Bus Stop Removal Could Enhance Service Times

As any frequent Cincinnati Metro rider knows, it seems like the bus stops at almost every block in the city. Would reducing the number of bus stops help make bus transit more efficient? A recent study released done by researchers at George Mason University looks at a hypothetical 43% reduction in bus stops in Fairfax, Virginia. Their results are worth checking into. More from Governing:

When bus stops are frequent, not only do buses have to stop more often to pick up and drop off passengers, they also use value time accelerating and decelerating. Those two factors alone can take up to 26 percent of total bus travel times. All that stopping and starting can also increase emissions.

Nationally, most bus riders — about 75 percent to 80 percent of them — walk less than a quarter mile to bus stops. But Zolnik’s study assumed that, in this case, most passengers could walk half a mile to stop, since many of the riders are young, healthy students.

Cincinnati Region Seems Interested by Merger of Local Governments

The editorial we published on Monday has received a lot of attention. Not only has there been a huge and productive discussion in the story’s comment section, but it is generating conversation, all over town, about the idea of consolidating local governments.

The Business Courier looked at our editorial and provided their own perspective on the matter. Cincinnati Blog did the same. Then yesterday I was asked to join Scott Sloan on his morning talk show on 700WLW to further discuss the matter.

Proposed Hamilton County Municipal Mergers

While there has been a wide variety of feedback and opinions, one thing seems to be clear. The way our local governments are currently fragmented does not make sense. It does not make sense with regards to the provision of public services or for the value of taxpayer dollars.

We had already been planning to follow-up on this issue prior to the huge response, but now we feel that the topic really needs to be discussed and pursued even more aggressively.

In the meantime, feel free to listen to the 10 to 12 minute conversation I had with Scott Sloan yesterday. You can listen to it on 700WLW’ website, or you can stream it above.

Cincinnati moves forward with land use study of Wasson Railroad Corridor

On November 14, Cincinnati’s Department of City Planning & Buildings held a public hearing on its upcoming land use study for the disused Wasson Road Railroad and adjacent properties.

Norfolk-Southern Railroad ended service on the line in 2009, and in 2010 the City of Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE) identified the right-of-way as a future off-road bicycle path in its planned 400-plus-mile network of bike lanes and trails.

Local bicycle advocates have since built public support for construction of a paved rails-to-trails bicycle path between Xavier University and Fairfax as part of a project called the Wasson Way Trail.


The proposed Wasson Way Trail would use the Norfolk Southern Railroad right-of-way to create a bike trail from the Little Miami Trail to Xavier University. Image provided.

On Wednesday, however, city officials were quick to mention that the upcoming land use study is just that – a determination of how the Norfolk Southern property and its surroundings might be rezoned in order to protect the right-of-way up until and after the right-of-way is purchased by Cincinnati – not a determination of what should be built in its place.

Already, Norfolk Southern has leased some of its railroad property for other uses. In 2011, a shopping center at Wasson Road and Edwards Road created a gravel parking lot on the disused tracks and another business near Paxton Road is looking to do the same.

Although Federal regulations prohibit railroads from subdividing their disused properties until they complete an “abandonment” process, Wasson Way Trail advocates are concerned that revenue from additional leases might discourage Norfolk Southern from selling the right-of-way to the City of Cincinnati at a future date.

Michael Moore, Director of the City of Cincinnati’s DOTE, stated that appraisals of the Norfolk Southern property fall close to $2.5 million. He cautioned, though, that this appraisal should not be thought of as a sale price, as the terms of the City’s purchase of the property cannot be known at this time.

Multi-Modal Use of the Corridor
At the November 14 meeting, city officials also made a point of stating that the title of the upcoming land use study has not been determined but that it will make no explicit mention of bicycle paths, light rail transit, or multi-modal use of the corridor.


Members of Queen City Bike joined Cincinnati City Councilmember Laure Quinlivan (D) and former MetroMoves chairman John Schneider for a walk along the Wasson Railroad Corridor in May 2012. Photograph by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy.

