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thomasbw

Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News

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Today there were only 2 cars available again.  It will be the same tomorrow.  The CAF defects keep adding up and causing service interruptions.  Kansas City seems to have a much better management of the oversight of CAF and this leads to better fleet availability.  

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Local media is trying to make what appears to be a boring budget exciting by attacking the streetcar. I watched WLWT at 6 last night and the whole segment on the budget was about the streetcar. Interviewed both Cranley and Murray with quotes about how they think streetcar sucks and how they think it's only going to get worse. Nothing about how we're mostly raising fees on people parking illegally or how it passed easily 6-3 and no quotes or on camera interviews from the Democrats. 

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8 hours ago, Joel Hurt said:

Today there were only 2 cars available again.  It will be the same tomorrow.  The CAF defects keep adding up and causing service interruptions.  Kansas City seems to have a much better management of the oversight of CAF and this leads to better fleet availability.  

 

KC has 4 streetcars instead of 5 (they just got a fifth streetcar that is not yet in revenue service) and they aren't having anywhere close to the problems that we are having. 

 

 

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14 hours ago, Joel Hurt said:

Today there were only 2 cars available again.  It will be the same tomorrow.  The CAF defects keep adding up and causing service interruptions.  Kansas City seems to have a much better management of the oversight of CAF and this leads to better fleet availability.  

 

I think it has less to do with CAF defects and more to do with Transdev's ability to get maintenance done on time and keep the cars in service.

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How is it so difficult when three out of five cars are the maximum that are ever run, and normally it's just two? 

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Well the City of Cincinnati just installed a guy with zero transit experience as the CEO of the streetcar, I wonder if Transdev is making similar decisions. Metro is the glue currently holding the system together and the city is trying their hardest to push them out.

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Another large apartment project will bring revenue to the streetcar's operating budget.  It was unclear from this article as to how long this contract will remain in effect, so I couldn't tell how much will per contributed per year. 
 

Quote


"...The city will turn over $11.63 million of those TIF payments to the developer. That represents 75% of the TIF proceeds during the first 20 years, with the city retaining the payments in the final 10 years of the deal. In total, the developer could receive up to $14.13 million in forgivable loans and tax breaks.

 

Under the deal, the developer will contribute $4.8 million to the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar’s operations over the life of the agreement and $9.69 million to the Cincinnati Public Schools. The city’s share of the TIF will total $7.75 million. In total, the developers will pay the city, the streetcar and CPS $26 million."

 

 

https://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2019/06/24/city-set-to-ok-deal-to-rehab-pnc-tower-will.html

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I wonder if there are some efforts being made to push big projects like this one over the line before the CPS deal expires. Once the deal expires, the city is much more limited in what types of tax breaks and TIF agreements they are able to hand out to developers without getting CPS to approve on a per-project basis.

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So between Central Trust, the Artistry, and the parking increases, the Streetcar operating budget should be in the positive now, right? 

 

Back of the napkin math is showing that (if these VTICA payments are spread over 15 years) it will be bringing in 425k more a year, on top of the parking violations allegedly covering the 1.15m deficit.

Edited by 10albersa

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I might be wrong but I believe the streetcar is still funded in part by the Haile Foundation because the VTICA funding hasn't been coming in as fast as expected. (Of course, that's not due to a lack of development along the route, but because several major projects have been exempted from paying into the VTICA fund.) So as the VTICA contributions ramp up, the Haile Foundation payments will ramp down. It will be quite some time before there is enough VTICA funding coming in to allow for an increase in service or the elimination of fares.

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There was a limit on the number of years that Haile was going to provide funding if the streetcar needed it. I don't recall what that limit was. 9 years or something?

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Yeah, I think that was the agreement. I think we are in good shape as far as that goes, by the time that agreement expires, there should be enough VTICA funding rolling in to make that backup funding unnecessary.

 

The other rumor I heard is that some of the property owners who agreed to make VTICA payments in exchange for getting a tax abatement are not making their payments. Hopefully the city cracks down and goes after these people and this doesn't escalate into another political crisis.

