Cincinnati’s Wasson rail corridor should not be converted into recreational trail

In the post-industrial United States cities all across America have been left with an abundance of rail right-of-way that once served industrial properties. Cities have since struggled to find a use for these rail corridors.

In many cases the rail right-of-way either gets built over, or makes room for some other use – most typically a park or trail of some sort. The most famous, and perhaps most unique, example of this is New York City’s Highline which converted an abandoned freight rail corridor into an elevated park. In most cities, however, much simpler trails are developed in order to cater to bicyclists and pedestrians.

These are great projects, but in the cases where rail right-of-way is needed in order to introduce rail transit, they should not be done. The acquisition of right-of-way can be one of the most difficult hurdles to clear when developing rail transit, so if you have a prime corridor intact, you should do everything in your power to preserve it for future rail transit.


Map of the proposed Wasson Way Project.

The reason this is particularly important in Cincinnati right now is because on March 6, advocates of what is being called Wasson Way Project will present their ideas for converting the Wasson Corridor into a bike/ped trail to City Council’s Strategic Growth Committee.

The idea is not a bad one on face value, but should it proceed it would eliminate one of the most valuable rail corridors in the city. A corridor that could connect neighborhoods like Hyde Park, Oakley, Evanston, Norwood, Mt. Lookout, Fairfax and Mariemont with light rail and eventually connect those neighborhoods to the region’s two largest employment centers – uptown and downtown – without much additional track or right-of-way acquisition.

“I know of no example in the United States where a former railway that has been converted to a bike/hike trail has ever been returned to passenger rail service,” explained Cincinnati transit advocate John Schneider (aka “Mr. Transit”). “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Rail corridors that run through areas of limited potential transit ridership like the Oasis Line should be redeveloped into trails. It just makes sense. There is less automobile traffic and the riverfront trail provides a scenic ride for bicyclists and connects its users to a string of riverfront parks.

The Wasson Line, however, is ripe for light rail service with its densely populated neighborhood, vibrant business districts and key attractions along the line. The Oasis Line should become a bike/ped trail, but the Wasson Line should not.

Unfortunately the exact opposite is progressing for both of these lines in Cincinnati. Hamilton County officials continue to explore funding options to turn the Oasis Line into a commuter rail corridor, and a citizen-led group is strongly advocating for the conversion of the Wasson Line into a bike/ped trail.

While UrbanCincy supports conversion of some rail right-of-ways into other uses, we believe it needs to be done in a thoughtful manner that considers the future transit needs of the region. The Wasson Line is too valuable to convert into a bike/ped trail and should be preserved for an urban light rail line.

The upcoming committee meeting is scheduled to take place at 12pm on Tuesday, March 6 at City Hall (map). We would like to urge you to come out and support the future of regional light rail in the Cincinnati region, and request that the Wasson Corridor not be converted into a recreational trail.

  • http://twitter.com/GMeckstroth Greg Meckstroth

    You should bold ‘not’ here.  Make it more clear what you are advocating. 

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      Haha…well I hope I was clear enough. Honestly, I do like the idea, but this right-of-way absolutely needs to be used for light rail transit. If it makes way for a recreational trail, I fear Cincinnati will lose it forever.

      This is a major threat to the future of regional light rail transit in Cincinnati, in my opinion.

  • http://5chw4r7z.com 5chw4r7z

    Technically the trail will be rail banked, that’s how these things are created, they are place holders for rail.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674031965 Dan Reid

      also recreational paths have a track record of building more walkable and friendly neighborhoods. i’d use this path, its a great way to connect other communities to our already great network of trails on the east side. i think bike trails are a far greater reality here than rail ever will be.

  • http://twitter.com/naturboy20 Matt Hayes

    Question is would you sacrifice the recreation path for just a CHANCE at the transit rail? If there was a choice between the two I would definitely choose the transit option but if the likely hood of that actually happening is slim is it worth scuttling the opportunity to use the right of way for something useful?