Construction of a double track light rail transit line in the right-of-way was first identified by the OKI Regional Council of Governments in the late 1970s. Then in 2002, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) planned to build a light rail line in place of the Wasson Road freight railroad as part of its MetroMoves plan and failed sales tax referendum. If the ballot issue had passed, construction of a light rail line would have almost certainly commenced soon after Norfolk Southern ceased freight service in 2009.

The width of the Norfolk Southern right-of-way varies wildly as it travels between Xavier University and Hyde Park. It is typically at least 30 feet wide, but in a few places widens close to 100 feet.

In May 2012 members of Queen City Bike walked the right-of-way with John Schneider, who had previously chaired the MetroMoves campaign. At that time, the groups agreed that conflicts between the proposed bike path and light rail line can be avoided if the two are planned as a unified project.

Further complicating the issue is that small sections of the Norfolk Southern property fall under the jurisdiction of the City of Norwood. These sections are all north of the line’s main tracks, for example the railroad’s former yard tracks near Montgomery Road. As Norwood is not involved in Cincinnati’s upcoming land use study, and Cincinnati of course has no influence in its affairs, whatever zoning changes Cincinnati applies will not affect bordering Norwood properties.

The Department of Planning & Buildings will complete its land use study in summer 2013, but with no immediate plans to enter into negotiations with Norfolk Southern, there is no timeline for construction of the Wasson Way Trail.

Cincinnati’s Wasson rail corridor should not be converted into recreational trail

In the post-industrial United States cities all across America have been left with an abundance of rail right-of-way that once served industrial properties. Cities have since struggled to find a use for these rail corridors.

In many cases the rail right-of-way either gets built over, or makes room for some other use – most typically a park or trail of some sort. The most famous, and perhaps most unique, example of this is New York City’s Highline which converted an abandoned freight rail corridor into an elevated park. In most cities, however, much simpler trails are developed in order to cater to bicyclists and pedestrians.

These are great projects, but in the cases where rail right-of-way is needed in order to introduce rail transit, they should not be done. The acquisition of right-of-way can be one of the most difficult hurdles to clear when developing rail transit, so if you have a prime corridor intact, you should do everything in your power to preserve it for future rail transit.


Map of the proposed Wasson Way Project.

The reason this is particularly important in Cincinnati right now is because on March 6, advocates of what is being called Wasson Way Project will present their ideas for converting the Wasson Corridor into a bike/ped trail to City Council’s Strategic Growth Committee.

The idea is not a bad one on face value, but should it proceed it would eliminate one of the most valuable rail corridors in the city. A corridor that could connect neighborhoods like Hyde Park, Oakley, Evanston, Norwood, Mt. Lookout, Fairfax and Mariemont with light rail and eventually connect those neighborhoods to the region’s two largest employment centers – uptown and downtown – without much additional track or right-of-way acquisition.

“I know of no example in the United States where a former railway that has been converted to a bike/hike trail has ever been returned to passenger rail service,” explained Cincinnati transit advocate John Schneider (aka “Mr. Transit”). “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Rail corridors that run through areas of limited potential transit ridership like the Oasis Line should be redeveloped into trails. It just makes sense. There is less automobile traffic and the riverfront trail provides a scenic ride for bicyclists and connects its users to a string of riverfront parks.

The Wasson Line, however, is ripe for light rail service with its densely populated neighborhood, vibrant business districts and key attractions along the line. The Oasis Line should become a bike/ped trail, but the Wasson Line should not.

Unfortunately the exact opposite is progressing for both of these lines in Cincinnati. Hamilton County officials continue to explore funding options to turn the Oasis Line into a commuter rail corridor, and a citizen-led group is strongly advocating for the conversion of the Wasson Line into a bike/ped trail.

While UrbanCincy supports conversion of some rail right-of-ways into other uses, we believe it needs to be done in a thoughtful manner that considers the future transit needs of the region. The Wasson Line is too valuable to convert into a bike/ped trail and should be preserved for an urban light rail line.

The upcoming committee meeting is scheduled to take place at 12pm on Tuesday, March 6 at City Hall (map). We would like to urge you to come out and support the future of regional light rail in the Cincinnati region, and request that the Wasson Corridor not be converted into a recreational trail.