EDITORIAL: Localizing Operating Costs for Streetcar Sets Dangerous Precedent

On Thursday morning Mayor John Cranley (D) called a press conference for a “major” announcement. He was joined by leadership of labor unions representing city workers, along with Councilman Kevin Flynn (C).

So what was the big news? Well, Mayor Cranley had announced that he would be willing to continue the Cincinnati Streetcar project that has already received direct voter approval twice, support of City Council, appropriated funds for its entire project cost, and began construction, if streetcar supporters could come up with a private funding commitment that would cover all operating costs for the first phase of the system over the next 30 years.

Oh yeah, and he asked that those boosters kindly secure that $60-80 million commitment in one week’s time.

Cincinnati Streetcar Construction Work at Government SquareUtility relocation work proceeded near Government Square on November 16, but whether that work will ever resume is up to Mayor Cranley and Councilmembers David Mann and Kevin Flynn. Photograph by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy.

Aside from the unprecedented request, a first of its kind for any transit program in America, it is troubling for two other key reasons. First, it sets a dangerous new precedent for how city government operates in Cincinnati, and secondly it is an obscene double standard for transit projects to force such a financial commitment.

Dangerous Precedent
With labor union representatives at his side, Mayor Cranley continually stated how he has an obligation to deliver the basic services we all cherish, and said that Cincinnati has a difficult enough time meeting current financial liabilities, much less new ones. As a result, he demanded that the private sector and streetcar supporters, should they actually support the project, put their skin in the game and fund its operations for the next 30 years.

That is all great campaign rhetoric, which Cranley used brilliantly leading up to the November 5 election, but it is completely irrational.

If the City of Cincinnati cannot afford any new financial liabilities, then will Mayor Cranley and his administration be requesting operating plans and financing for those new efforts from anything that comes to his desk? He has stated he wants to hire 200 new police officers, but who will shoulder the ongoing financial liability that will place on the City’s operating budget? Cranley has said he does not want to raise taxes, so that leaves only making cuts elsewhere to free up money for such a huge expansion of public safety forces.

Being and true and blue west sider that Mt. Lookout resident John Cranley is, he also supports the proposed Westwood Square project. While UrbanCincy also wholeheartedly supports that project and the form-based code it was borne out of, we have never seen a financing plan for it or any estimate for what its ongoing costs will be to the City. If “no new liabilities” means “no new liabilities” then we are concerned that Mayor Cranley’s new approach to governance will jeopardize the Westwood Square project.

Westwood SquareMayor Cranley’s dangerous new precedent might put the advancement of such projects as Westwood Square at-risk. If not, it would create a massive double standard. Image provided.

In addition to the Cincinnati Streetcar, 200 new police officers and Westwood Square, this new heavy-handed approach will also jeopardize the Wasson Way Trail, future phases of Smale Riverfront Park, improvements to the city’s waste collection operations, the rebuild of the Western Hills Viaduct, completion of the Ohio River Trail, and development of the Eastern Corridor. This new standard will also put at risk what the Cranley Administration seems to hold as the Holy Grail of all local projects – the MLK Interchange.

Should we also expect a move by the Cranley Administration to stop all construction activities and spending on the Waldvogel Viaduct that is currently being rebuilt? That project has never submitted a financial report that estimates a 30-year operating cost, much less any private sources to cover those ongoing financial liability costs.

Double Standard
UrbanCincy certainly hopes that this is in fact not a new standard protocol at City Hall, because it will put a stop to virtually everything the City does and bring the delivery of public services to a screeching halt. If that is the case, then Mayor Cranley’s olive branch to streetcar supporters is nothing more than a massive double standard.

Virtually every project the city undertakes adds liability costs. The Parking Modernization & Lease plan would have, of course, added none and in fact reduced future liability costs, but Mayor Cranley and his administration were quick to kill that deal as well.

