City Council Ready To Debate Streetcar Budget For Year Two

Jun 6, 2017

A Cincinnati Council Committee could hold a special meeting next week to debate how much money to pay the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) next year to operate the streetcar system.  

The agency submitted its request to the city last week asking for an increase of about six percent compared to the current year.  

Council members at the Major Transportation Committee meeting Tuesday also reacted to a media report on declining ridership and revenues.

Council Member Chris Seelbach called reports the system is failing "fake news."

"We're in the black. We have more revenue than we thought we would and ridership continues to increase as the weather warms up," Seelbach said.

At the end of April, the city's streetcar operating fund had about a positive variance, or surplus, of $172,976. Preliminary numbers show 53,116 streetcar boardings in May compared to 49,966 for April.  

Council Member Kevin Flynn said the sky is not falling relative to the streetcar. But he is more cautious.

"The streetcar is operating... quite honestly it's performing better than I expected it to perform during the first year," Flynn said. "But it's not all sunshine and roses. We have a long road to go before the streetcar is sustaining itself."

Vice Mayor David Mann let SORTA's rail director know he did not like the funding request that came from the agency.

"You're supposed to submit something that makes sense to the public," Mann said. "You're not supposed to submit something that creates confusion and chaos, and that's what you did. And I'm not understanding why that made sense."

The document included revenues and expenses from SORTA's side, but it left out the city's revenues and expenses.  

City Council's budget and finance committee will sort through the details and make a funding recommendation. The streetcar funding will be included in the full city budget that Council is expected to approve on June 21.

Meanwhile, SORTA reported Tuesday that 101 "Connect to Summer Fun" passes had been sold so far. That includes 77 for June, and 12 each for July and August.