New commuter bus hub opens in place of long-planned west side transit center

The brief tenure of Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) has been marked by repeated attacks on public transportation. Shortly after his inauguration, he returned a $400 million federal grant to begin passenger rail service between Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. In April he corrupted ODOT’s Transit Review Advisory Committee, redirecting over $50 million allocated for the Cincinnati Streetcar to road projects in northern Ohio.

Lost amid these higher profile events was his rescinding of $150 million promised to the state’s transit agencies by former governor Ted Strickland (D). With its share, Queen City Metro planned to begin two new express services to Uptown. A direct service from West Chester fell victim to Kasich’s cuts, but with the help of a direct federal grant that Kasich could not block, Metro launched route 38X on December 5.

Each morning six buses now travel between Western Hills and all of Uptown’s major destinations including the University of Cincinnati, Good Samaritan Hospital, University Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Veteran’s Hospital and Christ Hospital. The only major employment centers not directly served are the various Children’s hospital offices housed in the old Bethesda Hospital and Vernon Manor Hotel.


Cincinnati officials celebrate the opening of the new Glenway Crossing Transit Center on December 9, 2011.

The 38X buses begin and end each day at the Glenway Crossing Transit Center, a new bus transfer station in the Glenway Crossing Shopping Center that also serves the #39, #64 and #77X Delhi Express. It features shelters, several dozen park & ride parking spots for commuters, and restrooms for bus drivers.

In concept the transit center resembles the dozen ‘transit hubs’ that were planned as part of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s (SORTA) 2002 Metro Moves plan. Although that plan was best known for its five light rail lines, a half-cent sales tax would have also funded a dramatic expansion of bus service throughout Hamilton County.

Glenway Crossing was built in the late 1980s in place of the Chesapeake & Ohio’s (C&O) disused Cheviot Yard. In 1981, shortly before the railroad’s abandonment, the yard and the line it served were the subject of the Westside Transit Study, produced by the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), which examined construction of a light rail line from downtown Cincinnati, via the unused subway beneath Central Parkway, to an ambitious transit oriented development (TOD) in Western Hills.

The line would have emerged from the old subway just north of Brighton, crossed I-75 and the Queensgate railroad yard on a new viaduct parallel to the Western Hills Viaduct, then climbed to Glenway Avenue on the C&O tracks. Midrise office buildings were to have been the focus of the Cheviot Yard TOD. The unused subway under Central Parkway was to have been extended south under Walnut Street or Vine Street to a station at Fountain Square.

SORTA planned to fund construction of this line, as well as a network of other light rail lines, with a countywide transit sales tax that failed at the polls in 1979 and 1980. Without funds available to purchase the C&O railroad when it was abandoned, SORTA was helpless to stop the railroad from being sold to dozens of different buyers. The expense necessary to purchase the right-of-way by power of eminent domain precluded this line from being part of SORTA’s failed 2002 Metro Moves network.

  • Nick

    Do you know if the Westside Transit Study is available to view somewhere?

  • Jake Mecklenborg

    A copy of it is kept at the historical society library in Union Terminal. It is about 80 pages long, with about 5 illustrations of the planned TOD as well as 10 or more other drawings and maps. The light rail network was quite different than the Metro Moves plan, with the existing subway being extended with a tunnel boring machine from Brighton northeast to a portal on Martin Luther King Drive in the dip near Burnett Woods. The line would have then traveled east on the surface of MLK (this was before it was widened), then northeast to Xavier and Pleasant Ridge on the CL&N ROW, which had been abandoned in 1968.

  • Nick

    thanks. Maybe Ill go check it out. Ive been looking for some old (70s-80s) westside photos for a while now. Sounds like an interesting project.

  • COAST

    Waste of more Tax Payer money. When will it stop?

  • Jake Mecklenborg

    Actually anti-tax groups are a waste of taxpayer money, given COAST’s habit of suing municipalities over non-issues. Oh, and deflecting federal grants from high ROI projects like the Cincinnati Streetcar to pork road projects in Kaisch’s home turf.

  • http://www.urbancincy.com/author/taestell Travis Estell

    I fail to see how increased bus service, allowing citizens to park and ride to save money, and decreasing traffic on our streets and highways (reducing future road maintenance costs) qualifies as a “waste of more tax payer money”. Care to expand?

  • Matthew Hall

    COAST, I feel the same way about mortgage interest deductions, Fannie Mae repurchases of 90% of mortgages, and the transfers of hundreds of billions into the federal highway trust fund from non-gas taxes. Without these massive subsidies suburbia will be unable to fund itself. When will they stop?

  • http://zacharyschunn.blogspot.com Zachary Schunn

    I think most can agree the biggest problem with Metro’s hub-and-spoke system is, quite obviously, the lack of true hubs. Cincinnati is radially-planned, but not EVERYTHING goes through downtown, and it’s nice to see stations like this one finally getting built. Any word on other planned hubs, like in Corryville, Northside, and–I believe–Anderson?

    @Matthew: It’s fascinating to me that there isn’t more outrage about Fannie and Freddie, and I’m personally quite frustrated with Obama’s poor response to the housing market. HAMP/HARP has been a mess, and I haven’t heard a word on when the GSE bailout will end, if ever.

  • Robert

    Hey, guys and gals–want to just leave your cars “in park” for a few hours and take a leisurely, extensive, scenic, and inexpensive Metro ride? (especially if you’ve never, ever ridden a bus?) Then, DO THIS (seriously!)–ride a Metro #39 all the way from Government Square out to the new Glenway Crossing Transit Center. Believe it or not, it’s only a “one-zone” ride which will cost you a mere $1.75. Then swing right back into downtown on a Metro #33.(when you board the first bus, get a $.50 transfer) I guarantee you WILL see Cincinnati (and enjoy money well-spent)!

  • http://urbancincy.com/author/randysimes Randy A. Simes

    @Zachary Schunn: I believe the next bus hub you will see built will be located uptown in the Corryville area. If memory serves me right some money has already been allocated for that project, and some initial studies have already been done.

    It makes a lot of sense too. You have the recently rebuilt Government Square downtown, this new hub on the west side, then you could build the secondary hub uptown which will be much larger than this west side hub but smaller than Government Square.

    After that hubs will need to be built in the northern and eastern suburbs, but funding will be tricky. I believe SORTA wanted to build something like this near West Chester, but Gov. Kasich cut the funding for the routes, so the impetus for the capital funds went away. I also believe that Anderson Township leadership has been working on this, and actually recently completed a commuter bus facility near Anderson Towne Center (or whatever it is called now).

  • http://zacharyschunn.blogspot.com Zachary Schunn

    @Randy:

    Yeah, last I heard the Corryville hub was in planning, with construction to begin “sometime in 2012.” But I haven’t heard anything on it in probably 6 months, so I was starting to wonder.

    I thought Anderson was doing something. I’ll have to look into that.

    A while back I stumbled upon plans for a hub in Northside, too, but I think those were scratched 10+ years ago. Would love to see it revived.

    I’ll be curious to see if suburban hubs get built, though honestly I think park-and-rides and marketing may be more important. Few suburbanites seem to take the bus, but I know many that do use the available parking near stops and just wait in their cars.

  • http://quimbob.blogspot.com/ Quimbob

    Wasn’t there supposed to be a Madisonville hub?

  • http://www.building-cincinnati.com Kevin LeMaster

    Randy, you’re right. There’s a park-and-ride facility by Anderson Center, which has been open for about three years. It’s at Beechmont and Five Mile, between the aforementioned building and Anderson Towne Center. There are quite a few office buildings in the area, too.