    • http://travisestell.com/ Travis

      You have to plan for the long term. On the west side, old rail lines were sold off to developers who built big box stores and self-storage units on the land. Land reserved for the original subway plan was reused to build the Norwood Lateral (and part of I-71, I believe). If we would have preserved those rights of way, we would be able to build light rail cheaper and easier down the road. The more we dismantle the rights-of-way, the more expensive transit projects will be.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674031965 Dan Reid

      should the bike trail be stopped, what prevents this particular right-of-way from being sold off the same way? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674031965 Dan Reid

    i see no point in holding up this project in case this city wakes up one day and wants rail. why not use this for the bike path in the meantime? its not like it couldn’t be undone 5, 10 or even 20 years down the road should something change. the state is also beyond broke and shelving just about every transportation project indefinitely, including the eastern corridor project. i’m a huge supporter of rail, but i see no point in holding up what could be a great community project.

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      If the city somehow structured legal language to mandate the trail be given over to light rail transit if/when that day comes, then I would support this project. Otherwise, you are getting rid of arguably the best rail corridor within city limits in an area where it will be extraordinarily difficult and expensive to acquire right-of-way for light rail in the future.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674031965 Dan Reid

      Then why not support the project, but also fight for the appropriate legal provisions to land bank the path should the rail projects ever move forward? There’s a way to live in the current and keep an eye on the future. Doesn’t have to be a black and white issue.

    • Jacob Mecklenborg

      Why do you want this trail so badly?  It’s no big deal to bike between Xavier Hyde Park, and Fairfax as-is.  There are already popular bike lanes on the Erie Ave. hill.  

    • Zachary Schunn

      “…in case this city wakes up one day and wants rail….”

      Not to be picky, but I voted with the city in supporting rail in 2009 and 2011.  Cincinnatians WANT rail.

  • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

    While some of you may want to believe that these rails-to-trails conversions are merely placeholders that can be converted at a later date, that’s just not what has been the track record anywhere else.

    As John Schneider noted, once they get converted there is virtually no possibility of ever getting the land bank for rail purposes. And some people might even argue that is one of the drivers behind rails-to-trails projects.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1423530085 Aaron Watkins

      Unfortunately not much rail has been built anywhere, let alone on converted trails, so that might be why previous trail conversions have not been re-purposed to rail later. There just hasn’t been a desire for new rail that would require the use of the lines, which is why I don’t know what would be best for this piece of the tracks. Should we do something with it, or wait in hopes of some sot of rail development?

    • rick powell

      I have seen the results of trail vs. rail in Peoria, IL…granted, a slightly different situation where the existing freight rail operator was trying to preserve the rail line for its own operation, and the trail group (backed by local political forces) was using every means at its disposal to kick the rail off so that the trail plan could be enacted.  Rail transit advocates (who saw the opportunity for nighttime freight use combined with daytime LR use) were pitted vigorously against trail advocates who should be their natural allies, but…the city did agree to a consultant study of side by side use, and it came back as a feasible, although costly proposition.  Even where the space exists to do a side by side coexisting rail and trail, once you start adding up the costs of accommodating both, it may become a funding war, with limited opportunities for everyone to get what they want, and rail and trail advocates devolving into two warring camps.  I remember reading public comments about “screaming whistles” and “100 mph trains” wrecking the serenity of the nearby neighborhoods.

    • Kathy Farro

      There hasn’t been that much rail development, nor that much time passed, since this practice of converting rail to trails (and preserving for future rail if needed) has been in practice. To say none has been converted back demonstrates nothing in light of these facts.  In time it can be, and will. There are much greater hurdles to rail development than reclaiming bike trails. If a rail project gets off the ground despite all other obstacles, i don’t anticipate the conversion of a trail back to rail would be the thing that squashes its chances of occurring.

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      Within the past decade Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Portland, Denver and Vancouver have all built at least one light rail line each. Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Atlanta, St. Louis, Washington D.C., Kansas City and numerous others are also planning or building modern streetcar lines at the moment.

      In many of these cities the acquisition of right-of-way is much easier due to the younger age of the cities, and the lower density built environment. In the Midwest and Northeast, it becomes much more difficult.

    • Kathy Farro

      In planning time, ten years is nothing. 