And while this move by Mayor Cranley is typical of anti-transit forces around the country, it is also unacceptable. The user fee for roadways – the federal gas tax – has not been raised since 1993 and covers approximately 51% of the annual costs of maintaining our roadways. Public safety departments collect nowhere close to the amount of revenue they demand in terms of their costs to operate. Our schools, libraries, cultural institutions and parks all require taxpayer support, but such demands are not placed on them, nor should they.

Had Smale Riverfront Park been mandated by Mayor Cranley’s administration to provide 30 years’ worth of operating funds upfront in binding agreements before he approved any capital dollars for it to get started, then that project would most likely still not be started to this day. Instead, under normal governance, Smale Riverfront Park moved forward with its construction, and then capable leaders such as Willie Carden, Jr. were tasked with developing innovative and sustainable mechanisms to fund in over its lifespan.

It is unfortunate the Mayor Cranley and his administration have cornered Cincinntians into this position. It is unreasonable to ask our business community to fund public projects that should be funded by the public agency that committed to doing the project in the first place. Fortunately Cincinnati has proactive thinking leaders like Eric Avner and the Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation working to meet the unreasonable demands of Mayor Cranley.

But should the business community deliver on this unreasonable request to fund the project’s operations for the next 30 years; then those investors should receive the returns the investment generates. The same is true if city residents want only those along the line to pay for its operations. If the costs must be localized, then so should its benefits.

Quite simply, residents elsewhere in the city who do not want to take on any risk deserve none of the returns.

The center city already subsidizes the public services provided to the city’s neighborhoods. If Mayor Cranley wants to continue on this damaging path of pitting neighborhoods against one another, then we will all quickly realize just how much we are dependent on one another economically.

In 2011, for example, the City of Cincinnati collected 71% of all city tax revenues from just eight neighborhoods: Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, West End, Queensgate, CUF, Corryville, Avondale and Clifton – collectively and colloquially as “Downtown” and “Uptown”.

The health and success of Downtown and Uptown is critically important to the overall health and success of the entire city. While many residents may believe that too much is invested in those areas, the reality is that those eight neighborhoods pay far more in taxes than they ever receive.

UrbanCincy is calling for an end to the divisiveness and to fully invest in our city’s future. Finish the Cincinnati Streetcar.

  • Mark Christol

    Cranley has also stated that he wants to be in charge of the streetcar. Shouldn’t the people paying to run it be in charge of it’s operations?
    Who is going to pony up for the approximately $8M+/yr to pay for the lump payment he wants to dump into the pension fund? Pensioners?

    • Tony DeBlasio

      Yes, yes they should. I believe it’s called a defined contribution plan. . .

      People can complain all they want about the streetcar costs, but that issue along with everything else in the budget is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the outdated pension plans that will one day bankrupt every government in this country.

  • ArcticSix

    Cincinnati’s political neighborhood divisions still startle me, especially because so many people seem to think their neighborhood has no connection to the city economy. Cranley campaigned on that, and he’ll run his term on that, and Cincinnati will suffer for it if we let him.

    I will be using that 71% tax figure, though, for all of the people I talk to who live outside of Uptown and Downtown but somehow believe their neighborhood or area pays the most in taxes. I knew that what I call the “core” of the city generated a good chunk of tax revenue, but I didn’t think it would be over 2/3.

    Do Downtown and OTR make up the bulk of that percentage? I’m already imagining the counterarguments that “you could lump any neighborhoods in with X neighborhood to get a high percentage and make them look important,” so that would be a good thing to know.

    • The 45202 zip code (Downtown/OTR) accounts for a whopping 34% of city tax revenues. The next closest neighborhood is Queensgate, which is somewhat hard to define by zip codes, but its multiple zip codes account for approximately 16.5% of city tax revenues.

      Uptown is also a bit difficult to track, but Corryville/CUF/Clifton/Avondale account for approximately 20.4% of city tax revenues. I didn’t include East Walnut Hills in Uptown, but if I had that number would have jumped to 25.2% due to EWH’s large amount of tax revenues.

      The reason I specify “city tax revenues” is because there are some tax revenues the city generates that come from outside the City of Cincinnati. So this is just a comparison of city neighborhoods to city neighborhoods.

