Monday, August 31, 2009

Trolleyites Too Snooty for Buses

Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, and Uptown already have far better transit service than Cincinnati's other neighborhoods. Buses run every two minutes along Vine and Walnut streets for most of the day. So why would these neighborhoods possibly need yet another transit system that duplicates what we already have?

Chris Bortz spilled the real reason to reporter Barry Horstman in this Enquirer Article:
Bortz added that the streetcars are "envisioned to attract a different kind of rider" - so-called "choice riders" who use public transit more as a lifestyle choice than because of economic or logistical necessity. "To a large extent, I don't think the streetcars and buses would draw from the same passenger pool."
That's a nice way of putting it. Basically that code language means the streetcar will allow well-heeled professionals in these gentrified areas to elude their bus-bound inferiors. Think of it as "separate but equal" transit.

Here it is again in plain english:
"In a city where it's hard as hell to get reliable cab service and bootlegs can be found at any Kroger in the city - how does this help inner city families without cars get to better jobs in the suburbs? Or home with their groceries? Or to pick up kids from daycare or attend an evening school or church program?

It doesn't. The streetcar doesn't address ANY real issues with transportation that people need solved. That's why so many folks, particularly black folks are against it. To the working poor the streetcar IS seen as amusement or novelty item because it has no earthly use for them. Worse, it's also seen as a way for white people to avoid them altogether on "their" streetcar while the backwards and lackluster Metro system will never be improved or updated for the working poor.

These perceptions aren't going to go away - partly because they're true and partly because there is no way to make working poor folks see that they won't be stuck with the bill for something they won't use.

-ThatDeborahGirl comment on Urbanophile Blog
If we're going to spend public money on public transit, then it should benefit the public, not just a favored few. The best way to ensure this is to subject it to a public vote. Enact the streetcar charter amendment.


  1. What is snobbish about preferring higher quality transportation?

    Streetcars attract more riders than buses because they provide a higher quality of service. Streetcars cost more up front than buses because they provide higher quality transportation; you get what you pay for. For operational costs they spread the driver’s salary over 150+ people instead of 30 or 40. And, properly maintained, they last forever.

    Dinner at Jean-Ro Bistro costs more than a cheese coney; Christian Moerlein costs more than Natural Light—you get what you pay for. Bearcat Football tickets cost more than the Bengals… okay well maybe not everything works this way, but most things do.

    Would anyone ever suggest that choosing to take higher quality roads is snobbery?

    * “Don’t be a snob, take the Reading Rd. all the way to Mason instead of I-71.”
    * “Don’t be a snob, take 2nd Street instead of Fort Washington Way.”
    * “Don’t be a snob, use the Brent Spence Bridge until it falls into the river instead of replacing it.”
    * “Don’t be a snob, drive slower instead of filling in those potholes.”
    * “Don’t be a snob, buy a car without air conditioning.”
    * “Don’t be a snob, fly only in propeller-driven airplanes instead of jets.”

    Of course not.

  2. BINGO!!!

    You, or should I say that Deborah Girl, hit the nail right on the head. This is exactly what the streetcar is about. Well-to-do urbanites like Chris Bortz would never lower themselves to riding shoulder to shoulder among the masses (black folk) in a Metro Bus.

    The streetcar provides them a way to park their Audis and ride from restaurant to bar downtown without having to worry about sitting next to the common people (black people), and it can all be done on the government's dime at that!

  3. The streetcar is proposed to be a cheaper fare than the bus. This should force SORTA to really be creative in figuring out how they plan to serve the community, rather than simply raising fares over and over again.

    Please explain why COAST is so against competition in our transportation options.

  4. "Buses run every two minutes along Vine and Walnut streets for most of the day."

    So why not replace four buses carrying 40 people with one Streetcar carrying 150 people, and use some of those buses to expand METRO service outside of the urban core? That way you're improving the quality of service in all of our neighborhoods. COAST supports higher quality bus service, right?

