VIDEO: Use Red Bike to Experience Best of Downtown Cincinnati

It’s no secret that the center city boasts a seemingly endless number of things to see and do, for both visitors and locals alike. Moving about from one destination to the next will soon get easier when the Cincinnati Streetcar opens for service, but, for those able to do so, Red Bike serves as a perfect tool to check out as many places as possible.

By taking transit, walking or riding a bike, you can avoid the hassles of fighting traffic, looking and paying for parking, and can check your concerns about parking tickets or other hassles. Plus, it’s also a great way to get some exercise in the process.

Downtown Cincinnati Inc. knows this well.

To help promote such information, they partnered with US Digital Partners on a video to showcase just how convenient and enjoyable it can be to explore the center city by bike. And thanks to the continued expansion of Red Bike, you can now take it to go beyond Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

If the embedded video does not function properly, you can watch it on Vimeo here.

VIDEO: Family Focused, Center City Activities Abound With Return of Baseball Season

Now that baseball is back, it means it is time for Cincinnati’s tourism season to pick-up steam. The return of the Reds means the migration of regional baseball fans to the Queen City to take in the nation’s past time.

Of course, no season can compare to those like last year, which featured the All-Star Game, or seasons where the Reds are in the playoff hunt. But baseball in Cincinnati is tradition; and traditions are, well, traditions. So with that said, here’s a look back at last summer when the Reds failed to live up to expectations, but still drew millions to Great American Ball Park.

The following three-minute video takes a look at some of the center city’s most prominent attractions through the eyes of a family. And if there is one thing at which Cincinnati excels, it is family focused vacations centered around baseball season.

If the embedded video fails to play, you can view it on Vimeo here.

Food Trucks to Converge on Fountain Square This Wednesday Ahead of Taste of Cincinnati

On Wednesday, from 12pm to 2pm on Fountain Square, mystery diners will be judging food from 11 different food trucks at the Best of Taste Awards downtown. Those diners will try different types of food from the food trucks and score them on a survey.

With so many food trucks currently operating throughout the city, the idea is that the winners will get to participate at the popular Taste of Cincinnati.

“Food trucks have helped grow the Cincinnati region’s national culinary reputation,” said Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber Communications Director, Rich Walburg. “As they expand their presence at Taste of Cincinnati, it’s only right that they be recognized for their efforts and successes.”

Walburg says that the event is also open to the public, so anyone can come and chose their favorites from vendors such as Adena’s Beefstroll, Catch-a-Fire Pizza, Just Jerks, Texas Joe’s Tex Mex; and dessert food trucks like Streetpops and Sugar Snap! Sweet Treats.

In order to accommodate the growing number of food trucks, which first started hitting Cincinnati’s streets in 2009, organizers of the Taste of Cincinnati will, for the second year, host a Food Truck Alley, sponsored by West Sixth Brewing, on the north and south ends of Broadway Street.

Out of those competing at tomorrow’s event, 15 will be granted spots to serve their dishes at Food Truck Alley, alongside live entertainment and seating.

An estimated 550,000 people are expected at this year’s Taste of Cincinnati – the nation’s first culinary arts festival. The event will take place between Saturday, May 28 and Monday, May 30, with more than 60 total restaurants and food trucks.

Second Real-Time Transit App Launches Just Four Months After SORTA Opened Data

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.

EDITORIAL: It’s Time to Consider Moving Major Festivals to Central Riverfront

There has been much rancor over the past week about how or if to operate the streetcar during major events such as Oktoberfest or Taste of Cincinnati. The perceived problem is that the streetcar’s tracks cross the existing location of those major festivals, and would thus pose a conflict.

It is worth taking a look at these festivals and their locations along Fifth Street, along with what other options might exist.

Historical Context
Both festivals got their start in the 1970s, with Oktoberfest tapping its first keg in 1976 and the Taste of Cincinnati kicking off in 1979. While Oktoberfest originally began on Fifth Street, Taste of Cincinnati did not. In fact, it was not until very recently that the Taste of Cincinnati moved to Fifth Street and joined its mega-festival partner.