    • Mark Christol

      Randy, what’s your data source for this info?

    • There isn’t a link, but I have tax revenue breakouts by zip code from 2011 that were provided to me by the City of Cincinnati the other year. I don’t think the numbers will have changed all that much from 2011 to 2012.

    • Mark Christol

      I found info on income by zip but that doesn’t tell what zip the income came from.

    • Josh

      I am curious about something with regard to these percentage figures you are citing. Do the figures use the zip code in which the person works or the zip code in which they live in order to determine % of tax revenue. For example, if someone lives in Westwood but works in downtown, what zip code do we use for tax revenues generated? Obviously, anyone who lives outside of the city but works within it will be Cincinnati zip code by default.

    • The data I have also separates out revenues that come from people living outside the city. Those account for approximately 30% of all tax revenues. For these purposes I compared city neighborhoods to city neighborhoods in terms of what they contribute. They are on an equal playing field, whereas the non-city areas are not, and that is what was being discussed.

    • TimSchirmang

      The income tax revenue is tied to workplace as a priority over residence. Income tax revenue is the bulk of city revenue (about 6 times the amount of property tax revenue), and 80% of income tax revenue is reported as coming from withholding – versus 10% for businesses and 10% for residents who work outside city. The downtown basin obviously is a very dense job center with high numbers of W-2 wage earners, leading to 45202 being the strongest zip code in terms of revenue generation.

      Sidenote, the city does collect the zip codes associated with W-2 withholding, not sure whether this data is compiled into a residence-based revenue analysis.

    • ArcticSix

      That’s great, thanks! This really helps build a systems argument for why neighborhoods should support one another. It would change the conversation for people to understand that downtown and OTR make up such a large part of the tax revenue that funds projects and services in their neighborhood.

    • Chas Wiederhold

      If the “We Believe in Cincinnati” group doesn’t have to spend all their money on a campaign, it would be great for them to push out some public service announcements that talk about neighborhood unity, dependence, and growth with no real political motive other than to unite

    • That would be a splendid idea.

    • ArcticSix

      I agree that needs to be a major goal for any organization devoted to Cincinnati’s progress. It would be interesting to see what would work to bring people together. I think PSAs are a good place to start. They should also see if they could snag a marketing intern from UC or XU.

  • 14th&Bremen

    Does anyone remember the talks of Westwood trying to secede from the city? http://news.cincinnati.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20090723/NEWS01/907240307/ This Urban Cincy post reminds me of the lack of rationale some neighborhood leaders have about cost vs. benefit of being part of the city.

    • For what it’s worth, Westwood and East Westwood bring in approximately 1.8% of city tax revenues. If you add in East Price Hill, West Price Hill and Mt. Airy that number only increases to 3.9%. These zip codes account for virtually all of what most people consider the “West Side”.

    • grumpyoldbitch

      Interesting stat, and very surprising to me. However, I think comparing expanding the police force to a project like the streetcar is apples and oranges. A large part of it is psychological, since most city residents feel they’d benefit from an expanded police force, while few feel they’ll benefit from a streetcar. Most residents of Cincinnati are never going to take any type of mass transit, period. Getting your drivers license at 16 and buying your first car is a rite of passage. Being packed into a public conveyance with a bunch of strangers just isn’t an experience most are familiar with or want. This isn’t the east coast. Most don’t know that the busses are heavily subsidized, or there would probably be a backlash against those as well. I say that as a proponent of mass transit and a person the relies pretty much exclusively on Metro for transportation at the moment. Just acknowledging the fact that this is a car centric region, something streetcar supporters are loath to do, would give you a stronger argument when you’re not preaching to the choir.Equating the MLK exchange or more police on the streets w the streetcar just isn’t going to fly with anyone not already supporting the project. That argument just makes people think, huh, which would be better for me, more cops or a streetcar I’ll never ever ride?

