too, then I don’t buy that the sprawl will continue while Hamilton County barely grows.

    Also: good point on the highway exits thing. It really is ingrained into the culture here. Instead of connecting the landscape, the roads here ARE the landscape. NYC has Union Square and the Hudson; we have Norwood Lateral and 275.


    All very good points. I have a good impression of some council members (Qualls and Quinlivan among them), but Seelbach is the most positive and optimistic one I’ve met.

  • @Zach – The population projections seem pretty extreme to me… they’re putting all their eggs in the highway/sprawl basket, which doesn’t pay attention to trends from the last 5-10 years.

    Of course, they used 2000 census numbers instead of 2010 census numbers, which paint a much different picture of the state of the city then what’s currently happening.

    That’s just one reason why it’s REALLY FREAKING IMPORTANT to go to these meetings, email and mail OKI and let them know what’s up.

  • Jenny: Yeah, I noticed that. Shame they couldn’t use 2010 numbers, but oh well. Otherwise, I think they’re just using the same faulty “well, if the next 30 years are like the last 30 years…” logic.

    Regardless, it’s nice that OKI, unlike other entities, are giving real thought to regional rail. I only wish there were more concrete plans to integrate BRT (or even ordinary bus lines) with it.

  • Mark

    I don’t think the projections will hold true at all. Many statistical studies done throughout the country have shown a push towards urban living. Granted Cincinnati has not followed the trend as heavily as some other cities from a percentage perspective, but they are still seeing a significant resurgence in the urban corridor. Light rail is important, but I think a regional light rail is a mistake. The Greater Cincinnati Region has grown far too broad, and our taxable base cannot support a rail system to serve the entire region. Look at Chicago for instance. Their system is so spread out that several areas in the inner-city were left out to serve areas in Indiana, Wisconsin, and close to Michigan. That among several other factors is why they have the second highest income tax in the country. Cincinnati has to plan to get more value from each dollar spent.

    In my opinion the sensible thing to focus on the city itself like the streetcar proposal does (although the initial proposal that Kasich raped would’ve have been a much more significant start). Then as the system creates urban infill you expand out as necessary. A future light rail system to connect areas like Bond Hill, College Hill, Columbia Tusculum, Hyde Park, Kentucky (including the airport), Madisonville, Mt. Lookout, Norwood, Oakley, Pleasant Ridge, Price Hill, etc. could be implemented to connect neighborhoods to the city. Cincinnati needs to focus on increasing the population in the city, rather than catering to the suburbs. Young professionals will continue to exit the city many of which will start lives elsewhere and never come back if Cincinnati doesn’t create a desirable place to live for future generations. However, if the city attempts to create a massive rail infrastructure similar to ones seen in larger cities like Chicago, New York, etc. the tax burden will be much too great for a small market like Cincinnati’s to handle.

  • @Mark:

    All very valid points.

    I too am glad the city is starting smaller with a streetcar, but only because it would be foolish to re-propose something like Metro Moves right now. The city support is there (see Issue 9 in 2009), but the county support really isn’t.

    And, if like we all kind of agree the urban areas in the city will grow denser, it makes more sense to focus on such areas where you can get greater ridership for the cost. (Randy’s also done a piece here before stating that development is more successful in urban areas next to transit, not suburban areas.)

    From a transportation standpoint, the more rail the better. But it goes without saying that there’s a priority list, and on it is (IMO) a local system (streetcar), an I-71 line (towards Dayton), an I-75 line (towards Columbus), and an airport line.

  • Two interesting stats:

    Approx. 102,000 people in the region drive INTO the city to work every day, but live in the suburbs. (From city-data.com.) The city should be attracting those people to move here.

    And according to studies compiled in Christopher Leinberger’s book “The Option of Urbanism,” the ratio of Americans wishing to live in urban areas to suburban areas is roughly 50:50. The ratio of people in the city to in the suburbs in Cincinnati? About 15:85. And if you were to look at ONLY “urban” living, the percentage (compared to MSA) would be in the single digits.

    All those people that WANT to live in urban locales but can’t are moving to NY, Chicago, etc.

  • Dale Dykes

    Is there even going to be a streetcar ? What are the odds that Issue 48 will be defeated ?

  • @Dale:

    Issue 48 has to do with rail investments, not the streetcar in particular.

    But a similar issue passed by 12 points in 2009. Polls of late have shown similar results, with 55-60% in favor of building it.

  • Dale Dykes


  • GlobalRhizome

    I wonder why I have not seen Salt Lake City mentioned in discussions of passenger rail options for Cincinnati. It is located in one of the most conservative states in the country, yet they have both an urban streetcar/light rail (TRAX) and a commuter rail system (FrontRunner), both built quite recently and still growing (first line of TRAX opened in 1999, the latest extension opened last month; the first line of Front Runner began operation in 2008, and expansions are under construction). Perhaps the example of Salt Lake City might sway more doubters than, say, that of Portland?

  • Aaron Watkins

    Is anyone aware of how I can get an absentee ballot?

  • John Schneider

    ^ You must be a U.S. Citizen, 18 years or older by Election Day, a resident of the State of Ohio for at least 30 days before the election, and a resident of the precinct where you vote.

    Click here to be sure & follow the links: http://www.hamilton-co.org/boe/votersearchs.asp

  • Aaron Watkins

    Thanks John!

  • Cate

    It would be interesting to compare our region’s transit options to the benchmark regions used in reports such as Vision 2015/Agenda 360’s “Our Region by the Numbers”.

  • Cate

    Also, I wanted to include a link to a survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, which indicates that Americans prefer smart growth communities:


    I hadn’t seen this until someone brought it up at a recent planning conference.

  • Dale Dykes

    In spite of assurances here to the contrary, further research on my part reveals that ‘Yes’ on Issue 48 will indeed derail the streetcar.

  • @Dale: I don’t know what the confusion is about. The story states that Issue 48 would have a negative impact on the streetcar and all fixed rail transit projects. This was backed up by those in this comment section.

    Bottom line…if you support rail transit then you should oppose Issue 48 which would ban any/all rail transit investments in Cincinnati for the next decade, and set the region back a generation in terms of competing for federal and state money through natural funding cycles.

  • Dale Dykes

    @Randy: yes, I did manage to gloss over that in the article and was keying on certain comments that were made to the contrary (not to mention names).

    I’m not a Cincinnatian, just an admirer of the city. Tell me, what are the polls (if any) saying about how the vote will go down ?

  • I’m not sure about any recent polls, but in 2009 voters easily defeated a similar anti-rail transit item placed before them. And this year the momentum also appears to be against this anti-rail transit issue. Guess we’ll find out for sure in November.

  • Dale Dykes

    Thanks, I’ll be watching with interest.

    And I do very much enjoy your blog. I’ve got it bookmarked!