  5. That's a super-duper idea Travis. Add four new bus routes at a cost of only $200 million and an additional $2 million a year to cover the operating losses of the streetcar.

    Why didn't we think of that earlier? hahahaha

  6. We should not have to be burdened by sharing our rides with black people and poor people. Why can't we white yuppies have our own mode of transportation?

    At least CincyPAC gets it. With the votes of people like me, CincyPAC has chosen to endorse an all-white slate for Cincinnati City Council. That is the future of the Cincinnati. Streetcars for the whites, crumbs for the rest.

    Vote against this anti-progress amendment and vote FOR the all-white Council slate!

  7. As a member of the Clifton neighborhood for the last four years, I have been living, working and playing both Uptown and Downtown, and have often taken the Metro Bus system to get me back and forth between the two neighborhoods.

    I don't know what sort of bus schedules you're checking, or even if you have ever ridden the current buses. The most sensible routes from Uptown to Downtown are by taking the 17, 18 or 19 buses from McMillan Street down to Walnut.

    On a good day, when the bus driver has hit every stoplight green, when she hasn't had to stop to haggle with someone who has lost their card or doesn't have exact change, when there wasn'ta wait for a wheelchair passenger or someone attaching their bike to the front of the bus.... MAYBE the bus will get there on time. MAYBE there will be five minute intervals between the 17, 18 and 19.

    But those odds are slim. The much more likely wait is anywhere from 7 minutes to 15 minutes - and this is just comparing the 17, 18 and 19 which run on the same route.

    If you take the 78 bus up Vine Street you will easily wait 20 minutes between buses - and that is as scheduled.

    Despite the shortcomings of the Metro system, I continue to use the bus when I can. I am a white, upper middle class "young professional" and I have no issue with taking public transportation, nor do many other people of a similar demographic who ride with me.

    The streetcar is a door to more efficient modes of transportation that work in tandem with each other. One is certainly not a replacement for the other.

    This article from The Cincinnati Enquirer( quotes a Metro representative who puts it best:

    "We really see it being more complementary than competitive," said Sallie Hilvers, Metro's chief administrative officer. "We'd work with the streetcar operator to make sure we coordinate schedules so that the services don't overly duplicate each other."

    I would love to see a post where you attempt to live your daily life relying SOLELY on the public transportation we have now, and report back on how efficient it is.


  8. Banks reduce parking requirements for loans for projects next to rail but not for buses. Banks presently require condo projects in Portland along their streetcar line to include 1.3 parking spaces per unit. Presently the requirement is 1.7 spaces per unit in downtown Cincinnati. Any developer knows this is a profound difference, and one that's essential if Over-the-Rhine is to be redeveloped without tearing down buildings so that cars can park for next to the ones that remain.

  9. Jenny K, I live in Clifton and have taken the bus and it's really not that bad.

    There's no way that a streetcar will be more reliable. They can't go around stalled cars, accidents or idiots that are having a conversation in the middle of the street.

    Let's improve our enitre Metro system at a fraction of the cost of a streetcar.

  10. "when there wasn't a wait for a wheelchair passenger or someone attaching their bike to the front of the bus.... MAYBE the bus will get there on time."

    So not only do the white upper-class urbanites want to exclude African-Americans, they also want to leave out those damned wheel-chair riding handicapped folks and green-conscious bike riders.

  11. No. With a streetcar, getting on in a wheelchair is EASIER. Likewise, with a bike, you can simply walk on to the streetcar with your bike. That frees up valuable time that the buses take.

  12. "So not only do the white upper-class urbanites want to exclude African-Americans, they also want to leave out those damned wheel-chair riding handicapped folks and green-conscious bike riders."

