Cincinnati Bell Connector Makes Its Debut With New Branding Scheme

Local transit officials on Tuesday rolled out the first vehicle to bear the colors of the new branding scheme for the Cincinnati Bell Connector. Naming rights for the local rail transit system, formerly known as the Cincinnati Streetcar, have been purchased by Cincinnati Bell.

Under the sponsorship contract, the communications company has agreed to pay $340,000 per year for the next decade. The funding will be used to help cover costs for streetcar operations.

The new graphic scheme for the transit vehicles features the blue and green colors of Cincinnati Bell on the ends of the cars, and above the windows. While some remnants of the original branding scheme remain, the burnt orange color that had become synonymous with the streetcar will entirely go away in time for the system’s opening.

The new branding will be used throughout the system, including on the website, on all printed materials, and on support vehicles. Stations will be rebranded as Cincinnati Bell Connector stations; and several stations already have new signage reflecting the change.

After a photo session for the media, the vehicle departed along Race Street to start regular operations for the day. All five streetcars will display the new branding by the start of regular service on September 9.

DOTE Hosts Final Open House for Liberty Street Narrowing Alternatives

The City’s Department of Transportation and Engineering will present the final two design alternatives for consideration at its third public open house tomorrow night at the Woodward Theater. The study which began in 2013 as a Complete Streets initiative proposed by the OTR Brewery District Master Plan now lives on as a proposal to physically narrow the street by ten to twenty feet on the south side. The new land could potentially unlock development sites along the street.

In its original configuration Liberty Street was once the dividing line between unincorporated territory and the city of Cincinnati. It was a narrow street with enough room for parking and less than two full lanes for traffic. In 1959 the City began to demolish properties along the south end of the street to widen the street to seven vehicle lanes and two parking lanes. The once quiet side street became a thru-way for automobile traffic looking to connect to the interstates and Central Parkway.

As revitalization progresses in Over-the-Rhine renewed attention is being paid to the street. The narrowing is an attempt to stitch back the fabric of the north and south halves of the neighborhood. Because of its configuration it is difficult for pedestrians to cross the street in the provided amount of time and bicycling is unsafe due to the high volume and speeds of automobile traffic.

Initial configurations were many ranging from a restoration of the original street width to preserving the current set up. In between proposals called for a reduction to four or five lanes with bicycle lanes or rush hour traffic configurations. After two subsequent meetings the options are down to two: A five-lane and a six-lane configuration. Input taken from this open house will be used to narrow down to the final alternative. Once that alternative is selected it will be presented for adoption at the Over-the-Rhine Community Council in September.

The meeting is this Tuesday evening, 6PM at the Woodward Theater on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. The Theater is accessible by the #17, #19 and #24 Metro bus routes, and is within 100 feet of a Cincy Red Bike Station located at Main Street and Orchard Street.

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.”

Taste of OTR Returns This Weekend As Expanded, Two-Day Event

The Taste of OTR returns this weekend as an expanded two-day event for craft beer, local eats, and live music in Washington Park.

The announced lineup includes more than 25 of the neighborhood’s best restaurants, food trucks, and retailers selected as vendors for this year’s event. Returning favorites from past years include Taste of Belgium, Alabama Fish Bar, and Dojo Gelato; as well as newcomers Eli’s Barbeque, Ché, and Nation Kitchen & Bar.

Conceived four years ago as a creative way to raise awareness for local nonprofit Tender Mercies and celebrate Over-the-Rhine’s renaissance, Taste of OTR has quickly grown into a signature community event. Attendance has grown exponentially from 2,500 in the first year to 15,000 in 2015. This year, organizers anticipate 20,000 people will attend.

The larger, two-day event will also include several new features, including a Craft Beer Village showcasing locally brewed beer from Samuel Adams and Rhinegeist. A new kid’s zone is intended to make sure the event has plenty to offer for families interested in attending.

All of the proceeds from Taste of OTR go to Tender Mercies – the Over-the-Rhine nonprofit that plans and produces the event, and provides permanent supportive housing for homeless adults with mental illness. It assists nearly 200 residents each year with affordable housing and a suite of support programs such as employment and life skills training and benefits assistance.

Since the event’s inception, Taste of OTR has raised $100,000 for the organization. This year, Tender Mercies hopes to net another $60,000 for their cause.

Taste of OTR will take place Friday, August 26 from 5pm to 10pm, and Saturday, August 27th from 11am to 10pm. General admission is free. For more information about Taste of OTR or to purchase VIP tickets, go to www.tasteofotr.com.

Findlay Market Opens Third Neighborhood Farm Stand To Combat Food Deserts

Access to fresh, healthy foods has become an increasingly hot topic for discussion over recent years due to a rise in consumer interest.

The topic has become even more important for inner-city neighborhoods around the country, including in Cincinnati, that have been largely abandoned by traditional grocers and now lack easy access to these food options – even sparking official government programs meant to tackle such problems.

In line with this trend and in an effort to help address the situation, Findlay Market has been working to grow their reach and spread their product throughout the city over the past three years through the opening of seasonal farm stands in Walnut Hills, open every Wednesday from 4pm to 7pm, and East Price Hill, open every Tuesday from 3pm to 6pm.

And earlier this month, Findlay Market, in partnership with Dirt: A Modern Market, opened their third Farmstand in Evanston at 1614 Hewitt Avenue.

Kelly Lanser, Communications Manager for Findlay Market, says that the stand and will be open every Thursday, from 3pm to 6pm, until the end of October; and will be stocked with products from Dirt, Taste of Belgium, Mama Made It, and Em’s Sourdough Bread.

“We have been working closely with the Evanston Community Council, Xavier University, the Port Authority, and the City of Cincinnati to find the best location in the appropriate neighborhood,” Lanser told UrbanCincy.

The Farmstands are essentially miniature farmer’s markets that serve as an extension of Findlay Market by bringing products from the vendors at the historic market in Over-the-Rhine to other locations throughout the city.

Organizers of the Farmstand program see it as being a critical component for providing access to fresh, healthy foods to neighborhoods that might otherwise not have such options. An added benefit is that fact that the program also supports buying locally produced goods that ensures the consumer’s money will stay within the community.

To help make sure the fruits, vegetables and other products being sold at the farm stand are available for all members of the community, each location accepts the Ohio Direction Card/Electronic Benefits Transfer card; and to make it more affordable, Findlay Market is offering 2-for-1 incentive tokens to customers who use an Ohio Direction Card to purchase food.

“We are always open to launching Farmstands in new communities,” Lanser explained. “While we don’t have any definite new locations at this moment, we are always happy to speak with any neighborhood that is interested in opening one up.”