Losing State Support, Cincinnati’s Streetcar Project in Peril

» Wavering commitment to this — and similar infrastructure projects around the country — sends the wrong message about the seriousness of public investment in better transport.

Over the past few months, American transportation projects have been canceled at an accelerated rate: From New Jersey to Florida to Wisconsin, rail programs that have been in the making for years have been abandoned because of conservative opposition to expansion in transportation spending at all levels of the federal system.

This movement, which has been grounded in claims of fiscal responsibility, has sent a disappointing message about the commitment of the American public sector to projects it has previously endorsed.

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) made his mark last year, eliminating state support for a new intercity rail line to connect Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland — despite the fact that the federal government had agreed to pay for all of the project’s construction costs. Now, he has set his sights on undermining the Cincinnati streetcar project, which was set to begin construction after municipal leaders such as Mayor Mark Mallory assembled adequate funding, including $51.8 million from the state, $5 million from regional governments, $66.6 million from the city, and $25 million from the federal government’s Urban Circulator program.

The project, whose first phase would cost $128 million to build and another $3 million a year to operate, would run about 2.5 miles from the banks of the Ohio River, through downtown and Over-the-Rhine, to Uptown and the University of Cincinnati. Though following a well thought-out route to the city’s major in-town destinations, the streetcar nonetheless has been the subject of intense controversy in Ohio’s third-largest city.

Mr. Kasich, who earlier this month announced that he wanted to cut state transit operations funding by 39% over two years, explained his logic by saying that “There’s a new sheriff in town,” according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The streetcar, the governor argued, was an inappropriate use of public resources and thus the state’s $51.8 million involvement should be cut. If this change is approved as expected by a state transportation board on April 12, this would leave a $30 million gap in the project’s initial construction budget. The same board, upon announcing the state commitment just four months ago, rated the project the highest-scoring transportation program in Ohio.

All this was enough to encourage one member of the city council to withdraw his support last week. The fate of the project is up in the air. Without state funds, the city would either have to find more local funding or give up.

Of the several dozen being proposed across the United States, the streetcar project in Cincinnati is one of the most promising because it connects what is one of the country’s most densely built center cities to a major university. It would run through the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, which saw major riots ten years ago but now is being rapidly transformed through building improvements and infill. At the south end of the route, the massive The Banks development is radically altering the connection between Cincinnati and its riverfront through the construction of new stadiums, a park, and hundreds of new apartment units. The streetcar is a great example of orienting transit investments towards communities that are working seriously to increase densities and encourage their inhabitants to choose not to get around by driving.

Mr. Kasich, however, saysWe’re not living in Portland,” and for now, he is right.

But whereas Portland grew by 10.3% between 2000 and 2010, reaching a historic high, Cincinnati lost 10.4% of its population, which has declined from more than 500,000 in 1960 to less than 300,000 today. Portland now has a higher residential density than its Ohio counterpart.

Of course Portland’s successes can be attributed to a lot more than its transportation program, which has been enhanced thanks to billions of dollars invested in light rail and streetcar lines. Yet the Oregonian city surely has been aided by an active public sector that has made significant investments in its transportation offerings. Those projects have increased the appeal of that city, making it a better place to live and one that is more attractive to companies that may want to locate there. Can Cincinnati increase its livability while its state government pulls back in the name of austerity?

Whether or not this project is a good investment or not, though, is only half of the question: At this point, the funding for the project had been identified and people had begun making decisions based on the assumption that it would be completed. The same could be said for the intercity rail line planned for Wisconsin, for example, where train maker Talgo built a manufacturing plant and hired employees after getting a state commitment to buy rail cars — only to be told months later that the project had been de-funded.

What message does this send to potential investors in a city like Cincinnati? If a city’s plans for a transportation project, even when fully funded, can be shut down because of the decisions of a new governor, how can anybody make long-term assumptions about where and how to develop? Moreover, why should they invest in a place whose politicians think they can renege on previous commitments?

Update: The Ohio Department of Transportation’s budget request, approved by the State Senate Transportation Committee today, included an omnibus provision that “prohibits state or federal funds appropriated by the state from being used for the Cincinnati streetcar project,” according to All Aboard Ohio. If approved by the full State Senate and House, this would effectively make it impossible to spend state dollars on the program, even if the state transportation board, which approved the funding last year, pushes it forward.

Image above: Downtown Cincinnati, from Flickr user Jere Keys (cc)

144 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Richard Ruffner

    Kasich. Worst gov. of Ohio ever. Hopefully his stay in our state is short lived, and we send him packing at the end of his first term.

    • Nathanael

      Does Ohio have recall elections?

      Wisconsin and Michigan are starting to fight back against the madness. Where’s Ohio?

      • Justin

        @Nathanael, unfortunately no, Ohio cannot recall governors, it isn’t written in our state constitution. We have to deal with this whack-o for another 3 1/2 years.

  • The message such shenanigans send to investors as well as planners is that transportation infrastructure is a partisan issue, and they can’t make any long-term plans that will survive the next election. If they want consensus and consistent long-term planning, they won’t find it in the US.

    The upshot is that it’s more or less true for highways, too. In 2001, there was a bipartisan consensus in favor of highways, and a meaningless trickle of transit investment. In 2011, there’s no bipartisan consensus in favor of anything.

    • Yes, this is quite troubling that regard.

      The old system of political interference in infrastructure decisions via earmarking funding for projects was far superior to this kind of political decision making.

      • EngineerScotty

        There does seem to be a renounciation of a longstanding practice of stare decisis in US politics, where administrations don’t actively try and dismantle the decisions of their predecessors, particularly when doing so involves cancelling public projects and throwing away significant sums of money.

        There are exceptions to this, of course–many of the “freeway revolts” being examples, but in many of those cases, cancellation of proposed freeway projects occurred after intense public debate and opposition, and in many cases, elections which served as referenda on the project(s) in question. The 1972 mayoral election on Portland was largely a referendum on the Mt. Hood Freeway project; the anti-freeway candidate–Neil Goldshmidt–won, the freeway was canceled, and planning on the original MAX line begun. The pro-freeway candidate, Frank Ivancie, would later win election to the mayor’s office in 1980, but did not interfere with the MAX line planning/construction during his term in office.

        But here’s the interesting question: If Democrats were to subsequently win office in places like Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and New Jersey–all places which have had Democratic administrations recently, and all “purple” states which can win elections–are we likely to see “retaliatory” cancellation of highway projects and other public works championed by conservatives? While part of me would enjoy that, I worry significantly of what a further escalation of this sort of political gamesmanship might entail: would we start seeing demolition of existing public works supported by “the other side” (excluding those demolition projects that enjoy wide public support, and/or easily-reversible acts like conversion of general traffic lanes to HOV, bike or transit lanes)? Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto actually proposed doing that to the city’s streetcars, but has since backtracked on that idea now that he’s in office?

        • PeakVT

          are we likely to see “retaliatory” cancellation of highway projects and other public works championed by conservatives?

          No. It’s ridiculous to speculate that Democrats would.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Engineer Scotty’s underlying presumptions aren’t the same ones Republicans use. All of the projects were canceled because that would annoy the dirty farking hippies. Annoying dirty farking hippies comes right after boot licking rich people.
            Democrats aren’t interested in annoying hippies or Republicans, If anything they show unwarranted deference to Republicans. ( they don’t do anything to hippies because Democrats live in reality and understand the hippies went extinct in the 80s )

        • A possible “retaliation” along those lines would be adoption of a “fix it first” policy ~ no funding of new highway construction until all existing highways and bridges are up to a state of good repair.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Yeah but then they could defer maintenance, spend less money and crow about how much money they “saved”

            • No, what will resonate with the “Reagan Democrats” that Kasich and krewe are doing their best to repel is “we are spending more on maintenance then that lot did”.

        • Joe Steindam

          No, I don’t think we’re going to see retaliatory cancellations of public works projects championed by conservatives should the Democrats retake power. This is true for one simple reason: the current conservatives do not favor any public works projects. When this group almost entirely views transportation funding as pork, there will be limited funds allocated to these projects, so there won’t be anything to cut.