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I can hear it now, if WCPO does an investigation on it.  Cranley's response: "It's in the name, it's voluntary!"

Edited by 10albersa

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The city is proposing these new decals to attempt to reduce streetcar blockages due to improper parking:

 

You can vote on whether you like the teal or grey version better:

 

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I've ridden the streetcar countless times, but finally got caught in a blockage this past weekend.  A megabus was parked outside a hotel and slightly in the streetcar lane.   Took them 10 minutes to move. 

 

It would be nice if they actually did a towing sweep for a couple weeks to send out the message that they are serious, then they can back it off a little bit and have the teal signage help notify people.  I think that teal looks pretty darn good.

 

It seems we are getting some small things done finally (bus lanes, bus lane paint, streetcar blockage signage).  The pessimist in me always figured they administration would purposely not do the small/easy things to make improvements to public transit.

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21 minutes ago, thomasbw said:

The streetcar was blocked 2,016 times in the recently completed FY19 or about 5.5 times per day. 

 

Had each incident been ticketed @$250 (what the fine should be) and the tickets paid, the city would have collected $502,000.

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1 hour ago, 10albersa said:

It would be nice if they actually did a towing sweep for a couple weeks to send out the message that they are serious, then they can back it off a little bit and have the teal signage help notify people.  I think that teal looks pretty darn good.

 

They do have one of those streetcar supervisor cars circling the route fairly often, but the problem is that if there is a blockage and somebody needs to be towed, they have to wait for a tow truck to come from some West Side impound lot to Downtown. So by the time the car is towed, the streetcar has already been delayed at least 45 minutes. If we cared about solving the problem, we'd make sure that there was a tow truck stationed downtown at all times, ready to go.

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41 minutes ago, GCrites80s said:

Columbus used to have actual police tow trucks that did patrols. One can be seen in the movie Teachers.

This is the kind of random fact I browse UrbanOhio for.

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1 hour ago, GCrites80s said:

Columbus used to have actual police tow trucks that did patrols. One can be seen in the movie Teachers.

 

Now they just rely on Shamrock.  

 

Edited by jmecklenborg

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1 hour ago, taestell said:

 

They do have one of those streetcar supervisor cars circling the route fairly often, but the problem is that if there is a blockage and somebody needs to be towed, they have to wait for a tow truck to come from some West Side impound lot to Downtown. So by the time the car is towed, the streetcar has already been delayed at least 45 minutes. If we cared about solving the problem, we'd make sure that there was a tow truck stationed downtown at all times, ready to go.

I seem to recall in the leadup to the project getting approved asking about this, and if my memory serves right there "would be a tow truck on call at all times" to deal with blockages. I don't have anything on paper of course, but seems sub contracting this to private tow companies would merit immediate response for the $ involved. This should be one of those no brainer fixes that was implemented years ago.

Edited by mcmicken

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https://www.wvxu.org/post/cincinnati-streetcar-get-priority-some-intersections

 

I have no clue why we hired some random lawyer to run the streetcar, but between the free days (and free rides with Reds tickets) and now getting signal priority implemented, he's doing as good a job as one can do given city hall. At least we are moving in the right direction.

 

On top of that, June only had 3 days under 1,000 riders.  Things certainly are going the right direction for it.

 

EDIT: Upon further reading, it is only longer green lights, and not signal changes for approaching streetcars.  Still an improvement!

Edited by 10albersa
Further reading

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This seems like a pretty minor improvement, as a streetcar might only trigger this green light extension once per lap, saving perhaps 2-3 minutes.  But there is always the chance that the streetcar would have been caught at the next light anyway, meaning there is actually no improvement in the overall speed of a typical complete lap.  

 

Holding a green light isn't the same thing as triggering one.  We're still living in a baffling reality where a single waiting car can trigger a green light but not the streetcar.  

 

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I wonder about some of the drivers' priorities too.  I've seen plenty who are obviously watching the ped signals count down and rather than going for it just sort of saunter along and seem to be deliberately get caught by the red light.