When Taste of Cincinnati modestly kicked off 36 years ago, it was actually held in Piatt Park. It stayed there for three short years and then moved to Central Parkway, where it remained until 2007 when the renovation of Fountain Square was completed. At that time, it made sense to host both festivals to Fifth Street around the reborn Fountain Square.

When the city’s first modern streetcar line opens next year, it will have been nine years since both festivals were regularly being held on Fifth Street. Following this year’s scheduled events, it will also be time for both festivals to consider moving to even better environs along the central riverfront. Of course, since the streetcar isn’t planned to open for operations until September, that means Taste of Cincinnati could stay where it is without any problems for 2016 as well.

Accessibility
One of the biggest positives and negatives about Fifth Street is its central location and connectivity to Fountain Square – the traditional public gathering point for Cincinnatians. Everyone knows where it is. The problem with it is that it is also all of that for everyday residents, visitors and workers in the bustling central business district; and these events shut down that corridor for days at a time.

With the events typically extending from Race/Vine Street to Sycamore/Broadway Street – a four- to five-block span – they also require a number of cross streets and major transportation hubs like Government Square to shut down. When the streetcar begins its operations, it too will have to alter its operations and only run approximately half of its initial route during the events.

By moving both festivals to the central riverfront they would be able to take advantage of the huge Central Riverfront Garage underneath The Banks, and also be able to take direct advantage of the Riverfront Transit Center, which was custom built for serving massive crowds such as those that attend Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati.

At the same time, Metro bus service and streetcar operations would be able to continue uninterrupted.

Furthermore, unlike Fifth Street, the streets at The Banks do not serve as major access points for the regional highway system, so closing those streets off would not severely disrupt the flow of goods and people in the central business district. Without that restriction, Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati could explore the idea of taking place over additional days, instead of being limited to three-day weekends.

Accommodations
Like Fifth Street, the central riverfront is within close walking distance of the many hotels located in the central business district, but it doesn’t serve as a barrier to them with its tents, debris and staging.

In addition to the hotels, businesses at The Banks would be much better-suited to handle mega events such as these. Buildings and storefronts along and around Fifth Street have been designed in a traditional sense, while those at The Banks have been custom built to accommodate large street crowds and festivals with walk-up windows, fold open walls and the forthcoming open-container law.

In fact, the huge popularity of Oktoberfest has already begun to spread beyond Fifth Street. UberDrome is now set-up in Smale Riverfront Park by the Moerlein Lager House and Paulaner; and the growing number of breweries in Over-the-Rhine are also now hosting special events during the period during and around Oktoberfest. A perfect connection between all of the festivities, as has been suggested by Christian Moerlein’s owner Greg Hardman, is the first leg of the streetcar.

Organization and Set-Up
Fifth Street, unlike the central riverfront, has very little in terms of open areas for special activities. With the $125 million dunnhumby Centre now complete at Fifth and Race, Fifth Street has also lost a large surface parking lot that had served as a staging area for these festivals. Along the central riverfront there are several event lawns that not only offer more flexibility for programming, but also are more comfortable for event-goers than the hardscapes offered along Fifth Street.

Furthermore, while Cincinnatians have grown accustomed to the linear organization of these types of festivals, which may not be the best set-up for them. With the ability to shut down multiple streets at a time without causing problems for traffic flow, The Banks allows for a more district-oriented festival. This would allow people to more easily get from one spot to another, without needing to go back against the grain an entire four blocks to meet friends just arriving.

In addition to all of this, The Banks development and Smale Riverfront Park are only getting bigger. So as they expand over the coming years, so will the possibilities for both of these great festivals that help to define the spirit of Cincinnati and its people.

While the Cincinnati Streetcar may be sparking this conversation, the decision to move Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati to the central riverfront is clear on its own merits and should be seriously considered. Both continue to grow in popularity and set record crowds each year. At some point soon we are going to have to make a decision about how to accommodate these growing crowds.

Let’s allow our companies in the central business district to flourish without interruption, our transit systems to serve huge crowds at full capacity, and two of our greatest cultural festivals the ability to grow and prosper for generations to come. Move Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati off of Fifth Street and to the central riverfront.