          Truth be told, a Democrat reversal will probably bring back the old status quo, not a shifted investment towards transit.

          • Michelle Bachmann said that earmarks for road projects aren’t actually earmarks, because they’re used for a good purpose. After Chris Christie canceled ARC, he diverted funding to roads instead of to tax cuts. When Scott Walker canceled the Wisconsin train, he asked DOT to still give him the money but for highways, with the same state match.

            We’re not talking about people who view all transportation as pork. We’re talking about people who view all public transportation as pork, and all highway projects as necessary spending on good people.

              • Christie is widening roads, and Walker wanted to.

                Nice try, though.

              • Anthony

                This is Ohio. ODOT will bring the bridges up to par in the state. Steetcars are on the back burner.

                http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL34127.pdf

              • Drewski

                Why build “free” bridges when you can package a replacement as part of a new toll road, which has the added advantage of rerouting I-90? Why is this governor so insistent on replacing a decaying 90 bridge into the densest part of Cleveland, in further violation of the street grid, and dumping ten lanes of bridge into six lanes of trenched freeway? There’s no economic justification in any government spending $500+ million for a bridge into downtown Cleveland, when it would be easier to use brownfields and r/w’s to reroute 90 and sell the project to the private sector? We Clevelanders pay a toll to drive to PGH or Toledo, so there’s nothing revolutionary about turning 90 from Lakewood to Bratenahl into a tollway.

              • Anthony

                It’s against federal law to take an existing freeway and turn it into a toll rd.

                So yes it would revelutionary and illegal.

                No economic justification ? One of the busiest roads in the state and the exact same design that collapsed in the Twin Cities. You can’t be serious.

              • It’s legal to toll an Interstate road as long as the money is spent only on the road. There was a recent grant proposal that floundered only because the money would be spent on other things – other roads in the state, I believe.

              • Adirondacker12800

                I-80 through Pennsylvania is the one I heard about. Not only did they want to use the money for other roads they wanted to use the money for SEPTA. Still alive as a proposal to use the tolls to maintain I-80 only.

            • Adirondacker12800

              Real Americans(tm) don’t use trains or buses. It’s easy to decide to cut funding if that’s your viewpoint.

            • That, and public transit is welfare–something being provided to a bunch of lazy slobs who don’t deserve it.

              Such seems to be the state of much discourse on the right these days.

  • Dan

    I just hope Ohio survives his first term. He can do a lot of damage in 4 years. He’s already made us an island by turning away the rail lines. He’s destroying a project in Cincinnati that we’ve all spend years fighting for.

    Yeah, Kasich, why on earth would we want to be like portland, a progressive, growing and successful city. It’s much easier to hire your friends and pay them millions while you destroy the poor and middle class of Ohio.

  • Jake

    I live in Northern Kentucky, right across from Cincinnati, Ohio. I’ve worked my butt off for the past couple years doing anything and everything to make sure this project gets through. As someone who spends more time than most in this region in downtown Cincinnati and the surrounding areas that this project is, by what I’ve learned of transit planning from this blog, one of the best planned transit projects in the nation. It connects some areas that are absolutely exploding with development even without the streetcar.

    Unfortunately for us, we have a local paper that is an absolute joke and a populace outside the city that thinks they know what the city that they haven’t been in for 30 years needs most – as they speak from their McMansion an hour outside the city. Our newspaper publishes articles from USA Today and other newspapers while spending all their time running a biased opposition to the streetcar system.

    Cincinnati has the density, cultural venues, and now the drive that most cities lost over the past 60 years. I pray to God that this idiot doesn’t screw up what people in this area have been waiting for for sooo long.

  • Progressive Capitalist

    If the new sheriffs really want to cut waste, the fun has just begun. Cities are economic engines that can fend for themselves if given back their taxes.

    We should no longer subsidize the social engineering of auto-dependent living, socialistic highway spending, or bureaucratic zoning.

    Streetcars and rail were mostly built by the private sector. End subsidies for aviation and highways, then rail can compete very well in a free market.

    But alas, the new sheriffs aren’t true fiscal conservatives, but rather, they’re rural/suburban populists. Hence, they only call it socialism, if it benefits folks who don’t vote for them.

    • “If the new sheriffs really want to cut waste, the fun has just begun.” Except he’s doesn’t ~ he just says he does. He’s just concerned that only “waste” that generates revenue for his buddies goes through.

  • Ken Prendergast

    The story has taken a turn for the surreal this evening….

    http://allaboardohio.org/2011/03/22/rail-is-under-unprecedented-attack-in-ohio-2/

    • Thank you for the link. I’ve added an update at the bottom of the post that reflects the news.

    • Anthony

      Pendregrast

      You would be wise to focus your efforts on the proposed higher speed train service from Pittsburgh to Chicago through northern Ohio.

      If you had not wasted so much time and effort with Strickland on the ill fated 3C boondoggle idea and followed US Rep Marcy Kaptur in the begining this project would have been running in just a few weeks now.

      So much time and needless money already wasted on your part to the detriment of Ohio, Indiana and the residents of Pennsylvania.

      • The talking point that it was about the 3C in particular was dropped as soon as he was elected: that was just a divide an conquer strategy.

        Once the election was won, the true position was announced. “There is no passenger rail in Ohio’s future”. That’s your Kasich. Not, “I think the 3C is a bad idea and we should focus on the Lakefront route instead”, but “no passenger rail”.

      • Drewski

        Anthony, go to the library (Cleveland Main Library if you can–that’s where I found it) and take a look at Ohio Association of Rail Passengers’ plan (from mid-80s) for restoration of rail service in Ohio. FYI, this was assembled in the aftermath of the failed OhiRail ballot issue in the early 80s.

        I seem to recall Ken Prendergast was one of the people behind the proposal. Before you badmouth him any more, you might want to see what he and others were proposing 25 years ago.

        • Anthony

          Us Congress member Marcy Kaptur ripped him, if she can, so can anyone else.

          His fantasy was trash 25 years ago, and nothing has changed. Ohioans did not want it then, not today and not tommorrow.

          Pendergrast can either climb aboard the New faster Pittsburgh service or get run over by it.

          The 3C, or any variation of it is dead.

          • From your own figures, if the Pittsburgh / Cleveland / Toledo / Fort Wayne sections of the Ohio hub are worth building.

            After all, if 2m in ridership justifies building the more expensive corridor, then 2.3m in ridership justifies building the less expensive corridor.

            • Anthony

              I have no clue where uyou get anty sort of fantasy numbers.

              You’re trying to get people to believe connnecting Pittsburgh to Chicago through Cleveland and Toledo will have less ridership that the 3C boondoggle ? LOL

              Lets’s see.

              Pitt to Chicago – Competing against 4 seperate toll roads.

              Stops at the #1 Amusement park in the world that draws millions of tourist yearly. Same stop is also the gateway to the lake early islands which draw millions of tourist yearly.

              Cleveland has the Indians, Browns, Cavs, Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, world Class museums and of all the major cities in Ohio draws more tourists than any other community.

              Then the end point – Chicago, ability to connect with the entire AMTRAK hub there.

              Terrible and very expensive parking problem.

              Congestion in and around Chicago can be a nightmare for drivers.

              I think the only person you have convinced…is yourself

              • Boosting the drawcards and ignoring transit time and existing transport market size is for political speechmaking and politicking on newspaper online comment boards, not for the transport politic.

                The projected Chicago / Ft. Wayne / Toledo ridership for the ridership study under Bob Taft’s ORDC is 2.39m, a revenue yield of $0.27 per passenger mile. The projected Cleveland-Detroit incremental on the MRRS base is 2.23m, a revenue yield of $0.25 per passenger mile. The projected Cleveland-Cincinnati incremental on the MRRS base is 2.56m, a revenue yield of $0.38 per passenger mile. The projected Pittsburgh-Cleveland is 0.86m, at a revenue yield of $0.32 per passenger mile.