      I know it’s crazy to even need to resell the merits of the streetcar at this point, but given the current reality, there are stronger arguments you can make on the merits of the streetcar alone, like the fact that it’s insane to stop a project like this once contracts have been let, construction has begun and track has been laid. The costs of the penalty clauses alone, not to mention potential lawsuits, are things people everyone can understand and mostly agree with. If the audit backs that up, then you’ve got a much more compelling argument for the project going forward.

    • “Most residents of Cincinnati are never going to take any type of mass transit, period. Getting your drivers license at 16 and buying your first car is a rite of passage.”

      That was once true, but it’s quickly changing. Fewer people are rushing out to get their license the day they turn 16. Kids either don’t have the money or would rather spend it on other things. Additionally, driving has been on the decline since 2004 while transit ridership has been increasing and even breaking records in recent years.

      I agree with you that there is a car-centric culture in Cincinnati at the moment, but it’s not to say that it can’t change. Once people see first hand that transit is convenient, reliable, and affordable, they will start taking advantage of it. (That’s why the streetcar conversation has been so difficult — most Cincinnatians have never taken a modern streetcar or light rail system because there are none operating in this part of the midwest.)

      There’s a big culture shift coming and Cincinnati needs to decide whether we want so embrace it and grow, or reject it and stagnate.

    • grumpyoldbitch

      As someone, again, who depends on Cincy’s mass transit, the only part of your premise that’s true is the part about it being affordable. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think your stats are for regions outside of Cincy and Northern Kentucky. Mass transit here is still considered the province of poor people. Even UC and Xavier students don’t seem comfortable on the bus. Yes, they might be without a car while in college, but it’s not a lifelong choice for most. And don’t forget cars still connote status in large parts of our culture.

      All your arguments target the minority, while you need majority approval for the project to be a success. Taxpayers already got burned by the stadium deals, and I remember the sales pitch for that was frighteningly similar to that of the streetcar. Streetcar supporters are their own worse enemies, treating it like a magic unicorn, instead of a municipal project that’s subject to all the fiscal and political realities all such projects are subject to. It’s always a fight for resources. And there’s the very real possibility it will come in over budget, behind schedule, and proceed to be a black hole of money. That’s an extreme worse case scenario, but treating people that pose the possibility the streetcar won’t be magical like they’re ignorant rubes, (I’ve been following this fight for five years, and yea, uh huh, you do), has given ammunition to all those calling it just a yuppie toy. I think that’s an unfair characterization of a project that’s going to be pretty cool once it’s built, but I totally understand where that framing of the debate is coming from.

    • The other year the City of Cincinnati worked with the State of Ohio, much like the city is working with the Feds now, on rebuilding W. Clifton Avenue from Vine Street to W. McMillan Avenue. This project was something like $60-80M, and I suspect the vast majority of Cincinnatians will never drive on that road. Does that alone make it an unworthy project to pursue and complete? How about the $90M or so the city spends on repaving roads every year? If they’re roads the majority of Cincinnatians won’t drive on, which is the vast majority of all roads, does that make them unworthy of our public dollars?

    • grumpyoldbitch

      People are familiar with roads, we all use them. Putting the streetcar up against a road project is always a loser. Goods on the way to market travel over that road, emergency vehicles, delivery vehicles, buses, as well as cars. The streetcar is much narrower in its use and appeal. Maintaining the roads is something everybody thinks gov’t should do. Everybody doesn’t think gov’t, especially one portrayed as forever in the red, should build a streetcar.

      If you’ve ever sold anything, you know, “What’s in it for me”, whether blatantly stated or otherwise, is at the heart of the transaction. Claiming the streetcar is for the greater good of Cincinnati would get more traction in a better economic environment, when taxpayers are feeling a lot more prosperous. There’s a suspicion, justified or not, that this is one more shiny new thing that will mean a tax increase, sooner or later, to cover the costs.

      I don’t have a dog in this fight. I just understand both sides, and why talking points that you think are perfectly obvious, that any idiot should understand (that’s always the tone) aren’t really persuading those opposed.

