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.
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.
Nearly four months into his new job, Cincinnati Department of Trade & Development Director Oscar Bedolla says that his department is already working to streamline its services to continue to grow confidence that Cincinnati is “open for business.”
His remarks came yesterday afternoon at Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati during a luncheon held by CREW Greater Cincinnati, a professional organization dedicated to providing growth and networking opportunities for people in the commercial real estate industry.
Bedolla came to Cincinnati from New York City, where he served as a vice president in KPMG’s Advisory Practice. In that role, he specialized in project finance and public-private partnerships. He now leads a department with an annual budget of $50 million and approximately 100 employees, who are charged with managing everything from large-scale development projects and housing to human services and the City’s parking assets.
So far his biggest challenge has been rallying the troops and getting everybody on the same page, saying, “People get stuck in a rut and don’t realize that we have to continue to build confidence in the [Cincinnati] market.”
To build that confidence and share it with potential investors, Bedolla said he is building a highly professional staff that understands both the public and private sectors, with a foundation built upon collaboration and innovation sharing.
“The cities I have worked with that have done well are the ones who have implemented things like CitiStat,” Bedolla said, referring to the real-time, data-driven city department performance program developed 15 years ago in Baltimore and soon to be brought here through the City’s new Office of Performance & Data Analytics.
Once that has been accomplished, he says that the real work can begin on the two major areas where he sees opportunity for Cincinnati: capturing and leveraging foreign direct investment, and increasing manufacturing productivity by taking advantage of the City’s legacy infrastructure.
“Cincinnati, with its location, is uniquely placed to be a much larger economy than it is right now,” Bedolla told the group of approximately 75 people who attended the luncheon. “We could see an influx of capital into mature markets [like Cincinnati] if Cincinnati brands itself.”
The next CREW Greater Cincinnati luncheon will once again be held at Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, and will take place on Tuesday, April 14. Registration is not yet open.
The conversations started after Megabus was forced to move its downtown Cincinnati stop this past autumn – marking latest in a series of moves forced by City officials following complaints from surrounding property and business owners.
“Local businesses, through City Hall, requested megabus.com move from 1213 W. Central Parkway to our new present location at 691 Gest Street,” Sean Hughes, Associate Director of Corporate Affairs at Coach USA North America, explained to UrbanCincy. “Megabus.com would love to be in the Riverfront Transit Center, but that was not a viable option because of Riverfront Transit Center operational concerns.”
The issue extends beyond the various intercity bus operators and City Hall. Since the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) operates the facility for the City, and collects annual revenues from it. In October, SORTA officials told UrbanCincy that expanding operations within the Riverfront Transit Center is possible, due to its large excess capacity, but would bring additional costs.
“It’s our understanding that Megabus pays a fee to share transit facilities in other cities,” Sallie Hilvers, Metro’s Executive Director of Communications, said at the time. “As a tax-supported public service, Metro would need to recover the increased costs related to maintenance, utilities, security, etc. from Megabus, which is a for-profit company.”
At the same time, there appears to be growing pressures for Greyhound, which has been operating in Cincinnati since 1976, to potentially find a new location as it is crowded out by new development surrounding the Horseshoe Casino.
While Greyhound and SORTA have engaged in conversations in the past about relocating Greyhound’s operations to the Riverfront Transit Center, little progress has been made; and the two sides still appear to be at a standstill, albeit a softening one.
“No decisions on that front have been made that this time,” Lanesha Gipson, Senior Communications Specialist with Greyhound, commented with regard to relocating to the Riverfront Transit Center. “All potential relocations have to be analyzed and be in the best interest of everyone – the customers, the company and the community – before a decision is made as to whether or not we should relocate our operations.”
With both Greyhound and Megabus thriving as an increasing number of people ditch their cars and plane travel for short trips – less than 500 miles – these conversations appear to only be in the early stages.
While all parties agree that some legal, regulatory and logistical issues would need to be resolved prior to establishing the Riverfront Transit Center as Cincinnati’s intercity bus terminal, it sounds like the primary issue is the financial arrangement. Until then, intercity bus passengers will continue to be plagued by continuously moving and inconvenient stations for the region’s two largest operators; and an underutilized transit facility sitting beneath Second Street.
