Metro will hold an open house on Thursday to share a variety of proposed changes to the routing of express commuter bus routes through downtown. Officials with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority say that the re-routings simplify their operations and make the routes more easily understandable for riders.
There are some 14 express routes that have been identified for these changes. In many cases, the routes come into the downtown area one way in the morning, and depart a different way in the evening.
The express routes are those that primarily impact those commuting into the center city from outlying suburbs, so the meeting time has been scheduled during the middle of the workday so that those commuters can easily attend and provide feedback.
The proposed changes would greatly simplify many of the routes, thus allowing for some stops to be eliminated, while others are relocated. The end result should enable faster and more reliable operations through the center city.
The recommendations come as the region’s largest transit provider is working to both expand and reform existing operations in order to improve its bus service operations. It also comes at a time when Metro is gathering public feedback with regard to what kinds of improvements existing and would be transit riders would like to see made.
The open house will take place from 10am to 2pm on Thursday, November 5 in the boardroom of Metro’s main office, which is located on the 12th floor of 602 Main Street.
In addition to large posters of the proposed route changes, which are all made available at the end of this story, Metro’s planning staff will be on-hand to answer any related questions. Those unable to attend the open house in person are encouraged to email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit comments through an online submission form. All comments received prior to 5pm on Thursday will become part of the official project record.
Following this public feedback period, transit planners will final revisions and begin putting together an implementation plan. Based on the current schedule, Metro officials believe the changes can be implemented by March 2016.
An event making the rounds on social media hosted by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) provides an opportunity for citizens to tell Governor John Kasich’s (R) administration about public transportation improvements they’d like to see in their city. The public meeting to discuss statewide transit needs is hosted on Friday, October 31 from 10am to 12pm at the Warren County OhioMeansJobs Center in Lebanon.
While the gathering has good intention, it fails to meet the basic criteria of planning a public involvement meeting:
Never host a public meeting on a holiday.
Never host a public meeting on a Friday or weekend.
The location of a public meeting should be accessible to all members of the community and able to attract a diverse group of citizens.
By car, Lebanon is roughly a one hour drive north of Cincinnati, and a 30-minute drive south from Dayton. It’s also the city where the regional ODOT office is located; understandably why the administration would opt to hold a public involvement meeting here. What went unconsidered are the needs of people that the public meeting is focused on: citizens reliant on public transportation.
The closest Metro bus stop to Lebanon is 8.3 miles away, near Kings Island in Mason. Let’s say we’re feeling ambitious and attempt to take the bus, then bicycle the remaining journey to Lebanon. It would take 48 minutes to cycle to the meeting in addition to the 1 hour, 11 minute ride on the bus. Cincinnati Metro, the region’s bus system, only offers select service to the northern suburbs. In order to arrive on time for the 10am meeting, a person dependent on transit would have to catch the 71x at 7:45am, arrive in Mason at 8:52am, then continue to the meeting on bicycle.
Getting back home is another story. The public involvement meeting adjourns at 12pm, but the bus route that services Mason is a job connection bus, meaning it only runs traditional hours when people are going to and from work. After another 48 minutes of cycling back to the bus stop, the inbound 71x picks up shortly after 3pm and returns to Cincinnati at 4:40pm.
In summary, if a citizen dependent on bus transportation wishes to give ODOT their input, they would spend 7 hours commuting to the two hour meeting, and need to able-bodied to ride a bicycle for eight miles. What about senior citizens and people with disabilities? Who can afford to take an entire day off work to attend a meeting? As a transit rider who has a car, driving an hour each way to attend the meeting –in the middle of the work day– for me, is inconvenient and unfeasible.
The poor choice of trying to combine Cincinnati and Dayton into one meeting was an unfortunate oversight in event planning. Instead, meetings should be hosted in the downtown of each city, just like they have been in Columbus and Cleveland which are also participating in the ODOT series.
Since 2011, Governor Kasich has cut $4 million from the state’s public transit budget, leaving Ohio with one of the lowest funded transit systems in the country. If there’s a genuine interest in hearing how those cuts affect the people that rely on public transportation the most, the administration needs to schedule a second meeting in Cincinnati near Government Square where those people can actually get to.
