Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thoughts about the streetcar

I was out of town in Seattle and Vancouver last week, and I spent a day touring Seattle with a friend who lives out there. I noticed streetcar lines running through the downtown area, and started asking her about it because of all the debate I read about with the streetcar here in Cincy.

She told me that it's only really used by tourists, and that there aren't very many cars that go along the actual cables. Another friend I talked to the next day also said that the streetcar is only used by tourists, independently confirming what I had observed and heard the day before.

I feel strongly that public transportation is important for a city, but this made me take a second look at the streetcar. At first it made me think that the streetcar may not be a very good idea after all, since maybe the people who lived in the city wouldn't use it too much. For the streetcar proposal as I see here, for the main streetcar route, I think it may be a concern. However, the extension to Kentucky would likely boost the ridership quite a bit, and just starting the project would be a lot of progress towards what would overall benefit the natives of Cincinnati in the long term.

Another thought came from this tourist-centric streetcar in Seattle though: A lot of the debate seems to be around how people who live here would use the streetcar, but the idea of tourism doesn't seem to be touched on as much.

I don't know of many people who plan a trip to visit Cincinnati just to visit the city. It's a lot more attractive to visit a city when you have more options for getting around then renting a car, and a lot of times, tourists are not too keen on buses. In the short term, the streetcar would give people downtown a chance to visit some of the attractions in Cincinnati much more easily, since it would connect downtown to Findlay Market, the Cincinnati Zoo, and UC.

I think the streetcar would definitely benefit those who live here with a new mode of transportation within the inner core of the city, but we shouldn't forget about the benefits it would give Cincinnati in terms of attracting those from outside the city.

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