“Megabus.com continues to work with SORTA to find a permanent location for our stop in Cincinnati,” Hughes noted. “Megabus.com has an annual passenger spend of $8.2 million in Cincinnati and we look forward to serving the city by giving passengers a safe, environmentally friendly way to travel.”
The move is just the latest in a series of moves after Megabus was forced out of its original stop at Fourth and Race due to construction taking place at Mabley Place, and complaints from neighbors about noise and loitering. Those complaints have since plagued Megabus as it has tried to find a new stop somewhere in the center city.
Perhaps the most troublesome complaint has been allegations of public urination at Megabus stops by their riders. As a result, city leaders have been looking for a more permanent stop location that includes public restrooms. This has led to a number of people to suggest Findlay Market and the Horseshoe Casino, near the existing Greyhound station, as possible locations.
But through all of this there appears to be a growing sentiment that the Riverfront Transit Center be used not only to accommodate Megabus, but all intercity bus operators serving Cincinnati.
“There is, of course, plenty of parking available, and riders can wait in a safe and secure enclosed area, out of the elements and with restrooms available,” stated Derek Bauman, urban development consultant and chairman of Cincinnatians for Progress. “Megabus will benefit by finally having a permanent home that was built for just this purpose.”
In addition to there being plenty of parking nearby, the Riverfront Transit Center, designed to accommodate up to 500 buses and 20,000 passengers per hour, also has plenty of capacity.
Beyond Megabus, there may be an even greater upside for other operators, like Greyhound and Barons Bus, to relocate into the Riverfront Transit Center.
“Greyhound could benefit by moving from and selling its current location near the casino, which would then be ripe for development as a hotel or other higher use. This would also save the company millions in capital dollars to fund needed upgrades and rehab of the current facility.”
As has been noted by Vice Mayor David Mann (D), someone who has served as a leader on trying to find a solution to this problem, there are difficulties with getting Megabus and others into the transit center neatly tucked beneath Second Street.
The Riverfront Transit Center is technically owned by the City of Cincinnati and operated by Metro, which uses the facility Metro*Plus layover, special events and leases some of its east and west aprons for parking. According to transit agency officials, these operations generate approximately $480,000 in annual revenue and net roughly $170,000 in annual profit for Metro.
Therefore, any new operators or changes to this structure would not only present logistical issues, but also potentially negatively affect Metro’s finances unless new revenues are collected – something Megabus has not been particularly keen of thus far.
“It’s our understanding that Megabus pays a fee to share transit facilities in other cities,” Sallie Hilvers, Metro’s Executive Director of Communications, told UrbanCincy. “As a tax-supported public service, Metro would need to recover the increased costs related to maintenance, utilities, security, etc. from Megabus, which is a for-profit company.”
Hilvers also stated that while Metro is open to the idea, that there would also be some legal and regulatory issues that would also need to be addressed.
Nevertheless, the Riverfront Transit Center seems to be the logical place to consolidate intercity bus operators. The facility is enclosed, includes bathrooms, waiting areas, is centrally located and within close proximity to other transportation services such as Government Square, Cincinnati Streetcar and Cincy Red Bike.
“Welcoming visitors to Cincinnati at the RTC at The Banks showcases our city and is much more welcoming than a random street corner in Queensgate outside of downtown,” Bauman emphasized. “This just makes sense, it’s as simple as that. Everyone involved should continue do whatever is necessary to come to an agreement and make it happen.”
EDITORIAL NOTE: Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Mann (D) did not respond to UrbanCincy‘s request for comment on this story.
The first phase of Broadway Square in Pendleton is on schedule for completion later this fall. Recently, UrbanCincy had a chance to tour the construction of the project.
This is the first of three phases in the $26 million Broadway Square development. The buildings are being developed by Model Group, and the leasing of the retail and office space is being managed by Urban Fast Forward. Once completed, phase one will include 39 market rate apartments, 8,000 square feet of office and four retail spaces.
The development is located close to Horseshoe Casino and is adjacent to the recently renovated Spring Street Plaza & Playground and “multi-sensory and interactive” Spinnradl sculptures.
EDITORIAL NOTE: All 17 photos were taken by John Yung for UrbanCincy in late July 2014.