In response to a gratuitous question posed by a potential flatterer, I respond drunkenly:
“What needs fixed in Cincinnati? What would you change? Give me a bulleted list of projects. Things a person might actually do. Transportation related. And do it by tomorrow.” (I paraphrase)
- Burn some off the transit agency boards. Replace them with people who use transit. In fact, do this to the whole administrative staff with few exceptions. Campaign of petty bothering until old people leave in frustration. Many are only there for the cushy seat anyway.
- Raise the bar on the way we talk to transit users, beginning to really treat them like adults. No more streetcar toddling and ‘brt lite’. People can smell shit. Maps are just the start. It’s all the little things: the press releases, the inexplicable lack of real-time data, the metro fucking scavenger hunt, the greenwashing bullshit on billboards. Not one sane person rides the bus because it’s ‘green’. Just stop it. How? Someone needs the time to make unavoidably clear that speaking up to transit users is worthwhile and appreciated. Leading by example. Examples from other cities brought here, and local experiments to the verify foreign results.
- Make clear the conceptual distinction between transportation advocacy and civic boosterism in popular discussion such as in the enquirer and certain other popular online discussion venues. Smart people must dog these forums and make this boundary clear. No big plan will get popular approval until it is seen as being out of the hands of the OTR set.
- Stop the streetcar from dominating the discussion about transportation. See above point.
- Wrest some authority from civil authorities in the field of planning and engineering. No one has the resources these agencies have. There is no one properly set up to counter their plans and proposals, to make counter-plans and counter-proposals in a serious way, except on an adhoc reactionary basis. But if there was…
- Public information campaign making sense of the little things transit does that are different from cars. Average New Yorkers know this stuff. Why does the bus wait too long at the stop sometimes? What is bunching? what are the tradeoffs between stop spacing and speed? What are the tradeoffs between frequency and ridership and cost? What are the implications of a fare penalty? There is so much popular buzzing about capital project management, but this is worthless gossip.
- Do a thorough and serious analysis of SORTA’s stops, with an eye to consolidating them to increase speed where doing so will have little or no negative impact on riders. And then just cut the bastards down. They’ll be a low priority for SORTA to replace even if they wanted to, and they probably don’t even want to; they just don’t have the nerve to do it themselves. Empirical justifications for the removal of each stop would be posted online (anonymously) after the fact and emailed to SORTA planners and board who can then defensibly say that they’re very sorry for this vandalism, but they have other priorities ahead of replacing the missing stops. In a year, no one remembers because it only ever bothered some curmudgeons and helped a great many people.
- Break the seriousness that SORTA has slowly been building around their ‘brand’. A targeted campaign of mocking and general sillyness. A brand is something yet to be lost, and they must be willing to come to the table honestly and with nothing before change can happen. We all know the system is shit in at least a few ways. Everyone says it all the time. Let’s pop the bubble, break the facade, and get to the real conversation. Humbleness precedes learning.
- Have a cathartic smashing of cars on fountain square. Properly claim some space for humans. Screw these pathetic ‘parking days’. Let’s make a sacrifice and show we mean it. Let’s haul the beast up a pole as a totem to remind the future of our shame, letting it rust and die in step with our suburban legacy. A king beheaded.
- Letters to the editor, etc, exposing SORTA’s ridiculous dissembling regarding the real-time transit data that they’ve been collecting already for years. We know it’s there. We can see they have it! I will count off the excuses they’ve made on my fingers if you ask me. The other hand will refute them.
- Get a team of artists who use transit to design for the agency, from outside of it. None of this decorating stops crap. Let’s make this experience beautiful and more than dignified. The atrium of union terminal sets an example on too big scale. Little things could go a long way without costing millions. Millions will flow downhill when the point is proved.
- Thorough criticism of all transportation plans, published consistently on a set schedule after plans are released for ‘public consumption’. Peer review! “Please see our comments, make the changes and resubmit…”. Who watches the watchers? When certain of the public are as fit or more than they, the answer is clearly a matter of funding. Critical review will change the expectations from political to professional and engender pride in good work. This is part of a broader effort to partially reclaim planning as a profession apart from democratic whims.
- Restart OpenDataCincy, which stopped meeting and moving when it’s staff person left town. Funding for the project seems to have gone with her. She had seemed to be making real ground in getting the public access to the tools they need to
converse compete with governments.
- Start a new bicycle advocacy organization. While there’s certainly a lot of hope for augmenting and growing QCB, it would probably be quickest to supersede and then subsume. This organization should have recreational riders as a secondary focus, with the increased possibility for vehicular transport cycling as the prime objective. This should be expected to draw a younger audience because it probably speaks more to the future. Most transport is not done for recreation after all; why should cycling try to be different?
- Broker the start of a parking policy in downtown and OTR that charges at least a nominal amount for every single public parking space. Can be part of a ‘residential permit’ system. Ease people into ‘no free parking’ then raise rates later to discourage driving in marginal cases. I’d been working on this one for years already actually…
- Spring in Our Steps. Excellent work ethic, brilliant and proven results, just add money(which buys a man’s time). They’re bringing dignity back to the humans out in carland.
- Transit map design, printing and distribution. I left off there, but someone should be paid to pick it up. SORTA pays loads for someone to do this, just not someone who does it well. Until fixed infrastructure like catenary wires or very frequent buses insist on their own presence, we should pound the image of the network into our collective knowledge. Think of the ubiquity of the NYC metro map. Maps should be distributed everywhere buses go. They should be mailed to every city resident on a postcard each year. They should be placed as ads in the enquirer. SORTA already pays for such ads, but of useless silly things that tell us nothing.
- Speaking of maps, it would be crazy helpful to get a map or even just a consolidated and up-to-date list of intercity transit providers, allowing us to compare travel times and prices. If I want to go to NYC, I should be able to easily compare megabus(X), delta, the air-shuttle, greyhound, Amtrak, the chinatown bus… and on and on. I tried to go to Louisville recently and, absurdly, couldn’t find a satisfying way to do it. I should have known this before. I want to see what my options are, and other people do too.
- …I’m going to bed now.
…so susceptible an ego.
I write these things for you too, my readers, because I think an honest word is worth at least four silences — and because of point two: treat people like they’re capable of an adult conversation and perhaps they will be. Whether you care to surpass my bombast or surcease it, I’ll see all comers to the debate.