Cincy streetcar “flounders” ?

I was struck by this headline on Planetizen.com: Cincinnati Ridership Falling as Service Flounders

Surprised by this, after readings accounts of the successful high ridership, I clicked on the article. When I read the article, I read this:

“Overall, ridership is 53 percent above expectations. But a closer look at the numbers day-by-day shows declining ridership since it opened Sept. 9.”

So this streetcar just opened three months ago. It saw huge crowds in its first month, when a lot of events are held in the late summer, and since then its ridership has fallen a little, but is still over 50% above expectations overall. That reminds me I need to change my Brita filter. This streetcar is already a “floundering” failure.

I was curious about this and what other headlines there might be regarding the streetcar. CityLab (whom I’ve called out for this several times already) is already saying “Cincinnati has a streetcar problem” (an actual headline).

They’ve been similarly spreading overwhelmingly negative media about other new streetcars in other cities, and not even calling for measures that would improve these transit systems and help them serve more riders. It appears that the Cincinnati streetcar has been hampered by high ridership, huge crowds, long waits, low frequencies, and particularly by traffic lights that disfavor favor the streetcar. The programmed traffic pattern through Cincinnati is east-to-west, for ease of getting on interstates, and not north-to-south which is how the city has been growing.

I think this is a case where planners and public officials need to get out of the way of economic development and RE development. Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. I see city planners, their media, and their research organizations, spending way too much effort opposing economic development. They are fixated on the problem, not the solution.

In the case of Cincinnati, it appears that the project was badly planned, but is still achieving some success in spite of that. The connection to UC was canceled. The streetcar is operating at some of SORTA’s lowest frequencies, with several bus lines with more frequent service. It was planned to fail, which it just hasn’t. This can (should) still be a success.

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2 thoughts on “Cincy streetcar “flounders” ?

  1. It’s a shame that so many urbanists have a knee-jerk negative reaction to streetcars. Cincinnati’s ridership is going to dip over the winter but pick way back up in the spring when it’s warmer and more is happening along the route. That’s why the planners estimated an AVERAGE of 3,000 riders per day. In the fall we were blowing those numbers away, and in the winter we’re way below them. It will all average out.

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  2. The frequencies are every 12-15 mins, which is actually pretty strong for SORTA. Many buses in the region are literally only once an hour. The 43 is the only bus I can think of that is more frequent than that but it has like 10 different branches further out in the city…

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