Up To Speed

Bloomberg Philanthropies to award $9M for urban innovation

Bloomberg Philanthropies to award $9M for urban innovation.

Cities are where innovation happens, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg knows exactly that. As a result, he has announced a new competition that will award $9 million in prize money to cities with bold, innovative ideas that could remake America’s urban centers. More from Next American City:

Twenty finalist teams will be chosen based on their proposal’s novelty and creativity, potential for impact, replicability and implementation plan. The finalists will participate in Bloomberg Ideas Camp, an experience that James Anderson, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ government innovation director, says will give mayors the opportunity to brainstorm and collaborate with their peers in other cities. The finalists will be whittled down to one grand prize winning team, which will receive $5 million; four runners-up will be given $1 million each.

Up To Speed

New York City attracting more tech startups

New York City attracting more tech startups

More tech startups are choosing to locate in New York City rather than Silicon Valley. The abundance of available software engineers, many formerly employed by the finance industry, combined with smart urban planning and proximity to other tech companies make New York a desirable place to form a startup. More from Mashable:

[Brad Hargreaves, founding partner of startup co-working space General Assembly] believes that intelligent urban planning is key. One of the reasons that New York has succeeded, Hargreaves told Mashable, is that its density and public transport systems make it easy for entrepreneurs to get from meeting to meeting.

“A technology community won’t ferment if it is spread evenly over one hundred square miles of metropolitan area, especially if mass transit options are limited,” wrote Hargreaves.

Up To Speed

The ‘Robert Moses Effect’ on the entrepreneurial ecosystem

The ‘Robert Moses Effect’ on the entrepreneurial ecosystem

We all know about Robert Moses’ rule over New York City from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, but how has his approach to urban development impacted the way in which our entrepreneurial ecosystem? From the Business Insider:

Adding highways meant adding traffic–more than ever before. We’re seeing the same thing happen within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. As you build more infrastructure to support entrepreneurship, more people become entrepreneurs.

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.


Once and Always A Stakeholder

The party line was this: I moved back to Cincinnati because my freelance work was rarely based out of New York City — counter to my expectations when first striking out as a self-employed writer and video producer — so I had an opportunity to finally get away from Gotham’s pound-of-flesh rents. Hello, profit-margin, right?

Truly, the full answer defied the time-limits of polite cocktail-party conversation. Every city in the country offered a lower cost-of-living and a healthy handful promised opportunities to share my life with good friends and family. But only one city had gotten into my blood.

Large crowds gather outside the CAC to get in to the Shepard Fairey opening night [LEFT]. Great American Ball Park is the home of the nation’s oldest professional baseball team the Cincinnati Reds [RIGHT]. Photos taken by Jeremy Mosher & Randy Simes.

A recent Vanity Fair article written by A. A. Gill explored the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, and opened with an offhand dig at Cincinnati, saying that “it’s not in the nature of stoic Cincinnatians to boast, which is fortunate, really, for they have meager pickings to boast about.” Gill is of that breed of lazy sensationalists more concerned with eliciting reaction than approaching a nuanced — even intimidating, surely — mental space, and this line, casually flippant, and really, totally extraneous to the rest of the story, served his aim. Picked up by blogger Katy Crossen earlier last week, Crossen challenged local bloggers and Twitter-followers to boast why they are proud of Cincinnati. And the responses began to pour in, detailing everything from the Zaha Hadid-designed Contemporary Arts Center to the world’s first professional baseball team.

Me? When I first moved to New York for college, I was often asked to describe Cincinnati, and I came to rely on a fond but accurate snapshot: “Big city amenities; Small-town feel.” We account for ten Fortune 1000 companies — including 75% of Ohio’s entries in the Top 100 — but we value our neighborhoods, and local religious roots have connected millions of people through Catholic schools. Introduce me to anyone from Cincinnati and give us ten minutes together, I would say, and we’ll come up with at least one mutual acquaintance.

Seven years into my New York adventure, I loved being able to indulge in all of my passions, fed by the culinary offerings, the public transportation, the neighborhood movie theaters, and the vast comedy scene. But I was suddenly disappointed to realize that nearly a decade on, the emotional connection to my surroundings had only grown so deep. Perhaps the size of the city was responsible, but I was struck by an epiphany that the things tying me and my peers to New York were most often cultural and career opportunities. Friendships were nice, but the relationships weren’t the priority or the motivating factor for residence — even if social opportunities were.

I would argue that even with amazing museums, pro sports, and an emerging cultural scene, community remains the Queen City’s defining trait. And I would suggest that beyond the interpersonal relationships that grow so strong here, our defensiveness derives from our relationship to the city itself. Cincinnati, the whole intangible idea of it — the people, plants, buildings and backstory — functions like a family in a way that other cities with more transient populations don’t. It’s only natural for a person to defend his home, as an affirmation of his life choices, if nothing else; our relationship to Cincinnati is, I think, more complicated and more rich. We love it even when it frustrates us. We shape it, even as we are shaped by it.

The sun sets on my time in New York City [LEFT], and I start my journey anew in the city I love [RIGHT]. Photos by Jeremy Mosher & Randy Simes.

And I think that’s the difference: because Cincinnati is inhabited and led by homegrown folks probably more than any other city our size or bigger, a sort of mutual osmosis goes on. A Cincinnatian owns a stake in this city; woe to those who aspire only to rent it for a few convenient years. Yes, new residents have been known to be intimidated initially, but they can still become part of the family, part of this wholly unique place and experience, if they’re willing to put up with — and occasionally revel in — the quirks and foibles. (We wouldn’t let a family member bring a new spouse into the herd without doing due diligence, right?) Cincinnati will look out for us. It will give us the opportunities to outgrow it, but never let us forget where we came from. It will welcome us back, even if we feel the need to leave the nest for years at a time.

Returning from a business trip to the far side of the Atlantic last weekend, I had a layover in New York. Few things in this world are breathtaking like a banking bird’s-eye view of Manhattan at night, but as I picked out landmarks from my vantage high above the city I had long called my home — and meant it — I recognized something new: that I am thrilled to be living in Cincinnati again. Do I miss life in New York? Certain elements, yes. But given a choice, give me family, evolving but ever-loyal, sitting proudly on this big bend in the banks of the Ohio.