Cincinnati Streetcar Opens
New system, similar to Milwaukee project, drawing 3,000 daily riders.
Following years of controversy, Cincinnati’s streetcar, known as the Cincinnati Bell Connector, opened to the public on Friday, September 9th. The 1.8 mile line connects the stadiums and development on the city’s waterfront with Downtown and the city’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood to the north. Along the way the route passes a number of office buildings, apartments, museums and other amenities.
The modern streetcar system, owned by the City of Cincinnati, utilizes five vehicles manufactured by CAF USA, each capable of holding up to 150 passengers. The system operates as a 3.6 mile loop, with the tracks split between parallel, one-way streets.
The first week of revenue service exceeded projections, with just over 3,100 daily riders. Long-time project advocate John Schneider noted that “people are using it for everyday things instead of as an amusement ride for tourists.” Another project advocate, Derek Bauman, told Next City that “our first goal was dual purpose: economic development and to have an urban circulator. It becomes more about transportation with the coming expansions.”
Service runs 6:30 a.m. until midnight on weekdays, and until 1 a.m. on weekends. Headways range from 12 minutes between vehicles at peak times to 15 minutes between vehicles on off-peak operating hours.
Future extensions of the system are planned to the city’s Uptown neighborhood where it can connect with the University of Cincinnati.
The project was in cast into jeopardy in 2013 when outgoing mayor Mark Mallory was replaced by John Cranley. Mallory, a champion of the project, was ineligible to run for re-election because of Cincinnati’s term limits barring mayor’s from serving more than two consecutive terms. Cranley attempted to kill the $148 million project upon being elected and issued a work stoppage shortly after taking office.
The council-member-turned-mayor was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid to kill the streetcar because of the need to repay the federal government millions of dollars in already spent funds and support for the project on the council. Partially acquiescing to Cranley’s demands for private money for streetcar operation, the Haile U.S. Bank Foundation pledged up to $9 million over the system’s first ten years of operation to cover any shortfalls.
For more information on the years of political fighting around the project, see the Cincinnati Enquirer’s comprehensive timeline.
The similarities between the Cincinnati Bell Connector and the Milwaukee Streetcar are extensive. Both projects have faced substantial opposition from Republican governors with Presidential ambitions, with John Kasich pulling $52 million in Ohio transportation funds previously designed for the project. The projects have both been subject to lengthy legal fights over relocation of utilities that have substantially increased project costs, with Duke Energy ultimately prevailing in Cincinnati. The projects were both recipients of approximately $50 million federal grants, essential to their early approvals. And much to the chagrin of project advocates in both cities, both of the streetcar systems were extensively delayed.
Political opposition to the Cincinnati project has been far more effective, with project opponents twice succeeding in getting anti-streetcar referendums placed on the ballot.
Perhaps foreshadowing what might be in the Milwaukee Streetcar’s future, the Cincinnati system was branded as the Cincinnati Bell Connector following a $3.4 million, ten-year naming rights deal between the city and telephone company Cincinnati Bell. Milwaukeean’s, get ready for the Miller Lite Line.
In another revenue making opportunity for the project that is sure to be a hit with Milwaukeeans, a four-hour charter costs $1,250. Unfortunately for beer-loving Wisconsinites, no alcohol is permitted on the vehicle.
