I remain convinced that no project can live up the the hype ladled upon the streetcar -- at least without cheating by claiming full credit for every good thing that happens in the next 30 years and accepting none of the "blame" for anything bad. Besides, who will be around 30 years from now to see if any of the predictions came true? I'll be 78 years old -- and I sure hope I have better things to do with my time at that point other than saying "I told you so."
So I'll say some things now. Even now, the cost of the project is in dispute. The city's website -- the closest thing we have to "official" figures -- states the first segment will cost $95 million, plus an unresolved amount for utility re-location. Duke claims moving services will cost $18.7 million, the city is offering $6 million. So the streetcar's cost at groundbreaking ranges roughly from $112 million to $125 million.
The city still estimates that the 3.6-mile, 18-stop system will involve five cars running 18 hours a day, at an operating cost of $2.5 million a year. We shall see if this estimate pans out. There is no set price yet on fares. But they expect 3,700 "trips per day," which adds up to 1,350,500 "trips" per year. It will be interesting to see how the city counts passengers, especially the system allows free ridership.
Fares are not set, but the city expects to collect $465,000 to $675,000 a year from fares. It expects to land $200,000 in naming rights. It expects to dedicate $400,000 a year from parking meter revenue to the streetcar. (Truly galling source of funding, when city streets are in such terrible condition) It also projects using an unspecified amount of cash from a predicted $3 million a year expected to be collected from the new, as-yet-uncomplete casino. (Not at all sure how much tax money the casino will generate. Also find this source galling, given that the casino operator offered to pay for a direct connection to the streetcar route and was refused)
On the fare front: If the city really could get 1.3 milllion riders in a year, then a fare of about 50 cents would generate the projected $675,000. Personally, I think the city will charge $1 a ride, but won't get close to 1.3 million riders. More like half that many riders. Which begs the question: why is the entire city paying so much money for a project that is likely to be used by a mere 1,000-2,000 riders a day? For $60 million, the city could simply buy 4,000 cars at $15,000 each and just give them to streetcar riders.
But many of us will be dead before we know the answer to the true bottom-line issue -- economic development. The rosy development forecast for improvements sparked by the streetcar envision unfolding over three decades. Amazingly, not a word of this forecast was changed even though it was written for a system that envisioned connecting with the zoo, but now won't even go up the hill into Uptown. The usefulness and likely ridership of the streetcar has changed significantly, yet no adjustments in the forecast? That simply proves to me how phony the forecast was.
It will be interesting to see how much credit the streetcar claims for good things happening in the central city areas. The heavily renovated Findlay Market already is crowded on weekends without a streetcar, yet five years from now it will be as if the streetcar transformed the place. It will be interesting to see how much property value increase in Over-the-Rhine will be credited to the streetcar, when a brand new casino is changing the landscape at the exact same time, and when a major renovation to Washington Park is transforming the area near Music Hall -- both of which were planned and executed without the streetcar. Likewise, everything planned and built along the Banks was built without a streetcar. Wanna bet the streetcar will claim credit, tho?
Likewise in Uptown, the long-planned, very large U-Square at the Loop project is happening without a streetcar connection. In fact, Uptown has been seeing lots of new development for the past several years -- even on streets that were never close to any of the proposed streetcar routes. If the streetcar actually does get connected to the zoo in less than 10 years, I will be impressed. At least that would be faster than the long-promised riverfront park that was hyped back when we-the-people voted to tax ourselves to subsidize pro sports.
I do believe that some development will occur because of the streetcar. If small businesses and landlords cannot figure out how to exploit the new streetcar stops, they are truly stupid. What I question is whether the value of that investment will be worth the cost -- especially when that amount of money could be spent in other ways that more directly spur development.
Overall, I think it will be very difficult to accurately measure how much new development can be credited to the streetcar. I expect that claims of small businesses and residents moving into areas near the streetcar will not be balanced by figuring out whether these moves are truly new or whether they involve relocations from other places within the city. I very much doubt that the costs of tax incentives offered to whatever businesses locate near the streetcar route will be counted against the growth numbers.
No. I expect the city to continue its wildly excessive focus on downtown without even a thought of how spending so much on one part of the city is leaving nothing left to improve and support the city's many other neighborhoods in need.
I expect the result to be some hyped-up one-year and five-year streetcar "impact" reports that tell the city leaders and streetcar fans what they want to hear. And by 10 years later, there won't be any more reports.
The Wall Street/media fearmongers continue to sell the public on the idea that bailing out -- or failing to bail out -- one tiny European nation will have major impact on the world economy. Wow, those Greeks have us all in a tizzy, eh?
Funny how long this "crisis" has dragged on, and yet our economy keeps getting better. Funny how every time the Greeks meet a deadline or concede to a demand, the Europeans come up with even more demands so that they can keep on saying that the never-ending "crisis" still isn't over. I don't blame the Greeks a bit for being angry and resentful about the outsiders bossing them around. But I don't exactly feel sorry for the Greeks either. If that nation refuses to do what it takes to pay their bills, then be done with them. Kick them out of the EU. Stop lending them money. Whatever. But quit pretending that the debt of one small nation is enough to ruin the world economy. It's not possible. You cannot create a tsunami by tossing a pebble in the ocean. Only unreasonable fear, amplified by instant over-reaction fueled by Internet-driven, computer-enabled electronic trading can do that.
Another weekend of shopping and chores, another weekend spent dodging potholes. On I-71 northbound, in the few miles between between the Ridge and Kenwood exits, I counted no less than 30 potholes. Meanwhile, anyone leaving Trader Joes to get on I-71 south can attest to the war zone condition of the Kenwood road approach to highway.
It is unbelievable to me that the real estate developers and the retailers in one of Cincinnati's premier shopping areas can put up with such atrocious failure in basic upkeep. If I was a shop owner in that area, I would start withholding tax payments in protest. Or at least writing letters threatening to do so.
Yes, I expect improvements right now. I expect the pothole crews to respond first to problems occurring along heavily traveled roads. We aren't talking about side streets and cul de sacs here.