Business News Transportation

Chinatown buses offer direct overnight travel from Cincinnati to New York City

Imagine falling asleep in Cincinnati and waking up in Manhattan the next morning. It’s not a dream but another travel opportunity for the Cincinnati region. With the increasing cost of air travel and the declining flight activity at shrinking airport markets like CVG, many people are turning to low cost alternatives provided by inter-city buses.

Unlike the traditional Greyhound model, curbside intercity bus-service has become popular through services such as Megabus and Bolt Bus. These bus companies based their business plan on the Chinatown bus model developed by the Fung Wah buses in the late 1990’s. Megabus currently offers direct connections to Chicago and other Midwestern cities, including Columbus and Pittsburgh, but does not offer continuing service to New York City. Meanwhile, Bolt Bus has no Cincinnati stops.

Megabus picks up passengers along Fourth Street in downtown Cincinnati. Photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.

According to a recent article from the Atlantic Cities, Chinatown bus service does run direct from New York City to Cincinnati. UrbanCincy investigated the claim and found that there are actually two Chinatown bus services that have established direct bus service from New York City to Cincinnati as well as Dayton and Columbus.

Services operated by Coach88 and Sky Horse Bus operate six days a week, and arrive in the morning after a 12-hour overnight trip. According to their websites, buses come equipped with comfortable recliner seating and restrooms. Select Coach88 busses offers free wi-fi access.

However, Chinatown buses are not for the faint of heart. In a recently released report published in Urban Geography, authors Nicholas J. Klein and Andrew Zitcer conduct several focus groups to gauge rider experience on Chinatown buses. They found that the “participants rendered Chinatown and the Chinatown bus as an “authentic” urban experience.” And because their routes are designed to connect different Chinatowns, riders will have a unique opportunity to experience Asian culture.

Chinatown inter-city bus route map. Graphic from ‘Everything but the Chickens: Cultural Authenticity Onboard the Chinatown Bus’ report by Urban Geography.

Both dropoff locations are in commercial lots which make long-term parking a challenge. Both services currently drop off thirteen miles from downtown in Springdale. Coach88’s drop off point is on Princeton Pike Rd. near the Tri-County Mall and Sky Horse is along Rt. 4 near I-275. These locations are near city bus service provided by SORTA, however, both the #20 and #78 routes are located a half-mile to almost a mile near the drop off locations.

Still curbside bus service continues to appeal to many people, including local resident Rob Naylor.

“Curbside pickup also allows for quicker and more convenient boarding process, which actually makes travel time comparative to air travel in many cases,” Naylor told UrbanCincy. “I also found the curbside pickup to even feel safer, because you’re being picked up on a street often in the middle of downtown, so you’re around activity.”

These bus companies are filling the growing market of low-cost intercity travel alternatives brought on by rising airfare prices. It also serves as a missed opportunity for several state governments, including Ohio which could have capitalized on with expanded inter-city rail connections.

Additionally, implementation of a plan to consolidate these bus services under a single destination like the Riverfront Transit Center, first proposed last July by UrbanCincy, would greatly enhance the accessible population base for these services thus integrating the service into Cincinnati’s broader regional transportation system.

Arts & Entertainment Business News

Top bartenders rally at Neon’s Unplugged for leadership cause

Molly Wellmann and Leadership Northern Kentucky have partnered with Neon’s Unplugged and Covington’s Homeward Bound Runaway Shelter to host an event March 31 from 6pm to 9pm at the Famous Neon’s Unplugged. This night highlights the efforts and works of Cincinnati’s premier mixologists.

Wellmann, who is opening her own bar this summer, explains, “Bartending used to be such a respected occupation. It’s kind of fallen away from that, but we’re trying to bring that back.”

Wellmann, a Colerain High School graduate, got her start in cocktail mixlogy by convincing the owner of Chalk Food + Wine in Covington, that she could make classic and craft cocktails. “I totally fibbed,” she says. “I had no idea. I guess it was one of those ‘fake it until you make it’ things. I had to go home and Google ‘craft cocktails.’”

She was soon immersed in the world of cocktail mixology, surrounding herself with the history and lure of the once noble profession, which she now extols to many of her patrons. “I love to introduce new drinks for people to want,” she says. “That’s my favorite thing to do. I love to tell them the story behind their cocktail and give them an experience besides just getting a drink. After they’re done with the drink, they can take the story with them.”

The desire to introduce new things for people to want is what led Wellmann to Leadership Northern Kentucky (LNK), a group of 40 emerging regional leaders deeply immersed in a fundraising project to furnish the Homeward Bound Runaway Shelter in Covington. The leadership group, a program of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, approached Wellmann about helping out with a fundraising event. She ran with it, rallying some of the region’s top bartenders and mixologists to the cause.

