Why has a site called the Cincinnati Transit Blog not weighed in on the results of the recent election in Cincinnati? Why no comment about the probably impending doom of the streetcar plan? Nothing at all about the wild efforts to save the project?
Because none of it has anything to do with transportation.1
No local politician I’ve seen has anything serious or honest to say about transit, and it doesn’t look like any substantial changes are coming as a result of the election. The whole thing is most essentially about the way the city wants to see itself, and the way Over-The-Rhine can increase it’s property values; both are legitimate issues for public concern, but neither is essentially a transit or even transportation issue.
If these statements strike you as odd, I hope you’ll explore my eight-part series on the streetcar project. There’s really a lot of meaning to unpack from the way the City, the public, and politicians have been talking about this project, the ways people have thought about it, and what it would actually mean for people trying to go somewhere.
Ah, but there is something about transportation here…. there’s the way in which Cincinnati revels in setting fire to money in order to half-build things and then give up. This is the subway revisited.
And *that’s what Cincinnati does on transportation* — self-sabotage.
But that’s the image part! Perhaps the image of transportation…I’ll give you that, but this has little to do(immediately at least) with changing the way we actually move or how far or fast or to where.
The subway may be sad to think about in the abstract, but I’ve never, ever heard someone say that it’s sad because they could have literally used it to get from one specific place to another specific place.
There is a lesson to be learned here by the transit-as-transportation cohort. Councilor Sittenfeld, who recently changed his stance on the streetcar project, has proposed the concept of a special improvement district along the streetcar route that would levy an additional tax on properties within a certain (undetermined) distance to supplement partially or completely the annual operating cost of the streetcar.
This is an innovative and creative solution to funding operating costs for special transit projects like this. It’s a new concept to greater Cincinnati, and although it’s probably not a new concept in the USA, I’m not aware of a City that uses this model.
I quite enjoyed Sittenfeld’s speech on the matter. I think it’s a perfect way to fund a project which hopes to have such measurable and hyper-local effects.
The implications for funding transit projects are indeed interesting, perhaps only to the extent that one of the outcomes is local economic benefit though… and as you know, I’m quite wary of putting ‘economic development’ in a primary role when trying to justify a transportation project. Though if that sentiment is there anyway, why not make use of it?