Cincinnati Breaks Ground on Modern Streetcar

Cincinnati Streetcar Groundbreaking (image credit: Casey Jo Ailes)
Cincinnati Streetcar Groundbreaking (image credit: Casey Jo Ailes)

Cincinnati officially broke ground on it’s modern streetcar system on Friday February 17th, 2012. The ceremony took place in the street in front of Memorial Hall in the heart of the historic Over the Rhine neighborhood. The location was fitting as streetcar tracks from yesterday’s system still reside in the brick paved street in front of Memorial Hall and made a great setting for what will continue a tradition of multimodal transportation options for the citizens of Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Streetcar Groundbreaking (image credit: Casey Jo Ailes)
Cincinnati Streetcar Groundbreaking (image credit: Casey Jo Ailes)

Federal Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was on hand for the ceremony as was Mayor Mark Mallory, city council and the Father of the Streetcar, John Schneider. Joining them, were hundreds of supporters. The project marks a firm stake in the ground moment for Cincinnati. Supporters there have fought off two ballot referendums that have openly attacked the project as well as the decision by new Governor John Kasich to pull over $50 million in state funding in the past year that had previously been dedicated to the project.

Cincinnati Streetcar Groundbreaking (image credit: Curt Ailes)
Cincinnati Streetcar Groundbreaking (image credit: Curt Ailes)

To be sure, there is a lot of hard work ahead. It will be fraught with controversy likely every step of the way. Currently, there is a dispute with Duke Energy over who is paying for the utility work and by just how much some portions of the utility work need to be located away from the streetcar tracks. The selection of the actual streetcar vehicle itself has not been made but will likely be announced very soon. Construction should be nearly complete by the end of 2013 with vehicle testing commencing then. Revenue service should begin something in early 2014.

Cincinnati Streetcar Groundbreaking (image credit: Casey Jo Ailes)
Cincinnati Streetcar Groundbreaking (image credit: Casey Jo Ailes)

The day was marked with a majority of supporters. There were a few detractors. Some of them vocal as you can see from the pictures. Overwhelmingly though, the streetcar enjoyed a huge supportive body on this day.  Urban Cincy has good coverage of the day as well along with some video. There is some particularly good footage of John Schneider remarking on the struggles that Cincinnati has had to overcome to get here. The citizens of Cincinnati can feel great about the leadership bringing the streetcar to fruition.

Cincinnati Streetcar Route (image credit: City of Cincinnati)
Cincinnati Streetcar Route (image credit: City of Cincinnati)

Locally, it will take similar leadership to get the Downtown Indianapolis Streetcar Corp plan off the ground and anywhere near the point where Cincinnati is. The story of Cincinnati and it’s modern streetcar is a good lesson in how to never give up and make sure that as a city, the groundwork is laid to be able to change and adapt as the political landscape changes and new players come into the equation.

Special thanks to my wife for snapping some excellent photos while we were there. Check out her website ( for equally fantastic photos

Comments 10

  • Proud of my hometown, for sure! There haven’t been many points in time over the last decade where I could say Cincy’s government was being more progressive than Indy’s, but with two very long-term projects, The Streecar and The Banks, finally showing real progress, things are looking up.

  • The last I heard (in IBJ) about the Downtown Indy Streetcar Corp initiative is that they were talking to the city and other stakeholders. However, I was hoping that by now they would be fundraising. This is one of those projects that might seem like a small pet-project, but I see it as a catalyst for building an extensive streetcar system in the future.

  • This is so exciting. Thanks for the coverage Curt. I did not come home for the groundbreaking but I will surely come home to ride the streetcar once it’s complete. #CantWait

  • Modern streetcar is not as good as a streetcar pulled by mules. Here is where it should go:

    Charge $10 and the lines will be longer than zipline lines.

  • Where does each member of the City-County Council stand on a streetcar? Or will the state not let them discuss it?

    • Technically speaking, a streetcar could be constructed and funded without the state giving the say so. Since it would be a local project (as opposed to the regional nature of Indy Connect) it would not require the referendums and say so of the state legislature. It would require the city council to weigh in most likely and that is a far more progressive body than the state legislature. While I have not spoken to any city council members, I wager that a number would support such a project. Of course there would be opposition, there always is,…

      • Not so long mayor said he “wouldn’t be inclined to support the system if the city had to pick up part of the annual tab”. He was referring to the annual operating costs for the Indy streetcar system. So, we know where he stands. I am not sure about the Council.
        That’s why this is so hard to accomplish. Not only does the private sector and federal govt. have to pick up the tab to build the infrastructure, but you can’t count on the local government to subsidize streetcar transit the way the subsidize other modes of transit. This seems to be the case for most rail transportation. Even the railroad companies transporting goods pour money from the private sector into the infrastructure vs. trucking companies that rely on publicly-financed highway system. And then you have to fight the perception of (poorly informed) public that thinks the roads are free and streetcar is a boondoggle.

  • It is as simple as dedicating some road spending to a streetcar plan. No new taxes and providing an increased level of service……boom! haha

  • Why not create dedicated RFDs (Road Funding Districts) It could be focused on certain thoroughfares and act like something similar to TIFs, but with out the assessed value garbage. Just start dedicating, as another poster mentioned, a portion of the taxes paid by the residents within this RFD for local road repair and construction projects by plowed right back in to the area.

    It won’t ever happen, but it would be nice if we could swiftly allocate certain percentages of what we paid to certain projects without any new tax.

  • It was a great event and you will be glad to know that I was able to attend that event. I hope by that event we will see some good era in near future. Thanks buddy.

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