Public Library Preparing Weekend of Themed Events for Streetcar Grand Opening

Large crowds are expected to descend upon Cincinnati’s center city for the grand opening of what is now being called the Cincinnati Bell Connector following a $3.4 million, 10-year naming rights agreement with the telecommunications company.

Grand opening ceremonies are planned for Friday, September 9 in front of Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine, but special events are planned throughout the entire weekend. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, which has its main branch located along the Cincinnati Bell Connector’s first phase, is getting in on the festivities with a weekend of its own programming.

On Friday, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County will host a special exhibit opening for Cincinnati Transportation: Past, Present and Future at 4pm inside the Main Library’s Reading Garden Lounge. Library officials say that the exhibit is free and open to the public, and will stay on display until January 9, 2017 in the library’s Atrium space.

Then, on Saturday, Patricia Van Skaik, the library’s Genealogy & Local History Department Manager, will host a discussion about the lives of Cincinnati’s early streetcar workers. Family Affair: Cincinnati’s Early Streetcar Drivers, Conductors and Mechanics will start at 1pm.

To close out the weekend of themed events, Moving Cincinnati: A History of Trolleys, Cable Cars, Inclines and Streetcars will take place at 2pm. This event will feature a lecture from local historian and author, Robert J. Wimberg, about the transportation history of Cincinnati.

Library officials are particularly engaged with the opening events due to their prominent located along the starter line. In fact, one of the Cincinnati Bell Connector’s stations is located immediately outside of the Main Library at the northwest corner of Eighth and Walnut Streets.

The Cincinnati Bell Connector is the first modern streetcar system of its kind in this region of the country; and it represents a return of surface running rail transit to Cincinnati’s streets after a 65-year absence.

Is Cincy RedBike America’s Most Financially Successful Bike-Share System?

RedBike Monthly Ridership Totals

RedBike Monthly Ridership Totals

Since launching nearly two years ago, RedBike has been embraced by the region in a way even the bike-share system’s early proponents had not imagined.

When RedBike opened to the public on September 15, 2014 it included 29 stations, but has since swelled to 57 stations spanning two states, four cities and more than a dozen neighborhoods. The ability to expand and integrate the system across state and city lines is particularly notable as it is a feat most other bike-share systems in North America have not yet achieved.

This relatively rapid expansion has been fueled by higher than expected ridership. As of early July, RedBike had hosted 116,739 rides – or about 5,300 per month. Bolstered by more than 1,500 annual members, these ridership totals translate into some 17,683 different people who have ridden a RedBike.

“Red Bike has gotten off to a dream start. Our community has embraced this new form of transportation,” Leslie Maloney, President of the Red Bike Board of Directors and Senior Vice President of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, said in a prepared release. “We will work to continue providing the highest quality and most fun transportation option in Cincinnati.”

Following the trends of bike-share systems elsewhere throughout the world, approximately 74% of its riders have either never ridden a bike before or at least not within the month before RedBike opened. This data makes many bike advocates in the region looking for ways to improve road safety for the surge of new cyclists out on the streets.

The biggest news in RedBike’s recently released annual report, however, pertains to its finances.

While many bike-share systems around the country have struggled financially, RedBike has been able to operate in the black since its inception, and has grown its cash reserves year-over-year.

In 2014 RedBike had a total of $234,251 in expenses and $1,144,911 in revenues. That net income grew in 2015 when the bike-share system had $484,389, but $1,740,792 in revenues. This net income, RedBike officials say, is used to purchase capital equipment necessary to keep the system fully functional.

While it is difficult to find bad news in the financial details released by RedBike, one might look at the fact that direct program income (user fees) cover only 65% of program expenses. When factoring in sponsorships, a fairly reliable and steady stream of income, it covers nearly 118% of program expenses.

All of the other income sources help to further stabilize the system, keep it operating at reliable and optimal levels, and are helping build a reserve fund that could be used to offset unexpected capital expenses or lower than anticipated operational performance.

UC Health is thrilled to be the presenting sponsor of the RedBike program,” said Dr. Richard P. Lofgren, President and CEO of UC Health. “As someone who lives downtown, all I have to do is look outside to see how successful this program is, and how bike share has been embraced by the citizens of Cincinnati.”

Maplewood Kitchen and Bar adds breakfast option to center city’s offerings

The owners of Thunderdome Restaurant Group first became popular with their Bakersfield restaurant in Over-the-Rhine. Since then the ownership group has opened several other concepts, including the newly opened Maplewood Kitchen and Bar.

