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Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News

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Metro and TANK also revenue share on stored value cards but I am not seeing anyone cry foul that metro $$ is going to NKY.

 

Exactly. Same exact concept. If you transfer from Metro to Tank or vice versa, wherever you pay the transfer gets the funds.

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What you just mentioned is the grey area that COAST and Friends use as "proof" that "bus money is going to the streetcar!"

 

Metro and TANK also revenue share on stored value cards but I am not seeing anyone cry foul that metro $$ is going to NKY.

 

The question is, how can this rhetoric, thoroughly dishonest as it is, be combated when the explanation requires so many words but the factual distortion requires so few?

 

This illustrates one of the big problems with the "streetcar divorce". Will people with a Metro day/monthly pass still be able to ride the streetcar for free, even if Metro doesn't run the streetcar? If so, surely the city wouldn't just let them ride for free. They would expect Metro to pay them for those rides, in which case Metro would be writing a check to the city for those riders. So the whole premise behind the divorce is flawed.

 

I guess if it's a really small amount of farebox recovery, monthly passholders could just be given free rides and it wouldn't make a big difference, and the issue could be revisited at a later date. At which point the rhetorical upper-hand would be on the side of those complaining about passholders riding for free.

 

There are dozens of examples across America of transit card systems that work across multiple transit agencies. Greater Seattle's ORCA Card currently can be used on 9 different transit and ferry systems. You can buy a one-day ORCA pass for $8 that works on Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit, King County Water Taxi, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, Seattle Streetcar, and Sound Transit (which runs light rail, commuter rail, and buses), and I assume the revenue is distributed to all of those agencies based on some agreed-upon method.

 

I was just in Seattle last week, and I could not for the life of me figure out how to get a day pass for anything but the streetcars. Their transit system is the most difficult to figure out that I've ever experienced, in terms of both fares and navigation (so hard to find useful maps). Vancouver's was a breeze, by comparison.

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The question is, how can this rhetoric, thoroughly dishonest as it is, be combated when the explanation requires so many words but the factual distortion requires so few?

 

This illustrates one of the big problems with the "streetcar divorce". Will people with a Metro day/monthly pass still be able to ride the streetcar for free, even if Metro doesn't run the streetcar? If so, surely the city wouldn't just let them ride for free. They would expect Metro to pay them for those rides, in which case Metro would be writing a check to the city for those riders. So the whole premise behind the divorce is flawed.

 

I mean, that's the key question of the time period we're living in. Every 10 word lie that is spread takes 10,000 words of truth to debunk it. So how do you get people to listen to the truth when it's easier to just believe the lie?

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The Cincinnati Streetcar had 3,124 riders on Sunday September 2nd, the night of the fireworks over Labor Day weekend where we extended the hours until 1 am.

 

The last time the Kansas City streetcar had a single day where they had fewer than 3,124 riders was April 3rd.

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Cincinnati and KC have the exact same model streetcar, and so presumably, the exact same automated passenger counters in the doorways. 

 

A piece of data we don't have for KC is how many people are riding 3-4-5 times per day.  It must be a pretty significant percentage because it's hard to believe that they're getting 10,000 unique riders on days when their ridership pushes or tops 15,000. 

 

Also, it should be noted that KC is getting many times our ridership despite having a smaller fleet of streetcars (4 instead of 5) and a far inferior streetcar barn situation which makes it much more complicated to introduce an extra streetcar or take one out of service. 

 

KC is regularly running all 4 of their streetcars but Cincinnati has not run all 5 of ours since opening weekend, and has only run 4 on 1-2 occasions since. 

 

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Cincinnati and KC have the exact same model streetcar, and so presumably, the exact same automated passenger counters in the doorways. 

 

A piece of data we don't have for KC is how many people are riding 3-4-5 times per day.  It must be a pretty significant percentage because it's hard to believe that they're getting 10,000 unique riders on days when their ridership pushes or tops 15,000. 

 

Also, it should be noted that KC is getting many times our ridership despite having a smaller fleet of streetcars (4 instead of 5) and a far inferior streetcar barn situation which makes it much more complicated to introduce an extra streetcar or take one out of service. 

 

KC is regularly running all 4 of their streetcars but Cincinnati has not run all 5 of ours since opening weekend, and has only run 4 on 1-2 occasions since. 