  • John Yung

    Think about it this way:

    The Wasson path project moves forward and 10 years from now the corridor is identified as a light rail or commuter rail corridor. Residents and community supporters who advocated for the path, utilize the path and touted it as a selling point for the neighborhood become opponents of the rail plan. They say, “Don’t take our path away.” “We moved here for the path,” etc. Once it’s done and it in, that’s it. Both projects are progressive, both have a lot of merits. But the rail line is better for the economic benefit of the city and it’s neighborhoods.
    The thing is, Cincinnati should not settle for a bike path, when they have the opportunity to advocate for a real rail system that connects several communities to downtown. 

    • http://travisestell.com/ Travis

      Especially when there’s a high likelihood that anti-transit interests are advocating for the path, knowing that it will be nearly impossible for the path to be converted to rail down the road.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674031965 Dan Reid

      or maybe this: we bicker over the use of this land for 10 years, meanwhile it’s sold to developers. good luck ever using that land again for rail. the path preserves the right of way and legal provisions can be put in it’s creation to allow it to be converted back to rail should a project gain footing. if anything this is a great chance to preserve this property in-tact.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Stähler/503767034 Clinton Stähler

       If we preserve that right-of-way it is not going to be sold to developers.  It cannot be used for development, for several reasons.

    • Anonymous

      Quote: “But the rail line is better for the economic benefit of the city and it’s neighborhoods.”

      As the young kids say these days, “Citation, please.” Right now, your absolute claim is just an opinion. Back it up. I have attended meetings on this proposal, and there is room for both. It is admittedly a tight fit in some places, but there is room. Such a shame that two interests that should be working together are apparently fighting each other. I’d be extremely curious to find out if there is an ulterior motive on the part of some unknown party to sabotage BOTH plans by inciting bickering, legal wrangling and other distractions to keep anything from happening.

  • http://travisestell.com/ Travis

    Quite frankly, I’m shocked by the number of people here claiming that we “shouldn’t wait around for a light rail plan.” Maybe those people are living in an alternate version of Cincinnati than I am. I seem to recall us breaking ground on our first rail transit project last week. I also recall a huge rise in demand for living in the urban core, with projects like Parvis Lofts, the Belmain, The Banks, and American Can Factory being completely occupied. I have a feeling that the majority of these urban residents enjoy getting around with driving everywhere, and would love to be able to get to neighborhoods like Oakley and Hyde Park quickly using transit.

    Rail transit projects take time to plan and approve. It would be shortsighted of us to be impatient and surrender this right-of-way.

  • http://twitter.com/jenlkessler Jenny Kessler

    I have to echo Travis’ incredulity; you guys… we just broke ground on a STREETCAR last week. It’s just the beginning, and certainly not the end all be all of transit in Cincinnati. Are we just going to give up and settle , when there’s potential for regional light rail?

    This city deserves a chance at a genuine transit system.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674031965 Dan Reid

      nobody is speaking out against rail, but the reality is any sort of rail on that side of town is many years, if not decades away. so in the meantime we do what? just let the land sit?  they tried the same with OTR once too, remember that? the fact is this project can move forward and the appropriate legal provisions to bank the land for rail should a feasible project ever surface. this is done all the time and there’s no reason to hold up a huge development project over a bunch of what-if’s

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      I could support this project if there are rock solid legal provisions put in place to guarantee its use as rail transit. It would be an automatic deal and the trail would go away as soon as rail comes in.

    • Anonymous

      Randy,

         That is what we are proposing. Are you willing to now support the project?

    • Jacob Mecklenborg

      If Metro Moves had passed in 2002, the Wasson Rd. freight railroad would have been quickly rebuilt as a light rail line.  Property values within walking distance of this line will improve dramatically as compared to a bike/hike trail.  

  • Anonymous

    This position is unfortunately uninformed about the details of this project. The proposal is to build the bike trail next to the rails, leaving plenty of right-of-way available for light rail. This has been done in many other cities around the US and can be done here. During the City Council presentation the Midwest Coordinator for Rails-To-Trails will detail how this has been successfully done around the United States. The advocates for the Wasson Way have always been supporters of light rail. Developing that bike constituency, which is in favor of alternative transportation hopefully will be a priority of this group…

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      You believe that there is enough right-of-way to accommodate a bike/ped trail and two directions of light rail traffic?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Stähler/503767034 Clinton Stähler

       There is not nearly the required width of right-of-way to have both.  A “rail trail” means destroying the asset entirely.

