The Northern Kentucky river cities of Covington and Newport are prime territory for streetcar expansion. The river cities have a lot going for them in the way of walkable neighborhoods and well maintained historic building stock. A NKY streetcar route should be sure to access the historic downtowns of both Covington and Newport, and not just serve the Riverfront tourist-oriented areas, allowing it to have a greater impact on residents’ everyday lives.
Option A- Non Loop Alignment
On this map, streetcars stopping at “A” stops are traveling clockwise on the map and the “B” stop streetcars are going counterclockwise. The track utilizes the Clay Wade Bailey and Taylor Southgate bridges. The track travels on Second and Third streets in Cincinnati, although a number of different Cincinnati-side alignments are possible.
The NKY Streetcar line would be separate from the Cincinnati Streetcar line, and transfer between the two would be possible at Cincinnati Streetcar Stop #1 at the Banks. Most likely the NKY Streetcar would run continuously from Covington to Newport (and vice versa,) but the line could be split into two halves with Covington and Newport each having dedicated streetcars that turn around at Cincinnati Streetcar Stop #1 as well.
To calculate travel times, I broke down the track into segments and conservatively estimated different average speeds for each. As a result, the estimated line time end-to-end is about 28 minutes. Six vehicles running on the line could produce a best possible frequency of a streetcar arriving at a stop about once every ten minutes.
Practically this means:
- A Covington (Mainstrasse) to Newport (Newport on the Levee) bound traveler could ride the NKY streetcar 14.5 minutes for the total trip
- A Newport (Newport on the Levee) to Cincinnati (Vine St. OTR) bound traveler could ride the NKY Streetcar 8 minutes, spend an average of 6 minutes transferring to Cincinnati Streetcar, and ride the Cincinnati Streetcar 7 minutes for a total of a 21 minute trip
- A Cincinnati (Findlay Market) to Covington (Pike Street) bound traveler could ride the Cincinnati Streetcar 11.5 minutes, spend an average of 6 minutes transferring to the NKY streetcar, ride the Covington streetcar for 12.5 minutes for a total of a 30 minute trip.
Option B – Loop Alignment
The biggest shortcoming of the map above is that it does not represent the most efficient way to travel between the Covington and Newport endpoints. A bi-directional full loop configuration utilizing Newport’s 11th Street bridge over the Licking River would shorten travel times between Covington and Newport significantly. On the map below, streetcars stopping at “A” stops are traveling clockwise on the map and the “B” stop streetcars are going counterclockwise.
Why a NKY Streetcar?
A number of factors make a NKY streetcar very attractive.
- The grid street design is more accommodating to a fixed rail vehicle, is less susceptible to traffic jams and other obstructions than arterial roads, and perhaps could even allow for sections of dedicated transit lanes.
- The terrain is mostly flat, so each stop would utilize its full walkshed radius with few natural barriers for pedestrians.
- Both Covington and Newport consist of walkable neighborhoods where the housing stock is dense and affordable. It never experienced large scale abandonment like OTR, so it’s a fine-grained, more balanced housing market with lots of individual property owners involved. There are affordable home prices and rents there, because developers don’t have to perform complete rehabs on multi-unit buildings. It would be mutually beneficial to connect such an area to Downtown Cincinnati: beneficial to Cincinnati to be connected to less expensive housing options, and beneficial to NKY to buoy its home prices.
- There is lots of potential for infill development in vacant lots, parking lots, and underutilized sites in Covington and Newport. There is some streetscape repair to be done and “missing teeth” to fill in to recover from the era of automobile-oriented “urban renewal.”
- A NKY streetcar and ensuing development could raise the profile of Covington (the larger river city) within the rest of the state of Kentucky, and put it on an even playing field with Louisville and Lexington. It could even raise the profile of Covington relative to Cincinnati, and cause people to think of the two as “twin cities” when they visit the metro area.