On the 46th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, Randy, John, and Travis take a look back at 2014. We discuss our top posts of the year, including the renaissance beginning to take place in the Northern Liberties and new transportation options including Uber, Lyft, and Red Bike. We also make some predictions about what’s the come in 2015, including the expansion of Red Bike into other Cincinnati neighborhoods and Northern Kentucky, new residential developments opening in 2015, and new potential uses for the Riverfront Transit Center. Finally, we discuss the new parking meters and expanded enforcement hours that went into effect on January 1st for the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine.
The car sharing economy came to Cincinnati in October 2011 when Zipcar launched their services at the University of Cincinnati, and expanded to Downtown and Over-the-Rhine in December 2012.
Since that time, however, peer-to-peer driving services, like Uber and Lyft, have emerged and begun challenging the more established business model of companies like Zipcar, which was acquired by Avis in January 2013 and boasts a global membership of more than 900,000.
In the case of Zipcar, the user is the driver, and must return the car to its starting point – a requirement limiting potential growth of Zipcar and other car sharing services. In order to stay competitive, Zipcar has recently launched new one-way services in its hometown of Boston.
“We are currently beta testing the service in Boston with our Boston members,” Jennifer Mathews, Public Relations Manager at Zipcar, told UrbanCincy. “Our plan is to roll out the service to additional markets once it’s ready.”
While one-way car sharing travel may soon be a reality in Boston, it appears to be further off for smaller markets like Cincinnati, as does the availability of cargo vans, which are presently available in a limited number of markets, but not Cincinnati. The desire for such vans, industry experts say, is so that they can be used for more utilitarian purposes like moving. For now, those participating in Cincinnati’s car sharing economy will continue to need to either use a traditional rental company, or borrow a friend’s truck for such purposes.
Since its debut in 2011, however, Zipcar officials say that they have made changes to their operations and 11-car fleet in Cincinnati in order to stay relevant.
“While the number of cars has remained somewhat consistent over the years, we have moved locations and updated our vehicles throughout the program,” Mathews explained. “Zipcar strives to place cars where our members want them. As we see pockets of members pop up in certain areas or neighborhoods we will move cars around to make sure that they are convenient as possible.”
Of course, Cincinnati’s Zipcar network is substantially smaller than other cities, thus reducing its usefulness to more than a small collection of users.
While there are no immediate plans for expansion, Mathews does say that the company will continue to monitor their two programs – University of Cincinnati and City of Cincinnati – over the course of 2015 to determine whether additional changes or expanded offerings are needed.
Those with memberships are able to use those in any of the hundreds of markets where Zipcar operates worldwide. Cincinnati’s 11 vehicles can be found at the northwest corner of Race Street and Garfield Place, Court Street in between Vine and Walnut, the southeast corner of Twelfth and Vine Streets; and on the University of Cincinnati’s main campus on McMicken Circle and just north of Daniels Residence Tower.
Now that 2014 has come to a close, we at UrbanCincy would like to take a moment to look back on what’s happened in the past year. The following are UrbanCincy‘s top five most popular news stories from 2014:
- Eli’s Barbeque, Maverick Chocolate First of Several New Tenants to Open at Findlay Market
This year marked a turning point for the area known as the Northern Liberties in Over-the-Rhine, with several new developments being announced. The first of these announcements was in April, when craft chocolatier Maverick Chocolate and popular East End restaurant Eli’s Barbeque announced they would open at Findlay Market. Later in the year, Model Group announced a $14 million office development along Race Street and Urban Sites announced their plan to renovate the historic Film Center building.
- Uber and Lyft to Soon Enter Cincinnati Market
In 2014, Cincinnatians gained a brand new transportation option as ridesharing services Uber and Lyft came to town. Our own Jake Mecklenborg began driving for Uber shortly after their launch and told us about his experiences on The UrbanCincy Podcast Episode #41. In November, Cincinnati City Council passed new regulations for carsharing providers, and we discussed this at the beginning of Episode #44.
- City Planners Recommend Transportation Overlay District for Wasson Railroad Corridor
For years, UrbanCincy has been following the Wasson Way project and writing about the corridor’s potential usage as both a bike trail and a rail transportation corridor. The project took a step forward this year, as the Department of City Planning & Buildings announced a plan that would allow for both uses. We’ll be keeping our eye on this project in 2015.
- Popular St. Louis-Based Pi Pizzeria to Open Cincinnati Location in AT580 Building
In collaboration with our partners at nextSTL, UrbanCincy reported on Pi Pizzeria’s entry into the Cincinnati market. The restaurant opened in the AT580 Building, which is currently undergoing a transformation from office space into residential. Pi co-owner Chris Sommers mentioned that the company was “amazed at the resurgence of Downtown and OTR” and chose the location based on its proximity to the Cincinnati Streetcar route.