Of course, this isn’t the first time area transit users have been ignored when it comes to public meeting locations. Earlier this year, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) upheld a decision to relocate Hamilton County’s Board of Elections office to a location that would take up to four hours to access by transit.
Cincinnati has a migration problem that is two-fold. First, it lags behind most major metropolitan regions in North America when it comes to attracting international migrants. Second, and perhaps more significantly, is that the region has a stagnant domestic population.
As many demographers and social scientists have pointed out, focusing public policy on retaining existing talent is a bad approach. In fact, large movements of people out of one region can be a very positive thing. That is, of course, if it is balanced out by a large influx of people into that same region. This is the case for North America’s largest cities, and is also evidenced at a larger scale in California.
But beyond that, older Midwestern cities with a large cluster of high-quality universities also seem to export more people than they import. That, in and of itself, is not the problem.
“This notion of the university as a “factory” gets very close to the truth,” Aaron Renn, owner of The Urbanophile, wrote in 2010. “A friend of mine noted that if we treated steel mills like universities, Indiana would be obsessing over “steel drain” and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on programs to try to keep steel from leaving the state.”
Renn went on to say that the notion of doing such a thing would be ludicrous, and that it is important to understand the details of what is really going on when it comes to a region’s migration patterns.
“Migration does matter. Any city that thinks it can be blasé about this is fooling themselves,” wrote Renn in a separate piece. “On the other hand, surface numbers only tell us so much. We need to understand the dynamics going on underneath the hood.”
By most comparative measure, Cincinnati actually does very well compared to many places at retaining its population. The problem is that it does very poorly at bringing in new people from outside the region.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the areas of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) which have the highest percentage of people living there that were born in another state are near state borders. Since the Cincinnati MSA stretches across three states, you can see that movement of Ohio residents to southeastern Indiana and northern Kentucky has boosted numbers in those locales.
On average, approximately 68% of the 2.2 million person Cincinnati region was born in the state where they currently reside. Meanwhile, Uptown and Cincinnati’s northeast suburbs appear to be the only parts of the region that are actually attracting newcomers to the region.
Another key finding here is the utter lack of movement of people into or out of Cincinnati’s western suburbs, which have a native born population between 80-100%. This number is roughly comparable to most rural areas in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
The Cincinnati region, however, is not alone when it comes to a stagnant population.
The numbers are even worse for the Cleveland MSA, which, on average, has a percentage of native born population higher than the average for Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. This is in spite of the Cleveland MSA attracting more international migrants than any other in the three-state region.
Even though Cincinnati continues to post modest annual population growth, it continues to be on the outside looking in when it comes to North America’s most economically successful cities. If Cincinnati wants to just focus on attracting existing Americans to the region, then it should look to Houston, Dallas or Atlanta, which are all hubs for domestic migration.
This scenario, however, seems unlikely since each of those regions is positioned uniquely in terms of their economy or their geographic location. So, if Cincinnati is to really ramp up its population growth, it better look at what other metropolitan regions are doing to make themselves more attractive to international migrants.
Perhaps Mayor John Cranley’s new, yet-to-be-unveiled initiative can help with this. But does he or his administration actually know what is going on underneath the hood?
The Western & Southern Open is taking place right now, and a men’s and women’s champion will be crowned this weekend in what has become one of the world’s top ten tennis tournaments.
Once finished, the tournament will have drawn hundreds of thousands of tennis fans to Mason, but more importantly, it will have given Cincinnati exposure to millions of television viewers around the United States and the world.
The tournament is a huge regional draw, and it gives the region an annual chance to make its pitch as to why people should visit, invest, or move to the region. This year, the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau decided to build off of Lonely Planet’s choice of Cincinnati as one of its top travel destinations for 2012. Unfortunately, however, the 30-second commercial does not come close to selling the narrative written by the independent travel guide.
There was no mention or view of the Contemporary Arts Center in the recent Cincinnati USA television commercial. Photograph by Thadd Fiala.