      It would be funny, if so much weren’t at stake.

    • I agree that the general sentiment is “of course roads are good, provide a value for everyone and pay for themselves.” Just because that is what many believe, doesn’t make it true. I’m not a salesman trying to sell anything to anyone. I am someone speaking about public policy decisions that should be rooted in facts, not arbitrary rhetoric.

      Your example about everyone needing to use roadways is a good one. Let’s explore that a bit more…we have built a massive and expansive roadway system – one that reaches literally to everyone’s doorstep. Our sidewalk system cannot even make this claim. The build out of this system has been paid for almost entirely by the government with our tax dollars, regardless of if you use them or not (road user fees only cover about 51% of their costs).

      At the same time, our transit systems are comparatively tiny. Of course they make up only a fraction of the total travel demand. They cover only a fraction of the population. If you really want to compare the number of people that use roadways for their personal automobiles to the number of people that use transit, then we need to invest massively in transit so that it is provided to everyone’s doorstep as roadways are now. If not, it’s an apples to oranges comparison stacked in the favor of roadways and use of personal automobiles.

      Perhaps you, and many people in the Cincinnati region won’t use the first phase of the streetcar or any mass transit for that matter. I don’t own a car, just as many others do not (approximately 30% of all households along the phase one streetcar line for example). Who is righter as a person that needs to get around? The person who decides to own and drive a personal automobile, or the one who does not? The way we have been investing in our transportation networks has been picking winners and losers, and it has clearly shown that we as a society value those with a car more than those without one. I don’t know if what I have to say sells with the masses (I suspect it doesn’t), but I don’t really care. Our current system is unequal and broken. This outrageous double standard needs to go away.

    • grumpyoldbitch

      Did you miss the part where I said Metro is my primary transportation? There’s no reason to think if the project goes forward that I wouldn’t ride the streetcar at some point. I’ve ridden mass transit my entire adult life, from DC to LA. I know the day to day reality, and all the pros and cons, and don’t need to be talked down to on the subject, thanks. I don’t think roads pay for themselves, and neither do most people old enough to vote. People are simply willing to pay for things they perceive as offering a tangible benefit.

      You know, I had a longer reply, but I think a deal will be cut and the project will be built.

    • Craig Hochscheid

      Westwood, Price Hill and Fairmount cost the City far more in services then these neighborhoods generate in tax revenue. Westwood wants to secede? Fine let them, They wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for their own City services and school system.

    • I think Westwood seceding from the City of Cincinnati would be financially damaging for both, but Westwood would obviously feel the brunt of this pain through much fewer public services. They could do it, but they would cease to have many of the things they currently receive out of being a part of the City of Cincinnati.

      Keep in mind that while Westwood has few commercial or industrial taxpayers, which are the big-time tax generators, they have a ton of residents. In fact, Westwood has more residents than all of Norwood. Norwood has struggled financially for years because they are trying to provide the same level of public services that the City of Cincinnati does, which literally surrounds the City of Norwood, but with a fraction of the tax base.

      So while the City of Cincinnati’s immediate financial picture might improve by Westwood leaving, it would also see its Federal and State funding allocations drop due to the disappearance of approximately 40,000 people. So it too would have to right-size itself, but the City of Cincinnati’s right-sizing would be much less painful than what the residents of a newly created City of Westwood would feel.

    • matimal

      downtown cincinnati brings in more than half cincinnati’s income.

  • Craig Hochscheid

    Will Cranley, Flynn & co also demand that the MLK Exchange & the $250 Million Western Hills Viaduct replacement won’t be built unless private groups raise the lifetime operating costs for those projects?

    • Jeff Meckstroth

      Theoretically he should, as to not create a double standard, but wether he would is a different story. Given the fact that the MLK interchange seems to be his ‘holy grail’, he most likely will not try and finance that via a private partnership. We need to get our house in order and finish the streetcar.

    • Interestingly enough, Mayor Cranley was asked that specific question by a resident during his interview with The Enquirer shortly before taking office. They asked if he would hold the MLK Interchange to the same standard and ask that those property owners poised to benefit from it pay for its costs.

