Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Streetcar Named Connector

Cincinnati's streetcar is now in full swing this week, branded the Cincinnati Bell Connector (because everything has naming rights in 2016) and passengers are, for now, lining up to get around downtown.

Lunch in Over-the-Rhine or at The Banks Monday?

Definitely, said streetcar riders. On its first full day of paid rides, lunchtime meant stuffed streetcars.

The Enquirer rode the Cincinnati Bell Connector for several loops during the morning commute and lunchtime to see how popular it was on its first day of paid operation. Crowds had jammed the new streetcar over the weekend - when it was free to ride.

Ty Harris, 30, of Over-the-Rhine hopped on the streetcar at Findlay Market at 7:30 a.m. to get to his job at General Electric at The Banks.

Harris thinks he'll be a heavy user of the streetcar, using it to get to work and lunch in Over-the-Rhine, previously too far from GE's temporary home on Fourth Street.

"This will be incredibly convenient," Harris said.

There was light ridership from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Roughly a dozen people rode at any given time in one streetcar, using it to get to work.

Lunch was an entirely different story. There were lines for the pay machines and, at times, nowhere to sit.

Mary Cassidy-Anger, a Cincinnati native in town on business from Washington D.C., was at The Banks when she decided to ride up to Over-the-Rhine for lunch and to see how much the neighborhood flourished since she left.

"This is a much better way to get around than driving," she said. "I don't have to worry about parking,"

Tammy Monjaras lives in Landen and works at Franciscan Media in Over-the-Rhine, an hour-long commute. She rode the streetcar at lunchtime Monday to help her gauge a new commute. She'll ride the bus and use the streetcar to get to work. on Liberty Street.

The streetcar opened Friday at noon, a project eight years in the making. The $148 million streetcar runs on a 3.6-mile loop, from The Banks to Over-the-Rhine, making 18 stops.

It costs $1 to ride for two hours, or $2 for a day pass. Ridership is projected at 3,000 people a day.

Two bucks for a day pass definitely beats paying several times that for parking, especially if you can take a TANK or Metro bus into downtown to beat parking completely.  Next time I hit downtown, I definitely want to try this out.  Well, that is if the bomb threats don't keep shutting the service down but of course you have to expect problem during the first week.

Still, the real question is if streetcars will still be full in January, or next spring, or five years from now.  So far at least the streetcar seems to be pretty popular, especially in hipster OTR. 

Now, getting this to the rest of Cincy?  That's the real challenge. And there's always Mayor Cranley, who was elected to scrap the streetcar completely, and will face voters in 2017 after throwing up his hands and saying "Meh, it's probably not so bad."

But for now, the streetcar is on the go.

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