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I was hoping to read that Main and Court Street would be among these. That light is absurdly long for how much traffic comes from court Street, and the streetcar often misses the Central Parkway light because of it. 

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I would love to get more details about what this "signal priority" actually means because it's not clear from the articles I've read.

 

Signal priority typically means that when the priority vehicle is coming, the traffic signal will switch to give the priority vehicle a green light as soon as it is safe to do so. For example, if Liberty currently has a green light, and a streetcar is approaching on Elm, the signal on Liberty will immediately switch to yellow light for a few seconds, then to red, and then Elm will get the green. It doesn't instantly give Liberty a red light and Elm a green light (that would be "signal preemption" as opposed to "signal priority") but it will give Elm a green light as soon as it is safe to do so.

 

The way the media is describing it is that if the light on Elm is already green, and then it detects a streetcar is coming, it will stay green for 10 seconds longer. I don't really understand the point of that. I mean, it's better than nothing, but it doesn't seem like that will have a huge impact on improving the rider experience. And, we need to be making all of the green lights on our north-south streets longer anyway, because our street grid is currently optimized for east-west traffic headed to/from the highway ramps.

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5 hours ago, 10albersa said:

I have no clue why we hired some random lawyer to run the streetcar, but between the free days (and free rides with Reds tickets) and now getting signal priority implemented, he's doing as good a job as one can do given city hall. At least we are moving in the right direction.

 

Many of the changes that have been made recently have literally been in the works for years, and have little to do with the new "Streetcar CEO" taking over. I'm not sure if that's legitimately just a coincidence, or if the city intentionally did not make these improvements while SORTA was in charge so they could take say, "See how much better it runs now that the city runs it instead of SORTA?"

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Streetcar Ridership for July through the 21st. Last year a Reds game added, on average, 150 riders per game day. For July we're adding about 650 riders per game day. It costs $4,646,454 a year to operate the streetcar. The bang for the buck we are getting for this $10,000 promotion is incredible. Thanks Woods Hardware! 

 

image.png.09a1f5236aa1606292f579d1c1557346.png

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51 minutes ago, thomasbw said:

Tampa Streetcar July Ridership 2018: 26,112

 

Went free September 2018 

 

July Ridership 2019: 76,043

 

 

 

Have they increased service frequency?  I saw the streetcar in person back in 2009 but did not ride it and I'm not sure where it goes.  I seem to remember that part of it was single-track near the cruise ship docks.  

 

 

 

 

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They have increased service frequency to 15 minute headways all the time, down from 20 non peak/15 peak

 

They also added a some morning service and they run extended service for Bolts games, etc. 

 

Ridership is up 191% this month.

 

I would guess that if you just made it free, ridership would be up 135-150%

If you just added the extra frequency and service, ridership would be up 15-20%

doing both gets you 191%

 

Of "fast, frequent and free" the most important is free followed by frequent then fast.

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2 hours ago, thomasbw said:

 

Of "fast, frequent and free" the most important is free followed by frequent then fast.

 

I think you’re right and this is something that wasn’t even part of transit experts’ discussion of the pros and cons of streetcar systems 10 or even 5 years ago.  Free fares have major impact for an urban circulator


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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14 hours ago, GCrites80s said:

Well, we were talking about it 5-10 years ago at least.

 

Not exactly- I mean talking about the importance of the free part. Free fares increasing streetcar/circulator ridership by tens of thousands really hasn’t been anticipated by us or discussed by Citylab et al or even a focus of Jarrett Walker.  

Edited by thebillshark

www.cincinnatiideas.com

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9 minutes ago, thebillshark said:

 

Not exactly- I mean talking about the importance of the free part. Free fares increasing streetcar/circulator ridership by tens of thousands really hasn’t been anticipated by us or discussed by Citylab et al or even a focus of Jarrett Walker.  

 

OTR was in ruins 10 years ago.  The fares were seen as a way to keep people from hanging out on the streetcars.  It turned out that homeless and unruly riders have been a minor problem.  