      In his response he quickly dismissed the idea, but appeared to notice that the question trapped him. He said the MLK Interchange impact on the city’s budget is not significant enough to warrant that kind of treatment. He did not specify what that number would be to trigger such treatment, but I figure it is not so much a number and rather a type of project. If he doesn’t like it, then all costs must be covered by those localized around the project. If he likes it, then it’s not a big deal for the city to pick up the cost.

  • KeesKale

    If Cranley’s demands are unreasonable – and clearly they are – why are leaders working to meet them?

    • Mark Christol

      A common mistake of well meaning people who feel they should try to work in good faith.

    • matimal

      Exactly. Appeasement of amoral thugs like Cranely NEVER works. No one wants to be the Chamberlain of Cincinnati streetcars.

    • Eric Hammer

      Sometimes you need to lose a battle for the good of the war. We (streetcar supporters) are going to overpay to salvage the first phase. But we will still be in the game (sorry to mix my metaphors). When the streetcar succeeds (and it will!) uptown will find a way to connect, then wouldn’t an east-west, Mt. Adams-to-Union Station line be great? Then CVG, Evansville, Hyde Park, Price Hill, Mt. Lookout, etc. Build it and they will come.

    • The project was arbitrarily killed as soon as Cranley took office. This was a material breach of a number of contracts, with the most important being the contract with the FTA because it put $45M on the line. Mayor Cranley painted streetcar supporters in this corner…not because he wanted to offer an olive branch, but because he doesn’t believe his outlandish request is one that can be met. Then he can say to the public that he tried to be reasonable.

    • KeesKale

      Agree. Shrewd, cynical, and so sad for our city. Thanks for the great reporting and writing. Valuable part of the discourse no matter the eventual outcome.

    • ArcticSix

      Cranley’s biggest fault here seems to be that he underestimated the city of Cincinnati. He doesn’t seem to believe that Cincinnati is anything more than a struggling midwestern town with no conviction, and thus is trapped in the past while the city moves in the present. The people meeting his demands believe in Cincinnati and know that cancellation will damage the city and its economy. His unreasonable demands were supposed to be impossible, and he found out they were merely unlikely. Now he’s trapped himself with his own demands, and if he loses both Flynn and Mann then not even a veto will help him make Cincinnati the embarrassment he seems to think it is.

  • matimal

    It’s good for this discussion about who pays for what to be happening. Many in Cincinnati are massively subsidized and don’t have a clue. Being able to tell them how much more they cost Cincinnati than they produce for Cincinnati will change the tone of the political debate.

  • jasomm

    The 19th of December (FTA deadline) is effectively the day when the street car is officially dead, yes? At that point they cancel the $45M grant and demand the $4.5M back that was wasted. Forgetting Cranley’s ridiculous proposal discussed here, is there actually anything (audit completion + council re-vote, mayor recall, law suit, etc) that could be accomplished before the 19th that could actually continue the project against Cranley’s will? It seems there is not.
    That being the case I would be curious to here Randy’s thoughts on how, a modern transit system could ever be restarted for the city. It would obviously not happen until Cranley’s term is over, recalled, or indicted for something. But with the Phase 1 Streetcar Project (which was just dipping a toe in the water anyway) effectively made disreputable I cant imagine getting future federal grant money will be easy for that exact project. Would it need to be completely re-designed, or become part of a different project? Would a Post-Cranley city need to complete projects in 4-year-term intervals? Is a BRT 20-30 years from now the most feasible expectation we could have? How should/could things progress?

    • You ask a lot of great questions. I guess I can’t really know how or what will be able to proceed until after the dust settles this week and we can resurvey the landscape.

  • Eric Douglas

    I don’t have a problem with Cranley asking for an endowment to kick in some money. The private sector and nonprofits in this town are going to pay more now than if they had stepped forward when this project was being planned.

