Cincinnati’s $109M Capital Acceleration Plan Ignores Adopted Bike Policy

On Thursday, the City of Cincinnati celebrated the start of its bold, new road rehabilitation effort. The six-year program will include the resurfacing and rehabilitation of aging streets, replacement of city vehicles outside of their life cycle, and establish a new focus on preventive road maintenance that city officials will save money in the long-run.

The $109 million Capital Acceleration Plan is a strategic policy shift at City Hall, and represents a large infusion of money into road repair. The new focus on preventive maintenance is particularly noticeable as it represents an eight-fold increase in spending on that front.

“This is much bigger than just spending money to improve the condition of local streets. CAP is about making an investment in the city and people who live here,” City Manager Harry Black said in a prepared release. “This strategic investment in our roadways and infrastructure will serve as the foundation of Cincinnati’s sustained long-term growth.”

City officials say that the investments will improve the condition of 940 center-line miles of streets over the next six years. In its first year, its $10.6 million for street rehabilitation and $4 million for preventive maintenance, officials say, will impact 16 different neighborhoods and improve 120 center-line miles of roads.

With so many streets poised to be improved over the coming years, many people advocating for safer bicycling and walking conditions on the city’s roadways were optimistic that across-the-board improvements could be made. In fact, their cause for optimism is not without cause. The City of Cincinnati’s Bicycle Transportation Plan, which was adopted by City Council in June 2010, calls for incremental improvements to the city’s bike network as road resurfacing projects take place.

“Many of the facilities recommended in this plan can be implemented in conjunction with already scheduled street rehabilitation projects,” the Bicycle Transportation Plan notes. “When this coordination occurs, costs for implementing the bicycle facilities may be reduced by over 75%.”

According to officials at the Department of Transportation & Engineering, such savings can be achieved since the capital costs can be shared for both sets of improvements, and labor costs can be maximized.

The Bicycle Transportation Plan goes on to state that City Hall will be opportunistic and take advantage of every occasion where bicycle facilities can be included with street rehabilitation projects or other capital projects. Taking such an approach, the adopted policy says, “will reduce costs to the lowest levels possible.”

City Hall, however, has fallen woefully behind on the implementation of the recommendations made in the Bicycle Transportation Plan; and the current administration has even made a point of noting that they do not generally support the idea of on-street bike facilities. Rather, Mayor John Cranley (D) and his administration have focused on investing in off-street recreational bike trails.

Such an approach has left many people who use bikes as a means of transportation frustrated; and with $69 million of CAP going toward road improvement projects, it would seem like a great opportunity to maximize the improvements by performing these projects in a manner that also improves safety conditions for the city’s rapidly growing number of people commuting by bike.

Based on statements from City Hall, however, it seems that it will prove more so to be an opportunity lost; and put the city in an impossible position to meet its adopted policy objectives within their target time frames.

Neighborhood Development Strategies Focus of Niehoff Urban Studio Event

Cincinnati is a city known for its unique and dynamic neighborhoods; and over the past few years many of these neighborhoods have transitioned through the work and dedication of community development groups, active and engaged stakeholders and residents, and the assistance of leading experts in the field.

Successes like new developments, restoration of historic buildings, and implementation of placemaking strategies, however, have not come without challenges and lessons learned. Building healthy and resilient places, such as in some of the neighborhoods of Cincinnati, is the focus of this semester’s Neihoff Studio open house.

The Niehoff Urban Studio and UrbanCincy have invited several community development experts to gather for an in-depth discussion on creating success in several of Cincinnati’s great neighborhoods on Thursday, April 21.

Building on the second year of the Building Healthy and Resilient Places theme, the open house is the culmination of a semester-long effort by DAAP students working with six neighborhoods in Cincinnati and Covington to identify potential redevelopment opportunities in neighborhoods such as Roselawn, College Hill, Walnut Hills, East Walnut Hills, North Avondale, Price Hill, and downtown Covington.

Kathy Schwab, of LISC, will present awards to the winning student group.

“Our theme is Building Healthy and Resilient Places, and students are encouraged to make places that promote health in a number of categories,” Frank Russell, Director of the UC Niehoff Studio told UrbanCincy. “Above all students were challenged with how to make form and program that would make these NBDs ‘centers of activity’ in accordance with Plan Cincinnati.”

The event will culminate with a panel of experts moderated by UrbanCincy. Panelists include Phil Denning from the City of Cincinnati Department of Economic Development; Kathleen Norris, who is the Principal and founder of Urban Fast Forward, a real-estate consulting firm; and Seth Walsh with the Community Development Corporation Association of the Greater Cincinnati.

The event will kick off at the Niehoff Urban Studio Community Design Center on Short Vine at 5pm this Thursday, with the panel discussion starting at 6pm. The event is easily accessible by Red Bike with a station conveniently located across the street. It is also accessible via Metro Bus Routes #24, #19 and Metro Plus.

PHOTOS: Holidays in the City [Cincinnati]

It has been quite a year in Cincinnati and it’s easy to sometimes get caught up in all the drama and miss out on the everyday beauty around you. This has been particularly true in Cincinnati this holiday season, but we asked one of our favorite local photographers, Brian Spitzig, to go around and gather some photographs these past two months.