                You can engage in politically motivated monkeying around with the parameters of the ridership model if you want to reduce the ridership of the 3C 110mph option, but if you do, the ridership on the Pittsburgh / Cleveland, Cleveland / Detroit and Toledo / Ft. Wayne / Chicago segments will also be lower.

                The Ohio ridership on the politically determined alignment you are pushing is obviously lower than the sum of the Pittsburgh / Cleveland and Cleveland / Detroit, since it includes Detroit-Pittsburgh and Detroit connecting to points east.

                And of course, while the incremental revenue benefit from upgrading to 110mph on the Pittsburgh / Cleveland and Cleveland / Detroit corridors is 78%, the incremental benefit on the 3C of upgrading from 79mph to 110mph is 152%.

                Its no surprise that someone who specializes in political rhetoric calls the study a fantasy, but I do not see a link from a ridership model which supports both the ridership you predict for the Pittsburgh through Cleveland through Toledo corridor and with the same data and same parameters gives the ridership you describe for the 110mph 3C.

              • Anthony

                You don’t factor in any transferring passengers from other AMTRAK trains in Chicago at all. Why you leave that out is bizzare to say the least.

                You don’t factor in the poulation of the Chicago metro area at all, despite it being on the route. Again bizzare in your thinking.

                Sooner or later, you will have to accept the 3C is dead and a stake has been driven through it’s heart.

              • One reason to not factor in transferring passengers from Amtrak at Chicago is that, at express legacy rail speeds (~70 mph average), nobody traveling from the St. Louis direction has any reason to take the train. Driving is about as fast because it’s more direct and avoids the Chicago traffic jams. From Milwaukee the train would beat the car, if it were reliable (unlikely given the operators), but it would still be meh compared to flying.

              • @anthony: They are included in the original ridership modeling. Why you think otherwise is unclear, since you just proclaimed the false claim with no explanation of how your misunderstanding arose.

  • Sean

    Yes, Cincinnati is no Portland, but shouldn’t it want to be?

    Portland is thriving and growing, Cincinnati is shrinking and stagnant.

    The major cities of the Mountain West and Northwest are setting themselves up quite nicely for peak oil (I’m looking at you Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, and Seattle).

    • Anthony

      What ?

      Record foreclosures in Portland and an unemployment rate that has been over 10% for nearly three years now.

      http://www.nwcn.com/news/117547743.html

      This is your definition of thriving ?

      • Is there any American city that has not seen record foreclosures this decade?

      • Drewski

        Anthony, go to http://www.cuyahogacounty.us and click on the link to their GIS page. You can pull up maps of the county where you can superimpose foreclosures (by year, 2006-2010) over aerial shots. Foreclosure in Ohio has been far worse than in Oregon, because Ohio foreclosure started in mid-2000s (when state opened itself to the worst predatory lenders), and foreclosure in any Ohio city is far more likely to lead to not only abandonment and demolition, but is far more likely to destroy entire neighborhoods than it has done or is doing in Oregon. Look at parts of Cleveland like E 79 and Superior, or E 79 and Kinsman, or E 116 and Union. Look at the sheer number of foreclosed properties, and notice how many are already demolished. It’s only gotten worse. We have parts of Cleveland where 20% of properties (or more) have been in foreclosure in the past five years. They haven’t just lost market value; the population loss is so bad that we just closed 15 schools last year, and another 7 will go this year. Dayton is in even worse shape. Foreclosed houses in Portland, Tigard, Hillsboro and Gresham will generally find buyers. They won’t leave a legacy of depopulated neighborhoods.

      • Matt P

        Alex and Drew are both right. It’s not that Portland hasn’t suffered foreclosure; it’s that it’s foreclosure rate is about at par with the rest of the country.

        But that’s not even the issue. If you single out one statistic, I’m sure you could make Portland look bad. Plenty of idiots like Wendell Cox are experts in this field of Portland-related statistical manipulation.

        But there’s little question that Portland is well positioned for the economy of the 21st century — it’s attracting a young, high-tech talent workforce much as San Francisco did in the 1960s and 1970s (right before, mind you, we saw a massive economic revolution in computing come from that region). When considering this, Portland’s high unemployment rate actually speaks to its strength: somehow, despite local economic challenges, the city is attracting highly valued talent. In that context, it’s just a matter of time until the city explodes.

        Portland is well-invested in infrastructure that make it resilient to gas price shocks exactly like the one we’re about to see this summer. In a time of energy supply challenges and a rapidly industrializing third world, this investment will pay off, and even critics are generally aware of that.

  • Sean

    Perhaps cities confronting historically hostile state governments should consider forming their own “city-state” government and free themselves from the yoke of rural populism.

    Then these GOP douchebags in state government will realize just how important cities are ( as in where all the tax $$$ and jobs come from).

    • Drewski

      In case anybody is wondering, this is intended as a petty, f-you gesture. There are more and more of these coming with this governor; aside from his anti-union venom, this has already been displayed by the abrupt closure of a state psych hospital in Cleveland. The state has given three different excuses for closure (city of Cleveland took too long to assemble site; site is too polluted [but it's across the street from an ice-cream factory]; and closing the hospital will save money). All are easily refuted, but the point is that the Cleveland beds are being moved just across the county line.

      This governor operates on a remarkably petty level. If the provision in the state transportation budget looks like a petty gesture more appropriate to a high school cligue, you would be correct. And if you try to parse it as anything other than what it looks like, you’re never going to see the truth.

      Ohio has been on the same hamster wheel for at least 20 years. “If we cut taxes, then it will yield this many jobs.” It has NEVER worked. The state has untaxed itself to a point that it can’t afford basic services; the answer to this is to remove the state from its responsibilities–like education funding–and never mind that this dumps costs on local governments. That’s their problem.

      The GOP has attacked EVERY rail transit project proposed in this state for at least the last 15 years; the last one that actually got built was Cleveland’s Waterfront Light Rail (which is now mothballed because it generates no ridership). Dayton is the smallest US city with trolleybuses, and Cleveland’s Euclid corridor was planned as a trolleybus line partly to obtain lower costs through a joint trolleybus order with Dayton; no go. The Ohio GOP has a longstanding hostility to the Ohio Turnpike Commission, because 1) it’s independent of ODOT, 2) it’s based in Berea (suburban Cleveland), and 3) its self-financing status limits its usefulness for patronage compared to ODOT.

      In Ohio, anything that doesn’t involve suburban or small-town white nuclear families getting in their Buick and going to another like place, it doesn’t have a place in transportation planning. Do not think that any noises about non-government-funded projects are sincere noises. The Ohio GOP, and this governor in particular, will battle anything that isn’t redolent of their 1950’s view of the world. I guess we’re lucky they allow women to drive without a man’s written permission…for now…

      • Matt P

        I agree. The GOP is doing a lot of these incredibly unpopular and short-sighted “let’s get the liberals!!” style initiatives rather than focusing on what people elected them for: moderate fiscal conservatism and well-managed government.

        Voters aren’t as stupid as the GOP tends to think they are and will mostly see through these vindictive policy shenanigans. It’s not taken the Republicans long to remind people why the voters tossed them in ’06 and ’08, and I’m pretty sure they’ll pay the price for this nonsense at the ballot box again soon.

        • Adirondacker12800

          If people thought they elected them for “moderate fiscal conservatism and well-managed government.” they haven’t been paying attention since… the Reagan Administration. It’s a bad idea to elected people who think government is a bad idea.

          • Yes, thanks to Reaganomics, they have to work so hard to keep their head above water when there is work available, and of course retreat to escapist entertainment when there is no work available …
            … that they have not been paying attention.

            They get the information that is thrown in front of them, and that means the information is heavily biased toward what big money interests want them to hear.

