Reds Tickets should double as Streetcar Passes


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.


Three Reasons to #SavetheDennison

Dennison 1

(photo courtesy Noel Prows)

The Dennison Hotel, built in 1892, is in danger of demolition.  The city’s Historic Conservation Board will have a hearing on the matter at their 4/18/2016 meeting.  Here are three reasons to #SavetheDennison.

It’s our heritage

The depth and richness of Cincinnati’s history is quite surprising.  It is filled with colorful characters and happenings, as Greg Hand’s excellent blog demonstrates.  When one walks our streets surrounded by historic buildings, it’s impossible not to feel a connection to these past events.  Our history is also marketable, and differentiates us from competitor cities whose growth spurt occurred much closer to the present day.

The Dennsion also has a rich history,  starting with the fact that it was designed by Samuel Hannaford & Sons.  Samuel Hannaford was Cincinnati’s master builder at a time in our history when the city had unbridled self-confidence in ourselves and in our future. Samuel Hannaford’s works most famously include Music Hall and City Hall, but also include Elsinore Castle, Cincinnati Observatory, and a host of churches, apartment buildings, and homes scattered across Cincinnati’s neighborhoods.  Hannaford’s legacy is imprinted onto Cincinnati’s subconscious.

They don’t build ’em like they used to (and they couldn’t if they tried!)

“They don’t build ’em like they used to” isn’t just nostalgia in the case of a building like the Dennison.  Due to legal regulations and financial constraints, building a new structure that is the same size, shape, and scale of the Dennison would be difficult and unlikely in the present day and current environment, let alone a row of buildings like the Dennison forms with its historic neighbors. The Dennison has a narrow width fronting the street, a deep length into the middle of the block, and a tall height. In contrast, a new building designed today would most likely be “scaled up” into a much larger, more square footprint, one reason being because it would probably be required to include parking spaces. (Even if the city waived their minimum parking requirements, financial institutions often won’t lend to a project that doesn’t include parking, irregardless of the amount of parking present in the garages and lots in the surrounding blocks.)

Why does that matter?  In order to create a street that will draw pedestrians, narrower building frontage is important. It holds the pedestrians’ attention, and gives them something new to look at every few seconds (like the Dennison’s beautifully detailed facade.)  This “fine-grained” configuration also favors small businesses.

Historic Conservation Districts should mean something

Fortunately we have already recognized the value in preserving our history, and that’s why we have historic conservation districts.   The current owners of the Dennison, Columbia REI LLC, bought the building in 2013 knowing that it was protected by a historic conservation district.  (An aside: the current owners have owned the building for two and a half years out the Dennison’s 124 years, or just around 2% of its total lifespan.)  They are claiming the numbers don’t work financially to renovate the building, but it’s not clear what historic tax credits have been pursued (virtually standard for a project like this,) and the property has not been listed for sale for another owner to give it a try. Instead they’ve enlisted one of Cincinnati’s most connected lawyers to pursue the path to demolition.  There are no firm plans in place for the redevelopment of the property, so it’s likely the it will end up another surface parking lot and tear in our urban fabric for years to come.

The historic conservation board should reject this application to demolish the Dennison, both to save this building and to show that it takes its mission to protect historic buildings seriously for future cases.

You can click here to join the Facebook group Save the Dennison.

!!!UPDATE!!! The Cincinnati Preservation Collective is raising funds for legal representation to help #SavetheDennison.  You can click here to donate.

!!!UPDATE!!! There is now a petition that you can sign.

Dennsion 2

Liberty Street Conversion

Here’s my feedback to the city on the upcoming Liberty Street conversion:

Liberty Street is not a pleasant place.  Cars in four lanes of traffic weave and exhibit race car behavior as they speed forward only to screech to a halt at the next red light.  Noisy trucks billow out smoke.  It’s very uncomfortable for a pedestrian to walk beside.  As a result it is shunned by the joggers, dog walkers, and people going about their everyday business, and the vacuum is filled by loiterers that drink malt liquor starting early in the morning.  The street is also filthy, inundated with litter and trash of every sort.

When Liberty Street was widened in the 1950’s, many buildings were torn down and Over-the-Rhine was divided into two halves.  This action served automobile pass-through traffic counts and not the residents of the neighborhood.  As a result the street has remained blighted ever since.  Fortunately the cure is obvious: turn the street back into a walkable place that will attract people and economic activity.  As a nearby example, Vine Street through Over the Rhine underwent traffic calming when it was converted into a two way street from a one way street.  It has since won national acclaim and is turning into one of the economic engines of our region, a place where small businesses start before spreading to other neighborhoods, cities, and states.  While the dedicated efforts of 3CDC fuel this success, it could not happen if Vine Street was not an eminently walkable place.  We need to do the same to Liberty Street.

I understand there is concern by the traffic engineers in reducing the capacity of Liberty Street given that 18,000 vehicles a day use it.  I think those concerns are overblown.  First, just as “induced demand” is a real phenomenon where additional cars start using a street when additional lanes are added, “reduced demand” is a real phenomenon as well for streets that undergo capacity reductions.  Secondly, there are plenty of nearby streets that can absorb rerouted traffic from Liberty. Our freely flowing north-south streets can easily direct traffic to Central Parkway for example.  Finally, the street is oversized for the number of cars a day that use it currently.   According to the Urban Street Design Guide, “streets carrying up to 25,000 vehicles per day function effectively with 3 lanes, depending on the traffic volumes of nearby adjacent streets.”  (National Association of City Transportation Officials, Urban Street Design Guide,  Island Press, 2013,  pg. 14.)

This is why I am for turning Liberty into three lane street (one travel lane in each direction and a center turn lane.)

However, the only way to have this street find its full economic and aesthetic potential is to have new development facing it, especially on the south side of the street.  In my opinion the existing lots on the south side are so small and odd shaped that a normal new development will require at least an extra 20′.  Thus, the three lane option as presented by the city’s Department of Transportation and Engineering should remove either the bike lanes or the permanent parking lanes, to regain space for development on the south side of the street. This would potentially return 24′ ft. for development (8′ per lane plus the 8′ already in plan.)

The five lane option as presented by the City would have roughly the same footprint as the three lane street described above, and also allow roughly the same footprint for new development.  Thus, I would consider the five lane option as an acceptable intermediary step in Liberty’s eventual conversion into a three lane street. However, I would view such an intermediary step as an unnecessary half-measure and overly cautious of offending drivers’ sensibilities.

Liberty St. could be the centerpiece of a burgeoning neighborhood, a beautiful boulevard with sidewalk cafes, etc.  Let’s work to make this project a nationwide model for what can happen when we build places for people instead of accommodating auto traffic.


New Page Up and Running

cropped-skyline2.jpgHello all, I’ve been posting my ideas for Cincinnati transit and urbanism a few places on sites around the web for a little over a year now. But, I’d like to give some of them a more permanent home! Consider these my “Greatest Hits” collection.  These are listed in the menu bar above.