New Payment Technology Allows Metro, TANK to Partner on Regional Fare Card

Regular commuters who cross the Ohio River, either into Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky, are well aware of bringing the required amount of change to transfer between Metro and TANK buses. Other non-seasoned riders, however, were stuck with navigating a complex combination of transfer fees and payment options.

The region’s two largest transit agencies announced that technology afforded to them in 2011 will support the introduction of a long-anticipated regional fare payment card. Metro unveiled the shared stored-value card earlier this month at The Westin’s Presidential Ballroom during the annual State of Metro address.

Transit officials say that the card works with both TANK and Metro buses, thus eliminating the need for carrying change on either system. The card deducts the correct fare amount for each agency so if a rider boards a Metro bus it will deduct $1.75 for Zone 1 or $1.50 for a TANK bus fare.

“We are trying to make this a more seamless and integrated approach to transit.” Metro spokesperson Sallie Hilvers told UrbanCincy.

While there already is a monthly pass that can be used for both systems, the pass is limited to rides on TANK and Metro buses within Cincinnati city limits. As a result, officials from Metro and TANK believe the new shared stored-value card provides better accessibility and flexibility to people who use both systems on both sides of the river.

Behind the scenes, Metro handles the accounting for the stored-value cards so if the card is used on a TANK bus, the agency reports that usage to Metro, which then reimburses TANK for the fare.

“We’ve seen more people buying day passes and stored value passes since we introduced them.” Hilvers said.

The pass is available for purchase online, and at the 24-hour ticketing kiosks Metro began installing earlier this year. TANK’s Covington Transit Center is not yet selling the new stored-value cards, but transit officials there anticipate it becoming available in the near future.

This kind of collaboration is not what has traditionally defined the relationship between Metro and TANK, but Hilvers said that this has been years in the making and hopes that it will lead to even more collaboration in the future.

According to Hilvers, the next goal is to work with local universities to develop a standard student and faculty card that would cover access to area institutions served by both transit agencies. Currently Metro has separate agreements with the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati State, while TANK has an agreement with Northern Kentucky University.

Such changes would seem to bode well for both Metro and TANK. In 2013, Metro reported surging ridership due to the implementation of new collaborative programs and improved fare payment technology.

While the new technology and services are a step toward a broader overhaul of the way area residents and visitors pay for and use the region’s transit networks, it is still a ways from what is considered industry best practices.

Leadership at the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which oversees Metro bus and streetcar operations, says that they are working on ways for riders to get real-time arrival information system-wide.

The challenge, they say, is to make sure it is a benefit available to all users. Therefore, transit officials are working to implement real-time arrival information that utilizes smartphone, adaptive website and phone service technologies. Metro representatives are tentatively saying that they are hopeful such services could be in place by spring 2015.

VIDEO: See What A Streetcar Diamond Intersection Construction Process Looks Like

The intersection of Twelfth and Race Streets is a critical one in Over-the-Rhine, but its importance has taken on new meaning with the completion of the diamond track streetcar intersection.

In addition, this is also the most complex portion of the Cincinnati Streetcar track to be constructed as of yet. The process to complete the Twelfth and Walnut diamond intersection took most of the summer.

While this is not the first time such train junction has been constructed, it is one of the few instances where it has been captured in such modern clarity. The following four-minute video was put together by CitiCable.

As of now, the construction on the $148 million starter Cincinnati Streetcar line has largely been completed in Over-the-Rhine, while significant work awaits in the Central Business District. Project officials estimate that the first riders will be welcomed in September 2016.

In the meantime, an expanded coalition of streetcar supporters are calling for the systems expansion to uptown neighborhoods like Clifton Heights, Corryville, Mt. Auburn and Avondale.

Streetcar Supporters to Announce Expanded Coalition Urging for System’s Expansion Uptown

AcDowntown to Uptown Cincinnati Streetcar Routecording to officials at the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which governs Metro, more than 1,000 of the 1,500 Founders’ Club cards were sold within the first three days of going on sale.

The rate of sales is exceeding expectations, and many believe the remaining allotment will be sold within the next few days. In fact, $25 cards have already been taken off of Metro’s website, with a very limited number remaining at City Hall and Metro’s sales office.

