by German Lopez
106 days ago
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
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.
Metro celebrates 40 years, looks ahead to new possibilities
1 Comment · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
As it commemorates its 40th anniversary,
Greater Cincinnati’s bus service is making changes it hopes will improve
a system that has dealt with funding shortfalls and service cuts in the
past few years.
by German Lopez
Parking plan's final public hearing, officials list Plan B, governor's approval hits highs
The tone was negative once again in the final public hearing
for the city manager’s plan to lease the city’s parking system. Of the
two dozen speakers, only four were positive. Tabitha Woodruff,
who is with the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, voiced mixed feelings about the plan: “As we feared it provides a short-term solution
to a long-term budget problem, raises hours and rates on citizens, and
has the potential to incur high transaction costs. … We’re encouraged,
however, by the selection of a public entity, the Port Authority and by
numerous proposed provisions of the lease intended to insure the city
maintains control of details like rates and hours.” CityBeat wrote about the plan in detail here.
If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, and eliminate Human
Services Funding, but critics argue there are better alternatives.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says casino and parking revenue and cuts
to non-essential programs could help clear the deficit without the plan.Gov. John Kasich’s job approval rating has risen above 50 percent for the first time,
and he’s beating all the potential Democratic gubernatorial
candidates in theoretical match-ups, according to a Quinnipiac University
poll. CityBeat covered the governor’s budget plan, which will set the state’s policy blueprint for the next two years, here.
The Ohio House will vote on Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan today, which leverages the Turnpike for a statewide infrastructure program.
With the approval of Metro’s operating budget, City Council and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) have ended their dispute
over streetcar funding. Council members had been approving monthly
budgets as they worked things out with SORTA, which manages the region’s
bus system. SORTA filed a lawsuit disputing the limits of the transit fund, but it dropped the suit
after the city said it will not use the money for maintenance of streets, sidewalks
and streetlights. (Correction: This previously said the city will “only use the money for streets, sidewalks and streetlights” when the opposite is true.)The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) says the state’s schools are making improvement, but they still “have room to grow.”
In the latest state report cards, Ohio schools improved in 14 of 26
categories and met the state’s performance goal on 21 out of 26, with
particularly strong gains in math and science, but ODE says, “The
performance of Ohio’s economically disadvantaged students and minorities
remains unacceptably low.” The state auditor has a problem with how Ohio’s schools report data through what he calls a “just-trust-me” system.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a 40-year agreement
with the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) that
will lease the county-owned Memorial Hall and provide renovations to the
105-year-old building. County officials have long said the building,
which is used to host concerts, shows and speaking events, is in dire
need of upgrades, particularly overhauls to its roof, windows, facade
work, floors, air conditioning and bathrooms — all of which will now be
financed by 3CDC with the help of tax credits.The commissioners also approved a two-year policy agenda, which generally outlines their plans for county finances and taxes, infrastructure and economic development.
The Over-the-Rhine Eco Garden could be forced to relocate
if the city approves CitiRama’s development proposal. The move would be
fully funded by the city’s Department of Community Development, with
startup and relocation costs paid for.
Ohio’s concealed weapon carry permits reached record highs in 2012 with more than 76,000 permits issued.
Fewer Ohioans are starting their own businesses, and the state’s level of self-employment is one of the lowest in the nation, according to a report from Dayton Daily News.
With Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino set to open March 4, gambling addiction could be one of the downsides to the casino’s glitz and job creation, but extra funds for the state’s treatment programs and special training for casino employees could help combat the problem.
A medical marijuana amendment could be on Ohio’s 2013 ballot, but anti-drug groups are already speaking out against it.
Think the 114-year-old Japanese woman has reached an impressive age? Guffaw. Popular Science lists six much older animals.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I have lived in Cincinnati for close to
13 years and I’ve never been on a Metro bus. For the last few months
I’ve been thinking about this fact, and it bothers me because I’m not
sure where the problem lies. Is it Cincinnati or me?
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 9, 2013
A new policy limiting the amount of sick
days for Metro bus drivers was not received well by the bus service’s
workers last week. Fifty-nine bus drivers called in sick Friday, Jan. 4
in protest of a new policy reducing the number of sick days available
by Andy Brownfield
Resolution promises no bus funds used on streetcar
In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council on Wednesday
passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit authority had voted
Tuesday on an agreement with the city that contained a provision saying
money from the $42 million transit fund that pays for bus operation
can’t be used on the streetcar.
The agreement needs to be signed by the city as well in
order to release millions of dollars in federal grants to help fund the
streetcar. The city has pledged to match those grants with local funds.
SORTA wants to make sure the transit fund isn’t used for that purpose,
but the city wants to have the freedom to use that money on any
At least one council member questioned the necessity of passing the resolution.
Chris Seelbach said that nobody on council or in the city
administration had proposed or would propose using transit money on the
“I don’t understand why we would need a provision in any
contract that would make us not be able to, when nobody’s proposing that
we do it,” he said.
The resolution has no legal standing preventing council
from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar, but
Qualls said she hoped it put citizens’ minds at rest regarding their
Mayor Mark Mallory on Monday published an editorial in The
Enquirer promising that the transit money wouldn’t be used for the
He went further on Wednesday and said during council’s
meeting that he as mayor would never approve the use of transit money
for the operation of the streetcar.
Council also passed a one-month budget for SORTA, requiring that they come back next month to pass another one.
Councilman Chris Smitherman accused Mallory of trying to
flex political muscle in the budget to strong-arm SORTA into taking out
the provision disallowing the use of transit funds for the streetcar. He
questioned the timing of passing a SORTA budget the day after the
transit authority voted to prevent transit funds being used for the
Councilman Charlie Winburn — council's sole Republican — walked out of a Budget Committee meeting in advance of the vote.
However Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said it made sense to
pass the one-month budget because it forbid SORTA from using taxpayer
money to sue the city.
City Solicitor John Curp said it was SORTA’s position in
the lawsuit that it should be the one deciding how transit funds are
used, not the city.
1 Comment · Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Metro is nearing completion of its first
comprehensive plan since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Throughout the
year, the nonprofit, tax-funded transit company has worked on Way to Go,
a plan with short-term and long-term goals meant to revamp lines for
faster, wider-ranging travel.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:52 AM | Permalink
Transit company calls for public feedback
Metro is nearing completion of its new comprehensive transit plan.
Throughout the year, the nonprofit, tax-funded transit company
has worked on Way to Go, a plan with short-term and long-term goals
meant to revamp lines for faster, wider-ranging travel.
The plan, which is the first comprehensive plan since the
late 1990s and early 2000s, has a short-term part and a long-term
portion. Both parts came together with a lot of community feedback gathered through on-board surveys, stop-by-stop
analyses, online surveys, special event surveys and public meetings.
Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for Metro, says the plan has a
lot of little changes to stops and lines, but she
emphasized some key parts. In the short term, the plan will establish
more crosstown connections, which will bring together
different parts of Cincinnati so traveling requires fewer downtown transfers.
Metro will also make a few changes to improve frequency of travel in major
corridors like Montgomery Road, Reading Road and Vine Street, while
shortening travel times all around.
For the short term, “We don’t have a lot of big changes,”
Hilvers says. “No routes are going away. There’s no fare increase
associated with this. It’s simply reallocating the resources.”
The long-term plan has bigger, more expansive changes. The
biggest part is probably the bus rapid transit system (BRT), which will
allow quicker travel in major corridors by using traffic signal
priority, fewer stops and special bus lanes. Stops will be getting a
makeover in some areas to be more comfortable for
passengers waiting for transfers. There will also be changes to improve
service at current stops, add more crosstown routes and add more routes
that go beyond downtown and into dense areas with lots of jobs. The long-term plan is currently unfunded, but public
opinion will help establish and reshape priorities before any money is
Hilvers says Metro will be doing a “demonstration project”
for BRT next year. In the demo, buses will “dart across” the
Montgomery Road corridor, Xavier University, the University of
Cincinnati and downtown. The plan will help gauge the popularity of the
idea, says Hilvers: “It gives us a test to see how people like this. If
they really like the concept, then we can maybe go for federal funding,
etc. to go for the full-blown BRT in the future.”
“You just have to have a vision of where you’re going,”
Hilvers says. “This is our vision of where we’re going. We have to know
from the community what it wants to ultimately support.”
Metro is still taking public feedback for the Way to Go until the end of the year.
More information on the plan and how to provide feedback can be found at
by German Lopez
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann wants Mayor
Mark Mallory to live up to past promises of county-city collaboration.
In a letter to Mallory, Hartmann criticized the mayor for failing to
stick to his pledge of supporting the City-County Shared Services
Committee. The committee seeks to streamline county and city services to
end redundancies and make the services more competitive and efficient.Cincinnati Economic Development’s director asked City
Council to create a “mega incentive” for “huge impact” development. He
also asked City Council to pledge $4 million of casino revenue a year to
a local neighborhood project. If City Council agrees, casino revenue
will be used to boost local businesses.Metro is looking at the world’s quickest-charging electric bus. It supposedly can charge in 10 minutes and travel 40 miles.
The day before Pennsylvania’s voter ID law faced trouble
in court, Secretary of Jon Husted suggested a “more strict” voter ID law
for Ohio. Husted said the current ID system needs to be streamlined and
simplified. Democrats criticized the suggestion for its potential voter
Sept. 22 will be the “Global Frackdown,” a day where
activists will protest around the world in a push to ban hydraulic
fracturing — or fracking. Cincinnati will have its own “Frackdown” at
Piatt Park. Activists are generally against fracking because it poses
too many risks, which CityBeat covered here. But Gov. John Kasich
and other supporters of fracking insist it can be made safe with proper
regulations. Some have also suggested that natural gas, which is now
plentiful due to the spread of fracking, can be used as part of a bigger
plan to stop global warming.A new survey says Cincinnati companies will continue hiring through the fourth quarter. It wasn’t as good as last year, but it was better than the
month before. A new state report says 7,341 new businesses filed to do
work in Ohio in August, down from 7,423 in August 2011.A state commission approved $1.5 million for the
Cincinnati Art Museum and a $600,000 reimbursement for the Art Academy
of Cincinnati.More than half of Ohioans could be obese by 2030, a new
report found. The rise in obesity could push up medical costs by $23.8
billion.But screw worrying about weight. Taste of Belgium (writer’s note: best restaurant in the land) is thinking about expanding.In other restaurant news, it seems Chick-Fil-A may stop its anti-gay donations. Maybe Kermit and friends will be forgiving.The full footage for Mitt Romney’s controversial comments
at a May 17 fundraiser has become available here. The footage shows why
Romney prefers to be dishonest most of the time. More importantly,
Romney’s comments about Obama voters are not accurate. The Onion, a satirical newspaper, has an explanation for why Romney insists on unleashing gaffe after gaffe.One astrophysicist says there is no such thing as time.
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Led by City
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, Cincinnati officials recently expanded the
mobile food vending program by creating new zones near Fountain Square.
So far at least two vendors — Tim Hurst of Vinnie’s Gourmet
Pretzels and Tom Acito of Café de Wheels — have said they will use the
zones, and more are sure to follow.