  • Anonymous

    This position is unfortunately uninformed about the details of this project. The proposal is to build the bike trail next to the rails, leaving right-of-way available for light rail. This has been done in many other cities around the US and can be done here. During the City Council presentation the Midwest Coordinator for Rails-To-Trails will discuss this in detail. The advocates for the Wasson Way have always been supporters of light rail. Developing that bike constituency, which is in favor of alternative transportation, will hopefully become a priority of this group…

    • Zachary Schunn

      “The proposal is to build the bike trail next to the rails, leaving right-of-way available for light rail.”

      So why does your Fbook group say you are demolishing the rails?

    • Nathaniel Hammitt

      I have to agree with Zach- the Wasson Way “rails to trails” project must preserve the opportunity for future light rail opportunities. If too much right-of-way is allotted to bike paths, and rails are irreversibly demo’d in the process, this project would be better off left on the drawing boards.

      Moving forward, Cincinnati must recognize the benefits of light rail and preserve the infrastructure and land necessary to accommodate it.

  • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

    Let’s all keep in mind that standard parallel running light rail tracks require 28 feet of right-of-way. A bike/ped trail will probably need another 10-15 feet on its own.

    While some parts of the Wasson Corridor have more right-of-way than others, I would venture to say that the vast majority does not have 40 to 45-foot preserved right-of-way.

    What this would mean is that the trail would take up the needed land for light rail, and then force a decision to be made later to then get rid of the trail to make way for the light rail line. Unless legally mandated, I find this to be a virtually impossible reality.

  • John Chester

    URBAN CINCY has come out opposing the The Wasson Way. “The Wasson Line is too valuable to convert into a bike/ped trail and should be preserved for an urban light rail line.” The analysis is flawed in that the Wasson Way Trail and any potential light rail ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. The current plan is for the trail to be NEXT to the line for any potential light rail.

    John Chester
    President, Cincinnati Cycle Club

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      Light rail systems require two-way traffic in order to function properly. Along much of the Wasson Corridor, only one rail track is preserved because it was previously a freight line which operates under difference principles.

      So simply running the recreational trail adjacent to the existing railway isn’t enough. Quite simply, you need 28′ of right-of-way for a parallel set of light rail tracks. This is pretty much the standard design. If there is 28′ of land available after the recreational trail runs through, then great, but I doubt that there is.

  • Anonymous

    You all are so busy attacking each other you can’t see the bloomin’ obvious:  FIGHT FOR BOTH! Both would be hugely valuable on their own, neither has any proven economic beneficial edge over the other, at least that anyone has put forth in their opinions below.  Who cares if it hasn’t been tried before elsewhere??  We’ll be the first.  We ought to be seeing what that would take.  Spending time at each others throats only increases the probability that neither one will ever see the light of day.  Cincinnati does not have to be like this, folks.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674031965 Dan Reid

      well said

    • Jacob Mecklenborg

      There is not space for both without taking property by eminent domain.  

  • http://twitter.com/dave_menninger dave menninger

    I think this post would have come across better if it would have emphasized that the right-of-way needs to be preserved and detailing why UrbanCincy thinks that trails make that preservation impossible.  A discussion of the right of way widths in the main article instead of a John Schnieder quote would have seemed more credible.  Randy’s comments below all make the anti-trail position seem more reasonable than the main article itself.  Instead of a headline reading “trails should not be built” it should have asserted “trails could prevent future rails”.  As is, it comes across as confrontational.

  • Anonymous

    I am a big fan of John Schneider.    In recent months, I have learned a lot from him as we on the East Side have engaged with ODOT on the planning for the re-do of Red Bank Road. 

    That being said, I have to agree to disagree with John and Urban Cincy’s position on Wasson Way.    The fact is that at the western end of the Wasson Way right of way at Victory Parkway, the rail right-of-way stops.  Formerly, this rail line connected all the way downtown, but that land is not available now for a rail line (much of it was taken for I-71 construction), and it would be complicated for the city/county/state to take back that stretch of right-of-way any time soon. 

    - – - - 
    In the meantime, building the hike/bike path along this existing right-of-way from Ault Park to Victory Parkway is a simple thing to do.   Later, light rail and the hike/bike trail can be built safely side by side with the trail from Ault Park to Victory Parkway, as has been done with other “dual alignment” in other cities (Minneapolis being one). 

