Cincy Council approves streetcar operating agreement and funding

Nov 19, 2014

Credit Provided/City of Cincinnati

Cincinnati Council has approved a three part plan to pay for operating costs of the Cincinnati streetcar.  

It includes a mix of fares and advertising income, parking meter revenues from downtown and Over-the-Rhine, and changes to the city's abatement policies asking developers to contribute money to a fund to help with operating costs.  

Mayor John Cranley called the plan creative even though he said he still believes the streetcar project is a mistake.

“I think what I like the most is that the developers who will benefit from development in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine area will pay,” Cranley said.  “Over time the projections are that they will pay roughly 50 percent of the operating expenses of the streetcar.  I think there’s a fairness in that.”

Council Member Christopher Smitherman, who opposes the streetcar, voted against the funding plan.  He said he is concerned by assumptions it contains.

“We don’t know what the ridership is going to ultimately be and we don’t know what the price point will be at the fare box,” Smitherman said.  “So those things still concern me.”

Money from the Haile Foundation pledged to operating costs last year will be held in reserve and only used if this plan comes up short.  

Meanwhile, Council also approved an operations and maintenance agreement with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority to operate the streetcar.  

SORTA will be seeking proposals on how to do that, which could include hiring an outside contractor.  

A council committee will likely okay that plan in two weeks, but it will have to give its consent if a private firm is chosen.

The SORTA Board expressed some concerns about the operating agreement with the city.  But a mayoral aide said those issues should be cleared up "in pretty short order."