"Let’s be bold, not typical, on streetcar"

While the editor’s at the Cincinnati Enquirer have said that they’re not in favor of a streetcar system for Cincinnati right now, the Cincinnati Business Courier disagrees. Business Courier publisher, Douglas Bolton, hits on a key issue with this topic. Whether you like the plan or not, now is not the time to tie Cincinnati’s hands on passenger rail development as the rest of the nation moves forward with a prioritized passenger rail agenda.

“Sure, the economy is generally burnt toast right now – but history tells us that some of the most important companies, inventions and decisions were made during great economic strife. The Cincinnati streetcar should join that list. If Cincinnati and its voters turn their backs in November on a streetcar and rail system this time, we once again will be cutting ourselves out of significant state and federal shifts toward this type of transportation system that are sure to propel other metropolitan regions far ahead of us.” – Douglas Bolton, publisher Cincinnati Business Courier

Bolton emphasizes a couple of important points that are embodied in the above selection:

  1. It is important to do more than just “tighten the belt” during tough economic times, as there are opportunities out there to improve your bottom line and grow revenues. The Cincinnati Streetcar will grow revenues by growing our city’s population in underpopulated neighborhoods and creating new job opportunities through the needs of construction and engineering needs, and by the new permanent jobs that will be created as a result of the new economic development. This will all come while many contractors are offering lower than normal bids to get work during this economy which will save the taxpayers money.
  2. The November ballot item that Cincinnatians will be voting on affects much more than the Cincinnati Streetcar. It will damage Cincinnati’s ability to receive state and federal money for rail projects that have quickly become a political priority nationwide. It would prove to be unwise to tie our hands in such a way that Cincinnati will miss out on these opportunities while the rest of the nation leaves us behind.
  3. Cincinnati can’t afford to rest on its laurels, especially during a time like this. Cincinnatians need to be aggressive in our thinking about how to get out of this economic downturn, and how to be positioned to thrive once the economy does recover. Part of this strategy needs to include a comprehensive transit system that includes much more than our automobiles and limited bus service. Cincinnati needs passenger rail options, and this Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment would kill those options off in a heartbeat.

As Cincinnati moves forward in the coming months more will become clear about the positions of both sides of the rail transit debate in Cincinnati. Much of what was heard in 2002 is being said again in 2009 with this effort to bring rail transit to Cincinnati (second largest metropolitan area in the U.S. without rail transit, behind only Detroit). It is important that the voters are offered correct information and that they hear more than the same old rhetoric used to defeat rail transit in the past. No longer are we able to sit back and let things happen. Cincinnati will either be a part of this new economy and capitalize off of the changing U.S. demographics, or it won’t.

Vote AGAINST the Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment this November.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.