 

 

That piece of information would be un-knowable if someone buys a day pass for Cincinnati as well or for the Portland MAX/Streetcar system. You'd basically need a MARTA or DC Metro  style scan in, scan out system to know how many times unique individuals are riding.

 

Semi-related, I wonder how many times individual cars are counted in a "vehicles per day" count. If you commute from Loveland to the Airport, your car is being counted as a vehicle on 275, 71, FWW, BSB, 71/75, 275 (again).

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Can Cincinnati fix the streetcar?

 

The streetcar was built for two reasons: To spur economic development and repopulation in downtown and Over-the-Rhine and to move people around Cincinnati’s basin neighborhoods. Since opening Sept. 9, 2016, it’s delivered on only one of those promises.

 

More below:

https://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2018/09/14/can-cincinnati-fix-the-streetcar.html

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There was recently an article in the Enquirer that said streetcar ridership continues to fall. This time, some of the blame was placed on.....bird scooters.

 

The streetcar feels like it's sinking fast. As more development comes online around it, ridership surely should not be decreasing. What the hell is going on here? Has the mythical traffic study been completed yet? Are supporters (hello, John Schneider, where are you?) still fighting for improvements, or have people kind of given up? It's depressing to think that something so many of us fought so hard for is proving to be quite a letdown.

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39 minutes ago, edale said:

There was recently an article in the Enquirer that said streetcar ridership continues to fall. This time, some of the blame was placed on.....bird scooters.

 

The streetcar feels like it's sinking fast. As more development comes online around it, ridership surely should not be decreasing. What the hell is going on here? Has the mythical traffic study been completed yet? Are supporters (hello, John Schneider, where are you?) still fighting for improvements, or have people kind of given up? It's depressing to think that something so many of us fought so hard for is proving to be quite a letdown.

 

Ridership has been trending downward, but if you look at the numbers, there's a massive drop in line with when the scooters entered the market.

 

June 2018 Streetcar Down -6.0%

 

July 2018 Streetcar Down -6.3%

 

July 26th, Bird Launches

 

August 2018 Streetcar Down  -15.7%

 

August 29th Bird Expands

 

September 2018 Streetcar Down -24.1%

 

September 11 Lime Launches

 

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We've gone over it before, but the political situation has been the driving factor in the streetcar's performance.  It's easy to put in place a bad policy and just let the system flounder.  It takes no additional work, whereas any fixes require at least some token level of effort.   

 

On the other hand, while streetcar ridership tends to drop some in cold weather, scooter ridership will likely crash once the weather really turns.  Cold isn't going to help the batteries, and sloppy weather is pretty much untenable. 

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I am skeptical as to how many riders the scooters are taking away from the streetcar.  Rarely do you see more than two people riding scooters together, so it isn't stealing groups.  The scooters are also ridden overwhelmingly by males, so they aren't stealing many female riders.  And I don't think I've seen many people over age 40 on a scooter, so they aren't getting those people either. 

 

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I see quite a few groups of people on scooters and have seen quite a few women riding them.  That being said, my feeling is that there is some  impact, but not that great of one.   The morning commute which had been for the longest time just me and sometimes another person has jumped up to a half dozen or so.

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Just now, jmecklenborg said:

I am skeptical as to how many riders the scooters are taking away from the streetcar.  Rarely do you see more than two people riding scooters together, so it isn't stealing groups.  The scooters are also ridden overwhelmingly by males, so they aren't stealing many female riders.  And I don't think I've seen many people over age 40 on a scooter, so they aren't getting those people either. 

 

 

I generally agree that the scooters aren't much of a factor, but I've seen plenty of older men in suits riding them in the morning on my way to work and I've seen larger groups riding them on the weekend. But I think your point stands. 

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To me reliability and on time performance is the key to everything.  There’s a lot to do to repair a soiled reputation in this regard.

 

I’d be interested to see the number of streetcar-hours of service per month  between this year and last to see if we ran more streetcars more often a year ago. I know they have been in the shop a lot this year and we have even dropped below our minimum service targets for streetcars in service a few times. 

