Streetcar operation funding plan ready to go?

Nov 5, 2014

Credit Provided/City of Cincinnati

Six Cincinnati council members are signing on to a plan to pay for the costs of operating the city's streetcar system.  The proposal was introduced Wednesday during a press conference at city hall.  

It anticipates streetcar operations will cost the city about $4.2 million a year.

The funds will come from three sources including parking revenues from Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District.

  1. Increase the number of metered parking spaces south of Liberty Street to 600.
  2. Sets the OTR/CBD parking meter hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
  3. Uses dynamic pricing for OTR parking meters capped at a maximum rate of $1.25/hour.
  4. Uses dynamic pricing for CBD parking meters capped at a maximum rate of $2.25/hour.

The second part would change the city's tax abatement policies in the areas that will benefit from the streetcar project.

From the motion:

City Council adopt a tax incentive policy to begin on January 1, 2015 in the neighborhoods of CBD and OTR that incentivizes applicants for real property tax abatement to contribute 7.5% of the real property taxes otherwise owed on the abated improvements to streetcar operations and other services that specially benefit those neighborhoods.

The final piece of the plan includes fares, sponsorship, advertising and naming rights. There would also likely be federal transit funds to help pay for operating costs.

Right now the proposed streetcar base fare would be $1 for a two-hour pass.  

Council Member Amy Murray didn't support continued work on the streetcar nearly a year ago, but she does support the proposed funding plan.

“So as chair of Major Transportation I feel it is my responsibility to make sure that we protect the taxpayer assets,” Murray said.  “In order to do that we need to be able to run the streetcar.  It doesn’t serve anyone at this point if we don’t run the streetcar.”

Meanwhile, money from the Haile Foundation pledged to operating costs would be held in reserve and only used if this plan comes up short.  

“It’s fair, it’s logical, it’s sensible, it’s implementable,” said Eric Avner with the Haile Foundation.  “It solves the issues that we’re facing, it solves for the operating costs of the streetcar in the long-term.”

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said in a statement he is pleased the proposal does not use General Fund resources to fund streetcar operations.

"As I previously stated, I wish the residents who will benefit the most from the streetcar were playing more and regret that the residential parking permit was taken out of the plan," Cranley said in the statement.  "I still think the streetcar is not the best use of these resources, but I look forward to moving past this debate."

The proposal does call for city administrators to continue studying the feasibility of adopting an Over-the-Rhine residential parking permit program.  Such a review will include the appropriate number of spots, boundaries for the program and the rate for such permits.

A council committee will discuss the proposal in two weeks.  Parts of the plan including the parking rate changes could be implemented by January 1.