“Seen Cincy lately? The pretty city on the Ohio River – off the main cross-country interstates – gets bypassed by many road trippers, but it’s quietly transformed itself in the last decade into a worthy weekend getaway,” Lonely Planet wrote about Cincinnati. “Life centers around the river – much which can be seen by foot: river walkways are best on the Kentucky side, reached via a couple bridges including John Roebling’s Suspension Bridge (a prequel to his famous Brooklyn Bridge). Narrow, twisting (and steep) brick roads of the Mt Adams district lead past 19th-century Victorian townhouses and the free Cincinnati Art Museum, while the once-dangerous, emerging Over-the-Rhine, just north of downtown, is home to the Findlay Market and a sprawling collection of historic Italianate architecture.”
After reading that, someone unfamiliar with Cincinnati may be intrigued to visit the city to experience its architecture, waterfront, historic neighborhoods, and judge the stated transformation first-hand. What Cincinnati USA’s television spot showcases (see below), however, is the tried and true regional selling cards to families looking for an affordable weekend getaway.
There is nothing wrong with selling a good product to a captive audience, but if Cincinnati wants to start attracting new people and new interest, it will have to do something new.
If Cincinnati USA wants to build on the Lonely Planet mention, then they should sell the region on what Lonely Planet is pitching. Show the millions of tennis fans a scene from Over-the-Rhine on a Friday evening, Fountain Square on a Saturday night, the twisting streets of Mt. Adams, the University of Cincinnati’s Main Street, people biking across the Purple People Bridge, and shoppers at Findlay Market on a Saturday morning.
Fortunately, the Cincinnati USA commercial did pay attention to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center which was prominently mentioned in the Lonely Planet write-up.
Cincinnati has always been an affordable place and a great place for families. This narrative has been perfected over many decades. This strong calling card should not, however, preclude the region from telling the world about a new narrative that has come to life over the past decade. It’s a story about a resurgent city focused on youthful energy, innovation, independent thought, music, and a unique urban core that is hard to match anywhere in America.
Local, organic fish are difficult to come by in Cincinnati, and experts do not recommend consuming fish caught from the Ohio River very often. A company called Self-Sustaining Enterprises (SSE) is looking to fill that void with an innovative practice that will bring locally grown, organic fish to the Cincinnati region.
Based in Mason, Ohio, SSE started an aquaponic tank in Jos, Nigeria and is now bringing the prototype to Cincinnati. The aquaponics system works by combining fish farming techniques with hydroponics to create a faux river ecosystem.
Fish fingerlings (perch, catfish, and tilapia in this case) are then grown in the tank. The waste from the fish – ammonia and nitrates -provides food for the plants that are on the surface of the tank where they purify the water by soaking up the nitrates and ammonia.
“Aquaponics is perfect for an urban community,” said Self-Sustaining Enterprises CEO Chuck Proudfit. “We can raise fresh fish and vegetables in a high-density fashion, harvest and deliver them the same day.”
Proudfit says that the goal of the project is to provide fresh fish and produce to local restaurants, food co-ops, and other sources. The locally sourced fish would then leave a smaller carbon footprint behind than fish shipped in from other parts of the world. Another benefit of the system, experts say, is the elimination of the risk of harmful runoff common amongst fish farms.
“With an aquaponic tank the problem [of harmful runoff] is eliminated due to merging aquaculture and hydroponics into a closed-loop system,” explained Pete West, an engineer with Procter & Gamble who donated funds to the endeavor. As West explains, water then only has to be replaced due to evaporation or the removal of solid waste at the bottom of the tank.
Aquaponics is not a complete slam dunk however. Unlike a natural habitat for a fish there is a risk of overcrowding since the fish have only a few hundred feet to swim. This overcrowding makes it necessary for the nitrate, ammonia and pH levels to be checked daily. The more fish that are added to the confined habitat increases the likelihood of high nitrate and ammonia levels – which could cause illness among people consuming the fish.
SSE’s 700-gallon aquaponics project in Cincinnati is operational now, and has the ability to produce 1,000 pounds of fish and fresh produce. Company leaders say that both the fish and produce are growing well and should be available within six to twelve months.
This story was researched and written by UrbanCincy contributor Hailey Mahan. If you are interested in becomming an UrbanCincy contributor please email your resume and field of interest to UrbanCincy@gmail.com.