 

Anecdotal and no doubt a bureaucratic impossibility, but I probably would have ridden the streetcar x10 times more when I lived downtown if they allowed dogs. I was up on the fourth floor so any chance to combine another errand with dog walking was great for me and I ended up patronizing dog friendly businesses. 

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23 hours ago, jmecklenborg said:

^Right on cue:

https://www.wcpo.com/news/insider/city-council-text-messages-ousted-city-manager-promised-streetcar-fixes-to-avoid-firing

 

 

 It's a sad day when we have to depend on TV channels to do basic investigative work.  The Enquirer is a menace. 

 

Wow, that seems to be clear evidence of intentional sabotage, confirming what most of us suspected.

 

I, too, worry about the reputational damage that has already been done to the streetcar. Even if the city can implement signal prioritization and better handle the issue of track blockages, will people be willing to give it another chance? I think supporters need to start thinking of some more drastic measures to immediately improve performance. In addition to the signal prioritization, I think it makes sense to remove or decommission some of the most lightly used stops. If it can be made free, that would also have a big impact, I think. 

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Still not a peep from The Enquirer.  They were too busy worshiping Cranely's state of the city speech, where he apparently took credit for Kroger promising to eliminate plastic bags by 2030. 

 

Many of the people in downtown and OTR are visitors or recent transplants.  The turnover is very high.  Look at the auditor's website and you will see that many 10 year-old condos have already been sold three times.  Implementation of common-sense improvements to streetcar operations would motivate an instant improvement in ridership. 

 

Also, the Bird scooters turn off at night, around 9pm.  As I speculated earlier, the scooters aren't stealing many riders, and they certainly aren't stealing any when they are turned off. 

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Just now, edale said:

 

Wow, that seems to be clear evidence of intentional sabotage, confirming what most of us suspected.

 

I, too, worry about the reputational damage that has already been done to the streetcar. Even if the city can implement signal prioritization and better handle the issue of track blockages, will people be willing to give it another chance? I think supporters need to start thinking of some more drastic measures to immediately improve performance. In addition to the signal prioritization, I think it makes sense to remove or decommission some of the most lightly used stops. If it can be made free, that would also have a big impact, I think. 

 

 

Signal prioritization would be huge. There are 43 traffic signals along the streetcar route. If we can even just let them hold a green for longer, that will be a big help. Some lights, like 13th and Race should never stop the streetcar. For the mid-block lights, the streetcar should trigger it as it approaches and get the movement signal first. If you can get the streetcar to only stop at 8-10 lights instead of 22 in a full loop (I'm assuming you've got a 50/50 chance of green/red and the average light time is 40 seconds based on what I timed today on Main Street), you could save about 4-5 minutes, which means headways should drop about 2 minutes. Then you have a system that's running 10 minutes at peak and 13 at off-peak. 

 

Free allows a “re-launch” of the system. Improvements to OTP or running times will help, but it will be difficult to sell that to new or previously unhappy riders. Free fares, which can likely be done at no or low cost will be front page news and give us the chance to get people to ride or give it another shot. 

 

 

 

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On top of the ridiculously late traffic study the city actually needs to market the streetcar.  Have you ever seen a commercial or billboard for the streetcar?  Put some adds on TV during Reds and Bengals game how you can go from the banks to OTR on the streetcar.  Put advertisements in other cities like Chicago, Indy, Milwaukee, Columbus Cleveland, Louisville, Lexington, Nashville, Knoxville, Detroit, ect about OTR and the streetcar.  This city does a terrible job of selling itself and telling people about our great things.  In business you have to make a concerted effort to get a bad image turned around.  The city, with Cranley in charge, clearly do not care about making the sreetcars image any better.  

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Just now, thomasbw said:

Free allows a “re-launch” of the system. Improvements to OTP or running times will help, but it will be difficult to sell that to new or previously unhappy riders. Free fares, which can likely be done at no or low cost will be front page news and give us the chance to get people to ride or give it another shot. 

This is a good point, and indicates it would be a really good idea to implement other improvements first. Then the "relaunch" can happen for the improved system.

