Business Development News Politics Transportation

Hundreds turn out to support rail transit, raise more than $11k for campaign

More than 250 people from all over Cincinnati poured into Grammer’s last Wednesday, February 16. They gathered to, once again, rally for the future of Cincinnati. Some were there for the future of rail transit in the region, others for smart governance, others for economic growth, but most were there to specifically show their support for the city’s modern streetcar system that will break ground in the coming months.

The fundraising and kickoff event was organized by Cincinnatians for Progress – the group that won with voters in 2009 when the same opposition groups threatened to change Cincinnati city governance into a California-style government by referendum. Now, the same group is mobilized to defeat a similar yet more pointed attack on rail transit.

In 2009 the non-profit group organized thousands of Cincinnatians to campaign with them. It appears the same group is ready and willing to fight against a new measure that would prohibit the city from spending any money on light rail or streetcars for the next decade.

“It’s great for us,” says founder Brad Thomas. “We have a broad-based coalition of support that is still fired up from Issue 9 and is ready to go to battle for the future of light rail and streetcars in Cincinnati.”

The broad-based coalition of support Thomas speaks of includes the likes of prominent business groups, community councils, prominent politicians and community leaders, labor unions, environmental groups, minority groups, regional planning authorities, and transportation groups.

At the first kick-off meeting for what will be a fight leading towards another November ballot item, Cincinnatians for Progress raised more than $11,000.

“This is evidence that while there may be a small group of individuals that want to limit Cincinnati’s growth, there are more people who are passionate about the future of our city,” exclaimed CFP co-chair Rob Richardson. “This will be another long and hard fought campaign, but Wednesday demonstrated that we are up for the fight.”

To get involved in the second rail transit fight in two years sign up with Cincinnatians for Progress, donate to the effort, get registered to vote, and tell your friends and family how important light rail and streetcars are to the future of Cincinnati.

Development News Politics Transportation

Time to fight for light rail and streetcars in Cincinnati – AGAIN

It appears as if the special interest group that led the effort to require a vote on all passenger rail transportation in Cincinnati is now leading an effort to outright ban all passenger rail transportation in Cincinnati.

The anti-spending group COAST evidently did not get the message from Cincinnatians who voted nearly 2:1 in November 2009 when they voted in support of passenger rail. So, after asking if city residents wanted to vote on every passenger rail investment, and getting a resounding no, they are doing what they want and asking city residents to vote on passenger rail investments. Specifically at hand would be any investments in streetcars or light rail for the next decade.

The vote that will decide whether or not to ban passenger rail in Cincinnati for the next decade, whether it is fully funded by whatever funding source, will more than likely occur this May in a special election that will cost taxpayers $400,000.

So for those that have yet to see a modern streetcar, you can check out this video on the modern streetcar design that may be used for Cincinnati’s fully funded streetcar system that is about to begin construction and be operational by 2013. If you need more information on Cincinnati’s streetcar project, check out the CincyStreetcar Blog for regular updates and information or for official project details, studies and reports.

Development News Transportation

Cincinnati to examine bus rapid transit as part of expanding transit network

As Cincinnati moves forward with the development of the Midwest’s first modern streetcar system, a political leader is pushing for even greater transit improvements that would compliment an increasingly diverse collection of alternative forms of transport.

Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is proposing a robust network of bus rapid transit (BRT) that would connect the region’s commuters with major employment centers like Uptown and Downtown. Qualls believes BRT is a cost-effective and innovative transit strategy.

“Bus rapid transit incorporates many of the advantages of light rail, but is cheaper and can be implemented quickly,” Qualls said in a prepared statement. “Cities around the world and the country are giving commuters a great transit option now with rapid transit.”

Many cities around the United States and internationally are beginning to look at BRT more closely as a cheaper alternative to building dedicated rail transit systems. After first being popularized in Bogotá, Columbia, bus rapid transit now exists in 33 cities throughout the world with an additional 22 systems planned.

What differentiates BRT routes from other bus routes is the dedicated lanes they use. These dedicated corridors are often complimented by signal prioritization and timing that allows for faster travel times over long distances.

“Cities are looking to rapid transit to meet increased commuter demand and to spur development,” Qualls stated. “Because the conversion to rapid transit is faster and cheaper than developing light rail, it is an important interim step that helps build transit ridership and provides a great service in the near term.”

While some transit experts agree that BRT can serve as an integral part of an overall transit system, others believe that BRT can be compromised when pitched as an inexpensive alternative to light rail.

“If you look at Oakland, who was studying BRT, they’ve been working on the project for a long time and recently had the City of Berkeley decline to even study dedicated lanes even though that was the plan all along,” explained Jeff Wood, Chief Cartographer, Reconnecting America.  “They felt like they could do it cheaper than light rail, but now they aren’t even going to get any of the benefits of bus rapid transit.”

As part of Vice Mayor Qualls’ motion, BRT would be a portion of a larger multi-modal transit plan that would include the streetcar and light rail according to Cincinnati’s existing rail plan. Major corridors would include I-75, I-71, Queen City Avenue, Harrison Avenue, Vine Street, Reading Road, Madison Road, and Martin Luther King Drive. Qualls suggested the city aggressively pursue state and federal funds to pay for the development of bus rapid transit.

Those interested in learning more about bus rapid transit have the opportunity to meet with BRT expert Jack Gonsalves at the OKI Regional Council of Governments Board Room (map) on Monday, December 6 at 1pm.  Gonsalves will be joined by a variety of local leaders to discuss BRT and how it might be developed in Cincinnati.