  • Corey

    We still have a few projects in NJ moving forward Christie canceled a very flawed project….hes not canceling anymore projects….. We have 3 projects underway , and 3 more about to start this year…. Hes not a conservative….hes a moderate Republican…

    • Tim E

      Probably wouldn’t have agreed with you a few months ago, but I do have to agree with the outcome that is shaping up. The trans-hudson providing the NEC with two additional tracks is shaping up to be a better plan for the region. Don’t know if Christie had a part in it or not or even has a clue what he set in motion. Second, light rail push on the Jersey side of the Hudson has not been attacked. Third, I believe that their is some realization that corridor capacity in the short term can be done by simply adding some new rail cars.

      • Adirondacker12800

        The new project has less capacity than the canceled project. If the traffic predictions from the canceled project were correct the new project will reach capacity soon after it opens.

        • Tim E

          Correct and can’t really argue your point as the original plan was strictly a commuter route for Northern NJ into Central Manhattan that would serve a lot of people during rush hours. Nothing more nothing less.

          However, the point I’m trying to make is that a new tunnel, new set of tracks will be required under the Hudson to have true HSR while maintaining the present volume of NEC intercity and commuter trains plying the rails. The new plan allows for it, a gain for the Northeast as a whole a loss for NJ commuters.

        • Adirondacker12800

          Once there is “true HSR” there won’t be any conventional intercity trains on the corridor. Every train will be stopping in New York. The few miles on either side of Manhattan don’t need to be high speed. Building the maximum capacity for commuter rail means the commuter rail isn’t using capacity on the intercity route. In other words if the old plan had capacity for 48 trains an hour and NJ Transit wants to run 40 there’s capacity for 8 intercity trains. If the new plan has capacity for 40 trains an hour ( I’ve read that it will be as low as 34 ) and NJTransit wants to run 40 trains an hour no intercity trains can run. Or if you want to run 5 intercity trains an hour – Amtraks current peak in the late afternoon on weekdays – you can only run 35 NJTransit trains.
          NJ Transit already runs 20, 21 or 22 trains an hour, depending on the time of year and the state of the economy. There are 4 Raritan Valley trains an hour that could be extended to Manhattan. That’s 26 trains an hour without adding trains to relieve overcrowding or adding service from the former Erie line into Manhattan. Soon after Gateway opens it will be a capacity.

  • Andrew

    Articles like this really make me think I should be buying a doomstead… because that’s where this country is heading.

  • Drewski

    cligue–clique.

    Andrew, that’s exactly what these people (Kasich and his kind) want us to feel. I’m not trying to argue that everyone has to be in lockstep (unlike Kasich, who’s already demonstrated his intentions in that area). Yes, the idea is to quash new ides, new options, and dig us deeper into the status quo. If Ohio were in a parallel universe, you could look at southern Sweden or eastern Germany and get a good idea of what kind of rail network we could have. Yes, local passenger services in Germany and Sweden are subsidized. Small towns in Germany and Sweden have a connection to larger centers, and to airports, which small Ohio cities and towns can’t even imagine. And notice…that Germany and Sweden are in vastly better economic shape than Ohio.

    The venom and noise are intended to intimidate. These people can be voted out. And they will be. Meantime, it’s up to us to stand up and refuse to let our thinking be cowed. I like living in Cleveland. I don’t wanna move. I don’t wanna be forced to move because my city is starved of economic opportunities in areas like green energy, soil remediation, and rail services and construction. I’ll be damned if Kasich has the last word in this.

  • Tim E

    Unfortunately for Cincy, I believe LaHood will have to move on the Urban Circulator funds not being used or not being committed too. I don’t think their is one project that has broken ground that recieved funds. Biased of course, I believe St. Louis Loop trolley is going forward as it is truly a local affair on the funding end and can use every dollar it can get its hand on (itself a recipent of one of the $25 million dollar grants). In the meantime, I think St Louis Metro is contemplating on how to get its Grand BRT into design.

  • Dustin

    Partisan politics at its worst. This is awful and regrettable news…although, it comes pretty much expected. KaSICK has an agenda to put into power the people he wants, kill the programs he doesnt want, and violate numerous laws and State statues in the process. I do not hope to see him replaced at the end of his term however, I hope to see him IMPEACHED–FEB 2012–at first chance before he gets another 3 years to further cripple the state.

    As a life-long Cincinnatian that works in OTR, lives in Uptown, and studies Urban Planning at University of Cincinnati, I am frightened by the man’s ruthless and reckless abandon. Very little holds back Cincinnati from taking up the role of Portland OR in the Mid-west. We train arguably the greatest designers in the US (http://www.daapspace.daap.uc.edu/stories/2011, http://www.fastcodesign.com/1662634/american-design-schools-are-a-mess-and-produce-weak-graduates, http://daap.uc.edu/about.html). We have one of the most dense inner-city neighborhoods + architecture that is entirely unique and abundant. We have some 60,000 college students in the city. We have 9 S+P 500 companies. We have the pieces…

    Yet, our State and Local government continue to let the Young Professionals down. That is why 58% of Ohio’s 581,000 college students plan to leave upon graduating–I am one of those plan who will join the Brain Drain exodus…Cincinnati is far from being (social) progressive, but that is okay, so long as we stay innovative. Yet the Queen City will not be innovative and will not grow given the continued attacks that KaSICK and others have waged on what young people value important…Education Funding, Transportation Investment, Worker’s Rights…and so on…

  • It makes me sick to see 15 years of hard work and planning thrown out just because. Says a lot about how this guy sees everyone else…only he knows what’s best.

  • Dan C.

    Can Pittsburgh get the Federal government’s share of the financial contribution that was going to go to Cincy? We could really use it to extend our light rail system to Pitt/CMU and Oakland.

    I feel sorry for our Ohioan neighbors, but they voted for this sociopathic clown, and now they’re stuck with him. Funny my family supported Republicans back in the 50’s and 60’s. This current crop of tea-party style G.O.P. seems to be a whole new breed. I wonder what people are going to think about this era in our political history 50-75 years from now.

    • Buckeyeman

      The only thing I can say here is that Kasich is one of the most arrogant politicians ever to be voted into office in the history of this country. He’s also one of the most dogmatic. To him, anything that he doesn’t like has no right to exist. Yes, he is in fact a sociopath. Maybe in 2012 we’ll be lucky enough that voters will send him a vigorous rebuke in the form of a sweep of both houses of the Ohio Legislature. That’s the best we can hope for until this jerk has to run for reelection.

      • It won’t happen with luck, only with organizing.

        But the slender Democratic state House majority elected in 2008 was the first time the House majority in Ohio changed hands without a new district map drawn by that party, so even though the Republicans will be drawing the new map, its hard to imagine they can gerrymander the new one any worse than they gerrymandered the old one.

        So with sufficient organizing and sufficient appeal to independent voters, it can happen.

    • Reginald

      I would love to see light rail in Pittsburgh that goes down to Oakland. Pittsburgh’s a very tough city to make sustainable, but it could be done if they had some of Cincinnati’s money.

      I’d also love to see a private investor step in and donate the 30mil needed to get this streetcar going, under the stipulation that the streetcar system be called the FTKA (I leave it up to your imaginations to figure out what that means).

      I’m in California now, but from the ‘Burgh once, from the ‘Burgh forever. San Diego is starting to take sustainable transportation very seriously, but there’s still no Donnie Iris on the radio :( But heed my warning Ohioans. Gasoline is skyrocketing out here and will be five dollars by Summer. The same day is coming nationwide, maybe not today, but very soon. In ten years time it’ll be prohibitively expensive to drive to work, which is why these projects need your support now.

      • Jason

        Reginald: Pittsburgh does have the advantage of being very compact, most of the densest part of the city is in a 3-4 mile radius of an idealized center between downtown and Oakland, and as the city grew up around streetcars and commuter rail, it’s kind of tailor-made for those to be reintroduced. Despite the hills, it’s also quite walkable.
        I’d like to see the residents here get serious about solar power. We get about the same sunshine profile as Germany (which is getting very serious about PV cells on rooves of homes and businesses now). It be great if the 19th century’s biggest polluting city became the 21st century’s ecological development city.