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10 minutes ago, Cincy513 said:

On top of the ridiculously late traffic study the city actually needs to market the streetcar.  Have you ever seen a commercial or billboard for the streetcar?  Put some adds on TV during Reds and Bengals game how you can go from the banks to OTR on the streetcar.  Put advertisements in other cities like Chicago, Indy, Milwaukee, Columbus Cleveland, Louisville, Lexington, Nashville, Knoxville, Detroit, ect about OTR and the streetcar.  This city does a terrible job of selling itself and telling people about our great things.  In business you have to make a concerted effort to get a bad image turned around.  The city, with Cranley in charge, clearly do not care about making the sreetcars image any better.  

 

I’m not sure if there are any clear examples of how transit marketing, independent of other service changes or the introduction of new service, has led to increased ridership. No gold standard exists for marketing transit that I’m aware of. Every single bus only transit agency has tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to market transit to ‘riders of choice’ since the end of the Second World War; however, only when high quality transit service is provided are the agencies successful. Transit is effectively a utilitarian service. People will use effective transit, but not take a slow and unreliable system, regardless of how it is packaged to the consumer. Marketing transit effectively only provides the public with the knowledge of the existence of the service. If the utility of the service is insufficient, no amount of marketing will increase ridership. For the Cincinnati Streetcar, most if not all of the marketing budget should be redirected to the offsetting of lost fare revenue in a free system. The streetcar has been the most publicized and well covered transportation story in the past several decades. Every Cincinnatian is aware of the existence of the streetcar. Marketing dollars, if deployed, should be narrowly focused at conventioneers and visitors from out of town who might not be aware of the system.

 

Considering the costs of collections of fares and the average fare revenue per rider, every dollar of marketing expenses has to attract about three new riders to break even. Those marketing dollars would be much better spent in underwriting free fares.

 

I think we need to do a few things, in this order to turn the streetcar around.

 

1. Aggressively work to prevent blockages and delays; increase the fines for blocking the tracks; improve towing response time. Create a new cultural consensus about blocking the tracks (it's like blocking a hydrant or parking in a handicap spot, you just don't do it)

2. Evaluate the schedule, cutting unproductive times (after midnight, early morning, weekday late night in the winter) and using those resources to underwrite free fares/improve service when busiest.

3. Re-time the lights and allow the streetcar preemption or to hold green, increasing running speed and decreasing headways. 

4. Re-launch the system as a fare free system (Streetcar 2.0)

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24 minutes ago, thomasbw said:

 

 Some lights, like 13th and Race should never stop the streetcar. For the mid-block lights, the streetcar should trigger it as it approaches and get the movement signal first. If you can get the streetcar to only stop at 8-10 lights instead of 22 in a full loop

 

 

 

The streetcars should have signal priority at every intersection north of Central Parkway, sans Liberty.   The way it is now, the signals seem to give a ton of priority to east-west travel on Findlay St. and 14th. 

 

Also, it seems that an island toward the NE side of this intersection would enable a continuous right turn for the streetcar:

https://www.google.com/maps/@39.1078737,-84.5178799,61m/data=!3m1!1e3

 

Ideally, this turn would be rebuilt on a wider radius so that it cuts slightly into this corner of the park. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just now, jmecklenborg said:

 

The streetcars should have signal priority at every intersection north of Central Parkway, sans Liberty.   The way it is now, the signals seem to give a ton of priority to east-west travel on Findlay St. and 14th. 

 

Also, it seems that an island toward the NE side of this intersection would enable a continuous right turn for the streetcar:

https://www.google.com/maps/@39.1078737,-84.5178799,61m/data=!3m1!1e3

 

Ideally, this turn would be rebuilt on a wider radius so that it cuts slightly into this corner of the park. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've been looking at that intersection too, just make the right hand lane of northbound Elm there right turn only and throw a few bollards out there. 

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12th could be widened by 10 feet for about 100 feet east of Elm and that would permit the streetcar to jump past a cue of stopped cars.  Unfortunately, laying 150~ feet of replacement track would probably cost $2-3 million.  This is really something that the designers should have anticipated. 

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Just now, jmecklenborg said:

12th could be widened by 10 feet for about 100 feet east of Elm and that would permit the streetcar to jump past a cue of stopped cars.  Unfortunately, laying 150~ feet of replacement track would probably cost $2-3 million.  This is really something that the designers should have anticipated. 

 

There's much, much, much lower hanging fruit that we can work on first. 

