The Cincinnati Streetcar is opening September 9, 2016. Streetcar passes will be available for purchase at fare machines at each stop. A $1, two-hour pass will be available, as well as a $2 all day pass. For monthly riders, a $70, all-you-can-ride pass will work on both the streetcar and Metro’s bus system, or stored value cards are available. Additionally, a mobile ticketing app will be available by the September grand opening.
And so, Metro has done a good job preparing many convenient ways that people can pay for their streetcar fare. I would, however, suggest an additional option: Metro should partner with the Cincinnati Reds so that game-day Reds tickets count as streetcar day passes.
The benefits behind such an arrangement would be many. For the Reds:
- It would provide fans with a better game day experience. The Reds could leverage all the activity surrounding the renaissance of downtown and Over-the-Rhine to their advantage. (For example, many fans will want to make a day of Rhinegeist brewery and a Reds game, connected by the streetcar. In fact, Rhinegeist and Great American Ballpark rank #3 and #4 respectively on the list of the regions’s top Uber destinations, and 9 of the top 10 destinations are on the streetcar route.) This is especially important with a losing team on the field this year, and a new sports team in town, FC Cincinnati, capturing the attention and enthusiasm of many younger fans.
- Many fans park in garages scattered across downtown. Large crowds climb up the hill from the stadium after every game. For many of these fans, an air conditioned streetcar ride might be a more pleasant choice. (especially for elderly or disabled fans, or pregnant fans or fans with young children)
- This arrangement may be relatively inexpensive for the Reds to implement. Since the number of Reds ticket holders taking advantage of this deal to ride the streetcar will only be a percentage of the total number of ticket holders, the Reds may be able to negotiate a low yearly sponsorship rate with Metro and support it from their marketing budget.
Benefits for the city and Metro:
- The Reds will be the lens through which most suburban Cincinnatians and out-of-town visitors will be introduced to the streetcar, and this arrangement would make it as easy as possible for them to try it and leave them with a positive impression.
- There will be two fare machines installed at the Banks streetcar stop, as well as mobile payment available. However, I predict large lines forming at the fare machines after the game, as a large crowd containing first time users and inebriated fans struggles with operating the machines. As a result, many fans will simply just board the streetcar without paying the fare, especially if a long line at the fare machine looks like it might force them to wait for the next streetcar. This could be avoided with Reds/streetcar partnership arrangement as I described.
- This arrangement would encourage Reds ticket holders to use the streetcar to explore our city and spend money, especially out-of-town visitors staying in downtown hotels.
- This arrangement would encourage fans to travel to the game via transit, thereby cutting down on traffic congestion and parking needs. Excerpt from Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking:
The University of Washington has a contract with Seattle Metro that allows stadium tickets to serve as transit passes on the game day. Between 1984 (the year before the program began) and 1997, the share of ticket holders arriving at Husky Stadium by transit increased almost five times (from 4.2 percent to 20.6 percent.) Including a transit pass in the ticket price is particularity appropriate for any land use where the peak parking demand occurs infrequently, perhaps only a few days each year. Building enough parking to meet this peak demand is extremely wasteful because additional public transit service can be provided on event days to serve the peak at far lower cost.
- If parking demand is reduced, we can avoid building additional above ground parking structures at the Banks. Instead we would have room for additional housing units and commercial space, as I argue for in this post. That would give the taxpayers a higher return on their investment in infrastructure at the Banks to date.
This post deals with the Reds, because Cincinnati Streetcar Stop #1 is steps from Great American Ballpark, they have a high number of home games per year, and it’s summertime. But a similar logic would apply to Bengals games and events at US Bank Arena.