by Nick Swartsell
at 11:10 AM | Permalink
Believe in Cincinnati continues engaging neighborhood leaders about future transit options
Believe in Cincinnati, the grassroots group that played a big role advocating for the Cincinnati streetcar during and since the infamous City Hall pause, is expanding its focus beyond Over-the-Rhine.More than 80 people showed up to a meeting in Clifton Tuesday night to discuss taking the streetcar beyond OTR."We started around the streetcar, but our vision is much broader than that,” said Believe in Cincinnati organizer Ryan Messer. He said people from 80 percent of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods are involved in the group. “I think we have a vision that someday every neighborhood will have a transportation committee. The conversation we want to continue is this broader regional transit plan while ensuring we’re going forward with the Cincinnati streetcar.”Believe in Cincinnati was instrumental in advocating for the streetcar last winter when recently-elected Mayor John Cranley, who campaigned on opposition to the streetcar, put the project on hold. When the project came back online, Vice Mayor David Mann credited the group with making a big difference.Now progress on the streetcar is humming along. Project executive John Deatrick says construction of the track and the cars themselves is on schedule, with more than 7,000 feet of track done, four stations stops completed and delivery of the first five streetcars expected next fall and winter. Deatrick says the whole system should be up and running by summer 2016.Deatrick also talked about the possibilities for “phase 1B,” or the extension of the streetcar into uptown. That leg of the route was part of the initial plans for the system until Gov. John Kasich pulled $52 million in state funds from the project in 2010. That’s left the proposed extension into Corryville and Clifton without funding. Deatrick said the city has decided not to pursue a federal grant to build the uptown extension, because the downtown portion isn’t far enough along yet. But Deatrick said the city has continued to explore the possibility of running the streetcar up Vine Street and has kept plans for an eventual expansion up to date. “As soon as city council and the mayor are ready, we’re ready to apply for more money,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting.Advocates see uptown, including Avondale, Corryville and Clifton, as a logical next step in the progression of the streetcar since it’s where a big number of the city’s jobs are located, including major hospitals and the University of Cincinnati, the city’s largest employers.Councilman Kevin Flynn, who cast a deciding vote to restart the project last December, voiced cautious support for Believe in Cincinnati’s efforts but said the challenges faced by efforts to expand the line are daunting. He told the crowd not to put the cart before the horse. “On the day I made the vote, I said, ‘this isn’t the end, this is the beginning.’” Flynn said. “I see energy, but we have to harness that energy. I understand this is talking about how we get to phase two. I don’t mean to be a party pooper, but the way to get to phase two is to make phase one a success."I've talked to a lot of the big employers uptown. They'd all like to see the streetcar up here. There's no money — right now — to do that. But probably more important than the money… there's not the will. The only way the will could possibly be generated is to make phase one a financial success."While funding is the big stumbling block for expanding the system right now, that hasn’t stopped Believe in Cincinnati from growing. The group recently hired a full-time employee to continue to promote the group and transit projects for the next five months and has been raising funds from donors both in Cincinnati and across the country. The group has also been meeting with residents in communities outside the streetcar’s current planned path. Messer said he’s spoken with community council members and other community leaders in a number of neighborhoods, including Hyde Park, Avondale and even communities in Northern Kentucky. All have expressed interest in eventually widening the streetcar’s reach.West Side transit advocate Pete Witte said interest in the streetcar is growing in neighborhoods like Price Hill and Westwood. He joked that Cincinnati’s western neighborhoods are a “lion’s pit” when it comes to the issue. Those neighborhoods voted overwhelmingly for Mayor Cranley and his opposition to the project. But with progress downtown, Witte said some in the West Side are coming around. He highlighted the looming reconstruction of the Western Hills Viaduct as a great opportunity to have the conversation about expanding transit to the area.“We’re real people, residents, business owners, raising families, going to school, whatever, who understand the importance that transit can make for our community and the city as a whole,” Witte said of West Siders who are advocating for transit expansion. “We’re going to be meeting and focusing on the Western Hills Viaduct, but it does go beyond that.”Messer said his group believes the issue of transit doesn’t have to be politically divisive. “I
think a lot of people have said they’re a little surprised we’re not a
bunch of flaming liberals who want to put streetcars everywhere and
don’t care about what it costs," he said. "Some of us are probably progressive,
some of us are not. I don’t know that transit is a partisan issue. We
see transit as an investment to grow our city.”
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: Transportation
at 07:55 AM | Permalink
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.
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The American Family Association got real mad last week
when it found out Radio Shack is not using the word “Christmas” in its
holiday sales, calling for a boycott of the retailer due to
“censorship.” WORLD -1
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 11, 2013
A former Cincinnatian who runs the Los Angeles Metro
transit agency took to Twitter to comment on the absurdity of
Cincinnati’s incoming administration stopping a transportation project
under construction. CINCINNATI -2
Having a streetcar party today? Here are some songs (of varying significance)
by German Lopez
Posted In: Mayor
at 02:39 PM | Permalink
Council gets six votes to override mayor's veto and continue project
After nearly two months of ups and downs, city leaders on Thursday announced Cincinnati will get a streetcar after all.