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^If the streetcar could trigger a green light at Elm St. as it passes through the Race St. intersection, any cue of cars should be able to clear by the time it gets there.  I think there is an argument for putting a station at 12th & Elm, however, and signal priority throughout the system would more than offset the stop.   

 

Meanwhile, I think there is a psychological effect at unnecessary stops at one intersection as opposed to another.  Stopping at 12th & Vine isn't as annoying as stopping at Central Parkway & Vine.  I'm not sure where the most annoying stop is on the system, but I'd put the Central Parkway intersections up there. 

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Just from a purely selfish reason I hope they'd keep the Central Parkway and Vine stop.  If I just miss the streetcar at 12th/Race I can run to the CP/Vine stop.  I'm too old to run further ;).

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14 hours ago, thomasbw said:

I've been looking at that intersection too, just make the right hand lane of northbound Elm there right turn only and throw a few bollards out there. 

Drivers prefer using the streetcar lane on that block of Elm because they don’t like driving on the cobblestone. So if this was done northbound cars would probably merge back over to the streetcar lane almost immediately after the intersection   (but the streetcar would have an easier time turning at the light, provided no cars were stopped ahead of it at a red light waiting to go straight on 12th towards CP.)

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I had to meet with a banker at one of the major banks' downtown branches today, and during our meeting, he casually commented how "that Connector they put in" is really helping accelerate development in Downtown and OTR. He didn't strike me as the type of person who would be a big rail/transit advocate, so it was encouraging for me to see that this message is sinking in for "normal" people who work downtown.

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Today the real-time arrival information was not working at the Findlay Market stop on Race, but I decided to wait anyway because I heard the bell over on Elm, so knew it was running.  A large family was there waiting to get on and some character came along, looked up from his phone, and announced to everyone that there was a medical emergency and the streetcars weren't running.  Within 3 seconds the streetcar rounded the corner with about 30 people on it.  

 

A few minutes later the streetcar stopped to pick up 10+ people at the Washington Park station.  A mom, several kids, and grandparents boarded while a dad fiddled with the ticket machine.  The doors chimed and closed and we sped off without the dad.  The youngest daughter erupted in tears.  

 

Luckily, the family thought is was pretty funny and didn't seem to care much, but it illustrates yet again how idiotic our fare collection situation is.  Either put the ticket machines on the streetcars or stop collecting a fare. 

 

 

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Stop collecting fares. This thing is meant to be a way to quickly get to different parts of downtown.  But of course, since this was designed to fail, we were given crappy vending machines that don't work half the time. The Cincy EZ Ride App works great, but out-of-towners are not going to want to download an app and enter credit card info, just to buy a ticket on a 5-10 minute ride.

I'm hoping this winter brings out much better weekday ridership numbers.  At some point, the increasing density downtown has to bear out in those numbers.  Then again, that will also hinge on making sure these things don't break down in the winter.

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^Also,  every once in awhile you happen to get on the streetcar and the thing rolls smoothly through one green light after another.   That happened today for me and illustrates how useful the system would have been this entire time if not for Cranley. 

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10 hours ago, 10albersa said:

Stop collecting fares. This thing is meant to be a way to quickly get to different parts of downtown.  But of course, since this was designed to fail, we were given crappy vending machines that don't work half the time. The Cincy EZ Ride App works great, but out-of-towners are not going to want to download an app and enter credit card info, just to buy a ticket on a 5-10 minute ride.

I'm hoping this winter brings out much better weekday ridership numbers.  At some point, the increasing density downtown has to bear out in those numbers.  Then again, that will also hinge on making sure these things don't break down in the winter.

 

Here's a chart of ridership since we opened (September & October 16 omitted as they throw off the graph) 

 

 

Riders per month.png

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I’m pleasantly surprised that the City is actually doing something to improve the intersection of 12th and Main, one of the places where drivers frequently block the tracks.

 

 

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Except that black car is illegally parked.  I don't recall if it was there before they started working or not, but it just got ticketed rather than towed. 

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Just now, taestell said:

I’m pleasantly surprised that the City is actually doing something to improve the intersection of 12th and Main, one of the places where drivers frequently block the tracks.

 

 

Whoever parked their car there is going to be surprised that they restripped and put that new sign up since they parked. There is even still a meter at that spot which i guess will be removed (hopefully after they leave)

 

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