        Buckeyeman: Let’s hope they send him packing. Otherwise here in Pittsburgh, we can look forward to HSR someday connecting us to DC, Philly, and NYC but not to Columbus, Cleveland, and Chicago. We can call it the “Kasich Gap” in honor of this visionary leader.

        On an unrelated note, what ever happened to Cincinnati’s abandoned subway? Why not make use of it?

        • Anthony

          You don’t know what you’re talking about.

          A three state effort has been underway for several weeks to connect Pittsburgh to Chicago through nothern Ohio.

          Indiana has already done the study and the returned Florida HSR grant will be the money to be used.

          http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2011/02/ohio_congress_members_seek_lak.html

          Kasich is onboard for this project.

          • Adirondacker12800

            And Lucy isn’t going to pull the football away from Charlie Brown the next time she offers to hold it for him either.

          • Is there any reason to doubt that Kasich is only onboard for that project in the sense that outspoken opponents to a light rail project are “on board”(*) a BRT alternative?

            (* but nowhere to be found if an actual BRT alternative is proposed)

            That is, given that his actual words on announcing the cancellation of the 3C Quickstart was “Passenger rail is not in Ohio’s future.”

            • Buckeyeman

              I read recently that Kasich has been quoted to have said thet “If LaTourette is in favor of it then we should look into it.” Latourette is U. S. Representative Stephen LaTourette, a Republican, no less. No, 3-C wasn’t without it’s flaws but it reall was a diamond in the rough in a lot of ways. If Kasich hadn’t insisted on being so damn inflexible in his opposition to it, maybe something positive could’ve been done to fix those flaws.

              • Anthony

                A diamond in the rough ? The 3C ?

                It was a 20 year financial disaster for Ohio that they would have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on over that period.

                The Pittsburgh to Chicago run shows 2,000,000 annual trips. Even if the ridership figures are off by 50% it breaks even.

              • Comparing the preliminary Quickstart service to a completed 110mph Pittsburgh / Cleveland / Toledo / Mystery Connection through Indiana Not Yet Determined / Chicago route is, of course, comparing apples to oranges.

                The 110mph version of the 3C is also projected to transport over 2m people and even if the ridership figures are off by 50%, it also breaks even.

                And even for the preliminary Quickstart service, the “financial disaster” of staying with the preliminary service for twenty years (I take it you are assuming five Republican terms as Governor) still represents less than the Department of Transport mowing budget over the same time period. Of course while the increasing price of gas will jack up the mowing budget, it will slice the subsidies that the preliminary service would require.

              • Anthony

                Nobody in Ohio besides Strickland believed his fantasy ridership numbers.

                Nearly 5 X the entire population of Cleveland was going to ride this every year ? Preposterous.

                Even Ohio State University came out against it, the very students he claimed would ride it said they wouldn’t.

                http://www.thelantern.com/opinion/funding-railways-poor-use-of-stimulus-funds-1.1108245

                This is why it was killed and why the vast majority of Ohio residents wanted it killed.

              • EngineerScotty

                Anthony,

                None of us are stupid enough to confuse the opinions of a right-wing columnist for Ohio State’s student newspaper (The Lantern) for the official opinions of Ohio State. And quite a few of us are sufficiently clever to do the few minutes of googling to determine that OSU president E. Gordon Gee was a supporter of the project.

                But feel free to try again.

              • Anthony

                Why try anything, the 3C is dead.

                OSU student paper right wing – LOL

                Gee would support any governor of Ohio. OSU is beholden to the state for millions of dollars yearly.

                Try again.

              • Bob

                “OSU student paper right wing – LOL”

                looks like an opinion column to me….

              • EngineerScotty

                I didn’t say that the OSU student paper is right-wing. I said the columnist you cite is; and looking at the other things he’s written seems to confirm that.

                But you fail to address the point. A critical opinion piece by a student columnist in a student newspaper is NOT the same as “Ohio State University coming out against” the project, and you know it. And you undermine your own position in the very next post, where you suggest that Gee’s support is little more than kissing up to the governor. (Now that Kasich is in office, is Gee opposed to the project?)

                Obviously, the 3C project is dead for the foreseeable future–and those of us in other more enlightened states will happily take Ohio’s money for our own projects. So much of this discussion is merely lamenting at the wake.

                But your claim that OSU (as an institution) opposes the project doesn’t appear to have basis in reality. OSU’s president supports it; and AFAIK the university administration has not offered up an official position on the matter.

              • Anthony

                How can Gordon Gee be opposed to a project that doesn’t exist ?

                This was the senior columnist to the OSU student paper…it is what it is.

                You have no proof the columnist is right wing. He is fiscally sane, like most people in Ohio are.

              • The 3C is no more dead than the barrow you are pushing ~ they are both plans on the shelf, and under the current makeup of the State Senate and State House of Representatives, neither has a snowball’s chance in hell in getting even a normal majority in the Board of Control.

                The Quickstart strategy for implementing the 3C in an incremental approach on the back of a conventional rail service running on 110mph track is quite possibly dead.

                The next time that Ohio is in a position to get back on track for a 21st century transport system, barring a massive population collapse in the City of Columbus, the 3C is going to be a central part of it, but it probably makes sense to go about it with something other than the Quickstart strategy, since the modern day Know-Nothings invested so heavily into sabotaging the Quickstart strategy.

                And, yes, it is quite fitting that the campaign to sabotage Ohio’s economic future for short-term political advantage would be defended here with a lie about “Ohio State” being against it based on the evidence of “the senior columnist of the student newspaper is against it”.

        • Drewski

          Story goes that curves in subway are too tight to accommodate LRVs. Not sure if that applies to streetcars too–like the ones used in Portland–but I know it is true for LRVs. Not just the curve radius, but the overall clearance.

          • I don’t know specifics, but in general, LRVs are capable of tight curve radii, and streetcars even tighter. The same story is true for clearances. If the subway was originally used by subway-surface lines, chances are it’s still usable by streetcars.

            • Adirondacker12800

              It was never used. Designed for streetcars of the era.

              • But there are modern streetcars that could definitely fit, so it is one option as an extension of the streetcar project. The question would be, rather, where the line goes after getting out the northeast side of the subway.

                But the streetcar project cannot be extended until the first stage is built, and the whole point is that Kasich and the Republicans in the State Legislature are determined to sabotage the first stage.

    • Yeah, nearly 50% of a mid-term electorate voted for him ~ and well over 2% of his margin for victory were just people responding to the flood of anti-Strickland ads blaming Strickland for the lack of jobs in the aftermath of the third worst national recession in the past century.

      Indeed, it only took a couple of months for Kasich to get to the point where he’d not win re-election … but while the union-busting is quite possibly going to be reversed by statewide initiative, its unlikely that the Cincinnati Streetcar can get reversed in the same way. It just does not have sufficiently broad based statewide support that can be mobilized to get it on the ballot.

      • Glen

        Hands-down unmitigated moron… the gall to compare Portland Oregon to Cincinnati Ohio and be arrogant about it.. Ohio cities are the size of West Coast suburbs at this point. Nobody wants to live in Ohio if they’re smart and bright.. I really do believe that aliens are actually controlling the stupidity of these people

        • Adirondacker12800

          Metro Cincinnati and metro Portland have the same population give or take.

          • Glen

            California suburbs..!!

          • Indeed, Portland, Cincinnati and Cleveland metro areas are 23rd, 24th and 26th respectively (Sacramento is 25th).

            • Adirondacker12800

              And if you are connecting Cleveland to Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton are along the way..Connect Cincinnati to Louisville you get Columbus-Louisville. Keep doing that east of the Rockies and you get Chicago to San Antonio and Portland Maine to Miami Florida…..
              Connect Portland to Seattle you get Portland to Vancouver BC and not much else… in reasonable scenarios. ….or high speed rail connects Cincinnati to Columbus and places beyond, Louisville and places beyond, Indianapolis and places beyond. Portland connects to Seattle and places in between. Or if Portland was to disappear there wouldn’t be much demand for a train. If Cincinnati was to disappear there would still be trains passing roughly north-south and another set passing east-west…..
              ….comparing Cincinnati to Portland can be so much fun!….

