Metro’s Bus, Streetcar Services Providing Ample Options For Bengals’ Home Opener

Town Center Garage Streetcar RouteThe Bengals will host their first home game of season this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. A capacity crowd is expected to fill the stands, and city leaders are looking to provide a variety of options for fans to easily get to and from the game safely.

One of those options includes the newly opened Cincinnati Bell Connector. Operating from the northern reaches of Over-the-Rhine to The Banks – just two blocks from Paul Brown Stadium – the streetcar vastly expands the reach of those walking to the game from their home or from their car.

As such, City Hall is offering a first-of-its-kind parking special at the Town Center Garage on Central Parkway. Located within two blocks of two different streetcar stations, parking at Town Center Garage will be offered for just $10 on game days; and the first 100 cars will receive four free streetcar passes.

“The Town Center Garage is a natural extension of game day parking options, and its proximity to two streetcar stops makes it a natural fit for fans looking to save money and avoid game day traffic,” said Oscar Bedolla, Director of Cincinnati’s Department of Community and Economic Development.

City officials are encouraging fans to come early on game day to enjoy all the offerings along the Cincinnati Bell Connector route, including the tailgate party at The Banks, watch party on Fountain Square and numerous bars, restaurants and shops throughout Over-the-Rhine.

“What we are looking to do here is take full advantage of the link that the Cincinnati Bell Connector offers from Over-the-Rhine to Downtown, to the benefit of football fans,” Parking Division Manager Daniel Fortinberry said in a prepared statement. “We see this as a fun way for fans to get to and from the game.”

The first weekend the streetcar was open saw more than 50,000 riders take advantage of free service. The second weekend, which coincided with Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, saw more than 29,000 riders pay to ride the Cincinnati Bell Connector. With large crowds expected at the Bengals game and MidPoint Music Festival, another large number of riders is anticipated for this weekend.

In addition to the parking special and streetcar service, Metro has again partnered with Miller Lite to offer free rides on Metro bus service from 7am to midnight this Sunday.

While the special partnership is an effort to cut back on drunk driving, it also offers Cincinnatians a good chance to check out Metro bus service for free – not just going to the game, but anywhere on Metro’s regional system.

“As a transit system, the safety of our customers is always our top priority,” said Dwight Ferrell, Cincinnati Metro CEO & General Manager. “Thanks to Miller Lite, Bengals fans will now be able to enjoy the game even more by letting Metro be their designated driver with free rides to and from the stadium.”

The Bengals (1-1) will take on the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos (2-0) this Sunday at 1pm along the central riverfront at Paul Brown Stadium.

PHOTOS: $30M Renovation of Historic YMCA Building Now Complete

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.

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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.

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.

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.”