by German Lopez
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
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
“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 Ohio’s 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.
2 Comments · Wednesday, October 16, 2013
If anyone knows what it means to lose federal funds, it’s Gov. John Kasich.
Bike trail advocates find resistance from light rail supporters
21 Comments · Tuesday, March 13, 2012
There’s a stretch of old railroad tracks
running through the bustling, lively area of Hyde Park just off the
Smith-Edwards Road exit. Businesses thrive among a quiet, upscale
residential area; children board buses for school. Just to the side of
the road, though — away from the life and hullabaloo — is something very
different. Something lifeless.