Described as being California-inspired, Maplewood specializes in their brunch offerings, and is located in the 84.51º Building on Race Street downtown. While many of the new restaurant offerings in the center city are opened late into the night, Maplewood Kitchen and Bar adds another option for those looking for breakfast options. They’re open from 7am to 3pm Monday through Saturday.

More from the Business Courier: Maplewood Kitchen and Bar adds breakfast option to center city’s offerings

Nine Giant Brewing finally opens up shop in Pleasant Ridge

Pleasant Ridge seems to be part of the next batch of neighborhoods poised for a surge of private investment. In fact, some of that investment is already flowing into Pleasant Ridge in the form of several new business openings over recent months – the latest of those being Nine Giant Brewing, which opened to the public on Saturday.

UrbanCincy was the first to report that Nine Giant Brewing would open up their brewery and restaurant in the heart of the neighborhood’s business district back in 2015. Now that the renovations and permitting is finally complete, Cincinnatians buzzing about the news from last year, can now go and check it out. They’re open on Wednesdays from 4pm to 10pm, Thursdays from 4pm to 11pm, Fridays from 4pm to 12am, Saturdays from 12pm to 12am, and Sundays from 12pm to 8pm.

More from the Enquirer: Nine Giant Brewing opens in Pleasant Ridge

Hamilton Looking At Possibility of Developing Urban Trail on City’s West Side

The City of Hamilton is looking at the possibility of acquiring approximately 36.5 acres of land from CSX Corporation following its filing for abandonment of the former freight railroad. If city officials ultimately decide to proceed with the purchase, the plan will be to turn it into an urban bike and pedestrian trail on Hamilton’s inner west side.

Running from CSX’s main line in Millville to the former Champion Paper Mill, which is in the process of being redeveloped into a youth sports and entertainment complex, the property also includes a former railyard near the Great Miami River at Two Mile Creek.

Hamilton’s west side neighborhoods currently lack any protected bike lanes or off-street bike paths. As a result, the possibility of adding such an amenity has community leaders excited.

“The proposed Beltline trail will be of great value to our community,” said Hamilton Councilman Rob Wile. “By connecting these neighborhoods to our existing trail infrastructure we open up a number of convenient outdoor recreational opportunities to our residents.”

Earlier in the year city officials hosted public hearings to gather feedback on the concept, and are continuing to gather feedback through an online survey. The results, they say, will help determine whether they should ultimately pursue the project.

“The survey lets the City know what kind of benefits residents see in the trail, how often they may use it, what potential negative aspects or problems may occur with it; and is being used to see what generally the public thinks about the potential trail,” Nicholas Garuckas, City Management Fellow inside Hamilton’s Office of the City Manager, explained to UrbanCincy.

“The [survey] results are carefully being looked at and considered in helping determine whether or not the City should be moving forward with this project or not.

In the meantime, Garuckas says that City Hall is moving forward with an appraisal of the land’s value, along with assessing the possibility of various grants from agencies like the Ohio Public Works Clean Conservation Fund, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Dopplet Family Fund, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Clean Ohio Trail Fund, and Recreational Train Fund.

The project follows a pattern of other more marque urban trail projects around the country that are transforming former industrial rail corridors into park and recreation space for under-served urban communities.

Last June, Chicago celebrated the opening of its 2.7-mile trail called The 606. Atlanta, meanwhile, has been opening segments of its much larger 33-mile BeltLine project in phases over recent years. Nearby, in Cincinnati, city officials are poised to acquire an abandoned 7.6-mile freight rail line in its eastern neighborhoods for what is being called the Wasson Way project.

While smaller in scope, the approximately 2.7-mile Hamilton Beltline has, at least initially, has gained the support of Hamilton City Council, and is rooted in the city’s planning documents. In fact, city officials explain that the idea for the project came out of discussions about what to do with the Champion Paper Mill complex and surrounding areas.

“This project is part of the bike path master plan and it will be an asset to all those who enjoy the outdoors including walkers and joggers,” Wile concluded.

If Hamilton is successful in acquiring the land, it would add significant recreational facilities and new transportation options to the city’s west side. If abandonment proceedings continue without Hamilton moving to purchase the property, it will instead be sold off in piecemeal fashion to private owners.