On the 54th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, Randy Simes, Jake Mecklenborg, and Chris Cousins join Travis for a summer update. We discuss the proposed parks levy, whether GE might relocate its headquarters to Cincinnati, the expansion of Red Bike, and new developments in the CBD.
Community leaders gathered in Covington yesterday to celebrate the opening of the first six of 11 new Cincy Red Bike stations in Northern Kentucky. Four additional stations will be opened in Newport, and one in Bellevue, by the end of the week.
The expansion south of the river is a natural expansion for the system, which has thus far focused on Cincinnati’s center city neighborhoods. After initially launching with 30 stations in Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Clifton Heights, University Heights, Clifton, Corryville and Avondale, Cincy Red Bike has now added new stations in the West End and Northside.
Perhaps more critical for the system’s ridership, however, is the fact that many of the newer stations in Ohio are what operators call “infill” stations. For these, Jason Barron, Cincy Red Bike Executive Director, says that they are looking at locations that focus less on landmarks, and more on where people live car-light or car-free.
“The three busiest stations, by a factor of a third, are Fountain Square, 12th/Vine and Main/Orchard,” Barron previously told UrbanCincy. “We will start to look at areas in the West End like Linn Street, Bank Street, City West and maybe Brighton. We have to look and see where there are opportunities to connect people and make a difference in their lives.”
Once the remaining installations are complete, Red Bike will boast 50 stations, making it the largest bike-share operator in Ohio and the first in all of Kentucky. CoGo Bike Share in Columbus is the second largest with 41 stations following a recent expansion of their own.
After a predictably sluggish winter, it now appears that Cincy Red Bike is on pace to at the very least meet, and most likely exceed, its first year ridership projections. When the system launched in September 2014 the hope was to attract 52,000 rides within the first year. As of now, some 46,000 rides have been made on the public bike-share system.
With the system average 4,600 rides per month, including the slow winter months, the initial projection will be easily surpassed. If that monthly ridership rate increases over the forthcoming summer months, and with the added stations and bikes, the non-profit agency may be able to significantly exceed its own goals.
The enthusiasm in Northern Kentucky appears to be setting the table for even more expansions in the Bluegrass State in the near future. Already, funding is being lined up for an additional station in Bellevue, and the president of Southbank Partners told River City News that they hope to see Red Bike added to Dayton, Ft. Thomas and Ludlow as well.
In addition to Northern Kentucky, additional infill stations are anticipated uptown and neighborhood leaders continue to call for the system’s expansion to the Walnut Hills area.
Red Bikes can be used by purchasing an $8 pass that is good for unlimited rides of 60 minutes or less over a 24-hour period. Those who plan on using the system more than 10 times per year are better off purchasing an annual membership for $80.
Following committee approval yesterday, City Council appears poised to approve a $7.3 million financial package that should bring a 130-unit North American Properties project to reality.
Designed by John Senhauser Architects, the $52 million, 15-story residential tower will accelerate the transformation of the northeastern corner of the central business district, where business leaders have been trying to rebrand it as the Eighth Street Design District for its cluster of design agencies.
As City Hall has done in the past, 3CDC will be used to build and operate a 500-space public parking garage, along with 10,000 square feet of commercial space, which is estimated to account for $16.5 million of the total project cost.
The project was first announced two years ago, and will take the place of the former two-story Red Cross building at the southeast corner of Eighth and Sycamore Street.
While the parking garage seems oversized at face value, it is part of a larger development efforts taking place nearby, including a 115-room Holiday Inn that includes no parking at all. As part of that deal, the City of Cincinnati agreed to build a parking garage that would provide 120 spaces. Originally planned to include 610 parking spaces, the new parking garage will support both developments and replaces an aging public garage that once occupied the site.
The relatively quick procession of this project stands in contrast to the 111-unit residential tower North American Properties recently completed called Seven at Broadway. Unlike this yet-to-be-named project, Seven at Broadway took more than a decade to complete, with an above-ground parking garage occupying the site since 2003.
The apartments at Seven at Broadway are some of the priciest in the city, and were pre-leased at a pace that surprised developers and investors. Price points have not yet been identified for this new project.
The completion of the Holiday Inn and this new residential tower will significantly alter this corner of downtown, but many still view the two large surface lots across Sycamore Street as the final major pieces of the puzzle.
The southern of the two lots is controlled by St. Xavier Church, and the northern lot is owned by Columbia Oldsmobile Company.
When General Electric was searching for a site for their new Global Operations Center, which ultimately located at The Banks, a rendering surfaced that showed an office building for GE on the northern of the two lots. Rumors have once again begun circulating online that the mockups might be or could be related to potential corporate offices for General Electric should they take action on their relocation threats to the State of Connecticut.