    - – - – -
    COMMUTER RAIL ON THE EAST SIDE
    As for commuter rail, it seems to me that the most logical commuter-rail route that can be built to serve the East Side would be the same commuter-rail line that ran in the early 20th Century. That would be a line, utilizing existing rail lines, starting in Loveland and following the old B&O line from Loveland to Madeira to Madisonville (in the old days we had two stations here in Madisonville) and on to Oakley (the station house is still there on the south side of the tracks across from the Milacron site).   From Oakley, this line went to East Norwood Station (Forest Avenue near the Siemens plant), then to Norwood station (following alongside today’s Norwood Lateral Road), then to Bond Hill, Ivorydale in St. Bernard, and then turned south down the Mill Creek Valley to the old Plum Street rail station downtown. 

    Today, as I understand, all of this track from Loveland to downtown is available and operational for freight, except for the “last mile” (as is the case with Commissioner Portune’s proposed Eastern Corridor commuter-rail line from Milford to the Transit Center next to the Freedom Center downtown).  The beauty of this line from Loveland to downtown is that: 
    *  it would take automotive traffic off I-71
    *  from Ivorydale south to Downtown it would take automotive traffic off I-75, and prepare the way for commuter rail to extend farther up the Mill Creek Valley to Lockland/Wyoming, Glendale and West Chester along existing rail lines. 

    - – - – - 
    WASSON WAY CAN HAPPEN FAST 
    AND IT WILL ATTRACT FAMILIES TO THE EAST SIDE
    In the meantime, private funds can be raised to finance and build the Wasson Way hike/bike line.   On the East Side, we need to attract and keep more young families.   Now that the Pleasant Ridge Montessori public school is attracting more and more middle-class parents/students, and the old Hyde Park School will start to do the same when it reopens next fall, the atmosphere is changing on the East Side.   

    If we build on these positive trends in public education by creating a network of hike/bike trails in Eastern Hamilton County, then the East Side will again become a prime destination for young families with children.  THAT is what this is about:  attracting families and thus developing a workforce that will create and attract more “new economy jobs” in this region. 

    Building a bike/hike trail now will help us achieve this goal of attracting families and creating jobs.   On the other hand, foregoing the hike/bike trail for the next ten years so that we can lobby for a commuter-rail line that actually might better be shifted to the existing Loveland/Oakley/Ivorydale/Downtown rail lines would amount to little more than a self-inflicted wound. 

    • Noibn48

      The old B&O Loveland line makes some sense but the remote location of the stations from the population centers along the Ivorydale line would attract a paltry ridership. It’s a non-starter.

      Wasson Way will not attract families to the East Side because folks are already attracted there. It reminds me of the arguments for the Bengals stadium and jobs. Light rail makes a lot more sense on that route coming out of Mariemont or Newtown. The population density is there and maybe, if feasible, merge up with the Loveland route.

      As much as this cyclist would like to see a bike way on Wasson Way, mass transit should come first. Besides, how about first connecting the Little Miami trail to Lunken from Newtown.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.reser Jason Reser

    The right of way was already being leased out and built on when the Wasson Way trail project stopped the selloff. Funny thing is that the local business owners were happy to see the trail project. 

    Also we will be dead before a rail line is installed in that location – it’s considered a C-level project, which means two phases of rail will have to be built and bickered over before rail lines are installed there.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks to all who have expressed support for the Wasson Way. This is a great project that deserves everyone’s support. At the City Council presentation on March 6th there will be presentations by a national expert on childhood obesity, a professor from UC who co-wrote a nationally recognized study on the economic benefits of bike/pedestrian trails and the Midwest coordinator for Rails-To-Trails describing how bike trails have been developed next to rails in many areas of the country. See this video which shows the Minneapolis Bike Trail next to the rail and how the Midtowne-Greenway has transformed Minneapolis into the #1 city in the US for biking and the healthiest city in the US. http://vimeo.com/29468556  We have been told by people who have lived in Minneapolis that Wasson Way would be better!!! This is an opportunity to make Cincinnati great.