              • In both cases, it may well be that getting Rapid Rail class HSR on the back of Steel Interstate electrified rail freight corridors is likely to be the faster way to go south … toward California in the Cascades Corridor case, toward Memphis / Little Rock / Dallas in the 3C case. Or for Chicago / IND / CIN / Nashville / Chattanooga / Atlanta.

                That is, because of the population gap for the Cascades and because of the political gap in the South Central states.

                But definitely there are more matrix network connection possibilities to the east and west from the 3C.

              • If nothing else, a hypothetical future Coach Starlight can switch from a high-speed electric locomotive to a conventional diesel in Redding, traverse the 300 miles or so of sparsely populated mountains through Weed, Klamath Falls, and Oak Grove, and switch back to HSR upon reaching Eugene.

              • Adirondacker12800

                A lot cheaper to have it leave it’s origin in Sacramento using a high speed diesel. Or an existing Amtrak diesel which can go as fast as the line between Redding and Sacramento is going to be upgraded to in the next century or so.

              • Remember, guys, for Sacramento-Eugene service, the important part is not the top speed south of Redding but the allowed cant and cant deficiency through the mountains.

              • Yes, the German rail enthusiast’s unfinished site on a NoCal/OR Rapid Rail corridor makes that quite clear ~ it seems like a transfer at Sacramento to a tilt train would be well worth the gain on the most practicable upgrades on the Shasta route.

            • Drewski

              Cleveland CMSA is Cleveland-Lorain-Mentor-Akron-Canton-Ashtabula, with Mahoning Valley immediately adjacent. Cinci is part of Miami Valley region, which includes Butler County, Dayton and Springfield. Northeast Ohio is roughly 4 million people in roughly 6000 square miles, Miami Valley is roughly 3 million in similar area. CMSA is far better measure than MSA, especially since Northeast and Southwest Ohio still have higher population density than the vast majority of the rest of the US. It’s this combination of density and dispersal which makes Ohio such a strong potential market.

              Incidentally, this is also why the 3C makes so much sense. I’m referring to the first part of 3C, from Cleveland to Columbus. The specific line is very similar to TGV in avoiding towns. Freight is negligible, since it turns west at Crestline/Galion and proceeds to Columbus via Marion and Delaware. You could have a 220 mph line for maybe $2 billion, and a station at Galion/Crestline would allow for connections to US 30 corridor. Local services could run directly into Mansfield, then over to Marion. This isn’t Ohio’s busiest corridor by total traffic, but it’s the one with the most intrastate traffic. Politically, that made it attractive.

              In order to get HSR from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, you’ll have to come up through Beaver Valley, probably have a loop to access New Castle, then come overland on new r/w into Mahoning Valley. Northwest of Youngstown, you’d have to connect to the cutoff to avoid Warren, again with a loop for local access. That gets you to Ravenna, and getting from Ravenna to Cleveland is going to require patching together pieces of different r/w’s, followed by negotiating the restrictions from the southeast side (Broadway/Harvard/E 93) into downtown Cleveland. Oh–and the new casino is likely to dump a 5000-space garage on the eastern Cleveland Union Terminal r/w. Once you get into CUT, you still have capacity restriction at the western approach to the station, plus the configuration of RTA Red Line tracks on the CUT bridge across the Cuyahoga.

              We have the pieces. The pieces are MUCH easier to assemble for a line to Columbus, despite the fact that there’s higher traffic volume and higher lineside population to Pittsburgh. Something has to get built first, and it’s cheaper to get to Cols than Pgh. Moreover, the only realistic way to access Akron is with a new line parallel to I-77 (in utility r/w), which would allow a train from Cleveland to run south/east via Akron, but this can’t be done until there’s something up and running to prove that the idea really works.

              • Are you referring to Express HSR or Rapid Rail here? The preferred alignment for the Rapid Rail Pittsburgh / Cleveland corridor in the Ohio Hun runs through both Youngstown and Warren, with a Warren station. The Youngstown Branch runs directly next to the mainline northeast of Kent, just west of the Brady Lake Road overpass over the mainline, on the northern side.

                In any event, the most realistic way to get to Akron/Canton may well be a Hudson station on the Pittsburgh / Cleveland corridor and a local rail service Canton / Akron / Hudson or Canton / Akron / Kent with cross platform transfer to HSR. There’s a Wye to an Akron line at Hudson, so the local rail could either terminate on either side of the Wye or continue on to connect to Brady Lake for Kent and Ravenna.

                The Youngstown Branch connects into the rail network through Kent, with has a connection to Akron via Cuyahoga Falls (the main northeast Akron shopping center) and Akron University, so that would place both Akron University and Kent State University within walking distance of a connection to the Pittsburgh / Cleveland leg. With a Brady Lake station before junctioning with the Rapid Rail corridor, that could continue on the Rapid Rail corridor to a Ravenna siding terminus, putting Ravenna on a direct route to Akron and a connection to Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

              • At cheap-to-normal Western European costs, Cleveland-Cincinnati HSR would cost about $6-7 billion. There may be an existing ROW for the trains, but grade crossing elimination, complete reconstruction of the trackbed to accommodate high speeds, and electrification add up to a lot.

                Cleveland-Pittsburgh would cost somewhat more per km, depending on how much tunneling there would be and whether the line would serve Youngstown/Warren/Akron or skirt all intermediate urban areas.

    • Somewhere in the vicinity, to be able to point to and say “they got the money that could have been ours” would be good.

  • Chris

    To the last point, it would suggest that we could get a lot of value out of cutting the time between proposal and construction start to something like 2-3 years instead of decades, so it’s less likely to require sustained commitment from multiple administrations. This is especially possible with projects like this where takings are minimal, reducing the burden of the main unavoidable delay.

    • Jason

      How about limiting Environmental Impact Statements to “greenfield” developments only? What’s the point of an EIS on land that’s already developed?

      EISes take forever, add greatly to the cost of a project, and rarely make an impact one way or another if something is built.

      Of course, the best way to insure multi-administration continuity would be to get the Republicans on board with public transportation, but that seems to be a futile effort right now (Kasich, Walker, Scott, Christie, etc).

      • John

        Environmental impact statements include issues other than just impact to the natural environment. The assess impacts to the noise and historical properties among others. Even if a project is on land that’s already developed, it can have impacts on the surrounding community that deserve to be studied and mitigated if possible.

      • Nathanael

        The best way to insure multi-administration continuity would be to eliminate the Republican Party and replace it with a useful second party. Maybe one which is actually conservative, rather than nuts. I think this might be popular.

    • Given a stable and reliable source of planning funding, such as state highway departments typically have, there could be plenty of already planned projects already through the first stages of their EIR process, on the shelf ready to be finished if D&B funding is finalized.

  • Alan Kandel

    It’s iron highway robbery!

  • Allen

    “What message does this send to potential investors in a city like Cincinnati? If a city’s plans for a transportation project, even when fully funded, can be shut down because of the decisions of a new governor, how can anybody make long-term assumptions about where and how to develop? ”

    Having money budgeted is not the same as fully funded. Businesses making their decisions know this, or at least should know this.

  • Ben Zapruder

    Sigh.

    The discussion threads on this site illustrate why so many transit advocates have so little success in advancing their cause with public officials and the greater community: It’s much easier to write off any opposition to (fill in your favorite transit project) as petty, partisan, and neanderthal rather deal substantively with any legitimate issues raised — and that’s because (judging by the quality of the commentary here) there’s no possible way there can be any legitimate issues raised.

    I find Drewski’s comment the most amusing — complain that “the GOP” has opposed every rail project in Ohio, yet without the least bit of self-awareness, note that GCRTA’s Waterfront line (the last rail project built) is in the process of being mothballed because it doesn’t generate sufficient ridership.

    Just as critics of the project predicted 20 years ago. When they were criticized as know-nothing hysterical doomsayers lacking vision.

    And for the record, my professional career depends in large part in my ability to advance transit projects. You folks aren’t helping me at all.