The full City Council will vote on this financial package on Wednesday
A newly released report shows that homelessness in Cincinnati and Hamilton County declined in 2014 to levels not seen since 2010.
The report comes from Strategies to End Homelessness, a local leader of 30 homeless service organizations. Using data from the Homeless Management Information System, the non-profit organization said that they saw positive results all around.
The number of people on the streets, which saw a large jump in 2013, returned to 2011 levels. Those staying in emergency shelters also dropped by 7% since 2012, which officials say can be attributed to the increase in people being served by permanent housing programs, which has increased 167% since 2010.
Local leaders also say that this drop is also partially a result of their member organizations’ homeless prevention efforts, which Kevin Finn, CEO of Strategies to End Homelessness, told UrbanCincy in March is one of the most critical factors in reducing homelessness.
Since 2011, these organizations have seen only 10.2% of the people served by their shelter diversion programs later become homeless. Finn says that preventing people from needing a shelter is not only effective, but it saves money as well.
“Homelessness prevention activities work and at a fraction of the cost of assisting after a person is already homeless,” said Finn. “Stopping people from ever needing to enter a homeless shelter just makes sense.”
The report found that men make up 59% of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s homeless population, and that some 66% of those that are homeless are black.
One of the national trends is that women and children make up one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population. In Cincinnati and Hamilton County, the report found that children are 29% of the area’s homeless – 6% of which are children without adult accompaniment. Furthermore, approximately 15% were found to be veterans.
In all, the number of people on the streets, in shelters, or in transitional programs in all of Hamilton County was 7,810 in 2014.
The Cincinnati area received a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant of $15.4 million earlier this year to combat homelessness. This money has not yet been distributed, but once it does, it will be set aside for non-prevention programs.
Local leaders also have reason to be optimistic due to the ongoing investment in new facilities, through Cincinnati’s Homeless to Homes program, to care for the area’s homeless population.
“In 2015, three improved shelters are opening, significantly improving the quality of services being offered to the homeless in our community,” Finn said. “We are also hoping to expand prevention efforts, so that fewer people will have to experience the trauma of homelessness.”
Area transit riders can now download a new app called Bus Detective that offers real-time arrival information for Metro bus service.
Developed by locally based Gaslight, the app is free and available for download on Android and iOS devices. The data has also been packaged so that it can be accessed on the web at www.busdetective.com.
For years the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority had been reluctant, like many other transit operators throughout the nation, to open up their data to the public. But just four months after opening the data, the region’s largest transit agency is now the beneficiary of a free real-time bus tracking app.
“It’s all about convenience. Our customers want to know when their bus is coming, real-time,” says Metro CEO Dwight Ferrell. “Smartphones are everywhere, and transit apps like Bus Detective make transit even easier to use.”
The city’s burgeoning tech community had been calling for local leaders to open more data. So far 2015 has proven to be a watershed moment for such actions, particularly so with the launch of Open Data Cincy.
“We’re huge fans of open data and turning that information into something valuable for the public,” says Chris Moore, CEO of Gaslight. “We also love public transportation and hope the app encourages more people to ride the bus.”
A query of the App Store reveals that Cincinnati may be the first transit agency in Ohio with its own custom real-time tracking application; however, both Cincinnati and Cleveland also have had Transit Tracker – an app that has been tailored to more than 30 cities nationwide – since 2014.
Both applications are free to use, but Transit Tracker can be used on the Apple Watch if users purchase an in-app upgrade. It also offers limited interoperability with TANK and Cincy Red Bike.
While Bus Detective has been available for more than two weeks, it officially launched today.
The timing could not be better, as reports show that Metro continues to struggle with stagnant ridership with what industry analysts call choice riders. Apps like these allow for people, who could otherwise opt for a personal automobile or ridesharing services, to more comfortably plan their transit schedules; and thus more likely to ride the bus.
“The Bus Detective app is a great example of the talent and creativity within our community and is helping make catching the bus even easier for the thousands of customers who rely on our service every day,” said Ferrell.
The app is relatively simple to use. Users just need to download the app and then search for their stop by a specific street address or the closest stop to their current location. From there users are presented with the arrival information for the next several buses, and can save specific stops as favorites for quicker reference in the future.
While the app offers clear bus tracking information, it does not allow users to map their trips. This much more complicated function is best carried out by using GoogleMaps, which Metro was added to in 2011 after the agency opened their data to the tech giant.
The Bus Detective launch event will continue on Fountain Square today until 1pm. Those who attend will be able to learn more about the app, while also having the opportunity to win prizes and take selfies with a full-size, sleuthy Metro buses.