    • Anonymous

      Jay: 

      Thanks for your leadership on this issue.    

      As you and I have discussed many times, the immediate vision during the next 4-5 years is to create a network of interconnected off-road hike/bike trails in eastern Hamilton County that will expand on what is already there (Ohio River Trail, Little Miami Scenic Trail, Murray Road Trail in Fairfax, The Red Bank Road trails in Fairfax, the trails at Armleder Park and Lunken field, and the trail connection between Armleder Park and Lunken Field that will be completed this Spring. 

      - – - -
      ATTRACTING FAMILIES, ATTRACTING JOBS
      As a long-time supporter of rail-based public transit, I respect the contributors to this page that advocate strongly for more rail-based public transit to serve the East Side. 

      Today perhaps the biggest problem we have on the East Side is the decline in the number of families with young children, and the long-term threat that this represents to job creation and economic development in Southwest Ohio.   

      For example, in the 45227 zip code area (Mariemont, Fairfax, Madison Place and Madisonville) the U.S. Census data shows that the population of residents under the age of 18 dropped by 17 percent between 2000 and 2010.   Also, in the 45227 zip code area, the number of public elementary schools dropped from five (5) in 2000 to just two (2) in 2010.  The three schools that closed were: 
        * Eastwood Paideia on Duck Creek Road (Cincinnati Public)
        * Bramble School on Bramble Avenue (Cincinnati Public) and
        * Fairfax Elementary in Fairfax (Mariemont School District)

      RECREATIONAL AMENITIES ATTRACT YOUNG FAMILIES
      If we leverage the Eastern Corridor funding, raise private funds, and work with the City, the County and the Village of Mariemont to expand this network of off-road recreational/transportation trails, there is no doubt that young families will find the East Side more attractive again.   That, in turn, will drive home values up from the low level where they are today and attract businesses that want to hire workers from among those skilled young parents.  

      And, as this happens — raising the “walkability” and family-friendly nature of the area — this will build a larger constituency for rail-based public transit in the context of a denser urban and inner-ring suburban setting on the East Side.  And, that development of rail-based transit and walkable communities will, in turn, will drive up home values more and attract even more businesses that want to hire these skilled young adults with children who live here. 

      IN OHIO, THESE OPPORTUNITIES ARE RARE, SO LET’S MAKE IT HAPPEN
      In Ohio today, you don’t see many places today like Cincinnati’s East Side and inner-ring suburbs where “new economy” employers are setting up shop and hiring.  The East Side of the City of Cincinnati and the inner-ring sububs — with close proximity to UC, XU and the growing I-71 corridor from downtown to Lebanon — is one of perhaps just 3 or 4 places in the State where this economic development is already happening and has the potential to grow rapidly going forward.   

      So, let’s do it!   Let’s make this happen on the East Side, where hike/bike trails and rail-based transit both can thrive in the midst of thriving communities. 

       

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Clinton-Stähler/503767034 Clinton Stähler

      The Wasson line is a one-of-a-kind asset that has no alternative and no way of ever being  replaced.  A trail would be built right on the center of the right-of-way, and would eliminate this asset entirely, and forever.
      Minneapolis Midtown Greenway removed the rail entirely, which is what the Wasson line will do.  AND, Minneapolis only made that decision AFTER their light rail in that part of town was built on a nearby right-of-way.  The situation in Cincinnati is much different.
      Cincinnati is not going to become healthier and more bike/pedestrian friendly until the region embraces auto-alternatives.  A bike/ped trail is recreational, but the pedestrian habits of cities that are not completely dependent on cars are where the lifestyle and health benefits are really gained.  To prove my point, Cincinnati has as many fitness centers as any city (fitness outlets are available).  However, it is the daily habits that have the most  profound effect.  Cities that are truly walkable (not for play, but as part of a built-in daily routine), are cities that do not require us to board our car at home, drive it up to another door for work or shopping, and thus eliminating the built-in exercise of healthier cities.  Transit has many intended benefits, and it also has many collateral or incidental ones, including the walkable aspect.  This also has a domino effect which spawns pedestrian development and civil design techniques throughout the region. 
      When you look at Minneapolis, there is a host of factors that account for what you see.  Cincinnati has all the potential of Minneapolis, but you are not advocating a much more basic and fundamental Minneapolis priority – light rail transit.

