Streetcar Service Begins
Cincinnati's $148 million new streetcar line made its official debut on Friday, September 9, 2016. The line, now called the Cincinnati Bell Connector, carried its first passengers a little before 11:30 am. Free service was offered through Sunday.
Praise came from on high: "Today Cincinnati joins a growing list of cities across the country that have chosen streetcars to revitalize their downtown and improve mobility for citizens," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Cincinnati's streetcar will attract new businesses and investment along the route and transform the neighborhoods surrounding the project - as other streetcars have in cities all over the United States."
The streetcar line consists of a 3.6-mile loop through downtown, connecting The Banks along the riverfront and Over-the-Rhine. The first streetcar system in Cincinnati closed in 1951. Many businesses along the route offered special events or discounts in honor of the streetcar's opening weekend.
Motorists are allowed to drive in the streetcar lane along most of the route, but there are streetcar-only stretches. Drivers risk being ticketed or towed for driving or parking in those areas. When fare collection starts on September 12, tickets will cost $1 to ride for two hours or $2 for an all-day pass. Riders found on board a streetcar without a ticket could receive a citation.
Northern Kentucky Streetcar Desire
The Cincinnati Streetcar launch on September 9 was an unqualified hit. The line carried almost 200,000 people in its first three weeks. Extra vehicles were pressed into service for Oktoberfest weekend, resulting in more than 29,000 rides. The following weekend saw more than 18,000 rides for the Cincinnati Bengals’ first home game and for MidPoint Music Festival. Service was extended until 2 a.m. after last week’s Thursday night Bengals game to accommodate fans.
“Real progress in Cincinnati is finally coming to fruition with the streetcar’s debut,” says Ian Budd, who runs ICB Audio and Video in Cincinnati and has lived in Newport since 1979. And he’d like to see it expand.
“Most sensible people see that it will be more successful if it’s expanded up the hill to the University of Cincinnati area," he says. "A longer route that also includes Northern Kentucky will serve more people, give the line more scale and make it more attractive to potential users.”
Budd chairs the Northern Kentucky Streetcar Committee. He and his team are convinced that a branch from Cincinnati’s streetcar line across to Newport and eventually to Covington will benefit both sides of the river.