The bimonthly storytelling event Cincy Stories will be returning tomorrow evening to MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine. The series focuses on well-known public and community figures telling personal stories from their lives.
The November 3rd edition of Cincy Stories will feature:
Cincinnati City Council Member Chris Seelbach
Community Activist Jay Shifman
Mandy Smith, Pastor of University Christian Church
Desi Marie, “The Silent Poet”
Bonnie Meyer, Director of LGBTQ Programs & Services at NKU
Abdullah Powell, Creative Director of Elementz
Music from Andrea Bustin
Stop by MOTR Pub at 7 p.m., grab a drink, and enjoy some unique stories and live music.
Regular commuters who cross the Ohio River, either into Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky, are well aware of bringing the required amount of change to transfer between Metro and TANK buses. Other non-seasoned riders, however, were stuck with navigating a complex combination of transfer fees and payment options.
The region’s two largest transit agencies announced that technology afforded to them in 2011 will support the introduction of a long-anticipated regional fare payment card. Metro unveiled the shared stored-value card earlier this month at The Westin’s Presidential Ballroom during the annual State of Metro address.
Transit officials say that the card works with both TANK and Metro buses, thus eliminating the need for carrying change on either system. The card deducts the correct fare amount for each agency so if a rider boards a Metro bus it will deduct $1.75 for Zone 1 or $1.50 for a TANK bus fare.
“We are trying to make this a more seamless and integrated approach to transit.” Metro spokesperson Sallie Hilvers told UrbanCincy.
While there already is a monthly pass that can be used for both systems, the pass is limited to rides on TANK and Metro buses within Cincinnati city limits. As a result, officials from Metro and TANK believe the new shared stored-value card provides better accessibility and flexibility to people who use both systems on both sides of the river.
Behind the scenes, Metro handles the accounting for the stored-value cards so if the card is used on a TANK bus, the agency reports that usage to Metro, which then reimburses TANK for the fare.
“We’ve seen more people buying day passes and stored value passes since we introduced them.” Hilvers said.
This kind of collaboration is not what has traditionally defined the relationship between Metro and TANK, but Hilvers said that this has been years in the making and hopes that it will lead to even more collaboration in the future.
According to Hilvers, the next goal is to work with local universities to develop a standard student and faculty card that would cover access to area institutions served by both transit agencies. Currently Metro has separate agreements with the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati State, while TANK has an agreement with Northern Kentucky University.
Such changes would seem to bode well for both Metro and TANK. In 2013, Metro reported surging ridership due to the implementation of new collaborative programs and improved fare payment technology.
Leadership at the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which oversees Metro bus and streetcar operations, says that they are working on ways for riders to get real-time arrival information system-wide.
The challenge, they say, is to make sure it is a benefit available to all users. Therefore, transit officials are working to implement real-time arrival information that utilizes smartphone, adaptive website and phone service technologies. Metro representatives are tentatively saying that they are hopeful such services could be in place by spring 2015.
The Cincinnati region has an arena problem that is two-fold. The first part of the problem is that there is no stand-out venue that offers both the capacity and modern amenities to attract large-scale events. The second is that the region has far too many venues competing with one another.
Within a one-hour drive from Fountain Square there are eight arenas with a capacity of more than 9,000 people for their primary tenants. Of these, only three have been built or undergone major renovations since the year 2000. The lone major project currently on the books is the $310 million renovation and rebuild of Rupp Arena in Lexington, which also happens to be the furthest away of the eight venues mentioned.
Rupp Arena (23,500): Built in 1975 with minor renovations in 2001. Primary tenant is University of Kentucky athletics. Major renovation and rebuild planned for completion in 2017.
U.S. Bank Arena (17,566): Built in 1975 with a major renovation in 1997 and subsequent minor renovations. Primary tenant is the minor league hockey Cincinnati Cyclones team.
UD Arena (13,409): Built in 1969 with major renovations in 2002 and minor renovations again in 2010. Primary tenant is University of Dayton athletics.
Fifth Third Arena (13,176): Built in 1989 with several minor renovations since. Primary tenant is University of Cincinnati athletics.
Cintas Center (10,250): Built in 2000. Primary tenant is Xavier University athletics.
Cincinnati Gardens (10,208): Built in 1949 with no major renovations since its opening. Primary tenant is the amateur women’s roller derby Cincinnati Rollergirls team.
Bank of Kentucky Center (9,400): Built in 2008. Primary tenant is Northern Kentucky University athletics.
Millett Hall (9,200): Built in 1968 with no major renovations since its opening. Primary tenant is Miami University athletics (sans hockey).
Recent talks closer to the core of our region have revolved around either embarking on a major renovation of Fifth Third Arena, or building a new one altogether; and performing major renovations on U.S. Bank Arena. The problem with these two approaches, however, fails to address the two core problems with the region’s plethora of arenas.
Any discussion on this topic should be focused on creating a stand-out venue that is both large enough and offers the modern amenities needed to attract major events, while also decluttering the regional arena landscape.
To that end, UrbanCincy recommends building a brand new arena adjacent to the Horseshoe Casino at Broadway Commons that would become the new home for the Cincinnati Cyclones, Cincinnati Rollergirls and University of Cincinnati Men’s Basketball. This venue would also accommodate the existing events held at U.S. Bank Arena and should be built in a way that is conducive for casino operators to program additional events, such as boxing, at the venue.
As part of this plan, U.S. Bank Arena and the Cincinnati Gardens should be torn down, and Fifth Third Arena used as the multipurpose facility it was originally intended to be.
This location makes perfect sense with immediate access to the center city’s hotels and convention facilities, casino, streetcar system, highways and abundant parking. Such a plan would also allow for the current U.S. Bank Arena site to be redeveloped with additional housing and shops akin to what is being developed at The Banks.
The land left over at the Cincinnati Gardens site in Bond Hill could then be repackaged, with surrounding land, to be developed as part of community-driven master plan.
As is often the case, funding is one of the primary hurdles preventing any of this from getting done. In this particular plan, each of the partners (University of Cincinnati, City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Horseshoe Casino) could contribute to the capital costs. Furthermore, value capture tools could be used for the U.S. Bank Arena and Cincinnati Gardens properties to help offset costs even more.
The last thing our region needs is another tax to pay for a sports or entertainment complex. Those scarce public resources should be reserved for more pressing things like improving our region’s transit network.
Our region’s political and business leaders need to think holistically when it comes to this challenge. Moving forward in a panicked and rushed fashion will get us an end result that does not solve the problems before us, and ultimately squanders public dollars.
Let’s build ourselves a modern arena venue that can attract top-level events, but do so without placing the burden on the taxpayers. Let’s also do so in a way that rids the region of some of its excess number of existing arenas, and frees up land to be redeveloped in a more productive manner for our neighborhoods.
There is a wealth of talent and C-Level executives in this region. Let’s get creative and start thinking beyond the sales tax. Let’s get this done.