    Wow, just wow. This is by far one of the most immature and asinine comments ever posted by a COAST supporter. Did you even read her comment Bris? She said NOTHING about excluding anyone. She mentioned how METRO passengers fastening their bikes to the front racks or passengers that require the assistance of the restricted mobility ramp can cause the bus to be delayed. She never mentioned excluding these passengers or anything of the sort. The fact is, that when these services have to be utilized by certain passengers, it does require a little more time. On a modern streetcar, not only is the vehicle's capacity higher, but passengers that may require special access due to a wheelchair can roll right from the curb and onto the vehicle. Passengers who may be moving bikes with them can bring them onto the streetcar and do not have to fasten them to outside racks.

    Also Bris, I'm not sure why yourself and COAST have found the need to make this an issue of race (seems those Chris Smitherman tactics are rubbing off on you guys). Calling all streetcar supporters "white upper-class" and trying to imply that this transit option will somehow negatively affect african americans and the disabled shows just how little class the folks here at COAST have.

  13. "Also Bris, I'm not sure why yourself and COAST have found the need to make this an issue of race"

    That Deborah Girl brought it up on her blog. If you know her at all, you know she's no COASTer. Her comments DO echo the belief of a large part of the African American community. You profess to want to help OTR, but many in OTR, the people you profess to want to help, DON'T want the streetcar. That Deborah Girl gives that population a voice.

    But, I guess all viewpoints should be shut out if they don't conform with the streetcar advocates' point of view.

  14. Bris, didn't say that the views needed to be shut down, just as Jenny never said she wanted to exclude bike riders or disabled passengers.

  15. Bris, buddy, the only person who even mentioned the word "racist" on this page was you. Again, here you go with the word twisting. No one accused or labeled anyone's views as being racist, rather it's been you who has been doing that with comments like this:

    "So not only do the white upper-class urbanites want to exclude African-Americans"

    No one mentioned anything about excluding anyone on the basis of race, but you seem to feel that you need to imply that they did.

  16. "No one mentioned anything about excluding anyone on the basis of race."

    Of course nobody would come out and say that publicly. That would be stupid. Just becuase its not being said publicly, however, does not mean the sentiment does not exist. I believe it does. That Deborah Girl believes it does. The NAACP leadership believes it does. Many in the African-American community believe it does.

  17. Believe what you want Bris, but no one is saying that. What it comes down to is that the streetcar is an improved transit option that even METRO believes will compliment our existing public transportation system. Some support it some don't. It's an improved option open to all citizens who want to ride it, it has higher capacity and would usher in new passengers who until that point had not been interested in public transportation.

  18. "would usher in new passengers who until that point had not been interested in public transportation."

    People like white upper-class urbanites who refuse to use our current public transit options because.......

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. The Portland Streetcar has attracted many who are permanently disabled to relocate to the streetcar neighborhoods due to the streetcar's quick & dignified loading and unloading for those in wheelchairs. Same for retired folks -- but don't take my word for it, the streetcar is listed as an amenity for this new 30-floor retirement tower:

  21. Race has always been a big issue in Cincinnati politics. Race is also a big issue for us at CincyPAC.

    As you all know, we endorsed an all-white slate for City Council. White people want a streetcar. We want a streetcar. Streetcars are for whites. We determined that an all-white City Council is best for our pro-streetcar interests

  22. I'm pretty sure EVERYBODY will be able to ride the streetcar. Nice try, though.

    P.S. "CincyPACer"...that previous post was shameful, and weak.

  23. Kevin, what's shameful is people like you who refuse to condemn the racism of groups like CincyPAC. Do you agree with their decision to endorse the election of an all-white Council? It seems odd to me that a group which claims to support diversity couldn't find a single minority Council candidate to endorse.

  24. The CincyPAC council slate will look much like the riders on a streetcar - all well-to-do white urbanites.

  25. Unlike COAST which is all well to do white folks with their african american patsy aka Chris Smitherman.

  26. Anonymous...why is it up to me to condemn CincyPAC? I do not serve on its board, nor did I take part in selecting its endorsements.

    It occurs to me that the person who condemns each and every member of CincyPAC of being a racist bears the responsibility for proving it, not the other way around.