    • Anthony

      This project is going ahead in Ohio.

      It has the support of three governors, 6 US Senators, 12 congress members and state legislators in all three states,from both parties.

      http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20110318/FREE/110319848

      If the numbers are accurate on the original HSR rail grant request from Indiana in 2009, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania should get the Florida funds.

      • aw

        I’m not sure why I should believe an article that describes the 3C as a “commuter rail line”, but it didn’t sound like the lakeshore route had the support of Kaisich. Otherwise, why would it say “A group of elected officials and business and community leaders is urging Gov. John Kasich to get high-speed rail on track in Ohio.”

        Also, the article made it sound like they were only seeking planning funding, so it would only need a small portion of the Florida grant. By contrast, 3C was ready to go. With a little tweaking of the numbers, you could take their quote about the potential ridership and apply it to the 3C:

        “Because of the population density of this region (more than six million people in just 130 miles), the large number of students attending colleges and universities (150,000 students, many of whom do not own cars), the presence of numerous local transit systems, four commercial airports, and the large number of active and underutilized legacy rail corridors, we believe this region is well-suited for a more developed rail network,” according to the letter. “This can and should also be part of a much larger network linking Chicago with the East Coast.”

        • Anthony

          What part of this article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer is confusing ?

          http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2011/02/ohio_congress_members_seek_lak.html

          • aw

            I’ll believe Kaisich supports it when he makes a definitive statement to that effect, and backs it up with action. The Plain Dealer quoted him as saying he’d consider it.

            • Anthony

              The Republican state senators in Ohio would have never approved state funding for the 3C project regardless of Kasich winning the election or not.

              It was dead even if Strickland had won the election.

              • Yes, the “salt the earth” strategy does seem to have been part of it ~ there was TexasTea money as well as right wing hedge fund money backing Kasich (as we see in the proposal to spend $10m to give a windfall to oil company operations in Ohio), and they would have wanted a fallback plan to prevent people from actually experiencing the service. Having State Senators scared of the TexasTea mobilized portion of their own primary electorate would be a good way to implement the “salt the earth” strategy.

    • Until the Tea Party people started winning, all those lines were about to go ahead, even the really low-performing ones like the Ohio Hub. And the Tea Party opposition to rail has nothing to do with fiscal prudence and everything to do with grandstanding; it began with Michelle Bachmann’s “take light rail to their government jobs” quip and Chris Christie’s canceling ARC to score political points.

    • What “legitimate issue” is Kasich raising about the Cincinnati streetcar corridor that, if addressed, would cause him to reverse the decision?

      The argument here is a red herring:

      It’s much easier to write off any opposition to (fill in your favorite transit project) as petty, partisan, and neanderthal rather deal substantively with any legitimate issues raised.

      … when we are addressing a specific opponent who is indeed engaged in a partisan attack, and whose interest in substantial issues raised is not to see whether they can be addressed but rather to see whether they can be cherry picked them to find good slogans.

      If it is important to recognize opponents who are open to having their concerns addressed and willing to think a problem through, it is equally important to recognize the opponents who have adopted a hardline position on either idealogical grounds or in their view of their political advantage.

    • Drewski

      Ben, maybe I need to clarify something. I didn’t say that the Waterfront Line was a masterpiece of planning. It was responsible to mothball a line that generates very little ridership. If you know the line at all, you know that the idea of it has some logic: it ends at the municipal parking lot, below the bluffs at the north end of downtown, and it runs near the Rock Hall, Browns Stadium, and through the East Bank of the Flats. If you know Cleveland, then you know that all of the “attractions” along the lakefront are stand-alone projects with no thought of interconnection. You know that pedestrian connections are scarce. You know that there is no provision for climbing the bluff up to, say, City Hall, or Ontario Street. You know that there is no shortage of surface parking in downtown Cleveland, minimizing the value of a connection to the Muni lot. You know that the fear of bars in the Flats becoming “unruly” led to them being policed out of existence. You know that the entire East Bank was demolished for a development project in 2007-08, a project which survives with one remnant soon to begin construction. You know that RTA and NOACA (region’s MPO) have drafted one plan after another for rail expansion– SCOTS study in the 70s, PB’s Neorail study in the 90s, RTA plans for extending Blue Line to 271 and Chagrin, RTA plans for Red Line expansion to Berea–every one of these has gone nowhere. If you’ve been involved with or responsible for any of these plans, then please feel free not to castigate me for a string of failures in which I had no involvement.

      NOACA, our MPO, has done nearly everything it can to discourage any passenger rail improvements. NOACA is still focused on enabling greenfield development, at the direct expense of Cleveland and the vast majority of cities in Cuyahoga County. Why doesn’t the Red Line extend past the airport? Because the mayor of Berea–Republican, I do believe–expressed concern that parking demand from adjacent suburbs would swamp the city. The same excuse was given by the (Republican) mayor of Rocky River, on the subject of a proposed commuter station there. Now, somehow there is ANOTHER study, this one of commuter rail from Cleveland to Sandusky, which is all but guaranteed to be yet another no-go, not least because suburban Republicans are encouraged in their paranoid fantasy that 1) it will invite “urban” criminal elements to their bucolic realms and/or 2) those put-upon suburbanites will be suckered into subsidizing service in the city they ran away from.

      Ben, I know that in St Louis, the city used the Wabash RR r/w–purchased for $1–as its in-kind contribution to construction of Metrolink’s core line. Aside from the Waterfront Line, I have yet to see any of the planners in Greater Cleveland deign to entertain such a concept. We have two immediately viable rail corridors on the East Side, yet somehow nobody can come up with a proposal to even run DMU service on rebuilt single track with passing loops, from E 260 in Euclid, via downtown, and out to Solon or Twinsburg (a line which could incorporate the Waterfront Line, thanks). Nobody in Cleveland’s planning elite can muster a proposal to extend the Red Line–even a DMU shuttle–from East Cleveland to Euclid, which would allow east suburban commuters much-improved access to University Circle. In a city with so many self-induced failures–and where you attempt to position yourself in an almost martyred state (the poor planner beset by so much local ignorance)–I would ask that you not misquote me, and not attempt to characterize my recollection of local anti-transit politics as some black-helicopter delusion of my own mind.

      • Adirondacker12800

        1) it will invite “urban” criminal elements to their bucolic realms and/or

        …yes,, Shaker Heights is a cesspit of crime, urban decay and poverty… or not.

      • aw

        It seems to me that the Waterfront line could be very handy for train travelers if there were more than 4 trains calling at the Amtrak station each day. And even more so if those trains arrived in daytime.

        It also seems like it would be useful for Browns fans getting from Tower City to the stadium. Any chance they’ll run specials on game days even if the line is mothballed? Will the rolling stock be used on the Shaker lines?

      • Ben Zapruder

        You give a very good recitation of all the reasons the Waterfront Line didn’t work and why it should be mothballed.

        My point is that many of those flaws were cited when the project was moving forward decades ago and those people were criticized as “anti-transit”, “unimaginative idiots”, and whatever particular insults were in vogue back then. Except it turns out that they were, um, right. And what they were “anti” was “anti-stupid-expensive-projects-that-won’t-do-what-supporters-say-it-will.”

        Just as today. To read most of the comments on this blog, there can’t possibly be any valid policy reason for opposing the Cincinnati street cars or the 3C line or the (fill in your favorite transit/rail project). So by definition, if you do oppose it, you must be doing it on petty, partisan, unthinking, supporting-your-campaign-contributor grounds. Period.

        Sorry, that’s not how the real world works.

    • Nathanael

      The Waterfront Line would benefit greatly from having an intercity rail service to connect to. One which stops at a time other than 2 AM.

  • David Oleesky

    A short 2.5 mile streetcar line (at over $50 million per mile) is a massive waste of money, as non-segregated public transport is subject to severe delays in heavy city traffic. It would probably be quicker to walk, unless the area is very hilly. If a public transport service is required, a branded bus line should suffice.
    Governor Kasich has had the good sense not to waste state funds on this boondoggle. Folks in the USA should take a look at Edinburgh, Scotland where over $600 million has been spent so far on a streetcar line that may never open.