    • Anonymous

      To use the current Wasson single rail line for rapid transit would require expensive new double track bridges in several locations and additional eminent domain property purchases for stations,while a bike trail can be built immediately and at minimal cost with funding sources already in place. 

      Talk of the Oasis line as a better trail project is disingenuous and ironic, since a transit agency owns that land and has successfully fought efforts for 30 years to have an interim trail or a rail with trail there.  Just because the streetcar to nowhere lobby was able to use ballot trickery to thwart the desires of the majority of Cincinnatians to save their hard-earned dollars for real transit,  doesn’t mean that money or political trickery can do the same for the Wasson line or the Oasis line.  I suspect that the streetcar cost overruns will likely kill any attempt at tansit for a few generations at least.  Transit advocates like Schnieder and Stahler would prefer to have both lines remain unused eyesores for another 60 years, rather than letting cyclists enjoy them.

      I cringed when Jay at the meeting grovelled and said that cyclists will give up all claim to the line whenever transit wants it, because it is obvious from the above comments that transit would never accept a rail with trail. 

      Cyclists and pedestrians are now a force to be reckoned with, as the Republicans found out when they tried to eliminate bike/ped funding recently.  We can and will save the Wasson line, we will build a trail there, millions of people will enjoy it, and we will be willing to share it with transit-but the bike trail will have priority.

  • Jacob Mecklenborg

    Some of these pro-bike posts are quite sophisticated, betraying the work of shills. 
    According to the Hamilton County Auditor’s website, the railroad’s right-of-way appears to be a strip measuring 30 feet wide for several miles.  This is the minimum width necessary for a double-track railroad, meaning there is no space for a rec trail, unless people here advocate taking back yards by eminent domain.  I agree that this abandoned railroad would make a wonderful rec trail, but the cost of digging a subway through Hyde Park would be be astronomically more expensive, and that’s the only other way to get fast transit service to and through this area.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674031965 Dan Reid

      should this path never come to fruition, what’s the plan to retain the right of way? this project proposal is what halted some of the sell-off, and even with the plans for this path they’re already paving over parts for use as parking lots in Hyde Park. seems like that’s the bigger risk than a multi-use path that would essentially keep the land in tact for the future.

      seems unlikely that this land will even exist if something isn’t’ done with it, and crossing your fingers that it’s still there in ?? years seems a bit naive

    • Mark Mascolino

      I’m most familiar with the section running from Madison to Erie and agree that it is far too narrow to support three “paths”.  With that said, isn’t getting regular above ground train access through that part of the city going to be a pain to get the neighborhood groups to sign off on?  Wouldn’t some sort of cut-and-cover tunnel be required?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VNWDZJ3IXVIBPCXMPQFHPLJUQ4 Jeff

    Here is an example where rail service was reactivated from a bike/ped trail to light rail commuter train in Denton, TX.

    http://www.railstotrails.org/news/features/dentonbranch.html

  • Mark Christol

    LOL, Randy meets the bicycle lobby…..
    Regardless, transportation dollars should not be used for recreational stuff. Bicycles belong on the road & there are parallel roadways all along this rail path.

  • Anonymous

    The author’s fear is unfounded (“…Honestly, I do like the idea, but this right-of-way absolutely needs to
    be used for light rail transit. If it makes way for a recreational
    trail, I fear Cincinnati will lose it forever.”). As other commenters have correctly pointed out, such corridors can be preserved for future rail use. Typically that’s done with railbanking, which precludes corridor abandonment. Assuming abandonment has already taken place here, a new contract can be drafted that essentially allows the same rail-preserving format.

    Preserving a corridor with trail use not only keeps it intact, but allows the local community to utilize and take benefit of the space. In the future, when rail is ready to come back, engineers will work to accommodate both modes of transport along the corridor, providing the trail has proven itself to be a community asset in the interim.

    Trail designers have found very creative solutions to “pinch points” and other challenges along narrow corridors. I wouldn’t waste time fretting over such future details. If both groups (trail & rail) are interested in best serving the community, they will work together to find the necessary solutions. This is a win-win here, folks. You can have your cake and eat it too!

