CITY SPOTLIGHT: Cincinnati and the Streetcar: Part II

This post is part of a new series on the CNU Salons, CITY SPOTLIGHT. City Spotlight shines a light on the latest news, developments and initiatives occurring in cities and towns where CNU members live and work.

The below post is in response to "CITY SPOTLIGHT: Cincinnati Chooses the Streetcar...but Why?" and comes courtesy of CNU Communications Intern, and University of Cincinnati Urban Planning student, Katie Poppel.

Recent chatter, (check out the UrbanCincy article,) covering my prior blog "Cincinnati Chooses the Streetcar...but Why?" is propelling me to clear the confusion. 

First, I am a student with the University of Cincinnati (currently studying in Amsterdam, if you needed to stalk my Facebook profile,) and a prior intern with the Congress for the New Urbanism, but I, in no way, represent the views of members in these respective organizations. I am not a COAST member, a journalist, or political official. If there are members of each who agree with my opinion, then great; if not, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I would like to think we could be civil towards each organization and each other, rather than attacking one another for my personal opinion.

Google Maps Bounds for Over-the-Rhine

Let's clarify exactly the boundaries of Over-the-Rhine: north and east of Central Parkway bounded by mainly Sycamore Street on the east side. The screenshot from Google Maps shows the bounds I recognize. The 'deteriorated' region I am concerned about it the northern part of Over-the-Rhine- north of East Liberty Street. There has been a large majority of redevelopment below East Liberty Street, but a lesser focus on the northern half. The images taken from 3CDC and the Cincy Streetcar blog both exemplify my view as well; both images show more development in the southern half.

Planned Cincinnati streetcar route with planned developments from 3CDC

3CDC project locations

I'm glad Mr. Estell and I can agree that the language of Issue 48 was misleading. I still do not know why the opposition to the streetcar, predominately via the Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, would submit such a horribly written referendum. COAST, or Citizens Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, may have been the organization to poorly write the ballot, but City Council approved the language for Issue 9 in 2009. (Streetcar Opponents Win Ballot Round.) It was a low move to submit a ballot so poorly written by COAST, but, at the same time, city council had power to proofread it in the interest of the voters. I place the blame on multiple entities for the language.

In regards to ignoring that voters chose to elect "a pro-streetcar mayor and six pro-streetcar city council members," I did not ignore it. I simply did not think residents chose their elected officials based only on their stance on the streetcar. What if they were elected for other reasons? Maybe the city residents wanted more progressive officials in some aspects, (like Over-the-Rhine revitalization or investment in establishing more attraction to Cincinnati,) but still do not support the idea of a streetcar as the correct mode of transportation. I cannot speak for all voters in the city, obviously, but over generalizing that our elected officials were chosen based on one stance they have? I don't think so.

The next issue UrbanCincy had with my blog was over how “deteriorated” Over-the-Rhine is today. I apologize for not stating how much improvement OTR has accomplished in the past few years. In 2006, Over-the-Rhine was listed as one of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places due to "deterioration, neglect, poor public policy," by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2011, the Over-the-Rhine Foundation applied for the 'This Place Matter Community Challenge' via the same trust. In their statement, "Cincinnati has not capitalized on its historic assets," they mention how much history the neighborhood has still intact. The Foundation also mentions that Over-the-Rhine was "only four demolitions away from passing 50% destruction of its historic building stock." (See the entry here.) 3CDC has done an excellent job with providing a public-private partnership to restore the neighborhood in the past few years. If you are female student visiting the bars in OTR on a Friday night, you do not walk alone from Clifton. That is a statement I can make from my own personal experience. I still believe OTR is the most deteriorated neighborhood in Cincinnati, yet it is also the most historic in my eyes.

I am not a 'born and raised' Cincinnati resident. As I have chosen to attend college in the city, I have experienced many aspects of downtown and Over-the-Rhine: Washington Square Park, The Banks, Moerlein Lager House, Findlay Market, a few Final Friday experiences, shops and restaurants along Main, Vine, and Walnut, and much more. I do not have the 'resident view', but I believe I have experienced a majority of the attractions downtown and Over-the-Rhine have to offer.

I am also not an opponent of transit. I support sustainable, affordable transit options. I'm all for the bicycles, bus, train, and an even the walkable option over the automobile, and my lifestyle reflects that statement. I think the streetcar is a great option for other cities, just not Cincinnati at this time. As many attractions as there are to the OTR neighborhood and the downtown region, I do not believe there are enough to support the streetcar. People are still going to drive. According to the last census (2010,) approximately 70% of working residents over 16 drove alone to work. (As seen below.) What is the chance that those who live around the future streetcar will be able to use it to get to work? And if they live around the streetcar stops, will it be worth approximately $4 daily ($2 each way,) to ride the streetcar? Or could they just walk? In summary of my views, I do not believe the streetcar will be found as an attraction to tourists or as a viable option for residents' transit options.

The bottom line: I wrote this blog to explain why I believe Cincinnati choosing the streetcar was a poor decision. This blog series represents my planning perspective on Cincinnati's streetcar project. If my writing upsets you, compose a better argument for the streetcar. UrbanCincy can write as many articles as they want to attempt to justify the streetcar, and I can still choose to respectfully disagree.


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