A Northern Kentucky streetcar connecting Covington and Newport via Cincinnati has some interesting Ohio-side options that could have some important ramifications for Downtown Cincinnati. The options I present below all assume the use of the Clay Wade Bailey and Taylor Southgate bridges to cross from Kentucky to Ohio.
Option A – Second and Third Street Alignment
The most obvious option uses Second and Third streets. Second and Third Streets are extra wide streets where a lane could be easily dedicated for transit only. As a result, this route would allow for higher average speed for the connection between the two Kentucky river cities. On Second Street, the tracks would make use of an existing portion of the Cincinnati Streetcar route and include Cincinnati Streetcar Stop #1, allowing an easy transfer between the two streetcar lines. In addition, a stop could be added at Elm Street to serve Paul Brown Stadium and another at the foot of the Taylor Southgate bridge to serve US Bank Area, the parks along the eastern riverfront, and park-side development.
Option B – Fourth and Fifth Street Alignment
This option would utilize Fourth and Fifth Streets right through the heart of Downtown Cincinnati. This would have several benefits. First, it would provide an east-west streetcar line to complement Cincinnati’s north-south line, tying together the Convention Center to the west, Fountain Square in the middle, and P&G headquarters and the Fourth Street “financial district” to the east. Additional stops near the bridges could provide access to the sports stadiums. Second, it would drop off arriving travelers from Kentucky into the heart of Downtown, without making them get up the hill from the Banks. Third, Walnut Street stops would not only provide a connection to the Cincinnati Streetcar, but a direct connection to Metro’s main bus hub at Government Square. Fourth, it has the potential of keeping streetcars out of game-day traffic closer to the Banks, especially on the Second Street ramp to the north of Great American Ballpark. Fifth, it would link the Cincinnati convention center to the NKY convention center. Sixth, it mirrors the historic arrangement of Kentucky streetcars connecting to Dixie Terminal on Fourth Street.
The main drawback would be a much slower connection for travelers going between Covington and Newport. Another potential drawback would be a weaker connection to the Riverfront Transit Center, if future transit connections were developed there (intercity bus service or light rail for instance.)
Option C – Riverfront Transit Center Alignment
This option would utilize the Riverfront Transit Center tunnel underneath Second Street. This option may be best to keep the streetcar out of traffic, especially on game days, and provide a very fast connection between Covington and Newport. Stops within the transit center would use existing elevators and stairs to provide access to the streets (and Cincinnati Streetcar Stop #1) above, creating a very “big city” feel. In addition this could provide good “synergies” if the role of the Riverfront Transit Center were expanded from handling charter buses to include Metro and intercity buses and even future light rail.
The main drawback of this alignment is a lack of direct connection to the Cincinnati Streetcar tracks, which would provide access to the streetcar Maintenance and Operations facility and storage yard. To remedy this, a set of service tracks could be built that would not be used as part of the regular line, but only used to travel between the two lines, perhaps at the beginning and end of each service day.