Cincinnati Will Complete Its Streetcar

“We’re gonna have a streetcar.”

That was the announcement, met with cheers, from Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley this afternoon.

Streetcar supporters rallying last month. Photo: UrbanCincy

With an active proposal in the City Council to resume construction on the streetcar, Cranley said he “would not sign the legislation because” he “thinks it’s wrong.” But he was flanked by Council Member Kevin Flynn, the crucial vote on the City Council needed to override a mayoral veto.

Major institutions like the regional transit authority SORTA and the Haile U.S. Bank Foundation had been working behind the scenes to convince Flynn — formerly a streetcar opponent — that the streetcar’s operating costs would not hurt city services. Five other members of Cincinnati’s City Council voted in committee this morning to put forward a recommendation for legislation that the project be resumed. A City Council vote will take place at a meeting beginning at 2 p.m.

The system is expected to cost about $2.5 million annually to operate, which could be defrayed through private donations, advertising, sponsorship, and potentially other sources. Nine million dollars for operations was committed by the Haile Foundation, a champion of the project.

“I can’t thank them enough along with other people who worked long and hard to make this a reality,” said Flynn. “We have no choice but to make this a successful project.”

Streetcar supporters are elated.

“I’m crying in public,” said Jenny Kessler, an organizer of Cincinnatians for Progress, supporters of the streetcar. “Thank you, Cincinnati!”

“A streetcar named progress. Hooray!,” wrote Cincinnati resident Genevieve Holt on Twitter.

The area’s regional transit agency, SORTA, has agreed to assume responsibility for operating the four-mile starter loop. It will be the first time Cincinnati has had rail transit in more than 60 years. The project was hard-fought right until the bitter end. The Federal Transit Administration has indicated it would pull $45 million in funding for the project at midnight tonight unless the city agreed to resume construction.

An independent audit ordered by Cranley found earlier this week that the cost for abandoning the project would be comparable to completing it, even without considering possible litigation related to violating construction contracts.

25 thoughts on Cincinnati Will Complete Its Streetcar

  1. I am now waiting for the announcement that all operations and maintenance costs of Cincinnati’s car infrastructure will be “…defrayed through private donations, advertising, sponsorship…”

    Double standard hypocrites!

  2. As someone who does not live in Cincinnati, has never been to Cincinnati, never plans on visiting, yet has followed this drama in the media, I am oddly over-joyed at hearing this news. Congratulations, Cincinnati!

  3. Same here, Jeff! Well done, Cincinnati! Congrats from Europe!

    However, let’s keep an eye on this precious project.

    It ain’t over untill a fat lady sings aboard Cinncy streetcar on it’s first morning commute. 🙂

  4. Great cities are now realizing the benefits of several years of improvements in transit, safer walking, and better bike infrastructure. The cities who fail to innovate will miss out on prosperity and sustainable urban growth. Cincinatti has moved to be in the camp of the great cities.

  5. As someone who used to live in Cincinnati and was infuriated by its extreme lack of ability to get anything accomplished to move the place forward, I’m extremely happy for what happened today.

    Congratulations Cincinnati, may you finally fulfill your untapped potential as one of the nations most beautiful and (with a little finesse) urban cities!

  6. Yeah, no kidding! This project has already had to survive more near death experiences than most public works endeavors that cost 10 times as much.

  7. Trying to understand your point. Is it:

    1) This is hypocritical because car subsidies don’t have to be raised from private sources, but get public revenues instead, whereas in Cincinnati public transit has to go cap in hand to the private/charitable sector?

    Or is it:

    2) The private/charitable sector is lavishing its largesse on public transit in Cincinnati, but not giving any money to subsidize car use?

    If it’s #1, then I see your point. If it’s #2, then I don’t.

  8. Um, excuse me? Last time I checked it was not a requirement to have an opinion about public policy in places where one does not live.

  9. Yes, it is #1. Let’s call it transportation mode hypocrisy.

    This is usually practiced by politicians who believe that their own personal way of getting around is worthy of billions of taxpayer dollars. In many cases they double down on the hypocrisy by railing against “government socialism” while availing themselves of 100% free government owned car infrastructure.

    But the ordinary guy on public transit? Let those peasants eat cake. Which they bought at the bake sale to raise money for their transportation needs.

  10. It looks like this debate tore the Cincy community asunder. May the reconciliation process begin. One other thing: although I don’t agree with the streetcar opposition and I think the opposition was unreasonably unrelenting, as someone who doesn’t live in Cincy but followed the debate, it does appear that Cincy does have a well functioning political process (despite low voter turnout in the most recent election), especially compared with other cities where there is no opposition to any project and all of the politicians line up like lemmings or are given free passes to vote no on the project.

  11. As someone who just visited Cincy via Megabus – had wonderful time staying in pedestrian Northside – enjoyed dining along Ohio River and Findlay Market -so much to do w/o a car. Congratulations Cincinnati – checked out the new pool rec center in Northside- looks like an appealing place to retire.

  12. As someone who grew up in Kentucky and married into a family of former Cincinnati people who white flighted themselves across the river in the ’60s, I say congratulations for now. We’ll see if it actually runs.

  13. You should realize a public transportation infrastructure also helps with something called tourism. People like to have an easy way to get around the place they’re visiting.

  14. Christmas came early for Cincinnati. Now that this is settled, talks have already begun about how to expand it as quickly as possible. Look for conversations about extending the system to the neighborhoods in Uptown and Northern Kentucky in the near future.

  15. “What a long strange trip it’s been”

    For what seemed like an eternity, we have fought the good fight, both locally and at the state house. It seems that T-party radicals will go to ridicules extremes to prevent this type of durable public transportation infrastructure, as their overlords in the oil and asphalt industry dictate. The blatant racist undertones, the pitting of outlying neighborhoods vs. center city dwellers and the outright disregard to contracts and treasury made taking a side in this debate seem elementary. Yet, even so, it was a death match to the end and likely the end is not here yet….

    If you listen really hard, you can hear the wailing of T-billies as salty tears stain their ruddy checks while they drive to their favorite Applebee’s to drown their sorrows in rib tip quesadillas and bud light.

    All is good in Cincinnati tonight, thanks for your support!

  16. I visited Cincinnati to watch a game between the Red Sox and the Reds and fell in love with the city. I’m also a trolley lover and hope they get it completed so I can return and ride in a Cincinnati streetcar before I leave this earth.

  17. Depending on whether he commits to making the streetcar a success, we will soon find out what kind of leader Shorty Cranley is?

  18. As nice as that thought is, I can’t imagine Northern Kentucky allowing a streetcar anywhere near it. Covington and Newport are just like Cincinnati, only without all that progressive thinking. That’s where the former Cincinnati people ran when the city turned too liberal.

  19. Cincinnati sorely needs to add to its hub and spoke (bus-only) system! If your trip is on one bus line, it’s fine, but if not, you most likely have to go all the way downtown and change to another bus and then go back out to the suburbs again, making the trip up to 2 hours.
    I don’t live in Cincinnati now, but I grew up there. I agree that it is a beautiful city, with a lot going on.

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