If his name sounds familiar, that might be because you are remembering when we featured two of Brian’s tilt-shift videos on UrbanCincy in February 2012 and March 2012.

After reaching out to Brian again he put together the following collection of 48 photographs from all over the city that capture it in its holiday splendor. If you like Brian’s photos as much as we do, then please follow him on Twitter @b_spitz and on Instagram @bspitz.

This will be our last post this year, but we hope you all had a very wonderful 2013 and wish you the best in the year to come. Enjoy!

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Standing Room Only Crowd Packed Metropolis & Mobility Event

On Friday, April 19, UrbanCincy partnered with the Niehoff Urban Studio and hosted an event that showcased student work and included expert analysis and discussion of urban mobility issues in Cincinnati.

Approximately 100 people showed up to the collaborative studio space in Corryville to view the student work, and learn more about the challenges facing Cincinnati today and in the future.

Metropolis & Mobility: Bus Rapid Transit and Bikeway Planning focused on five proposed bus rapid transit and three bikeway corridors throughout Cincinnati. Engineering and planning students were paired together in groups to examine the issues and propose implementation strategies for those potential projects.

Students examining bus rapid transit focused on the Reading Road, Downtown, Hamilton Avenue, Vine Street, and Montgomery Road corridors. The students studying bikeway planning, meanwhile, examined the Wasson Way and Western Riverfront Trail and Mill Creek Greenway.

The event also included an expert panel discussion between Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) CEO Terry Garcia Crews, Parsons Brinckerhoff senior transportation planner Tim Reynolds, and Cincinnati Bike Center general manager Jared Arter.

Those interested in listening to the panel discussion can do so by streaming it online, or by subscribing to The UrbanCincy Podcast on iTunes and downloading episode 19.

One of the student proposals was to activate the Riverfront Transit Center and utilize it as a station for BRT and commuter express routes. Just four days after the Metropolis & Mobility event, the Business Courier reported that Metro was interested in doing just that.

Those who attended the event were also able to vote on their favorite project, which will then be profiled right here on UrbanCincy.com in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please enjoy the video put together on the Metropolis & Mobility event by our contributing videographer Andrew Stahlke.

Metro Seeking Public Feedback on Proposed City-Wide Bus Enhancements

Following a year of ridership growth, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) will roll out a series of improvements to its Metro bus service this year. Agency officials say that the improvements will be rolled out in two phases.

The first round will go into effect this August and will include significant service enhancements at the new Glenway Crossing Transit Center on the west side.

A new Route 32 will provide all-day service between Price Hill and Downtown, a modified Route 64 will connect Westwood with retail on Ferguson Road and the transit center, and new connections will be offered to Route 38X to Uptown and Route 77X to Delhi. Additional service will also be added to Route 19 along Colerain Avenue and Route 33 along Glenway Avenue.

Metro Plus Bus
New Metro*Plus buses were revealed to the public this week, and will be in operation by August. Image provided.

New direct crosstown services, from the Glenway Crossing Transit Center, will take riders to Oakley via the new Mercy Health West Hospital on Route 41, and to the new Uptown Transit District and onto Hyde Park via Route 51.

The transit agency will also begin operating the new pre-bus rapid transit (BRT) service, called Metro*Plus, between Kenwood and the Uptown Transit District this August.

Officials envision Metro*Plus as offering faster service through fewer stops and enhanced visibility through uniquely designed buses and more robust bus stops. The service will initially connect Uptown with the Kenwood area via Montgomery Road, but will be judged for consideration along another six corridors throughout the region.

Attend our free event this Friday from 5pm to 7:30pm at the Niehoff Studio in Corryville on bus rapid transit and bikeway planning that will include an expert panel discussion and open house.

The improvements are a result of SORTA’s 2012 planning efforts, and will be reviewed to determine whether or not the changes should stay in effect.

“Last year, we listened to the community’s suggestions and, as a result, are proposing a number of service changes to better meet our customers’ needs and attract new riders,” Terry Garcia Crews, Metro CEO, stated in a prepared release. “We’re ready to go forward with improvements that will make Metro more efficient, more convenient, and easier to ride.”

Potential Cincinnati BRT Corridors

Officials say that the second round of enhancements will be rolled out this December and will include added service to Route 20 along Winton Road, Route 78 along Vine Street, Route 31 crosstown service, Route 43 along Reading Road, and faster service on Route 1 between the Museum Center and Eden Park.

It is also expected that the four transit boarding areas, that form the $6.9 million Uptown Transit District, will also be complete by the end of the year, and taking on the additional service to the region’s second largest employment center, and one of the city’s fastest growing population centers.

SORTA officials emphasize that the changes are all short-term in nature, and that they would like public feedback on the adjustments. Officials also state that the improvements are being made within Metro’s 2013 operating budget, and will not require fare increases.

Metro will host a public meeting on Wednesday, May 1 from 8am to 5:30pm at the Duke Energy Convention Center (South Meeting Room 232). Officials say that visitors can come anytime during those hours, and that presentations will be offered every hour on the hour.

Comments can also be submitted online, by email at routecomments@go-metro.com, fax at (513) 632-9202, or mail to 602 Main Street, Suite 1100, Cincinnati, OH 45202. The deadline for public comments is May 1, 2013.