- Findlay Market Ready to Work With Developers Poised to Transform Area Around It
UrbanCincy talked to Joe Hansbauer, President and CEO of Findlay Market, about how Findlay Market can serve as the hub for new retail, office, and residential development in the Northern Liberties.
Occasionally, we like to share a photo gallery or video taken by an UrbanCincy team member or a guest contributor. In 2014, our top five most popular visual features were:
- Take a Look at These 20 Breathtaking Photos of Cincinnati’s Center City
Brian Spitzig shares some of his aerial photography from the Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine.
- Take a Look at CVG’s Abandoned Concourse C Through Ronny Salerno’s Lens
Photographer Ronny Salerno documents the abandoned Concourse C at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport, which serves as a symbol of how far the airport has fallen.
- Check Out These 14 Amazing Images of Cincinnati’s Inner City Neighborhoods
Enjoy more of Brian Spitzig’s aerial photography, this time from the West End, Queensgate, Corryville, Mt. Auburn, Mt. Adams, Clifton Heights, Walnut Hills, and University Heights.
- Thousands of New Residential Units to Transform Downtown
Anyone visiting Downtown Cincinnati in 2014 was certainly aware of the huge amount of construction happening in the urban core. Looking back at this photo set shows how much progress has been made on Seven at Broadway, Mercer Commons, AT580, Broadway Square, and other projects in just a year.
- 49 Shots from the 2014 Northside Fourth of July Parade
Jake Mecklenborg captures some interesting sights from Cincinnati’s most eclectic parade.
On the 41st episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, Jake Mecklenborg tells us about his experiences driving for the ridesharing service Uber. We discuss the types of trips that riders have been making, the best strategy for drivers, the impacts of ridesharing so far, and what other businesses Uber and Lyft could eventually get into.
While Uber and Lyft have been getting a lot of attention lately, following the launch of their services in Cincinnati, they are not the only non-traditional ride sharing services operating locally. The other, of course, is 321-RIDE and has been operating since 2007 primarily as a chauffeur service.
The locally owned and operated company has around 1,100 members presently, but new features, membership options and services are expected to grow that number and make 321-RIDE more competitive in the increasingly congested market.
According to Jon Amster, owner of 321-RIDE, the company’s existing client base is about half corporate and half individuals, and says that they are more of a higher-end service when compared to taxis, Uber and Lyft. He also says that they help those people who are not totally car-free.
“We’re a business that’s set up for a community like Cincinnati and other mid-sized Midwestern cities,” Amster explained. “We don’t have a strong taxi culture here…we have a drive your car to the bar culture, and we understand that.”
The way it works is two workers show up on behalf of 321-RIDE. One of those workers drives the customer home in their car, while the second worker follows them in order to bring both back after dropping off the user.
There are similar such businesses in other markets across North America, including numerous that include only one worker who gets to the customer on a collapsible bike that is stored in the truck until drop-off.
In order to keep up with the changing landscape, 321-RIDE launched a new website, mobile platform and membership options on May 1. Amster says that they are also working with a local developer and database firm to launch a mobile application this fall that will allow for users to geolocate the service and make a reservation in a one- to two-step process.
While the new changes are meant to help continue growth at the company, the University of Cincinnati real estate graduate says that it has not always been smooth sailing.
“We lost $100,000 in the first six months, but eventually paid all of that money back after two years of operation,” Amster said. “We learned from organizations like SCORE and through trial-by-fire, and we’re now a growing business.”
The new model for 321-RIDE allows for customers to sign-up for membership accounts at $8.95 per month, which differs from the previous $200 per year membership option offered. From there, the member’s credit card information is stored so that all ride purchases can be done without an in-car transaction. The average ride fee is around $64, with a minimum charge of $55.
Since 321-RIDE is now a cashless business, it means that gratuity is automatically calculated into the rates.
Amster says that he realizes the more premium service is probably not for everyone, but believes there is a market for ride sharing in Cincinnati at both ends of the spectrum, just as there is a market for steak at both Outback Steakhouse and Morton’s.
As for the new competition from Uber and Lyft, Amster says he welcomes their arrival and believes that they serve different markets.
“I don’t see us as competition,” said Amster. “There are some nights where you’d rather take a cab, but there are some nights where you’d rather have your car home with you.”
There are about 16 to 18 drivers, who operate as contractors, working at any given time for 321-RIDE. Those interested in using the service are able to do so seven nights a week between 9pm and 3am. Daytime and early evening hours are not currently offered, but are being considered as part of expanded operations in the future.