    But to see Cranley pit unions against transit is the political bombast we’re used to seeing from him. Is the Metro city subsidy going to be increased at all over the next 4 years, and will those same unions be at his side when him and Mann do their pension reform? Doubtful.

    • He’s painted himself into a bit of a corner. Public sentiment turned on him relating to the streetcar, so he was forced to take drastic measures and make bold promises to others to get them to come out on his side. The upcoming budget and pension reform discussions should certainly be interesting.

    • Eric Douglas

      This is a good quote from Obama’s meeting with newly-elected mayors, including Cranley:

      “I’ve always said that mayors don’t have time to be ideological, and they don’t really have time to be partisan, because they, every day, are held accountable for concretely delivering the services that people count on all across the country.”

  • Mensch1351

    I couldn’t help but think Ayn Rand would be thrilled to hear this kind of talk!! Pray the city doesn’t get stuck ponying up for repairs to your stadiums when they begin to show the signs of wear and tear!! Maybe they should just put a “tax” on everyone who buys a ticket rather than fostering some sort of united civic pride that you even HAVE major league sports here. RAndy — you are absolutely correct in that even putting FORTH this kind of an argument bespeaks one thing — you have elected someone whose mouth opens before his brain fully engages!

    • Mark Christol

      The county is talking about selling off assets already. Need to buy a new scoreboard, you know…

    • While I don’t disagree with the county selling off some of its buildings, I think it’s comical that if the city tries do to something remotely close to this it is called short-sighted politics that demonstrate the poor state of financial affairs at City Hall. Meanwhile, when Hamilton County Commissioners do this it is framed as smart governance done in the light of fiscal responsibility.

  • Ryan T

    National Underground Railroad Freedom Center….
    STREETCAR? Joke. How much did we pay a private firm to project the operating costs? Something like 250 grand? They seriously fucked it all up. Honestly who thinks the ridership will pay for the operating costs? We are in so deep we are screwed either way. The proposed light rail system from a few years back that had trains running from the Suburbs to the city was the way to go. Remember when that ridiculous waste of prime riverfront property (NURFC) was being built and we were told that it would be able to support itself (lies)? Well enter the streetcar. Now I live in the Suburbs, it’s safe, nice, and panhandler free, but I visit downtown often. Sporting events, Horseshoe, hell I took the gf to Senate last Friday. Delicious dogs! But let me tell you what I will never do. Fly into CVG, second worst airport in the country, or ride a streetcar a few blocks to the NURFC. Lol boom.

    • “The proposed light rail system from a few years back that had trains running from the Suburbs to the city was the way to go.”

      Good thing the streetcar system will serve as the spine for a regional light rail system. http://urbn.cc/p3q7

    • Ryan T

      So you believe that money collected from riders will pay for operating costs? I’m not talking about some light rail that will come along in years I mean the streetcar now. Have you been to the national Underground rr freedom waste of prime real estate center? The same people said the same thing about it. Having lived in Japan for 3 years I am well aware of effective mass transit. STREETCAR to me will be a hassle. They don’t have enough tax money to keep the roads nice, but let’s give em a streetcar. When I was at Oktoberfest, how many patrons were from inside city limits and spending $. Now be honest with your next answer. How long until the great knockout game playing, non tax paying, disability claiming, hard working at three am downtown citizens deface, graffiti, or destroy your streetcar? Get the extra cops. You’re gonna need them.

    • Craig Hochscheid

      As you don’t live in Cincinnati Ryan the Streetcar and Museum really aren’t any of your business. And your typical right wing racist code words speak for themselves.

    • Lemur

      ^This right here, this is the truth. Great comment. If you don’t live in Cincinnati why are you whining about the streetcar. Move on with your life.

    • Metro bus service currently pays for about 34% of its operating expenses from fares. Using ridership estimates for various fare levels for the streetcar, I would assume fare revenues for the streetcar’s first phase could pay for anywhere from 25-35% of its annual operating expenses if you were to assume the highest projected operating expenses.