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^^^You can also add Wichita, Denver, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio, DC, Grand Rapids, Miami, Tampa and Orlando to your list of cities with free circulators. Honestly Cincinnati is an outlier and it's absurd they don't just subsidize the damn streetcar already. 

Edited by BigDipper 80

“To an Ohio resident - wherever he lives - some other part of his state seems unreal.”

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1 hour ago, jmecklenborg said:

OTR was in ruins 10 years ago.  The fares were seen as a way to keep people from hanging out on the streetcars.  It turned out that homeless and unruly riders have been a minor problem.  

 

Ten years ago, we had no idea that Uber, Lyft, and the tacky golf cart shuttles would exist. When proposed, a $1 streetcar fare was seen as an affordable alternative compared to a $10-15 cab ride from one part of the urban core to another. But now that Uber and Lyft can sometimes give you a point-to-point ride for less than $5, if you have a group of 2+ people, it often makes more sense to get a point-to-point ride for roughly the same cost as each person buying a $1 or $2 streetcar ticket. If you make it free (and frequent), you make it a lot easier for people to just hop on and go where they need to go without thinking twice.

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1 hour ago, taestell said:

 

Ten years ago, we had no idea that Uber, Lyft, and the tacky golf cart shuttles would exist. When proposed, a $1 streetcar fare was seen as an affordable alternative compared to a $10-15 cab ride from one part of the urban core to another. But now that Uber and Lyft can sometimes give you a point-to-point ride for less than $5, if you have a group of 2+ people, it often makes more sense to get a point-to-point ride for roughly the same cost as each person buying a $1 or $2 streetcar ticket. If you make it free (and frequent), you make it a lot easier for people to just hop on and go where they need to go without thinking twice.

 

Maybe in some cases but my hunch is there is an induced demand caused by free fares that captures many people who don’t even use cabs or Uber or Lyft or wouldn’t otherwise be using them for a particular trip if they would be taking the trip at all. 

Edited by thebillshark

www.cincinnatiideas.com

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Streetcar divorce will cost hundreds of thousands, city manager says

 

5edf8a6f-b00f-460b-b64c-fd8d1df3bd31-Tra

 

A plan to move management oversight of the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar from the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority to the city of Cincinnati will cost $536,000, according to a memo signed by City Manager Patrick Duhaney.

 

Duhaney sent a transition plan to City Council and Mayor John Cranley on Thursday, but it is already underway. The city’s interim streetcar director, Travis Jeric, is temporarily working for SORTA until streetcar oversight can be brought over to the city. SORTA’s former rail services director, Paul Grether, is now working on Metro bus services.

 

The money to pay for the divorce will come from the already-tight streetcar operations fund, according to the memo. The divorce will require a series of council votes, the first of which could come the week of Sept. 9.

 

A coterie of city of Cincinnati and SORTA officials led by Cranley and council members Greg Landsman and P.G. Sittenfeld as well as SORTA Chairman Kreg Keesee and board member Brendon Cull believe the city should take full control of the streetcar. Underlying that desire is a belief that a countywide SORTA sales tax levy likely to go to the ballot in 2020 will come under political attack by streetcar opponents critical of the transit agency’s management oversight role in the streetcar project.

 

Today, the city, which owns the project, contracts with SORTA to oversee its daily operations. A third-party contractor, Transdev, runs the streetcar on a daily basis, hiring the operators and maintenance staff. The city would end its contract with SORTA and oversee operations itself.

 

Full article below:

https://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2019/08/29/streetcar-divorce-will-cost-hundreds-of-thousands.html


"You don't just walk into a bar and mix it up by calling a girl fat" - buildingcincinnati speaking about new forumers

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1 hour ago, ColDayMan said:

The divorce will require a series of council votes, the first of which could come the week of Sept. 9.

 

Great! Hopefully city council will vote it down and put this dumb idea behind us. Most other cities with modern streetcars are working to better integrate their streetcar with their transit agencies, while we're doing the opposite.

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