The remaining $50 and $100 cards can still be purchased online, but it is not clear for how much longer due to their dwindling supply.

Streetcar supporters are pointing to this as clear evidence of the excitement surrounding the project, especially given that those buying the cards will not be able to use them until the system goes into operation in September 2016.

“Selling $72,000 worth of fare cards for a starter line that’s nearly two years from being operational shows the level of support and enthusiasm for the Cincinnati Streetcar to finally be up and running,” Derek Bauman, SW Ohio Director for All Aboard Ohio, told UrbanCincy. “This is the definition of pent up demand.”

Of course, there is also the financial benefit. Selling all 1,500 of the cards will net Metro $72,000 in fare revenue nearly two years before the Cincinnati Streetcar goes into operation.

The news comes as Believe in Cincinnati, the grassroots coalition that formed a year ago to save the project from cancellation, has organized a press conference to announce a broad new coalition of organizations and community leaders urging for the expansion of the streetcar system to Uptown.

“While we must celebrate the success we have had over the past year with construction of tracks in the OTR loop nearing completion and the downtown loop well underway, we must also be looking forward,” explained Ryan Messer, Founder of Believe in Cincinnati.

The path forward, evidently, goes uptown, and not to Northern Kentucky even as leaders there are calling for an expansion of the system south across the Ohio River.

“As of today, we still do not have an official plan in place for our uptown expansion that will link downtown and OTR to the University of Cincinnati and the uptown neighborhoods,” Messer wrote in an email. “We are ready to ignite these conversations and be prepared to implement these plans into action.”

The growing support for an uptown expansion comes at a time of large investment occurring along the initial starter line – investment that many streetcar supporters are crediting for the $18 million budget surplus at City Hall in 2014, and the rosy tax receipt estimates for 2015.

“Imagine what the impact will be when we connect Cincinnati’s core, with its 40,000 jobs and growing residential population, to the 30,000 jobs and 40,000 students in the uptown neighborhoods,” Bauman exclaimed. “This vision is as exciting as it will be transformative for the City of Cincinnati.”

The Believe in Cincinnati press conference will be held at the corner of Race and Elder Streets, near Findlay Market, and where track stub has been constructed for the accommodation of a future uptown extension. Organizers say the event will take place at 10am and will show off the new, expanded coalition of streetcar supporters urging for its expansion.

 

Check Out These 14 Amazing Images of Cincinnati’s Inner City Neighborhoods

The first part of this two-part series proved to be very popular. While last week’s edition focused on aerial photographs of the center city, this week’s collection looks at neighborhoods just outside the city center.

As previously noted, Brian Spitzig is studying urban planning at the University of Cincinnati and is an occasional contributor to UrbanCincy. He recently took a flight over the city to capture these photographs.

We went through hundreds of photographs that he took and selected some of the best for you. The following 14 photographs capture views of the West End, Queensgate, Corryville, Mt. Auburn, Mt. Adams, Clifton Heights, Walnut Hills and University Heights.

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If you like what you see here, you can follow Brian Spitzig on Instagram.

Fewer residents, more parking for new Clifton Heights development

Many of us were sad to see the demolition of the historic mansion that housed the Christy’s & Lenhardt’s restaurant in Clifton Heights. At the time, a new six-story, mixed-use development was envisioned for the site, which would have included 210 student apartments, street-level retail, and a 245-space parking structure. However, the Business Courier reports that the development has now been downsized by its developers, although the size of the parking structure has curiously been increased:

The developer is now looking to build a mixed-use building on the 1.65-acre site with about 190 apartment units, according to materials filed with the City Planning Commission. The building will have two levels of underground parking with 380 spaces. A row of six, three-story townhouses with separate entrances will face Lyon Street. Finally, a separated commercial space of up to 9,000 square feet will be at the corner Clifton and West McMillan streets. […]

At this point, the proposed schedule for the project includes zoning in the third and fourth quarters of 2014, permitting in the first quarter of 2015, construction starting in the second quarter of 2015, completion in July 2016 and occupancy in August 2016.