Speaking prior to a council vote, Mayor John Cranley
and Councilman Kevin Flynn announced City Council has the six votes to
overcome the mayor's veto and restart construction on the $132.8 million
streetcar project.Flynn was the final holdout in what some council
members now call the "streetcar six." He was asking for a commitment
from private contributors to cover the annual operating costs for the
streetcar, which consulting firm KPMG estimated at $1.88-$2.44 million a
year after fares and sponsorships.The philanthropic Haile Foundation lived up to part
of the commitment by signing onto $900,000 a year for 10 years, Flynn
announced. That was enough of a commitment to move forward as the city
makes a broader effort to get all the operating costs off the city's
books, he said. "That is a huge commitment, folks," Flynn added. Flynn
also acknowledged that the streetcar could foster new revenues in the
city's operating budget and actually allow the city to take on bigger
responsibilities.Previous studies from consulting firm HDR and the
University of Cincinnati found the streetcar project will generate a
2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years. Flynn, a Charterite, joined Democrats David
Mann, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young
in support of restarting the project. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie
Winburn and Independent Christopher Smitherman voted against it. Still, Cranley said he will continue opposing the streetcar project. He repeatedly stated council is making the wrong decision. "I'm disappointed in the outcome," said Cranley, who ran in opposition to the streetcar.Flynn reiterated his respect for Cranley, despite effectively dealing a major blow to Cranley's agenda. Cranley "helped me get elected to this position, and I take that trust seriously," Flynn said.Others were glad the city can now take on different issues without getting mired down in a contentious streetcar debate."I am so glad that this issue is done and over with," said Vice Mayor Mann, who voted in favor of the project. Mann
officially changed his stance on the project after KPMG's audit found
canceling the project could cost nearly as much as completing it. The final decision came at a cost to Cincinnati: The two-week pause of the project, which allowed KPMG to conduct its review, added $1.7-$2.8 million in costs, according to KPMG's audit. The city also allocated $250,000 to pay KPMG for its work.Once it's completed, the streetcar line will run as a 3.6-mile loop in Over-the-Rhine and downtown.Updated with results of City Council's vote and additional information.
by German Lopez
Councilman Kevin Flynn still undecided on whether to cast deciding vote to restart project
It's decision day for Cincinnati's $132.8 million streetcar
But hours before City Council expects to make a decision,
it's unclear whether the legislative body has the six votes necessary to
overcome Mayor John Cranley's veto and restart construction for the streetcar
The deciding vote will most likely come from Charterite
Kevin Flynn, who says he's working behind the scenes with undisclosed private
entities to get the streetcar's operating costs off the city's books. If that
deal pulls through, Flynn would provide the sixth vote to keep going.
The project already has five votes in favor: Democrats David
Mann, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young.
Three council members have long opposed the project:
Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn and Independent Christopher
It's a big financial decision for the city.
If the city goes forward with the project, it would cost
$53.9-$68.9 million, depending on whether the city convinces courts Duke Energy
should pay for $15 million in utility costs, according to an audit from
consulting firm KPMG.
If the city cancels, it will incur $16.3-$46.1 million
in additional close-out costs, the same audit found. But it will get nothing for
those tens of millions spent and could face costly litigation in the future.
Council expects to make a final decision at Thursday's 2
p.m. meeting. Follow @germanrlopez on Twitter for live updates.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Progressives need to understand that
there are many more reasons that some Cincinnatians hold steadfastly
against investment in public transportation, especially when so many of
our highways need to be widened and repaved because they are the only
useful mode of transportation available to most people because we don’t
by Danny Cross
Posted In: Media
at 10:41 AM | Permalink
Streetcar opponents allow Sittenfeld to act like a leader in everyone’s face
By all accounts, yesterday’s special council session to
discuss the Cincinnati streetcar was long and contentious, more than 60 streetcar supporters
pleading with an indignant Mayor John Cranley and newly elected council members
still spouting campaign-trail anti-streetcar rhetoric.
After the meeting, Cranley dismissed an offer by major philanthropy organization The Carol
Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation to pay for a study of
streetcar shut-down costs that opponents want to see come in lower than the
city’s estimates before they vote to completely stop the project. Cranley dismissed
the offer because it also came with a note saying that if the streetcar is canceled the foundation will
reconsider its contributions to Music
Hall, the Smale Riverfront Park and other city projects. Cranley would rather make the city pay for the study than negotiate with terrorists respond to threats.
About seven and a half hours into this debacle of American
democracy — which included numerous procedural abnormalities including the
mayor asking Council to discuss and vote on ordinances no one had read yet, an hours-long
delay and a funding appropriation that leaves the cancellation vote safe from
the pro-streetcar-threatened voter referendum (something Cranley railed against
when the city administration kept the parking plan safe from referendum) — Councilman
P.G. Sittenfeld livened things up with something everyone tired of the streetcar
debate can agree is funny: undermining the mayor’s authority by asking fellow
council members to overrule him.
The following video published by UrbanCincy shows Cranley denying Sittenfeld an opportunity to speak. Sittenfeld then asks for a vote to overrule Cranley, which the mayor had to approve, and everyone but Kevin Flynn votes to overrule. (Flynn unfortunately had to vote first, leaving him unable to determine which way the vote was likely to go — a tough position for a rookie politician.) Once David Mann and Amy Murray voted to allow Sittenfeld to speak, the rest of the anti-streetcar faction followed suit, knowing Sittenfeld had the necessary votes to overrule Cranley. Then Sittenfeld spent a few minutes going mayoral on Cincinnati's new mayor.
by Danny Cross
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.”
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
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
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.