We discuss how the first two years of Cincinnati’s bike share program have gone, what tweaks have been made during that time, and where the system is going next. We also discuss Red Bike’s challenges in neighborhoods that are hillier and not as bike-friendly as Downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine.
The much-awaited Cincinnati Bell Connector opened to the public on Friday, September 9, and gave over 50,000 rides during its grand opening three-day weekend.
Councilwoman Amy Murray, who serves as Chair of the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee, hosted the grand opening ceremony at Washington Park. In addition to Murray, there were 12 speakers including current and former politicians, transit officials, and business leaders. Many of the speakers thanked the streetcar supporters who kept the project going over the years as it faced obstacle after obstacle. Several used the opportunity to call for an expansion of the system, with former mayor Mark Mallory saying that it’s not a question of “if,” but “when” and “where” the streetcar goes next.
After the first five ceremonial rides, the Connector opened to the public around noon. It was free to ride all weekend thanks to donations from Believe in Cincinnati, streetcar manufacturer CAF, Cincinnati Bell, Fred Craig, the Haile Foundation, and Joseph Automotive Group. Each station was staffed with volunteers who helped inform riders about the how the system works, where it goes, and how to pay your fare after the start of revenue service. Additionally, a number of special events and activities took place place near each of the streetcar stations, ranging from DJs to ballet dancers to sidewalk chalk artists. Many businesses along the route offered special streetcar-themed food, drinks, and merchandise.
The system initially opened with four out of the five streetcars in service, but the fifth was put into service around 4 p.m. on Friday and all five continued to operate for the remainder of the weekend. The system operated at nearly maximum capacity all weekend, with lines of people waiting to board at each station.
Unfortunately, the system was forced to close on Saturday afternoon due to a bomb threat. The threat, which appears to be connected to similar threats made over the weekend at the Cincinnati Zoo and two local high school football games, was not believed to be credible, but the system was closed down as a precautionary measure. After a bomb-sniffing dog searched all five streetcars and found nothing, they were put back in to service.
Despite this setback, the system transported passengers on 18,141 trips on Friday, 17,160 on Saturday, and 15,345 on Sunday, for a grand total of 50,646 trips during the grand opening.
After the free weekend, revenue service began Monday morning on the Cincinnati Bell Connector. The fare is $1 for a two-hour pass, or $2 for an all-day pass. No streetcar-specific monthly pass is available, but a monthly Metro pass includes rides on the streetcar as well as Metro buses. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks at each station, or using the Cincy EZRide app which is now available in the iOS App Store and Google Play.
Following a year-and-a-half renovation process, the historic Central Parkway YMCA reopened last month, and leaders at Episcopal Retirement Homes, the company overseeing the residential portion of the project, have recently welcomed the project’s first residents.
The $30 million project overhauled the entire 123,000-square-foot structure and was undertaken by Model Group. The upgraded YMCA includes a new saline lap pool, all new equipment, and expanded class offerings. Officials hope the renovated club attracts 1,600 members by the end of the year and eventually reaches 2,000 members.
The building’s upper six floors include 65 residences for seniors, providing much-needed affordable housing in the heart of the center city. A similar partnership has been tried before with the Parkview Place project in Anderson, Indiana, which also consists of affordable senior apartments located above an historic YMCA.
Nearby, scores of multi-million dollar development projects are underway that will add dozens of hotel rooms, hundreds of residents, and tens of thousands of square feet of commercial office and retail space. Such changes are expected to both raise rents and further increase the desirability of Over-the-Rhine, Downtown and the nearby West End neighborhood.
We talk about the potential demolition of Cincinnati Gardens, as how younger Cincinnatians have stepped up to fight to save historic buildings like The Dennison Hotel and the Davis Furniture building. We discuss the proposed LibertyElm development and whether the originally-proposed six story design was appropriate for Over-the-Rhine. We give a preview of some of the changes coming soon to Main Street and the eastern half of OTR. And finally, we discuss the changes to this year’s MidPoint Music Festival, which has had a long history of being integrated into the urban core but will take a much different format this year.
Photo: The original proposal for the LibertyElm development.
Cincy Stories began as a bimonthly event series with members of the community coming together to share stories from their lives. Now, the organizers are expanding into new territory with more neighborhood-specific storytelling events and a “story gallery” in Walnut Hills.
The new Cincy Stories Story Gallery is located in the Trevarren Flats development in Walnut Hills, in a retail space provided by the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation. In the space, visitors will be able to watch videos of previous storytellers and even step into the “story booth” and record one of their own. Although the space opened last week, an official opening party is being held this Friday from 6-10 p.m. Food and refreshments from Fireside Pizza and Woodburn Brewery will be provided.
Cincy Stories’ main event also will return to MOTR Pub this evening. Starting at 7 p.m., visitors will hear stories from Nina Wells, Brandon Black, Megan Trischler, Joi M. Sears, Kathy Holwadel, and Reginald Harris, as well as music from Asylum.