Sunday, January 17, 2010

I'm On Board with the Cincinnati Streetcar

During the last year, I've changed my mind about the proposed Cincinnati streetcar. Up until the last year, I thought it was another silly waste of time, energy, and money that would be discussed for years by the Cincinnati "powers-that-be" and would never actually be completed. Gradually, however, I have been swayed.
As I started reading more about other cities where rail plays a major role, I saw the economic development that follows once plans for a rail line are in place. In addition, I heard from my son during his college internship this past summer in Washington, DC, about how wonderful it was to just hop on and off the Metro and not have to worry about parking, traffic, or getting home after a night at a bar. About the same time, I began to get acquainted with the Findlay Market neighborhood and started to understand what a vital link the streetcar could be to this historic Cincinnati location.
The final convincing argument was today when I opened the January issue of Builder magazine, a publication of the National Association of Home Builders. There it was: #2 in "Ideas to Build On---Getting On Track." The article was a detailed explanation of rail as "the glue that makes or breaks cities in the near future." Where there's public transportation, or even a proposal to build such infrastructure, housing is sure to follow. (Thus, the tie-in to Builder magazine.) Author Jenny Sullivan proceeds to explain the new relationship between the U.S. Department of Transportation, the EPA, and HUD to create "Sustainable Communities" while promoting affordable housing, low-cost transportation, and reductions in carbon emissions. Her main focus is that federal dollars are already flowing to support public transportation. Cities are lining up to get plans in place, and though private investment will also be needed to supplement tax dollars, I now understand how crucial it is that Cincinnati has begun moving in the direction of a streetcar system. Los Angeles and Denver are blazing ahead with plans and have already discovered that new development is springing up around proposed transit lines. As more businesses move in, housing follows, attracts employment, and leads to continued investment. Gradually the tax base increases, and cities grow.
It will still be years before I can actually step on and off a Cincinnati streetcar, but the proposals in place are the seeds to urban growth and renewal. I'll be keeping an eye on progress and hope you do the same.

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