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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

All aboard: Cincinnati voters emphatically reject anti-streetcar measure

Kaid Benfield

Posted November 4, 2009

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  America rediscovers the streetcar (by: the Infrastructuralist)  Portland streetcar (by: Ed Ruttledge) 

Cincinnati voters have rejected "Measure 9," an anti-streetcar initiative, by a 56-44 percent margin.  The measure was aimed at killing a streetcar plan approved earlier this year by the city council, and would have required further referenda on any city spending on rail transit.

This is great news for Cincinnati and the recovery of urban neighborhoods like the potentially wonderful Over-the-Rhine, shown below with the proposed streetcar routes in blue:

  Over-the-Rhine, with streetcar route in blue (underlying image by Google Earth, the rest by me) 

As I wrote in a series of previous posts, Over-the-Rhine is a badly deteriorated neighborhood with amazing assets and a restoration underway, positioned right between the city's two largest concentrations of employment, downtown and the University of Cincinnati.  The streetcar will link the neighborhood with both.

And there was more good news for urban investment in the Queen City.  Randy Simes writes in UrbanCincy:

"Cincinnatians showed their support for strong public assets even during tough economic times. Levies for the Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati/Hamilton County Public Library System, and Cincinnati Public Schools all passed along with others. Mayor Mallory won his reelection bid and the Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment was defeated."

Go here for more information about the streetcar and here for an informative slideshow on the project.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page. 


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Jim UberNov 4 2009 03:52 PM

Wow you do keep up on things in a timely way, Kaid.

We were all pretty charged up at Arnold's bar last night for the Anti-issue 9 party (or, the Anti-Anti-Rail Charter amendment party). Spirits are high and there is a feeling of turning a corner...

But the foes are not going away. The president of the NAACP Chris Smitherman has all but promised another ballot issue - this time specifically on the streetcar. It all points to the fact that the underlying issue is distrust between the city and it's allies in private development, and groups such as NAACP, and not really about the streetcar system. This is emotional and that's why logic and economic analysis doesn't matter.

If we all want to get along, why can't we? Lack of honesty and dialog has laid waste to many good plans, I am sure.

But I am very optimistic. And let me be frank: $60M in stimulus funding this January would be very helpful.

Randy SimesNov 4 2009 05:24 PM

Thanks for the coverage Kaid. To be honest I was really surprised at all the levies that passed. It really goes to show that good public investments are supported by taxpayers regardless of external factors. It was a great day in Cincinnati yesterday, and it will be a better tomorrow thanks to the outcome of the election.

Dave ReidNov 4 2009 11:03 PM

When I see measures like this I wonder, where's the referendum on freeway expansion?

Kaid @ NRDCNov 5 2009 11:47 AM

That might not be a bad idea, actually, especially if it would help people understand the astronomical costs associated with highway construction. It is fundamentally unfair to place procedural obstacles to some investments but not others.

Jason HatfieldNov 5 2009 01:03 PM

This is a great victory for Cincinnati and the future of our downtown, especially Over the Rhine. Thanks for noticing and spreading positive vibes for our city. Hopefully we'll be securing the funding needed to get the streetcar going and Smitherman's ridiculous ballot measures won't matter anymore. If we have the funding in place, the streetcar will be easy to convince people to support. Even Bill Cunningham of 700WLW is saying he's in support of the project now that we're getting a Casino downtown.

jim uberNov 5 2009 01:42 PM

David Reid - Excellent point. this was hammered by the opposition all during the campaign. I.e. "why is rail so special?" Their response was usually a lame version of "freeways are built using federal or state funds and we can't control those, so we'll ignore them." Practical, but I guess that one way to get rid of these issues in that case, is to increase the federal share of rail transit projects.

Kaid @ NRDCNov 5 2009 04:05 PM

We're working on it.

Kevin LeMasterNov 6 2009 09:15 AM


Thank you for covering this. It surprises me how many national "urban" blogs didn't bother to cover this could have had much wider implications.

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