Cincinnati has had a love-hate relationship with its proposed streetcar. Under Ohio’s new governor, John Kasich, rail projects have had to show a lot more to prove themselves. For instance, a passenger rail line between Cincinnati and Cleveland might have flown if it had a higher average speed than 39 mph. Not exactly something you want to tout as “high-speed.”
The streetcar has proven more controversial. Those downtown, in long-beleaguered Over-the-Rhine, and in Clifton, the neighborhood surrounding the University of Cincinnati and “Pill Hill” (where several large hospitals are located), all were vocal in favor of the streetcar. Elsewhere, many looked at the annual ritual of threatening to layoff cops and shut down neighborhoods and questioned why the city would spend money on such a project.
Personally, I think the idea could solidify development between downtown and Clifton. However, you need to have public backing, and when you keep threatening the jobs of police officers and firemen while planning to spend money on a rail project in an annoyingly rail-phobic city, you’re not going to get it.
That doesn’t mean development is dead or that Over-the-Rhine is still doomed. The Banks, long a joke in the Queen City, is not only underway, but some of the venues on the riverfront development have already opened. Construction is underway on the Horseshoe Casino, which will occupy OTR’s Broadway Commons. And despite all the hype about recent shootings in Over-the-Rhine, it is improving in the neighborhood.
Perhaps the best answer for the streetcar project is not “No.” When you have a cash-strapped city whose population just dipped below 300,000 in the last census, the best answer is probably, “Not now.”
More at the My Town Monday blog.