Past Streetcar Coverage
- Council Okays Streetcar to Bucks Arena – Jeramey Jannene – July 7th, 2016
- $6.5 Million in Streetcar Savings – Jeramey Jannene – February 26th, 2016
- Donovan Lies About Streetcar Suit – Jeramey Jannene – February 15th, 2016
- BID Sells Streetcar-Related Development – Jeramey Jannene – January 15th, 2016
- Pennsylvania Company Wins Streetcar Contract – Jeramey Jannene – November 13th, 2015
- City Accepts $14 Million Federal Streetcar Grant – Michael Horne – October 29th, 2015
- Anti-Streetcar Petition Dies – Bruce Murphy – August 28th, 2015
- Scott Walker Aids Milwaukee Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – July 13th, 2015
- Streetcar Construction Starts in October – Jeramey Jannene – July 10th, 2015
- The Strange Politics of Anti-Streetcar-ites – Bruce Murphy – June 18th, 2015
- Anti-Streetcar Petition Drive Fails – Bruce Murphy – March 5th, 2015
- Streetcar Signing Is Quite a Celebration – Michael Horne – February 13th, 2015
- Milwaukee Streetcar Approved – Jeramey Jannene – February 10th, 2015
- Who’s Lobbying for the Streetcar – Bruce Murphy – February 5th, 2015
- Will Streetcar Help the Inner City? – Bruce Thompson – February 4th, 2015
- City Attorney Says Streetcar Petitions Might be Moot – Bruce Murphy – January 30th, 2015
- Millennials And The Streetcar – Bruce Thompson – January 27th, 2015
- Streetcar Responses Show Wide Support – Jeramey Jannene – January 22nd, 2015
- Streetcar Approved, but Held – Jeramey Jannene – January 21st, 2015
- Koch-Funded Group Backs Anti-Streetcar Drive – Bruce Murphy – January 20th, 2015
- Streetcar Backers Say They Have the Votes – Jeramey Jannene – January 20th, 2015
- Who is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort? – Bruce Murphy – January 20th, 2015
- Will Anti-Streetcar Referendum Succeed? – Bruce Murphy – January 9th, 2015
- The Story Behind the Streetcar Referendum – Michael Horne and Bruce Murphy – January 8th, 2015
- Council Delays Streetcar Until January – Jeramey Jannene – December 16th, 2014
- Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – December 10th, 2014
- Committee Approves Milwaukee Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – December 9th, 2014
- RACM Approves Tax Funding for Streetcar – Michael Horne – December 8th, 2014
- How to Sell the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 28th, 2014
- Next Stops for the Streetcar – Michael Horne – November 24th, 2014
- Barrett Moving Forward with Streetcar – Jeramey Jannene – November 18th, 2014
- Who Will Be Streetcar Operator – Michael Horne – May 8th, 2014
- A Streetcar Named Cooperation? – Dave Reid – April 27th, 2014
- How a Streetcar Spurs Development – Angie Schmitt – November 3rd, 2013
- Streetcar Social – Michael Horne – September 12th, 2013
- Mayor Says Streetcar is a “Trojan Horse” – Michael Horne – April 17th, 2013
- Whoops, We Changed Our Mind – Dave Reid – September 27th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference – Jeramey Jannene – May 18th, 2012
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings This Week – Dave Reid – November 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council – Jeramey Jannene – July 26th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward – Jeramey Jannene – July 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex – Jeramey Jannene – June 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward – Jeramey Jannene – May 6th, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday – Jeramey Jannene – October 5th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett – Jeramey Jannene – September 21st, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up – Jeramey Jannene – April 19th, 2009
- Vote for your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route – Jeramey Jannene – March 23rd, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee – Dave Reid – March 14th, 2009
For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- Transportation: First Streetcar Smart Kiosks Installed - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 3rd, 2021
- Plats and Parcels: Lakefront Streetcar Extension Scheduled for June 2022 Opening - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 6th, 2020
- Transportation: Should Milwaukee Stop The Hop? - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 13th, 2020
- Transportation: The Hop Now Wears a Mask - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 18th, 2020
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Is A Couture Deal Finally Coming? - Jeramey Jannene - May 13th, 2020
- Transportation: SUV Driver Runs Into The Hop - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 28th, 2020
- Transportation: Streetcar Kiosks Could Bring In $500,000 Annually - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 20th, 2020
- Thanks A Million, Hop Riders! - The Hop - Feb 19th, 2020
- Transportation: We Energies Will Sponsor Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 10th, 2020
- Transportation: Streetcar Ridership Up in January Versus 2019 - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 7th, 2020
Read more about Milwaukee Streetcar here