    • Frank

      No, he’s just an anti transit ideologue. No higher brain functions were involved in his decision.

    • John W

      A bit of an exaggeration – the majority of the length (from airport to city centre) will be delayed but will be in service; it’s the bit from the city centre to Leith that seems iffy. Still, sounds like a bit of a disaster all round: there’s a good backgrounder in the Guardian.

      Of course, if you’re going to pull in UK examples you really ought to compare that to how Manchester is pulling out all the stops, with new segments going in to service every 6 months or so over the course of the next 4 to 5 years (see Metrolink’s info pages on the extensions).

      • David Oleesky

        The Metrolink system in Manchester (UK) is more akin to a German “stadtbahn” – it uses high platform light rail vehicles similar to those used in Koln, and most routes are segregated, in many instances on former heavy rail alignments. The only sections that resemble a street tramway are in the city centre (these roads are prohibited to general traffic), some of the Eccles and future Ashton lines and small parts of the future Airport line. Where conventional street tramways have been re-introduced in the UK, they are subject to significant delays created by other road traffic, e.g. the Malin Bridge and Middlewood routes in Sheffield. In general, essentially segregated alignments are required to justify the massive expense of creating urban rail lines.

        • Fred S.

          Sounds like an argument for more subways (a la London, Glasgow, and Newcastle) versus surface light-rail in the U.K., then.

          • David Oleesky

            Segregation is the key issue for rapid rail transit, rather than being underground, as this is more expensive than building on the surface. Manchester and some other UK cities are not suitable for tunnelling due to the nature of the subsoil, which is why the station interconnector underground project in Manchester (Picc-Vic) was abandoned in the 1970s and the Metrolink city centre reserved street link built instead.

      • Nathanael

        Manchester’s an interesting comparison, as I believe the extensions have survived mutliple funding cuts from the national government,… the city just keeps coming back and finding the funding eventually.

  • Streetcars in their own lane are almost as good as LRT and are worth fighting for. That’s not what Cincinatti was poised to do, though; they were poised to have the so-called “glamorous, immobile buses” that shared-lane streetcars are (h/t Jarrett Walker).

    • The solution to the problems of shared-lane streetcars as opposed to classic trams is to exclude cars from the lanes.

      The problem there is the political opposition to the more effective transport design ~ and often political opposition from likely beneficiaries of greater ridership on the line, since the marginal riders are those most likely to have the option of driving instead, and if they drive instead, they will occupy downtown parking, which is either scarce and therefore valuable or abundant and therefore undermining central urban property values.

      However, its only cars that cause the problem. A streetcar lane shared with buses as an express bus lane can be designed to be quite effective, on the economic side extending the benefits of the capital investment in a dedicated transport corridor and on the political side undermining the “divide and conquer” strategy that is so often used to kill investment in our nation’s economic future.

  • AP

    No city is trying harder than Cincinnati to ruin itself. It’s almost comical at this point.

    • This is rather an effort by the Columbus-origin Governor to ruin Cincinnati ~ but in his imagination, only the more urban, more Democratic part of Cincinnati, and salting the earth in Democratic voting parts of the state seems to be OK by him.

  • Charles

    Per the reference to Portland’s unemployment rate. It doesn’t seem unreasonable considering it matches the state of Oregon’s unemployment rate. It would be shocking if was like the comparison here in SC. 10% statewide but 25% in Chester county.

    • Anthony

      All those streetcars were supposed to make it an economic utopia.

      What happened ?

      • Making a hyperbolic claim to caricature a position is the rhetoric of a demagogue, not a reasoned argument.

      • EngineerScotty

        Uh, no.

        Portland Streetcar was sold as a livability/development project, and it has arguably succeeded at that. It’s a local circulator, so billing it as economic salvation would be a stretch–but its proponents don’t bill it as such.

        MAX light rail, OTOH, is highly beneficial to the economy of the metro region; many of the region’s best-paying jobs are located along the line.

  • Scott Truesdale

    …and here is the Tale of Two Cities. DC has invested in public transportation and reaped the benefits. I’ve lived here for 11 years and I can tell you first hand how the Metro system has driven the growth of this city. Once neglected neighborhoods are thriving and the sleepy suburbs have been transformed into economic powerhouses. My own neighborhood is considered “in transition” and much of the revitalization in housing comes in part from the streetcar project currently underconstruction.

    On the other hand, you have Cincinnati…a city that has consistently shot down any effort to expand public transit. And just as DC’s grown and enjoyed the benefits, Cincinnati’s gone in the opposite direction, losing residents and businesses. This is a dangerous precident – especially during a time when people are moving back to cities like Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

    Of course, smart urban planning takes more than committing to public transportation. A subway or light rail isn’t going to solve all of Cincinnati’s problems. Look at Buffafo. But Cincy’s not Buffalo – and its commitment to creating new living spaces and attractions proves a measure of understanding what some of its problems are…and how to begin to fix them. Mass transit should remain on the table.

    • Anthony

      DC as we know it could not function with out it.

      DC was a traffic mess in the 1960’s and even with the METRO it still is.

      Well worth the investment, but they definitley need new trains.

      • Scott

        DC is still a traffic mess – but part of that is directly related to the region’s rapid growth which has outpaced and overwhelmed the roads and the transit system.

        So what’s DC’s answer to that been – more transit! Neighborhoods not serviced by subway are getting streetcars and the system continues to grow outward into the VA and MD suburbs.

  • What Kasich is doing is setting a dangerous precendent. He is planning to undermine the decision made by a committee specifically set up to avoid partisan politics when allocation federal transportation dollars to state projects. The Cincinnati Streetcar has been the highest rated transportation project in the entire state, by far, for the last two years.
    Kasich claims that he is doing this because he is getting “bad vibes from the business community” in regards to the project. Well, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, Rookwood Pottery, Christian Moerlein Brewing Company, Uptown Consortium, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Zoo, and a slew of small businesses all support the project and are lining up in anticipation of the streetcar investment.
    I don’t know who Kasich is talking to, but the business community is extraordinarily excited about the project and have been for years. Maybe Kasich should actually spend some time in Cincinnati and get to know the business community that is so excited about this project.

    • Spend some time in Cincinnati? Its the Wall Street business community that is giving off the bad vibes about the project ~ how could he pick those up if he toddled off to Cincinnati and listened to local business?

      • EngineerScotty

        Who do you trust? A bipartisan commission, or “bad vibes” from political supporters?

        • Adirondacker12800

          well is the bipartisan committee made up of Real Ohioans(tm) or is it made up of people from Cincinnati? … Real Ohioans(tm) don’t live in places like Cincinnati. ( Just like Real Americans(tm) don’t live in places like New York City )

  • Brandi

    Why not just cut the mowing budget for the highways for a year? This amount is miniscule and would greatly improve the urban fiber of the city. This is just the republican overreaching that is occurring across the country. Stop as much as you can that your opponent’s supported. Attack any law even the Clean Air Act which is decades old. Nothing is safe.

  • Everyone here should go read Systemic Failure on the impending Stuttgart 21 cancellation, which is an example of how responsible people cancel an undesired public works project. The proposed underground station had adverse environmental impacts and ran several times over budget, leading to massive popular protests, which have just replaced the government with a Green Party-led coalition. The coalition is not anti-rail; it talked to Swiss rail experts (and not, say, Robert Poole) to get professional opinions of what alternative to build, and plans to go for a more modest station and regionwide rail improvements.

  • Mr. Kasich, however, says “We’re not living in Portland,” and for now, he is right.”

    I agree with this comment. However, Portland has done a lot in the past 10 years to make their city more appealing.

    To me, it might take more than a streetcar project to get more people excited about coming back to Cincinnati.

  • A streetcar with it’s own travel space within the city would only help with the congestion issues. To reduce the number of regular cars by incorporating this can only help with the issue that regular cars bring. This needs to happen to help everyone in the city.

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