Cincinnati — Ridership Falls
The cincinnati.com site reports that the Cincinnati Bell Connector modern streetcar line showed a significant reduction in riders in November, though cumulative ridership since the line's opening remains 53% above projections.
John Schneider, a leading advocate for the streetcar, called for immediate action. He grades the city's effort to now as B-. "I would hate to think we carried this down to the one-yard line and fumbled," Schneider said. "It needs to be reliable for people who have to use it every day."
Paul Grether, rail manager for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, presented the ridership figures to the Council's Major Transportation Committee Tuesday, saying SORTA is addressing issues. The committee will be getting updates monthly.
The major issue is maintaining schedules, leaving prospective passengers unsure of when a car will appear at their station. This is less of a problem for weekend riders, but on weekdays when more people have critical schedules, unpredictable arrivals have dissuaded prospective riders.
Three areas are being blamed for the problems:
- Ticket vending machines have been difficult to use. Last week new programming was introduced to simplify the ticket buying process.
- Automatic arrival time displays at stops have not worked properly since opening. SORTA officials told council the problem has been identified but it is unclear how long it will take to implement a fix.
- A traffic study needs to be done for the downtown area, as none has been done for two decades. Traffic signals are timed for east-west travel to interstate ramps. But recently there has been more growth in north-south traffic, including the streetcar. The council has considered a $300,000 traffic study, but has yet to take action to implement it.
Streetcar speed could be improved if they were given dedicated lanes on Walnut and Main streets downtown and if streetcar operators were given a means to extend green light cycles as they approach intersections.
Councilman Wendell Young said he has received complaints about streetcars not arriving when scheduled. "We're discouraging people from riding the streetcar and that is an issue for me," Young said.
Monthly passenger numbers show 49,920 people rode the streetcar in November, 95,286 people rode the streetcar in October and 133,322 people rode the streetcar in September between its opening on Sept. 9 and the end of the month.