TRANSIT: Streetcar popularity in Cincinnati creating static

City officials and transit authority officials feeling tension over delays caused by high ridership

October 10, 2016
Streetcar popularity in Cincinnati creating static

In what might be a first for streetcar transit in the modern world, a high level of popularity is causing frustration for Cincinnati city officials, the result of delayed travel times. High streetcar demand and resulting delays in service have generated tension between the city and the transit authority less than a month following the streetcar system’s launch.

City Manager Harry Black issued a letter to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which oversees streetcar operations, expressing concern over longer-than-anticipated wait times along its route connecting Over-the-Rhine, the downtown area and The Banks. The city's contract with the transit authority mandates that a streetcar arrive at each of its 18 stops every 12 minutes during the week, and every 15 minutes on weekends.

The system, said Black, is failing to meet that criteria.

In his letter to SORTA CEO and General Manager Dwight Ferrell, Black admitted that September’s launch was followed quickly by multiple, high-volume events in the area, including Oktoberfest and the Cincinnati Bengals’ football home opener at Paul Brown Stadium. Nonetheless, Black noted, the system should be able to withstand spikes in service demand without undue delay. Oktoberfest alone saw more than 500,000 people and 29,000 streetcar rides.

In the system’s first two weeks of operation, transit officials estimated more than 100,000 rides were taken, more than 18,000 of which took place in association with the Bengals game. Transit officials said they prepared for about 3,000 rides on average per day.

Image courtesy of the City of Cincinnati.