    • grumpyoldbitch

      There you have it, the other side of the coin. While streetcar supporters are characterized as entitled yuppie puppies, I’ve spent 5 years reading screeds like this from racist suburban assholes who don’t support the streetcar. Of course, people like Ryan will never support anything in Cincy, although they may be more malleable now that the mayor and city manager are no longer black, the crux of much of the opposition anyway. I’ve been continually amazed since moving back to Cincy, that black vs white is such a big thing here. It’s so very throwback, like moving back to some ’50’s southern town. And that’s the real difference between Cincy and a world class city, not a streetcar.

    • charles ross

      Cincinnati’s African American heritage (as well as Appalachian) is an asset, and that museum, along with other underappreciated features need to be worked.

      What seems particularly unique about the nati is our type of reactionary right wing black faction as demonstrated by the council members and first ring suburban black voters who cranley marshalled with his wedge against the “rich hipster trolley”. People like that need to be persuaded to see the connection between the Underground RAILROAD museum and the Streetcar, among other bits of the fabric of our city as it is rebuilt to compete with Hotlanta for visitors and immigrants. We now have a whole generation of suburbanites, black and white, for whom downtown is a parking garage and a riverfront, maybe with a venture to Ft Square. The great thing is that in 2013 some of them have visited Washington Park.

    • Neil Clingerman

      The Freedom Center is actually highly regarded outside of the Cincinnati region. The only reason why Cincy doesn’t like it is thanks to the Enquirer who may have covertly racists undertones for trashing the place.

    • charles ross

      Yup, and hey – ya know, Cincinnati (the city) is pretty well regarded outside of the Cincinnati region too..

    • Neil Clingerman

      Most people are completely ignorant to both Cincy’s strengths and weaknesses unless they have ties to the region.

      When I was on break for thanksgiving I went to the streetcar rally and posted photos of it on my facebook, upon returning to Chicago one person brought it up in conversation stating that she didn’t think anything like OTR even existed in Ohio, she thought it was all farmland and cities like Dayton/Columbus/Indianapolis.

      People in Chicago know way more about St. Louis btw, which has stronger cultural ties and actually promotes itself. Both cities are actually just as far from Chicago.

    • matimal

      It’s good to know we’ll never meet.

  • chrisanderson219

    Actually by law, public schools MUST turn in a balanced budget to the state each year. It’s why teachers are cut each year. They cannot open their doors while in debt. If that was the case, almost every school would operate with a budget deficit.

  • TimSchirmang

    “The same is true if city residents want only those along the line to pay for its operations. If the costs must be localized, then so should its benefits.”

    The operational benefits ARE localized. That’s the point. As an urban circulator, residents near the line will realize its people-moving benefits the most. Businesses near the line will realize the benefits of increased consumer traffic. It makes complete sense to have operational costs allocated to these recipients of its local benefits.

    • Then by that logic, why should all city taxpayers have to pay for streetscape improvements in Oakley when only those businesses and property owners will experience the localized operational benefits of said improvements? What about the new police headquarters in Westwood…should only the people living in that HQ’s service area pay for its annual operating costs since they are experiencing the localized operational benefits?

      When I say the benefits should be localized, I mean the increased property values and investment. What will happen under the current scheme is that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of private investment will occur – thus boosting the city’s tax revenues. Those tax revenues, as we already know, will then be redistributed to the rest of the city.

      The 45202 zip code pays far more in taxes than it receives.

      So my point is that if some city residents think that only property owners along the line should pay for the streetcar’s operating costs, then those same city residents should not see the benefit of the increased tax revenues as a result. Those increased tax revenues should then be captured and spent only in the service area paying for the streetcar’s operations.

    • TimSchirmang

      What about the $80M in local funding for construction? That money is being put up by folks city wide. Increased tax revenues should be distributed city wide in return for that investment. Let’s not forget that local property owners enjoy increased property value themselves as owners, particularly during the abatement period.

  • Ben Gaieck

    I wouldn’t dwell on the “dangerous precedents” too much. The whole thing could change again after the next election.