1) Why I don't support the Cincinnati Streetcar
2) Suggestions I have to improve the Cincinnati Metro System
So let's begin...
Part I: Why I don't support the Cincinnati Streetcar
Section 1: It doesn't serve enough people, and looks more like a tourist item than a functional public transportation tool
This is the current plan for the streetcar per the Cincinnati Streetcar website...
I have altered the dimensions a little bit so that it's a little more readable.
Do you see yourself on that map? Now, my guess is this: if you're a blogger, you're probably on the map or pretty close to it -- because bloggers occupy the class of citizen known as the "middle class," usually urbane, and overwhelmingly college educated. (Also, I'm fairly familiar now with the downtown and city bloggers -- this is excepting the wonderful suburban bloggers we have -- that I get the impression I know where most of you live, or close enough.)
Let me ask you this question: are those the people currently using the Cincinnati Metro?
No. The grand majority of people who use the public transit in the city are people who cannot afford private transportation, or whose financial or social position makes a car unavailable. They need to serve those communities first and best. An argument will be made "but it goes through Over-the-Rhine and Clifton." That's fine, except you're ignoring that Over-the-Rhine is gentrifying faster than it knows what to do with itself, and Clifton has always been a home for students first and everyone else second.
The streetcar is not serving other major areas that see high traffic... including Clifton Avenue, Ludlow/Hamilton Ave's, Queensgate, Price Hill, Reading Road, Bond Hill, Avondale, etc.
Rather, it's choosing those neighborhoods that are, or will soon be, "tourist friendly" because of their up-and-coming status. The very fact that the map highlights connections to restaurants and arts venues only reinforces the tourism focus.
If the streetcar is going to be an effective local tool, then it should go after those people who need the public transit the most, not those people for whom public transit merely represents a cheaper alternative. Granted, there is a great need to broaden the alternatives for everyone in the city, but why are we placing our bets on people who do not currently use the system and not on people who could really, really use a more reliable form of transit -- ie, a fixed market rather than a speculative one.
My concern is that the current populations that will be served by this route will use it once, think "well that's neat," or use it just a couple of times a year, and the poor lonely thing is going to go round and round and round and be all empty.
Some other bloggers joked with me at the Blogger's Convention that I don't like it just because it doesn't stop at my front door. That's partially true, and I'll admit I'm kind of pissed that there's no service on that system that helps me at all. But I'll expand my own frustration out a little bit: except for entertainment purposes alone, who does it serve?
Think for a minute: let's say you are going to use it for work on a park-and-ride type system, where would you park?
Part II: Possible improvements to existing infrastructure
Section 1: Improve intra-neighborhood service
This is another one of those "Oh, Barry's just pissed because it doesn't stop at his front door" moments, probably. But I just wanted to point this out, as I think it's a real problem.
Example 1: I currently live on Elberon Ave. My bus stop is uphill about 3 or 4 blocks -- fine. However, to get to Glenway Avenue or Warsaw, I have to either walk the addition 10-15 blocks to jump on the 33, or take the 10/32 up to W. 8th, walk past Kroger, and then jump on the 33. Or I could simply take the 10 (I think) all the way out where they would drop me off at Sears. Strange.
Example 2: I am moving to Warner Street in Clifton Heights, near Hughes High School. My bus stop will be 3-4 blocks uphill (dammit!) on the corner of Clifton and McMillan -- fine. In order to get down McMillan, I either have to hoof it, or get to Vine Street to take the 46. Because there's no bus that goes from Hughes High School all the way down McMillan Avenue. Doesn't that seem strange?
Example 3: I was at a party on Chase Avenue in Northside. Way down Chase. Way, way down chase. It was the middle of the day, and it was time for me to go home. I asked my friends: what's the closest busstop to here? Their response was to pick up their keys and say Come on, I'll drive you up. Eh? What? You'll drive me to the busstop... seems like it defeats the whole purpose, doesn't it?
My point is this? I know there is a smattering of intra-neighborhood busses -- I've noticed the 133 near my casa -- but these need to be dramatically improved, advertised, posted (the 231 that drops off at Christ Hospital isn't even listed on the busstop sign), and expanded so that people can use the system more than just as a get from work to home and back. Some people use the system as their exclusive form of transportation, and the need for them to get around more effectively to do their daily errands should be key to the interest of the operators.
UPDATE: And make these intra-neighborhood busses cheaper than $1.50... perhaps $1.50 for the trip out and a trip back, perhaps, so that it would be $0.75 one way trip.
Now, before we go on. Let's break down the economy just a little bit, or at least my philosophy of the economy. There are three primary groups of organizations that should be considered as "playing a role:" the government, the non-profit sector, and the for-profit sector. The for-profit sector, obv., should theoretically always run in the black. The non-profit sector, in theory, should always hover around a zero-sum game when it comes to their finances. Meanwhile, the government, and its programs, have the flexibility for it to run in the red. Why? Because their main sources of revenue are not attached to its services. The government fills a need where the private sector cannot effectively or efficiently. So don't argue that "those routes won't be profitable!!!!" DUH! They're not supposed to be. I think we're going to get a rude wake-up call when we realize the streetcar won't be profitable, either. Government services (and public transit, almost universally in the world, are government services) are supposed to provide service to the public, notprofit for the government.
I think, if we viewed our public transit plan through that lens, we will be far more successful in this endeavor.
Next Week:Part I: Why I don't support the streetcar...
8-23: Section 1: It doesn't serve enough people
8-25: Section 2: It's an "economic development tool"
8-25: Section 3: It's going to take too long
8-26: Section 4: Busses Aren't Cool
8-26: Section 5: Traffic Congestion
8-26: Section 6: Where is the plan for the suburbs?
Part II: Suggested changes to the Metro
8-23: Section 1: Improve intra-neighborhood service
8-25: Section 2: Improve the technology
8-26: Section 3: Create greater suburban access
8-26: Section 4: Integrate TANK and Metro
8-26: Section 5: Actively seek out corporate bus passes