  27. You're right Kevin. I used to criticize the KKK for their racism, but since I'm not a member of that group I better shut my mouth about their attitudes toward minorities. Thanks for helping me see the light.

  28. KKK, "Anonymous"? Really? Comparing CincyPAC to a group that professes white superiority through intimidation, violence, and death?

    I can tell that an intelligent conversation is not in my future.

  29. Kevin -
    Just think of all of the intelligent conversations you could have with the CincyPAC types on the all-white urban professional streetcar.

  30. Kevin, I just wish that you would condemn racism where it exists. It doesn't really matter what group you're a member of or whether the racism of a group is better or worse than the Klan's, it should all be condemned.

    There is no rational reason why CincyPAC refused to endorse Black candidates. There are Black candidates for and against the streetcar, for and against the marijuana ordinance, for and against the city's costly environmental initiatives, and who running as Democrats, Republicans, and independents. The only way someone can't find a good Black candidate to support is if they're consciously voting for an all-white slate. Condemn that.

  31. I do condemn racism. I'm just not ready to throw it out there, considering that CincyPAC did endorse African-American candidates for mayor and for the school board.

    Do I find the fact that all 9 candidates endorsed for council are white troubling? Yes? Overtly racist? Not prepared to go that far, yet.

  32. The thing that I don't understand is why COAST feels the need to consistently turn their arguments into name-calling exercises. Stick to the fact and avoid the sensationalism.

  33. Randy, you must have missed the recent Enquirer article where your pro-streetcar leaders were personally attacking Smitherman and Finney instead of sticking to the issues. Real classy there.

  34. With backs to the wall and nowhere to go, COAST turns it into a race issue. Funny, coming from a predominately white organization where the only minority in the high command of the group goes around calling our police officers and city council "racist."

  35. This is a race issue!

    We should all ride on the all-white, well-to-do, urban professional streetcar. We do not like buses. They are full of poor minorities. We need a new taxpayer-funded toy to move us about our newly gentrified naighborhoods. I don't want to pull my Audi out of the garage to go to a downtown restaurant. I need an all-white trolley!

    Nevermind that the minority population in OTR doesn't want it. Nevermind that the NAACP is against it. We are well-to-do white urban professionals! We know what is better for minorities than they do. They have no right to have a vote on the future of their neighborhood. It is our God-given right to decide for them.

  36. Article about successful streetcar project in Phoenix.

  37. Anon - notice that Phoenix's rail system takes you from places people already want to go, to places people already want to go.

    Also, I found this snippet interesting: "Since 2001, when the tax for the new rail line was approved..." You mean people in Phoenix got to vote on this? I thought the progressors said a public vote would be unprecedented. Why did people in Phoenix deserve a vote and people in Cincinnati had to have it shoved down their throats without an election?

    Look at this review of the Phoenix Lite Rail system"

    Ridership has soared because they've had to make it FREE to lure people into riding. That further subsuduzation has increased OPERATING LOSSES, which have stopped the expansion of their current system.

    Or check this out:
    I'll give you the highlights:
    Light Rail Fare Revenue: $8,985,159Operating Expenses: $33,733,168
    Operating deficit - almost $25 million dollars for year. Is that sustainable? Wuld Cincinnati bea able to make up that difference with our tight budget withou pulling money from the General Fund that could be used to pay cops/firefighters? NO!!!!!

    Or look at it this way - $115.8 million annual subsidy (capital+expense minus revenues): $6,800 per rider per year. Huge success? Priceless. HAHAHAH

  38. Bris:

    It's very common for the public to vote on tax increases. What is odd is to have public votes on things that require no additional public money like the Cincinnati Streetcar. Hamilton County voters had a vote in 2002 for a similar tax hike that would have brought regional light rail, improved bus service, and modern streetcar routes to Cincinnati. In 2009 Cincinnati voters will be basically deciding whether they want to have any form of passenger rail transportation ever. Government by referendum is a slippery slope and poses potentially large problems (see California).


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