UC Students, Staff Call on Metro to Make Additional Uptown Service Enhancements

University of Cincinnati’s Department of Planning+Design+Construction recently partnered with Metro for an on-campus listening session for input on how to better serve the Uptown community. The two-day outreach event included meetings with students, faculty and staff on both the main campus and medical campus to gather feedback from current bus riders and non-users.

In line with the many other community engagement sessions Metro has hosted throughout the city over the past year, participants were asked how they would like to see Metro improve, while non-riders discussed what was needed to get them to choose taking the bus.

Among the faculty and staff responses, improving east-west crosstown routes and frequency topped the list, followed by adding frequency to the existing 17, 19, 78 (Lincoln Heights) and 43 (Bond Hill) lines, adding express service between Uptown and Liberty Township, improving evening frequency, and adding more ticket vending machines.

Student feedback requested modernizing the fare box; adding evening and weekend frequency on the 19, 51, and 78 lines; improving instructions on how to ride the bus; adding a public display that monitors the number of available bike racks on the bus (currently, each bus has a capacity of two); and integrating the UC Bearcat card as a form of payment for bus fare.

Additionally, staff from the university presented a proposal for a new bus route called the University Connector. Similar to the 51, the route would connect Northside, Clifton, Walnut Hills, Oakley, and Madisonville, with a center circulator around three sides of UC’s main campus.

University staff members believe the route would minimize transfer wait times and improve accessibility to key academic buildings on UC’s main campus, and improve connectivity with the medical campus. But while the proposed circulator service would use established Metro stops, its location in Oakley would not take advantage of the new $1.2 million Oakley Transit Center that will break ground later this year.

As the building boom continues at a rapid pace in Uptown, a growing focus is being placed on improving the area’s transportation access – both UC’s student government and Board of Trustees have recently stated their support for extending the Cincinnati Streetcar up the hill, Metro launched Metro*Plus in 2013 and established the Uptown Transit District in 2014, which features enhanced stations, ticket vending machines, real time arrival signage, and improved wayfinding design.

There is currently no timetable for implementing any of the recommended improvements, but it is widely anticipated that Metro will put a county-wide transit tax on this November’s ballot that would be used to improve the agency’s bus operations.

  • ED

    UC and Metro continue to overlook the large west side student commuter population

    • I wouldn’t say that is true. The Glenway Crossing Transit Center was one of the first neighborhood bus hubs Metro built. Plus, they have added several new crosstown routes in recent years.

      Of course, they could really add a BRT route along Glenway Avenue and/or Harrison Avenue, which could both be very popular.

    • ED

      The main west side-campus circulator (38X) only runs between 5:30a-8a and 3:15p-5:45p. Try fitting that into a busy class and work schedule.

  • Jesse

    Does the university do anything to encourage ridership beyond hosting listening sessions? I bet providing faculty and students with free or heavily subsidized transit passes would get those ridership numbers up in a hurry. If Metro modernized their fare system a transit pass chip could even be integrated into the Bearcat card. Even better than letting people use their card to pay!

    When I lived in Seattle many big organizations, including the University of Washington, provided transit passes as a benefit of employment or enrollment. At the time, Seattle’s bus system was no better than ours. Probably worse. Despite that, the buses to the University District and Redmond were always packed. Almost every rider was using school or employer provided cards.

    Metro certainly could do a better job but it really should not be entirely up to them to get people on the bus. Big companies and especially public institutions like UC should do more to encourage ridership.

    • Lisa Grant

      Yes, they have two bus card options for students. One costs nothing and gets them a $1.00 fare without zone charges, and the other costs a small fee, but gets them free rides.

    • Andrew Pearson

      They actually do have Metro passes for students. Unlimited zone 1 pass costs $53 per semester, or you can get a free pass that lowers all fares to $1.00. The problem, at least in my experience, is the university doesn’t do a whole lot to advertise them. And you’re right, if they want Metro to better serve Uptown they oughta be posting fliers and sending out emails to students every semester. Now that Metro has real-time bus tracking it would be great for the school to integrate the Metro routes that serve Uptown into the real-time tracking system they use for their shuttles. The school also just rolled out new Bearcat cards with RFID, and the press release when they announced the change mentioned that in the future you’d be able to use them as touch-and-go Metro card. It sounds like they’re going in the right direction, but I think the more seamless they make it for students the more riders they’ll see in the area.

    • Staff at UC pays $160 a semester for a pass to ride free. Or we can get an EZPass for free that then costs $1 a ride. I do this is the summer when I bike to work just in case.

  • Joey Saunders

    They can start by fixing the fare machine on Calhoun and Clifton. It has been unable to accept credit cards for months. I have notified Metro a few times and nothing has been done. Last week I saw two students trying to buy stored-value cards but could not.

  • thebillshark

    Here’s my concept for a network of high frequency neighborhood circulators to comprehensively serve Uptown: