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by Nick Swartsell 05.29.2014 110 days ago
Posted In: Transportation at 07:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Will the Streetcar Go West Someday?

Advocates push for expanded transit options in Western Hills Viaduct replacement plan

Picture yourself hopping on a streetcar in Price Hill or Westwood and cruising downtown for lunch.

It probably won’t happen anytime soon. But a group of West Side residents was determined to put just that image in the heads of city council’s transportation committee as it met yesterday to consider what will be done with the city’s aging Western Hills Viaduct.

About 25 people showed up to the meeting to advocate for expanded transit options as planning for the bridge goes forward.

"It's about the future of our city and connecting one another,” said John Eby, a resident of Westwood, during Wednesday’s meeting. “Think of this as the economic development tool that will help connect Price Hill and Westwood to downtown."

Even without the added transit considerations, the project is daunting. The half-mile long bridge is 82 years old and was last rehabbed in 1977. So it’s getting a little crumbly.

Though it’s structurally sound for now, engineers say it will need to be completely rehabbed or replaced in the next 10 years. A study released last week found the bridge’s condition to be among of the worst in the state.

The viaduct is owned by Hamilton County, which pays Cincinnati to do upkeep.

City engineers are leaning toward replacement, though that’s going to be expensive. Estimated costs come in around $240 million for a new bridge, which would have two decks and be placed just south of the current one. So far, the city’s dedicated less than $6 million for the project.

But this moment, as the city mulls what to do about the bridge, is the perfect time to look at new transit options, advocates say.

Adding dedicated lanes for light rail would cost $24 million a lane, engineers estimate. But designing the bridge with extra structural integrity for streetcar rails, which don’t require extra lanes, could be a cheaper option, said city engineer Richard Szekeresh.

It wouldn’t be the first time a streetcar has made the trip over the Mill Creek and train yards spanned by the viaduct. In the 1950s, streetcars ran along the bridge’s lower deck.

But don’t start making plans to get out of downtown and hit up your favorite Westside chili parlor for lunch just yet. City officials say they’re in the opening stages of the project. Engineers hope to have designs drawn up by the end of the year, but it will be six to eight years before construction starts, according to city transportation manager Michael Moore. Before that is the long road to secure state funding and make sure the necessary local funds are in place.

Advocates say the project may be the last chance to leave the door open for future transit options like light rail or the streetcar. A new Eighth Street viaduct was just completed, and crews are wrapping up work on the Sixth Street bridge as well. Neither will carry rail into the West Side, which is home to about 20 percent of the city.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.13.2014
Posted In: News, Transportation, Courts, 2014 election at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

State fights for minor party restrictions, local judge disqualified, Oasis rail line draws critics

Ohio officials will appeal a court ruling that blocked tougher requirements on minor political parties and allows them to run in the 2014 primary and general elections under previous rules. The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich approved the stricter rules last year. Democrats and Libertarians argued the new law, which they labeled the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act, was put in place to protect Kasich from conservative electoral challengers upset with his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion.

The Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Friday after she was indicted on eight felony charges for, among other accusations, backdating and forging court documents. The disqualification could further burden a court that’s already known for a large backlog of cases. It remains unclear how long Hunter’s case and disqualification will last and whether she’ll be replaced while the legal battle unfolds.

Many streetcar supporters oppose the Oasis rail line and the rest of the Eastern Corridor project. Critics of the project point to a recent study that found the Oasis line would generate low economic development in seven of 10 planned stations. Instead of supporting the Oasis line, Cincinnatians for Progress says local officials should work to first establish a transit line — perhaps through a piece-by-piece approach of the defunct MetroMoves plan that voters rejected in 2002 — that could act as a central spine for a broader light rail network. Opposition to the Oasis line is also rooted in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project, which some say would expand and rework roads and highways in a way that could damage and divide the East Side and eastern Hamilton County. Officials are taking feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at EasternCorridor.org.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who might challenge Democratic gubernatorial Ed FitzGerald in the May primary, discussed the gubernatorial race in a nearly 40-minute interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board Friday. View the full interview here.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear whether groups have the right to sue in a local case that could have broader implications for free-speech rights and limitations. The legal fight between former Rep. Steve Driehaus and the Susan B. Anthony List could resolve whether political campaigns have the right to lie.

As local and state officials work to address the opiate epidemic, a drug history scholar from the University of Cincinnati proposes alternatives to the failing war on drugs.

One drug helps prevent opiate addicts from getting high.

The Ohio Department of Health says flu activity in Ohio is now widespread.

Ohio’s chief justice says it’s time to reform how judges are elected. It remains unclear exactly how Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor would reform the system, but she says she wants to uphold courts’ attempts at impartiality.

Reminder: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Find out more at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov.

Ohio gas prices increased in time for the new workweek.

Racism could accelerate aging among black men, according to a new study.

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by German Lopez 01.10.2014
Posted In: News, Development, Transportation, Streetcar at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news1_streetcar_jf2

Streetcar Supporters Oppose Oasis Rail Line

HDR study finds low economic development along intercity line

At first glance, it might seem like a rail line between downtown Cincinnati and the city of Milford would earn support from the same people who back the $132.8 million streetcar project, but streetcar supporters, including advocacy group Cincinnatians for Progress, say they oppose the idea and its execution.

Critics of the overall project, called the Eastern Corridor, recently pointed to a November study from HDR. Despite flowery language promising a maximized investment, HDR found seven of 10 stations on the $230-$322 million Oasis rail line would result in low economic development, five of 10 stations would provide low access to buses and bikes, and the intercity line would achieve only 3,440 daily riders by 2030.

HDR’s findings for the Oasis line stand in sharp contrast to its study of Cincinnati’s streetcar project. The firm found the streetcar line in Over-the-Rhine and downtown would generate major economic development and a 2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years.

Given the poor results for the Oasis line, streetcar supporters say local officials should ditch the Oasis concept and instead pursue the 2002 MetroMoves plan and an expansion of the streetcar system through a piecemeal approach that would create a central transit spine through the region.

“To have (the Oasis line) be our first commuter rail piece in Cincinnati … just doesn’t make sense to me,” says Derek Bauman, co-chair of Cincinnatians for Progress.

MetroMoves spans across the entire city and region, with the rail line along I-71 from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to downtown Cincinnati to King’s Island fostering particularly high interest.

Voters rejected the MetroMoves plan and the sales tax hike it involved in 2002, but streetcar supporters say public opinion will shift once the streetcar becomes reality in Cincinnati.

“That’s been proven in other cities, especially ones that have not historically been transit-oriented,” Bauman says, pointing to Houston and Miami as examples of cities that built spines that are now being expanded.

Opposition to the Oasis line is also more deeply rooted in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project. The unfunded billion-dollar project involves a few parts: relocating Ohio 32 through the East Side, the Oasis rail line and several road improvements from Cincinnati to Milford.

Supporters of the Eastern Corridor claim it would ease congestion, at least in the short term, and provide a cohesiveness in transportation options that’s severely lacking in the East Side.

Opponents argue the few benefits, some of which both sides agree are rooted in legitimate concerns, just aren’t worth the high costs and various risks tied to the project.

“When it comes to widening roads and highways, it’s kind of like loosening your belt at Thanksgiving. Somehow traffic always fills to fit,” Bauman says. “Highway expansion, especially in urban areas, is not the future. It’s not even the present in some areas.”

The big concern is that the relocation of Ohio 32 might do to the East Side and eastern Hamilton County what I-75 did to the West Side, which was partly obliterated and divided by the massive freeway.

“It hurts the cohesiveness of our communities when you create these big divides,” Bauman argues. “You would see that repeat itself.”

Officials are taking feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at EasternCorridor.org.

This article was updated to use more up-to-date figures for the cost of the Oasis rail line.

 
 
by Danny Cross 11.27.2013
 
 
streetcar

Morning News & Stuff

The Cincinnati Enquirer abruptly changed its tone about the streetcar project yesterday, writing in an editorial that the city should continue the project and leaving the newspaper on the opposite side of Mayor-elect John Cranley on the two main issues of the campaign it endorsed just weeks ago.

Fourteen months after publishing an editorial against the streetcar project, the three-member Enquirer editorial board yesterday spelled out why it now supports completing the project, suggesting that a main part of its opposition — and to Roxanne Qualls as mayor — was the current administration’s inability to “argue effectively for the project” that Cranley and other conservatives used to take office during an election that saw extremely low voter turnout.

CityBeat’s German Lopez noted on Twitter the irony of The Enquirer now supporting both the streetcar and parking plan while the candidate it endorsed attempts to unravel both — Cranley already stopped the parking plan. The comment drew a response from Enquirer Editor Carolyn Washburn, who is on the newspaper’s editorial board along with Publisher Margaret Buchanan and Editorial Page Editor David Holthaus.

The editorial includes the following paragraph: “In endorsing Cranley, we said he would ‘have to rein in his dictatorial tendencies and discipline himself to be diplomatic, respectful and collaborative.’ What we’ve seen so far is a matter for concern. Hurling insults at professionals like streetcar project manager John Deatrick isn’t what we need. Deatrick enjoys a good reputation as someone who has managed The Banks project and the rebuild of Fort Washington Way. He needs to stay on the streetcar project.”

The editorial was published the same day City Council put completing the project into law and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced his decision to support the project’s completion, which Lopez pointed out leaves Council short of the six votes required for an emergency clause that would immediately halt the project without leaving it open to referendum. Without the emergency clause, streetcar supporters could gather the required signatures to put a 5-4 cancellation vote to referendum, which would force the city to continue working on the project until voters decide on it in November.

Mayor-elect Cranley will hold a vote to stop the project on Monday. With Sittenfeld set to vote against halting the project, Cranley will need either newly elected David Mann or Kevin Flynn to vote in favor of stopping it. Both are on the record as being against the project but have left room to consider the financial realities before making their final decisions. 

Cranley announced this morning that he will name the new city manager at 2 p.m. today. Cranley removed former city manager Milton Dohoney last week.

A story by The Enquirer’s Mark Curnutte yesterday detailed life expectancy disparities among Cincinnati’s poor neighborhoods, finding a 20 year difference at times between citizens of predominantly black or urban Appalachian neighborhoods and people of wealthy white neighborhoods like Mount Lookout, Columbia Tusculum and Hyde Park. The Cincinnati Health Department will release more statistics Tuesday and a community discussion on the issue is set for Jan. 10. 

Pope Francis yesterday criticized the world’s growing wealth disparity, mentioning things like “idolatry of money” and “a new tyranny” in a 50,000-word statement that sharply criticized trickle-down economics.

The Pope via The Washington Post:

"Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system. … Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."

OTR restaurant Kaze will begin offering lunch hours starting on Black Friday.

Away from home and tired of “Friends-giving” gatherings? Here’s a bunch of restaurants serving good stuff on Thanksgiving day. 

Skip Black Friday craziness and use CityBeat’s Gift Guide to shop local this holiday season. There are also plenty of local retailers you can hit up online if you don't wait until the last minute!

If you’re traveling to some stuck-up East Coast city for Thanksgiving, charge the iPad or whatever because there are going to be some storms.

And high winds might cause the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to take all the air out of the Snoopy balloons so no one flies up into the air like in movies.

The NSA reportedly considered revealing the “porn-browsing history” of certain people considered to have ties to terrorist activity in order to discredit them.   

Great, now America’s durable goods orders are down. Thanks a lot, government shutdown!

At least the country’s jobless claims are back to pre-recession levels. Thanks, Obama?

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats beat UMass Lowell in basketball last night and senior forward Justin Jackson jammed one in the hoop hard.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.08.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Parking, Transportation at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar fight continues, state evaluating transit services, parking plan moving ahead

A small group of Over-the-Rhine homeowners is preparing for a possible lawsuit and other actions should Mayor-elect John Cranley try to cancel the $133 million streetcar project. Ryan Messer says the fight is about protecting his family’s investment along the streetcar route. Streetcar supporters plan to host a town hall-style meeting in the coming weeks to discuss possible actions to keep the project on track, including a referendum effort on any legislation that halts construction of the ongoing project. While Cranley says canceling the streetcar is at the top of the agenda, questions remain about how much it would cost to cancel the project, as CityBeat covered in further detail here and here.

As Cincinnati debates canceling the streetcar project, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is evaluating transit systems around the state to encourage more efficiency and cost effectiveness. The agency is particularly focused on how different transit services are dealing with rising demand and shrinking budgets. But if that’s the case, ODOT might carry some of the blame: When Gov. John Kasich took office, ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council pulled $52 million from the Cincinnati streetcar project despite previously scoring the streetcar the highest among Ohio’s transportation projects. The Kasich administration also refused $400 million in federal funding for a statewide passenger light rail system, and the money ended up going to California and other states that took on light rail projects.

Cranley’s other major campaign promise is to stop the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but the Port intends to finalize the lease by the end of the month — before Cranley takes office in December — by selling bonds that will finance the deal. The outgoing city administration pushed the parking plan through City Council in a matter of months for an upfront payment of $92 million. But following unsuccessful litigation and a due diligence process, the Port Authority cut the payment to $85 million, and the city is now responsible for paying $14-$15 million to build a new parking garage that the Port was originally supposed to finance under the deal. Cranley and other opponents of the parking plan say it gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets, while supporters argue it’s necessary to modernize the assets and help fund economic development projects.

Several of Cincinnati’s power brokers and building owners are working on a plan that would create a retail corridor in the city’s center and hopefully keep Saks Fifth Avenue in the city. Some of the efforts apparently involve financial incentives from the city, according to details provided to the Business Courier.

In the past decade, Ohio students have shown limited improvement in reading and math scores.

The Cincinnati area could become the largest metropolitan area without an abortion clinic following new regulations imposed by the state budget signed into law in June by Gov. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature. CityBeat covered the regulations and the rest of the state budget in further detail here.

The Hamilton County Association of Chiefs of Police released a report outlining stricter guidelines for Taser use. Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who has led lawsuits on behalf of families who lost loved ones after they were Tased, told WVXU he’s encouraged by the report, but he said he would also require annual tests of the devices and a ban on chest shots.

The Cincinnati branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is filing a federal complaint against the DHL Global Mail facility in Hebron, Ky., after DHL allegedly fired 24 of its employees on Oct. 9 in a dispute over prayer breaks.

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino reported $18.2 million in gross revenue in October, down from $19.8 million in September. The revenue reduction also cost Cincinnati’s casino the No. 1 spot, which is now held by Cleveland’s Horseshoe Casino. For Cincinnati and Ohio, the drop means lower tax revenue.

The Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center plans to close its physical space, but it’s sticking around as a virtual organization and will continue hosting Pride Night at Kings Island. A letter from the center’s board of directors stated that the transition was based on a need to “evolve with the times.”

The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would ban discrimination against gay and transgendered workers, but the bill’s chances are grim in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both Ohio senators — Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman — voted in favor of the Senate bill. CityBeat previously covered efforts in Ohio to pass workplace protections for LGBT individuals here.

Watch a homeless veteran’s aesthetic transformation, which apparently helped push his life forward:

The popular video of a baby’s reaction to his singing mom might actually show conflicting feelings of fear and sociality, not sentimentality.

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by German Lopez 11.07.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Transportation at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
odot transit study

State to Evaluate Existing Transit Systems

Study looks at rising demand and shrinking budgets

While Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project remains in limbo, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is taking a deep look at the state’s existing transit systems to encourage more efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Specifically, ODOT says the “Ohio Statewide Transit Needs Study” is necessary to evaluate the performance of different transit systems around the state as demand grows and budgets shrink.

“Travel trends show that there is a definite rise in the need for convenient, affordable public transportation to jobs, medical appointments, shopping and recreational activities. Our transit agencies are struggling to fund this existing service, let alone meet the increased demand,” ODOT’s website states.

Starting the last week of October, ODOT began sending out rider surveys to people who use transit services to collect their thoughts on current services and input on possible improvements. The surveys are being conducted with the help of 61 transit agencies around Ohio, and ODOT expects to complete them in mid-November.

“The rider survey is just the first step of our public outreach and technical effort,” said Marianne Freed, administrator of ODOT’s Office of Transit, in a statement. “Our goal is to evaluate the unique transportation needs for communities statewide, whether it’s a large city or a rural county.”

The ultimate goal, according to ODOT, is “to develop a long-term strategy to determine how to best stretch limited dollars while meeting the demands of Ohios riders today and in the future.”

ODOT will release the study’s findings at www.TransitNeedsStudy.ohio.gov.

If ODOT does find inadequate budgets for rising demand, the agency also might find itself partly culpable.

It was ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council that pulled $52 million in federal funding from the streetcar project once Gov. John Kasich came into office, even though the project previously received the highest score among transportation projects in the state. The massive cut forced local officials to scale back the original streetcar line and seek other federal funds.

Kasich also declined $400 million in federal funds for the 3C passenger rail line, which would have connected Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland. The federal funds ended up going to California and other states that embraced light rail, The Plain Dealer previously reported.

ODOT’s study also arrives as Cincinnati debates its own transit needs. On Tuesday, the city elected a mayor and City Council majority that opposes to the ongoing streetcar project.

If the streetcar project is canceled, it wouldn’t be the first time Cincinnati gave up on a new transit system in the middle of construction. The city also pulled out of building a subway system in the 1920s. The defunct subway tunnels now serve as a tourist attraction.

The subway failure and political threats to the streetcar project are two of the reasons Urbanophile, a national urbanist blog, described Cincinnati’s culture as “one of smug self-regard and self-sabotage” in a blog post on Thursday.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor-elect John Cranley denied that Cincinnati holds an anti-transit mentality. Cranley pointed out that local voters in the 1970s decided to increase their earnings tax to support the Metro bus system. He says it comes down to weighing the costs and benefits.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.22.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Transportation, Energy at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
metro plus bus

Morning News and Stuff

Metro moves forward with changes, bill to weaken energy standards, Berns criticizes media

As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Metro, Greater Cincinnati’s bus system, is moving forward with changes that seek to improve services that have dealt with funding shortfalls and cuts in the past few years. The biggest change is Metro*Plus, a new limited-stop weekday bus service that will be free through Aug. 23. Metro spokesperson Jill Dunne says Metro*Plus is a step toward bus rapid transit (BRT), an elaborate system that uses limited stops, traffic signal priority and bus-only lanes. Metro*Plus is mostly federally funded, and Metro says an expansion into BRT, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, would also be carried by federal grants. Besides Metro*Plus, Cincinnati’s bus system is also adding and cutting some routes.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce legislation capping how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and scrapping requirements for in-state solar and wind power — two major moves that will weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law. But Seitz says the changes would keep mandates for utilities to provide one-fourth of their electricity through alternative sources and reduce consumer consumption by 22 percent by 2025. Environmentalists have been critical of Seitz’s review ever since he announced it in response to pressure from Akron-based FirstEnergy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. (Correction: This paragraph previously said utilities are required to provide one-fourth of their electricity through renewable sources; the requirement actually applies to alternative sources.)

Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns yesterday declared his campaign dead and blamed local media, including CityBeat, for its demise. Berns said the media has done little to promote him over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, who have similar views on every major issue except the streetcar and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. In response, Berns attached a picture of himself playing dead in front of a vehicle. The stunt was just the latest in the Libertarian’s campaign, which has included Berns quitting the race for one day before deciding to stay in, the candidate giving away tomato plants while claiming they’re marijuana and lots of free ice cream.

Commentary: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.”

Cranley is airing a new advertisement attacking Qualls. The ad focuses largely on the streetcar and parking plan. As Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier points out, the ad “takes some factual liberties”: Parking meters are being leased, not sold, to the quasi-public Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, and it’s so far unclear how the money from the lease is going to be spent and if the resulting projects will really favor downtown over neighborhoods.

Hamilton County commissioners approved the next phase of The Banks, which could include another hotel if developers can’t find office tenants to fill the currently planned space. The second phase of the project already includes a one-block complex with 305 apartments.

State officials are reporting a 467-percent increase in the amount of seized meth labs this year. “We’re seeing a continuous spike,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It is easier (for people to make the drug). We used to talk about ‘meth houses,’ or places people would make this. Well, today, you can make it in a pop bottle.”

Ohio’s school report cards will be released today, allowing anyone to go online and see what a school is rated on an A-F scale.

The U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday announced more than $317,000 will be directed to Ohio to provide critical housing and clinical services for homeless veterans.  The grants are part of the $75 million appropriated this year to support housing needs for homeless veterans.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a new initiative called #RunTheCity, which will allow citizens to run or walk alongside local officials in an event that’s supposed to simultaneously encourage access and healthy living. The first event with City Solicitor John Curp, Cincinnati’s top lawyer, will be tonight at 6 p.m. at Wulsin Triangle, corner of Observatory Avenue and Madison Road in Hyde Park.

Two Greater Cincinnati companies — U.S. Logistics and ODW Logistics & Transportation Services — made the Inc. 500 list for fastest-growing companies, and more than 50 others made the Inc. 5,000 list. Four landed on the Inc. 500 list last year and one got on the list in 2011.

Another good local economic indicator: Greater Cincinnati home sales jumped 30 percent in July.

Mouse skin cells were successfully transformed into eggs, sperm and babies, but a similar treatment for infertile humans is likely a few decades away.

 
 
by German Lopez 05.20.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Transportation at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pirg report

Research Group: U.S. Driving Boom Is Over

As local officials struggle with streetcar and interchange, report demands new direction

Americans are driving less, and fewer Americans are driving, according to a May 14 report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), an advocacy organization. For Cincinnati, the trend might justify a recent shift in public policy that embraces more transportation options, including more bike lanes and a streetcar.

“Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eight years ago, and fewer per person than we did at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term,” the report reads. “The unique combina­tion of conditions that fueled the Driving Boom — from cheap gas prices to the rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation — no longer exists. Meanwhile, a new generation — the Mil­lennials — is demanding a new American Dream less dependent on driving.”

The report also says U.S. transportation policy “remains stuck in the past” and needs to “hit the ‘reset’ button.”

The report, which uses U.S. Department of Transportation data from 2012, found Americans were driving about 9,000 miles a year per person in 2012, down from a peak of nearly 10,000 in 2004. Until the peak, Americans had been driving more miles each year since the end of World War II.

The report finds the driving trend at odds with other means of transportation: “On the other hand, Americans took nearly 10 percent more trips via public transportation in 2011 than we did in 2005. The nation also saw increases in commuting by bike and on foot.”

The report attributes much of the shift to millennials, members of the generation born between 1983 and 2000, which the report says are more likely to demand public transportation and urban and walkable neighborhoods. The new expectations are largely driven by Internet-connected technologies, which are “rapidly spawning new transportation options and shifting the way young Americans relate to one another, creating new avenues for living connected, vibrant lives that are less reliant on driving,” according to the report.

PIRG finds the trend will likely stick as gas prices continue to rise, fewer Americans participate in the labor force and Americans demands less time spent in travel.

Even if millennials begin driving more in the future, the report’s findings show Americans are going to be driving much less in 2040 than federal agencies currently assume. “This raises the question of whether changing trends in driving are being adequately fac­tored into public policy,” the report reads.

The report concludes local, state and federal governments should react to the new trend by planning for uncertainty, accommodating millennials’ demands, reviewing the need for more highway projects, adapting federal priorities, using transportation funds based on cost-benefit analyses and conducting more transportation research.

For Cincinnati, the trend could have implications for two major transportation projects: the MLK/I-71 Interchange and the streetcar.

The streetcar project uses capital funding sources — some uniquely tied to mass transit projects — that some opponents argue should be reallocated to support the MLK/I-71 Interchange project.

But the report’s findings seem to support the city’s current plans to push forward with mass transit projects like the streetcar, even while local funding for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project remains uncertain.

After making changes based on feedback from public meetings, the Ohio Department of Transportation priced the interchange project at $80 million to $102 million, or $10 million to $32 million higher than the previous estimate of $70 million.

The higher price didn’t lead to the same outcry that resulted from the streetcar project’s $17.4 million cost overrun, likely because of the interchange project’s broader support, secure state funding and feedback-driven circumstances.

Still, the city could share some of the higher cost burden for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project. Previously, the city planned to use funds raised by leasing its parking assets to the Port Authority for the interchange, but that plan is currently being held up in court.

In 2012, the city adopted Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master plan since 1980. The plan advocates for more alternative methods of public transportation, particularly light rail and bike lanes. But the master plan does not establish means of funding, so City Council will have to approve funding over time to implement the plan.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.20.2013
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich gives State of the State, Dohoney's parking plan, county rejects bridge tolls

Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State speech yesterday. Kasich focused on his budget proposal and jobs, and he urged lawmakers to take up the Medicaid expansion. Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer has a thorough report on the speech here. CityBeat gave an in-depth look at Kasich’s budget in this week’s cover story here.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. proposed an ambitious parking and economic development plan yesterday. The 30-year plan, which Dohoney called a “public-public partnership,” will lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $100 million in projects around the city, including the I-71/MLK Interchange, Tower Place Mall and a high-rise that will house a downtown grocery store. As part of the deal, the city will retain control over parking rates, operation hours and the placement of meters.

The Kenton County Fiscal Court unanimously voted against tolls to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project, reports WVXU. County residents are concerned the tolls will be a financial drain for commuters and travelers, but finding other sources of funding for the project has been an ongoing struggle.

An Ohio woman claims she was fired after voting for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, reports Dayton Daily News. Patricia Kunkle’s lawsuit claims her former employer, Roberta “Bobbie” Gentile of Q-Mark Inc., threatened to fire workers if Obama won election and that Obama supporters would be first on the list.

John Cranley, former Democratic council member, will formally launch his mayoral campaign today. The kick-off will be at 20th Century Theater in Oakley at 5:30 p.m. Cranley’s main opponent will most likely be Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a fellow Democrat. The two Democrats have split on one issue: the streetcar. Qualls supports it, while Cranley is against it. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.

The University of Cincinnati is conducting research for how to locate food deserts, reports the Business Courier. Professor Michael Widener is looking at where people live and work, with a focus on how many people are able to stop by a grocery store after a workday.

Failing to yield caused 37,475 crashes in 2012, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Altogether, the crashes killed 187 people and injured 23,353. Young drivers, aged 16 to 25, were at fault for 30 percent of the crashes — nearly twice as high as those aged 26 to 35, who caused 16 percent of accidents. The full county-by-county report is available here.

UC will spend $2 million on design work for Nippert Stadium, reports WLWT. UC hopes the work will attract an Atlantic Coast Conference invitation.

Popular Science has a demonstration of scientists teaching language to a childlike robot.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.07.2013
Posted In: News, Education, Budget, Governor, Economy, Transportation at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich plan not so progressive, turnpike plan disappoints, WLWT attacks teacher salaries

Gov. John Kasich’s school funding plan may not be so progressive after all. In his initial announcement, Kasich promised the program will be more progressive by raising funding to poorer schools, but this fact from StateImpact Ohio seems to contradict that claim: “Under the projections released by the state, a suburban district like Olentangy that has about $192,000 of property value per student would get a more than three-fold increase in state funding. Meanwhile, Noble Local, a small rural district with about $164,000 of property wealth per student sees no increase in state funding.” The Toledo Blade found Kasich’s education plan favors suburban schools. The Akron Beacon Journal pulled numbers that show rich, growing school districts will do fine under the plan. According to The Columbus Dispatch, 60 percent of Ohio schools will not see increases in funding from Kasich’s plan.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is now shying away from statutory guarantees for northern Ohio in the Ohio Turnpike plan. Originally, Kasich promised 90 percent of Ohio Turnpike funds will remain in northern Ohio, albeit with a fairly vague definition of northern Ohio. Now, even that vague 90 percent doesn’t seem to be sticking around. But the plan would still be a massive job-creating infrastructure initiative for the entire state. The Ohio Turnpike runs along northern Ohio, so changes to fees and the road affect people living north the most.

WLWT published a thinly veiled criticism of local teacher salaries. The article pointed out Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) pays 45 of its employees more than $100,000 a year. Of those people, 42 are administrators and three are teachers. In comparison, the highest paid Cleveland school teacher makes $86,000. The article also glances over the fact CPS is “the number one urban-rated school district in the state” to point out the school district is still lacking in a few categories. As CPS Board President Eileen Reed points out, a school district needs to attract better educators with higher salaries if it wants to improve. Paying teachers less because the school district is performing worse would only put schools in a downward spiral as hiring standards drop alongside the quality of education.

County commissioners seem supportive of Kasich’s budget. Republican commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann said the budget could be “revolutionary” by changing how county governments work. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune highlighted the Medicaid expansion in the budget. As “revolutionary” as the budget could be, it’s not enough to make up for Ohio and Kasich’s troubled past.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was ranked the third best pediatric hospital in the United States by Parents magazine.

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments is looking for comments on updating the region’s bike map. Anyone who wants a say should leave a comment here.

The upcoming Horseshoe Casino is partnering up with local hotels to offer a free shuttle service that will seamlessly carry visitors around town.

One courageous grandma stood up to an anti-gay pastor. During a sermon, the pastor outed a gay high school student and told everyone they would "work together to address this problem of homosexuality." At that point, the grandma snapped at the pastor, “There are a lot of problems here, and him being gay is not one of them.” She then apologized to the boy and walked out.

Music has a lot of effects on the brain. Here is an infographic that shows them.

Bonus science news: Earth-like planets could be closer than most people think.

 
 

 

 

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by Nick Swartsell 05.29.2014 110 days ago
Posted In: Transportation at 07:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
img_2921

Will the Streetcar Go West Someday?

Advocates push for expanded transit options in Western Hills Viaduct replacement plan

Picture yourself hopping on a streetcar in Price Hill or Westwood and cruising downtown for lunch.

It probably won’t happen anytime soon. But a group of West Side residents was determined to put just that image in the heads of city council’s transportation committee as it met yesterday to consider what will be done with the city’s aging Western Hills Viaduct.

About 25 people showed up to the meeting to advocate for expanded transit options as planning for the bridge goes forward.

"It's about the future of our city and connecting one another,” said John Eby, a resident of Westwood, during Wednesday’s meeting. “Think of this as the economic development tool that will help connect Price Hill and Westwood to downtown."

Even without the added transit considerations, the project is daunting. The half-mile long bridge is 82 years old and was last rehabbed in 1977. So it’s getting a little crumbly.

Though it’s structurally sound for now, engineers say it will need to be completely rehabbed or replaced in the next 10 years. A study released last week found the bridge’s condition to be among of the worst in the state.

The viaduct is owned by Hamilton County, which pays Cincinnati to do upkeep.

City engineers are leaning toward replacement, though that’s going to be expensive. Estimated costs come in around $240 million for a new bridge, which would have two decks and be placed just south of the current one. So far, the city’s dedicated less than $6 million for the project.

But this moment, as the city mulls what to do about the bridge, is the perfect time to look at new transit options, advocates say.

Adding dedicated lanes for light rail would cost $24 million a lane, engineers estimate. But designing the bridge with extra structural integrity for streetcar rails, which don’t require extra lanes, could be a cheaper option, said city engineer Richard Szekeresh.

It wouldn’t be the first time a streetcar has made the trip over the Mill Creek and train yards spanned by the viaduct. In the 1950s, streetcars ran along the bridge’s lower deck.

But don’t start making plans to get out of downtown and hit up your favorite Westside chili parlor for lunch just yet. City officials say they’re in the opening stages of the project. Engineers hope to have designs drawn up by the end of the year, but it will be six to eight years before construction starts, according to city transportation manager Michael Moore. Before that is the long road to secure state funding and make sure the necessary local funds are in place.

Advocates say the project may be the last chance to leave the door open for future transit options like light rail or the streetcar. A new Eighth Street viaduct was just completed, and crews are wrapping up work on the Sixth Street bridge as well. Neither will carry rail into the West Side, which is home to about 20 percent of the city.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.13.2014
Posted In: News, Transportation, Courts, 2014 election at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

State fights for minor party restrictions, local judge disqualified, Oasis rail line draws critics

Ohio officials will appeal a court ruling that blocked tougher requirements on minor political parties and allows them to run in the 2014 primary and general elections under previous rules. The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich approved the stricter rules last year. Democrats and Libertarians argued the new law, which they labeled the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act, was put in place to protect Kasich from conservative electoral challengers upset with his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion.

The Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Friday after she was indicted on eight felony charges for, among other accusations, backdating and forging court documents. The disqualification could further burden a court that’s already known for a large backlog of cases. It remains unclear how long Hunter’s case and disqualification will last and whether she’ll be replaced while the legal battle unfolds.

Many streetcar supporters oppose the Oasis rail line and the rest of the Eastern Corridor project. Critics of the project point to a recent study that found the Oasis line would generate low economic development in seven of 10 planned stations. Instead of supporting the Oasis line, Cincinnatians for Progress says local officials should work to first establish a transit line — perhaps through a piece-by-piece approach of the defunct MetroMoves plan that voters rejected in 2002 — that could act as a central spine for a broader light rail network. Opposition to the Oasis line is also rooted in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project, which some say would expand and rework roads and highways in a way that could damage and divide the East Side and eastern Hamilton County. Officials are taking feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at EasternCorridor.org.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who might challenge Democratic gubernatorial Ed FitzGerald in the May primary, discussed the gubernatorial race in a nearly 40-minute interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board Friday. View the full interview here.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear whether groups have the right to sue in a local case that could have broader implications for free-speech rights and limitations. The legal fight between former Rep. Steve Driehaus and the Susan B. Anthony List could resolve whether political campaigns have the right to lie.

As local and state officials work to address the opiate epidemic, a drug history scholar from the University of Cincinnati proposes alternatives to the failing war on drugs.

One drug helps prevent opiate addicts from getting high.

The Ohio Department of Health says flu activity in Ohio is now widespread.

Ohio’s chief justice says it’s time to reform how judges are elected. It remains unclear exactly how Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor would reform the system, but she says she wants to uphold courts’ attempts at impartiality.

Reminder: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Find out more at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov.

Ohio gas prices increased in time for the new workweek.

Racism could accelerate aging among black men, according to a new study.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
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• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic
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by German Lopez 01.10.2014
Posted In: News, Development, Transportation, Streetcar at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news1_streetcar_jf2

Streetcar Supporters Oppose Oasis Rail Line

HDR study finds low economic development along intercity line

At first glance, it might seem like a rail line between downtown Cincinnati and the city of Milford would earn support from the same people who back the $132.8 million streetcar project, but streetcar supporters, including advocacy group Cincinnatians for Progress, say they oppose the idea and its execution.

Critics of the overall project, called the Eastern Corridor, recently pointed to a November study from HDR. Despite flowery language promising a maximized investment, HDR found seven of 10 stations on the $230-$322 million Oasis rail line would result in low economic development, five of 10 stations would provide low access to buses and bikes, and the intercity line would achieve only 3,440 daily riders by 2030.

HDR’s findings for the Oasis line stand in sharp contrast to its study of Cincinnati’s streetcar project. The firm found the streetcar line in Over-the-Rhine and downtown would generate major economic development and a 2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years.

Given the poor results for the Oasis line, streetcar supporters say local officials should ditch the Oasis concept and instead pursue the 2002 MetroMoves plan and an expansion of the streetcar system through a piecemeal approach that would create a central transit spine through the region.

“To have (the Oasis line) be our first commuter rail piece in Cincinnati … just doesn’t make sense to me,” says Derek Bauman, co-chair of Cincinnatians for Progress.

MetroMoves spans across the entire city and region, with the rail line along I-71 from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to downtown Cincinnati to King’s Island fostering particularly high interest.

Voters rejected the MetroMoves plan and the sales tax hike it involved in 2002, but streetcar supporters say public opinion will shift once the streetcar becomes reality in Cincinnati.

“That’s been proven in other cities, especially ones that have not historically been transit-oriented,” Bauman says, pointing to Houston and Miami as examples of cities that built spines that are now being expanded.

Opposition to the Oasis line is also more deeply rooted in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project. The unfunded billion-dollar project involves a few parts: relocating Ohio 32 through the East Side, the Oasis rail line and several road improvements from Cincinnati to Milford.

Supporters of the Eastern Corridor claim it would ease congestion, at least in the short term, and provide a cohesiveness in transportation options that’s severely lacking in the East Side.

Opponents argue the few benefits, some of which both sides agree are rooted in legitimate concerns, just aren’t worth the high costs and various risks tied to the project.

“When it comes to widening roads and highways, it’s kind of like loosening your belt at Thanksgiving. Somehow traffic always fills to fit,” Bauman says. “Highway expansion, especially in urban areas, is not the future. It’s not even the present in some areas.”

The big concern is that the relocation of Ohio 32 might do to the East Side and eastern Hamilton County what I-75 did to the West Side, which was partly obliterated and divided by the massive freeway.

“It hurts the cohesiveness of our communities when you create these big divides,” Bauman argues. “You would see that repeat itself.”

Officials are taking feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at EasternCorridor.org.

This article was updated to use more up-to-date figures for the cost of the Oasis rail line.

 
 
by Danny Cross 11.27.2013
 
 
streetcar

Morning News & Stuff

The Cincinnati Enquirer abruptly changed its tone about the streetcar project yesterday, writing in an editorial that the city should continue the project and leaving the newspaper on the opposite side of Mayor-elect John Cranley on the two main issues of the campaign it endorsed just weeks ago.

Fourteen months after publishing an editorial against the streetcar project, the three-member Enquirer editorial board yesterday spelled out why it now supports completing the project, suggesting that a main part of its opposition — and to Roxanne Qualls as mayor — was the current administration’s inability to “argue effectively for the project” that Cranley and other conservatives used to take office during an election that saw extremely low voter turnout.

CityBeat’s German Lopez noted on Twitter the irony of The Enquirer now supporting both the streetcar and parking plan while the candidate it endorsed attempts to unravel both — Cranley already stopped the parking plan. The comment drew a response from Enquirer Editor Carolyn Washburn, who is on the newspaper’s editorial board along with Publisher Margaret Buchanan and Editorial Page Editor David Holthaus.

The editorial includes the following paragraph: “In endorsing Cranley, we said he would ‘have to rein in his dictatorial tendencies and discipline himself to be diplomatic, respectful and collaborative.’ What we’ve seen so far is a matter for concern. Hurling insults at professionals like streetcar project manager John Deatrick isn’t what we need. Deatrick enjoys a good reputation as someone who has managed The Banks project and the rebuild of Fort Washington Way. He needs to stay on the streetcar project.”

The editorial was published the same day City Council put completing the project into law and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced his decision to support the project’s completion, which Lopez pointed out leaves Council short of the six votes required for an emergency clause that would immediately halt the project without leaving it open to referendum. Without the emergency clause, streetcar supporters could gather the required signatures to put a 5-4 cancellation vote to referendum, which would force the city to continue working on the project until voters decide on it in November.

Mayor-elect Cranley will hold a vote to stop the project on Monday. With Sittenfeld set to vote against halting the project, Cranley will need either newly elected David Mann or Kevin Flynn to vote in favor of stopping it. Both are on the record as being against the project but have left room to consider the financial realities before making their final decisions. 

Cranley announced this morning that he will name the new city manager at 2 p.m. today. Cranley removed former city manager Milton Dohoney last week.

A story by The Enquirer’s Mark Curnutte yesterday detailed life expectancy disparities among Cincinnati’s poor neighborhoods, finding a 20 year difference at times between citizens of predominantly black or urban Appalachian neighborhoods and people of wealthy white neighborhoods like Mount Lookout, Columbia Tusculum and Hyde Park. The Cincinnati Health Department will release more statistics Tuesday and a community discussion on the issue is set for Jan. 10. 

Pope Francis yesterday criticized the world’s growing wealth disparity, mentioning things like “idolatry of money” and “a new tyranny” in a 50,000-word statement that sharply criticized trickle-down economics.

The Pope via The Washington Post:

"Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system. … Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."

OTR restaurant Kaze will begin offering lunch hours starting on Black Friday.

Away from home and tired of “Friends-giving” gatherings? Here’s a bunch of restaurants serving good stuff on Thanksgiving day. 

Skip Black Friday craziness and use CityBeat’s Gift Guide to shop local this holiday season. There are also plenty of local retailers you can hit up online if you don't wait until the last minute!

If you’re traveling to some stuck-up East Coast city for Thanksgiving, charge the iPad or whatever because there are going to be some storms.

And high winds might cause the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to take all the air out of the Snoopy balloons so no one flies up into the air like in movies.

The NSA reportedly considered revealing the “porn-browsing history” of certain people considered to have ties to terrorist activity in order to discredit them.   

Great, now America’s durable goods orders are down. Thanks a lot, government shutdown!

At least the country’s jobless claims are back to pre-recession levels. Thanks, Obama?

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats beat UMass Lowell in basketball last night and senior forward Justin Jackson jammed one in the hoop hard.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.08.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Parking, Transportation at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar fight continues, state evaluating transit services, parking plan moving ahead

A small group of Over-the-Rhine homeowners is preparing for a possible lawsuit and other actions should Mayor-elect John Cranley try to cancel the $133 million streetcar project. Ryan Messer says the fight is about protecting his family’s investment along the streetcar route. Streetcar supporters plan to host a town hall-style meeting in the coming weeks to discuss possible actions to keep the project on track, including a referendum effort on any legislation that halts construction of the ongoing project. While Cranley says canceling the streetcar is at the top of the agenda, questions remain about how much it would cost to cancel the project, as CityBeat covered in further detail here and here.

As Cincinnati debates canceling the streetcar project, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is evaluating transit systems around the state to encourage more efficiency and cost effectiveness. The agency is particularly focused on how different transit services are dealing with rising demand and shrinking budgets. But if that’s the case, ODOT might carry some of the blame: When Gov. John Kasich took office, ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council pulled $52 million from the Cincinnati streetcar project despite previously scoring the streetcar the highest among Ohio’s transportation projects. The Kasich administration also refused $400 million in federal funding for a statewide passenger light rail system, and the money ended up going to California and other states that took on light rail projects.

Cranley’s other major campaign promise is to stop the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but the Port intends to finalize the lease by the end of the month — before Cranley takes office in December — by selling bonds that will finance the deal. The outgoing city administration pushed the parking plan through City Council in a matter of months for an upfront payment of $92 million. But following unsuccessful litigation and a due diligence process, the Port Authority cut the payment to $85 million, and the city is now responsible for paying $14-$15 million to build a new parking garage that the Port was originally supposed to finance under the deal. Cranley and other opponents of the parking plan say it gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets, while supporters argue it’s necessary to modernize the assets and help fund economic development projects.

Several of Cincinnati’s power brokers and building owners are working on a plan that would create a retail corridor in the city’s center and hopefully keep Saks Fifth Avenue in the city. Some of the efforts apparently involve financial incentives from the city, according to details provided to the Business Courier.

In the past decade, Ohio students have shown limited improvement in reading and math scores.

The Cincinnati area could become the largest metropolitan area without an abortion clinic following new regulations imposed by the state budget signed into law in June by Gov. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature. CityBeat covered the regulations and the rest of the state budget in further detail here.

The Hamilton County Association of Chiefs of Police released a report outlining stricter guidelines for Taser use. Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who has led lawsuits on behalf of families who lost loved ones after they were Tased, told WVXU he’s encouraged by the report, but he said he would also require annual tests of the devices and a ban on chest shots.

The Cincinnati branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is filing a federal complaint against the DHL Global Mail facility in Hebron, Ky., after DHL allegedly fired 24 of its employees on Oct. 9 in a dispute over prayer breaks.

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino reported $18.2 million in gross revenue in October, down from $19.8 million in September. The revenue reduction also cost Cincinnati’s casino the No. 1 spot, which is now held by Cleveland’s Horseshoe Casino. For Cincinnati and Ohio, the drop means lower tax revenue.

The Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center plans to close its physical space, but it’s sticking around as a virtual organization and will continue hosting Pride Night at Kings Island. A letter from the center’s board of directors stated that the transition was based on a need to “evolve with the times.”

The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would ban discrimination against gay and transgendered workers, but the bill’s chances are grim in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both Ohio senators — Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman — voted in favor of the Senate bill. CityBeat previously covered efforts in Ohio to pass workplace protections for LGBT individuals here.

Watch a homeless veteran’s aesthetic transformation, which apparently helped push his life forward:

The popular video of a baby’s reaction to his singing mom might actually show conflicting feelings of fear and sociality, not sentimentality.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic

• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 11.07.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Transportation at 11:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
odot transit study

State to Evaluate Existing Transit Systems

Study looks at rising demand and shrinking budgets

While Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project remains in limbo, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is taking a deep look at the state’s existing transit systems to encourage more efficiency and cost effectiveness.

Specifically, ODOT says the “Ohio Statewide Transit Needs Study” is necessary to evaluate the performance of different transit systems around the state as demand grows and budgets shrink.

“Travel trends show that there is a definite rise in the need for convenient, affordable public transportation to jobs, medical appointments, shopping and recreational activities. Our transit agencies are struggling to fund this existing service, let alone meet the increased demand,” ODOT’s website states.

Starting the last week of October, ODOT began sending out rider surveys to people who use transit services to collect their thoughts on current services and input on possible improvements. The surveys are being conducted with the help of 61 transit agencies around Ohio, and ODOT expects to complete them in mid-November.

“The rider survey is just the first step of our public outreach and technical effort,” said Marianne Freed, administrator of ODOT’s Office of Transit, in a statement. “Our goal is to evaluate the unique transportation needs for communities statewide, whether it’s a large city or a rural county.”

The ultimate goal, according to ODOT, is “to develop a long-term strategy to determine how to best stretch limited dollars while meeting the demands of Ohios riders today and in the future.”

ODOT will release the study’s findings at www.TransitNeedsStudy.ohio.gov.

If ODOT does find inadequate budgets for rising demand, the agency also might find itself partly culpable.

It was ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council that pulled $52 million in federal funding from the streetcar project once Gov. John Kasich came into office, even though the project previously received the highest score among transportation projects in the state. The massive cut forced local officials to scale back the original streetcar line and seek other federal funds.

Kasich also declined $400 million in federal funds for the 3C passenger rail line, which would have connected Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland. The federal funds ended up going to California and other states that embraced light rail, The Plain Dealer previously reported.

ODOT’s study also arrives as Cincinnati debates its own transit needs. On Tuesday, the city elected a mayor and City Council majority that opposes to the ongoing streetcar project.

If the streetcar project is canceled, it wouldn’t be the first time Cincinnati gave up on a new transit system in the middle of construction. The city also pulled out of building a subway system in the 1920s. The defunct subway tunnels now serve as a tourist attraction.

The subway failure and political threats to the streetcar project are two of the reasons Urbanophile, a national urbanist blog, described Cincinnati’s culture as “one of smug self-regard and self-sabotage” in a blog post on Thursday.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor-elect John Cranley denied that Cincinnati holds an anti-transit mentality. Cranley pointed out that local voters in the 1970s decided to increase their earnings tax to support the Metro bus system. He says it comes down to weighing the costs and benefits.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.22.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Transportation, Energy at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
metro plus bus

Morning News and Stuff

Metro moves forward with changes, bill to weaken energy standards, Berns criticizes media

As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Metro, Greater Cincinnati’s bus system, is moving forward with changes that seek to improve services that have dealt with funding shortfalls and cuts in the past few years. The biggest change is Metro*Plus, a new limited-stop weekday bus service that will be free through Aug. 23. Metro spokesperson Jill Dunne says Metro*Plus is a step toward bus rapid transit (BRT), an elaborate system that uses limited stops, traffic signal priority and bus-only lanes. Metro*Plus is mostly federally funded, and Metro says an expansion into BRT, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, would also be carried by federal grants. Besides Metro*Plus, Cincinnati’s bus system is also adding and cutting some routes.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, says he will introduce legislation capping how much utilities can spend on energy efficiency programs and scrapping requirements for in-state solar and wind power — two major moves that will weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law. But Seitz says the changes would keep mandates for utilities to provide one-fourth of their electricity through alternative sources and reduce consumer consumption by 22 percent by 2025. Environmentalists have been critical of Seitz’s review ever since he announced it in response to pressure from Akron-based FirstEnergy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. (Correction: This paragraph previously said utilities are required to provide one-fourth of their electricity through renewable sources; the requirement actually applies to alternative sources.)

Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns yesterday declared his campaign dead and blamed local media, including CityBeat, for its demise. Berns said the media has done little to promote him over Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, who have similar views on every major issue except the streetcar and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. In response, Berns attached a picture of himself playing dead in front of a vehicle. The stunt was just the latest in the Libertarian’s campaign, which has included Berns quitting the race for one day before deciding to stay in, the candidate giving away tomato plants while claiming they’re marijuana and lots of free ice cream.

Commentary: “Gov. Kasich’s Bias Toward Secrecy.”

Cranley is airing a new advertisement attacking Qualls. The ad focuses largely on the streetcar and parking plan. As Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier points out, the ad “takes some factual liberties”: Parking meters are being leased, not sold, to the quasi-public Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, and it’s so far unclear how the money from the lease is going to be spent and if the resulting projects will really favor downtown over neighborhoods.

Hamilton County commissioners approved the next phase of The Banks, which could include another hotel if developers can’t find office tenants to fill the currently planned space. The second phase of the project already includes a one-block complex with 305 apartments.

State officials are reporting a 467-percent increase in the amount of seized meth labs this year. “We’re seeing a continuous spike,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “It is easier (for people to make the drug). We used to talk about ‘meth houses,’ or places people would make this. Well, today, you can make it in a pop bottle.”

Ohio’s school report cards will be released today, allowing anyone to go online and see what a school is rated on an A-F scale.

The U.S.  Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday announced more than $317,000 will be directed to Ohio to provide critical housing and clinical services for homeless veterans.  The grants are part of the $75 million appropriated this year to support housing needs for homeless veterans.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a new initiative called #RunTheCity, which will allow citizens to run or walk alongside local officials in an event that’s supposed to simultaneously encourage access and healthy living. The first event with City Solicitor John Curp, Cincinnati’s top lawyer, will be tonight at 6 p.m. at Wulsin Triangle, corner of Observatory Avenue and Madison Road in Hyde Park.

Two Greater Cincinnati companies — U.S. Logistics and ODW Logistics & Transportation Services — made the Inc. 500 list for fastest-growing companies, and more than 50 others made the Inc. 5,000 list. Four landed on the Inc. 500 list last year and one got on the list in 2011.

Another good local economic indicator: Greater Cincinnati home sales jumped 30 percent in July.

Mouse skin cells were successfully transformed into eggs, sperm and babies, but a similar treatment for infertile humans is likely a few decades away.

 
 
by German Lopez 05.20.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Transportation at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pirg report

Research Group: U.S. Driving Boom Is Over

As local officials struggle with streetcar and interchange, report demands new direction

Americans are driving less, and fewer Americans are driving, according to a May 14 report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), an advocacy organization. For Cincinnati, the trend might justify a recent shift in public policy that embraces more transportation options, including more bike lanes and a streetcar.

“Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eight years ago, and fewer per person than we did at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term,” the report reads. “The unique combina­tion of conditions that fueled the Driving Boom — from cheap gas prices to the rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation — no longer exists. Meanwhile, a new generation — the Mil­lennials — is demanding a new American Dream less dependent on driving.”

The report also says U.S. transportation policy “remains stuck in the past” and needs to “hit the ‘reset’ button.”

The report, which uses U.S. Department of Transportation data from 2012, found Americans were driving about 9,000 miles a year per person in 2012, down from a peak of nearly 10,000 in 2004. Until the peak, Americans had been driving more miles each year since the end of World War II.

The report finds the driving trend at odds with other means of transportation: “On the other hand, Americans took nearly 10 percent more trips via public transportation in 2011 than we did in 2005. The nation also saw increases in commuting by bike and on foot.”

The report attributes much of the shift to millennials, members of the generation born between 1983 and 2000, which the report says are more likely to demand public transportation and urban and walkable neighborhoods. The new expectations are largely driven by Internet-connected technologies, which are “rapidly spawning new transportation options and shifting the way young Americans relate to one another, creating new avenues for living connected, vibrant lives that are less reliant on driving,” according to the report.

PIRG finds the trend will likely stick as gas prices continue to rise, fewer Americans participate in the labor force and Americans demands less time spent in travel.

Even if millennials begin driving more in the future, the report’s findings show Americans are going to be driving much less in 2040 than federal agencies currently assume. “This raises the question of whether changing trends in driving are being adequately fac­tored into public policy,” the report reads.

The report concludes local, state and federal governments should react to the new trend by planning for uncertainty, accommodating millennials’ demands, reviewing the need for more highway projects, adapting federal priorities, using transportation funds based on cost-benefit analyses and conducting more transportation research.

For Cincinnati, the trend could have implications for two major transportation projects: the MLK/I-71 Interchange and the streetcar.

The streetcar project uses capital funding sources — some uniquely tied to mass transit projects — that some opponents argue should be reallocated to support the MLK/I-71 Interchange project.

But the report’s findings seem to support the city’s current plans to push forward with mass transit projects like the streetcar, even while local funding for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project remains uncertain.

After making changes based on feedback from public meetings, the Ohio Department of Transportation priced the interchange project at $80 million to $102 million, or $10 million to $32 million higher than the previous estimate of $70 million.

The higher price didn’t lead to the same outcry that resulted from the streetcar project’s $17.4 million cost overrun, likely because of the interchange project’s broader support, secure state funding and feedback-driven circumstances.

Still, the city could share some of the higher cost burden for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project. Previously, the city planned to use funds raised by leasing its parking assets to the Port Authority for the interchange, but that plan is currently being held up in court.

In 2012, the city adopted Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master plan since 1980. The plan advocates for more alternative methods of public transportation, particularly light rail and bike lanes. But the master plan does not establish means of funding, so City Council will have to approve funding over time to implement the plan.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.20.2013
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Kasich gives State of the State, Dohoney's parking plan, county rejects bridge tolls

Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State speech yesterday. Kasich focused on his budget proposal and jobs, and he urged lawmakers to take up the Medicaid expansion. Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer has a thorough report on the speech here. CityBeat gave an in-depth look at Kasich’s budget in this week’s cover story here.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. proposed an ambitious parking and economic development plan yesterday. The 30-year plan, which Dohoney called a “public-public partnership,” will lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $100 million in projects around the city, including the I-71/MLK Interchange, Tower Place Mall and a high-rise that will house a downtown grocery store. As part of the deal, the city will retain control over parking rates, operation hours and the placement of meters.

The Kenton County Fiscal Court unanimously voted against tolls to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project, reports WVXU. County residents are concerned the tolls will be a financial drain for commuters and travelers, but finding other sources of funding for the project has been an ongoing struggle.

An Ohio woman claims she was fired after voting for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, reports Dayton Daily News. Patricia Kunkle’s lawsuit claims her former employer, Roberta “Bobbie” Gentile of Q-Mark Inc., threatened to fire workers if Obama won election and that Obama supporters would be first on the list.

John Cranley, former Democratic council member, will formally launch his mayoral campaign today. The kick-off will be at 20th Century Theater in Oakley at 5:30 p.m. Cranley’s main opponent will most likely be Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a fellow Democrat. The two Democrats have split on one issue: the streetcar. Qualls supports it, while Cranley is against it. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.

The University of Cincinnati is conducting research for how to locate food deserts, reports the Business Courier. Professor Michael Widener is looking at where people live and work, with a focus on how many people are able to stop by a grocery store after a workday.

Failing to yield caused 37,475 crashes in 2012, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Altogether, the crashes killed 187 people and injured 23,353. Young drivers, aged 16 to 25, were at fault for 30 percent of the crashes — nearly twice as high as those aged 26 to 35, who caused 16 percent of accidents. The full county-by-county report is available here.

UC will spend $2 million on design work for Nippert Stadium, reports WLWT. UC hopes the work will attract an Atlantic Coast Conference invitation.

Popular Science has a demonstration of scientists teaching language to a childlike robot.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.07.2013
Posted In: News, Education, Budget, Governor, Economy, Transportation at 10:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Kasich plan not so progressive, turnpike plan disappoints, WLWT attacks teacher salaries

Gov. John Kasich’s school funding plan may not be so progressive after all. In his initial announcement, Kasich promised the program will be more progressive by raising funding to poorer schools, but this fact from StateImpact Ohio seems to contradict that claim: “Under the projections released by the state, a suburban district like Olentangy that has about $192,000 of property value per student would get a more than three-fold increase in state funding. Meanwhile, Noble Local, a small rural district with about $164,000 of property wealth per student sees no increase in state funding.” The Toledo Blade found Kasich’s education plan favors suburban schools. The Akron Beacon Journal pulled numbers that show rich, growing school districts will do fine under the plan. According to The Columbus Dispatch, 60 percent of Ohio schools will not see increases in funding from Kasich’s plan.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is now shying away from statutory guarantees for northern Ohio in the Ohio Turnpike plan. Originally, Kasich promised 90 percent of Ohio Turnpike funds will remain in northern Ohio, albeit with a fairly vague definition of northern Ohio. Now, even that vague 90 percent doesn’t seem to be sticking around. But the plan would still be a massive job-creating infrastructure initiative for the entire state. The Ohio Turnpike runs along northern Ohio, so changes to fees and the road affect people living north the most.

WLWT published a thinly veiled criticism of local teacher salaries. The article pointed out Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) pays 45 of its employees more than $100,000 a year. Of those people, 42 are administrators and three are teachers. In comparison, the highest paid Cleveland school teacher makes $86,000. The article also glances over the fact CPS is “the number one urban-rated school district in the state” to point out the school district is still lacking in a few categories. As CPS Board President Eileen Reed points out, a school district needs to attract better educators with higher salaries if it wants to improve. Paying teachers less because the school district is performing worse would only put schools in a downward spiral as hiring standards drop alongside the quality of education.

County commissioners seem supportive of Kasich’s budget. Republican commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann said the budget could be “revolutionary” by changing how county governments work. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune highlighted the Medicaid expansion in the budget. As “revolutionary” as the budget could be, it’s not enough to make up for Ohio and Kasich’s troubled past.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was ranked the third best pediatric hospital in the United States by Parents magazine.

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments is looking for comments on updating the region’s bike map. Anyone who wants a say should leave a comment here.

The upcoming Horseshoe Casino is partnering up with local hotels to offer a free shuttle service that will seamlessly carry visitors around town.

One courageous grandma stood up to an anti-gay pastor. During a sermon, the pastor outed a gay high school student and told everyone they would "work together to address this problem of homosexuality." At that point, the grandma snapped at the pastor, “There are a lot of problems here, and him being gay is not one of them.” She then apologized to the boy and walked out.

Music has a lot of effects on the brain. Here is an infographic that shows them.

Bonus science news: Earth-like planets could be closer than most people think.

 
 
 
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