  • Zachary Schunn

    I’m not taking a clear stance on this argument, but I do notice a few things in reading through this that make me skeptical of the “rails-to-trails” project.

    First, I see repeated comments here and on Facebook that the rails and its rights-of-way are being preserved.  Yet Randy, Jake, and others have pointed out that there is NOT room to preserve rights-of-way.  And no one has addressed the fact that the group’s Facebook page says they are “supporting the transformation of these tracks into a bike and pedestrian path.”  This, to me, implies demolition of the tracks.

    Are we to believe the tracks can be demolished, then reinstated later?  Or are we to believe the tracks AND the path can fit side-by-side when other comments from the group make clear that this is NOT the group’s intention?

    I hope I am proven wrong and both a bike path AND rail project are feasible.  I’ll be interested in seeing the group’s plan (assuming they have one and its not just a bunch of rhetoric) at the city hall hearing.

  • Chris Daniels

    We have to understand the state of our city in terms of accessability to means of recreation. Transit can provide as a huge downfall into more pressing matters such as the state of our cities health? Maintaining transit routes for future use may increase industrial use, opening up more facory jobs, but what will it do for our confidence as a people in terms of health. Learn more about your health, and ways to improve it at http://www.xactwellness.com 

    • Zachary Schunn

      Industrial use?  I believe Randy was alluding to its planned use as a commuter line.  Reconfiguring our transportation network has a LOT to do with health and you reduce pollution in the air (by limiting car use) and spark new, greener and cleaner commerce with new commuter lines.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=674031965 Dan Reid

    I still haven’t seen anyone answer how this right-of-way is preserved if it’s just left as-is? If nothing is done with it, no bike trail, nada, what will keep it in tact? The sell off is already in process so all these arguments for rail will be for naught if there is no right-of-way left to build on. If you want rail here, SOMETHING has to keep this stretch in tact. Even if it means the bike trail is replaced by rail some years down the road.

    • Zachary Schunn

      You tell us:  Who is buying these right-of-ways?

      Maybe instead of asking the city to install a temporary bike trail, you should just ask the city to buy up right-of-ways for a trail next to the existing rail right-of-ways?  Since as many have pointed out, there’s not enough room for both…

  • http://twitter.com/reconnecting Reconnecting America

    If you convert anything to a public space like a trail or a park, as a
    right of way reservation, you’re never going to get it back.  This is
    the reason why developers leave open land muddy instead of putting grass
    down, because they know people will think its a permanent park and will
    want to not develop it.  If the ROW is large enough for both trail and
    rail, then building the trail leaving the rest of it for future use
    would likely be acceptable.  But if you try to take away a trail, it’s
    almost impossible politically to get it back.  See the fight over the Purple Line in Maryland.  Messy fight with a train going along the trail.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000217827679 Adam White

    We may be jumping to hasty conclusions about not being able to fit both the rail and the trail in the corridor. Can we get a survey team out there (before tuesday) just so we can be sure that both will not fit? Or at least someone with a tape measure. If the corridor is truly 30 feet wide as someone has said, then I’m sure we could engineer a way to use only one track, by perhaps putting sidings at stations. However, if that cannot work, then the best compromise would be the suggested legal clause.

  • Brandon Brooks

    Unfortunately, there isn’t 8 miles of right of way.  The Wasson line ends at Xavier University, which is still four miles from downtown.  I don’t see the point of a light rail that  goes from Mariemont to Xavier.  It would only be beneficial if it went all the way downtown, and currently the only right or way for that path is the Oasis path, or the Loveland – Norwood line.  I agree that the Wasson line would be better, if it still went downtown, but since it doesn’t, we would have to get four miles of eminent domain.  Not a feasible option in my opinion.

    The line that runs from Loveland through Madisonville and Norwood is a better option.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2309211 Eric Douglas

    Where’s the connection to downtown? I know it’s planned, but without a complete connection to downtown planned and funded IN CONJUCTION with the Wesson Line, there’s no point in objecting to a bike path that is far more likely to occur. This route looks like a potentional greenway or bike path connecting neighborhoods more than a light rail/commuter rail corridor connecting residential areas with large employment centers/CBD’s. Take a look at the Monon Trail in Indianapolis.