0 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Major supporters of the streetcar project oppose the Oasis rail line and the broader Eastern Corridor project.
by German Lopez
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
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
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 German Lopez
Residents, business owners rally to lobby new mayor and council
Dozens of residents and business owners gathered in
Over-the-Rhine on Tuesday to launch a campaign that seeks to persuade
Mayor-elect John Cranley and the newly elected City Council to support
the $133 million streetcar project.
Attendees included Ryan Messer, who used his life savings
to renovate his home in Over-the-Rhine; Derek Bauman, co-chair of
Cincinnatians for Progress; Jean-Francois Flechet, owner of the Taste of
Belgium; and Derek dos Anjos, owner of The Anchor.
“We’re here today to keep the conversation going outside
of political rhetoric and partisan politics,” Messer said. “Simply put,
the streetcar is a component of Cincinnati economic development, and
it’s a project that grows the whole city — not just an urban core,
which, by the way, is an important part of developing this region.”
The group intends to lobby Cranley and the newly elected
council, which appear poised to cancel the project when they take office
At least three of nine elected council members — P.G.
Sittenfeld, David Mann and Kevin Flynn — have told media outlets that
they want a full accounting of the project before making a final
decision. Another three — Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell
Young — are on the record as supporting the project. The final three —
Christopher Smitherman, Charlie Winburn and Amy Murray — adamantly
opposed the project in the past.
Members of the pro-streetcar group invited Cranley and all
elected council members to join them at a town hall-style meeting on
Nov. 14 at the Mercantile Library, where supporters will discuss their
path forward. So far, supporters have publicly discussed a concerted
lobbying effort, a referendum if council passes an ordinance undoing the
streetcar project and possible legal action.
As CityBeat first uncovered, the costs of canceling the project are currently unknown,
and some of the costs could actually fall on the operating budget that
pays for police, firefighters and human services instead of the capital
budget that is currently financing the streetcar project.
Much of the uncertainty falls on ongoing construction for
the streetcar, which has continued despite the newly elected city
government’s intent to stop the project. As of September, the city spent
$23 million on the project and contractually obligated $94 million,
some of which city officials say will need to be paid back even if the
project were canceled.
The U.S. Department of Transportation also told city
officials in a June 19 letter that nearly $41 million of nearly $45
million in federal grants would need to be returned if the project were
Supporters also claim Cincinnati would be giving up a
2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years if the city abandoned the
streetcar now. That estimate is derived from a 2007 study conducted by
consulting firm HDR, which was evaluated and supported by the University
Project executive John Deatrick says the HDR study is now
outdated and the city is working on updating the numbers. Still,
Deatrick says the project is intended to spur economic development, not
just provide another form of public transportation.
The Nov. 13 issue of CityBeat will give a more in-depth look at the campaign to save the streetcar and some of the people involved in the movement.