Wellmann’s Molly’s Rose-Covered Pectorals is highlighted, as are original creations by Joshua Laichas of Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern; Chris Blagg of The Famous Neon’s Unplugged; Bret Schulte of Down Under Tavern; Stuart MacKenzie of Mayday; Rom Wells of Rookwood Bar and Restaurant; Adrian Bakie of The Comet; K.K. Keller of The Lackman Bar; Kim Denzler of Mainstay Rock Bar; Sam Ginocchio of the soon-to-open A Tavola; and Julie Paul of Maribelle’s Tavern.

A book will be available at a March 31 public kick-off party at Neon’s (208 E. 12th Street). The cost will be $5, and thanks to the generosity of B+P+T Communication Solutions, xpedx, Lucky Rabbit Studio and photographer Tiffani Fisher, 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit Homeward Bound.

Additionally, from 6pm to 9pm on March 31, Neon’s will donate $2 for each of the book’s classic cocktails sold. And for the entire month of April, each of the businesses highlighted in the book will donate $2 for each of the featured cocktails it sells.

“What makes this project special is that, at its core, it’s about building community and making connections,” said Jody Robinson, a member of Leadership Northern Kentucky and chair of the March 31 event. “People are doing inspiring things everywhere. We only have to be willing to look, share and appreciate. Doing the same old thing – where’s the leadership in that?”

Molly Wellmann photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.

Development News Politics Transportation

Induced Traffic Demand Works Both Ways

There is a popular saying that circulates in urban planning circles: “Widening roads to solve traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.”  Planners have shown over the past few decades that adding lanes to roads, while temporarily increasing flow, does little to address congestion because over time traffic demand continues to climb.  To understand it better, we have to understand the basics of traffic.

There are a few factors that determine a road’s level of service for automobiles.  There are capacity, the amount of cars that can fit on the road and maintain an adequate service, and flow, the rate at which cars pass the area under study.  Adding lanes increases capacity, but as development increases, so does demand.  This translates to more car trips and more cars on the road, which in turns leads to traffic engineers recommending adding more lanes.  The cycle repeats over and over again. David Owens highlights this in his book, Green Metropolis:

“When a city’s streets or highways become crowded, for example, the standard response is to create additional capacity by building new roads or widening existing ones. Projects like these almost always end up making the original problem worse—while also usually taking years to complete and costing many millions of dollars—because they generate what transportation planners call “induced traffic”: every mile of new open roadway encourages existing users to make more car trips, lures drivers away from other routes, and tempts transit riders to return to their automobiles, with the eventual result that the new roads become at least as clogged as the old roads, though at higher traffic volumes, and the efficiency of transit declines.”

This cycle can be seen all across suburban America.  In the Cincinnati area, there are cases where planned road widenings do not even meet future demand.  Take for instance the planned expansion of I-75.  By 2020, when construction is slated to finish, the level of service for the highway is projected to be exactly the same as it is now.  Traffic Engineers explain that this is due to…rising demand from automobile use.  It is clear that as long as America continues to spend money on roads, we will continue to facilitate demand for automobiles.

Fortunately the same is true with rail transit.  As pointed out by “The Provost of Cincinnati” on the now defunct Phoney Coney blog, we need only to look at the expansion of the New York City subway out to Queens in the 1920’s as one of the many reliable examples where investing in rail transit promoted growth.

The same location in Queens in the 1920’s (left) and 1940’s (right).

Other popular cases include:

  • The Washington DC Metro spawned millions of dollars in Transit-Oriented Development from Richmond, VA and all throughout the system.  Just recently, a massive $107 million dollar TOD development has broken ground in Northeast Washington DC.
  • The Portland Light Rail and Streetcar lines revitalized the Pearl District, an aging and blighted warehouse neighborhood close to downtown (Sound familiar?).   The area has seen over $3.5 billion in development since 2001.
  • The Charlotte Light Rail spawned over a half billion dollars in TOD development along the line.

In all cases, ridership has met or exceeded projections.  If traffic engineers were applying their same thinking to these systems, they would be calling for expanding these systems further, which is what is happening.

As Dan Bertolet writes at Publicola, “…we will be faced with a choice: Continue to build more roads and thereby preclude progress on alternative transportation, or stop building roads and accept that there is a limit to the number of cars we can accommodate if we hope to a create a balanced, sustainable transportation system and the compact land use patterns that support it.”

The argument is clear, we Americans can choose to waste our money on continuing a lifestyle that has led to increased isolationism, increased obesity and stress, and longer commutes to nowhere — or we can invest in the convenience, sensible and more healthy alternative of rail transportation.

John Yung is an Urban Planner and advocate for pedestrian friendly-planning. Currently the Zoning Administrator of the City of Bellevue, KY he specializes in Land Use Planning, Form-based Codes, Floodplain Management and Urban Forestry. John is currently pursuing a Masters Degree from the University of Cincinnati’s School of Planning.

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