Friday, September 25, 2009

Vote "No" on Issue 9

So I just started a class in the Planning Department of the University of Cincinnati. The class is called organizational theory, and will be fascinating (call me weird). On the first day we were told about how the class would go etc. We were given a service learning assignment to be completed by November 3rd - election day. It is focused on the election and we have to volunteer at least four hours toward an organization or cause that is directly related with the elections. I wanted to do something I was interested in so that my volunteering wouldn't feel so much like volunteering. I decided to check out the Hamilton County Board of Elections to see what issues are up for the vote.

One of the biggest ones right now is the issue on Casinos. I could easily join the cause against the casinos, but I thought I better check out the other issues first. Then issue 9 stuck out. Of course! This is the issue I've been preaching for years, and now it is up for vote!

Issue 9 deals with the streetcar debate in Cincinnati. Many people think that a streetcar system is a waste of money. I however, totally disagree. I think it is the first step of many toward a stupendous public transportation system around Cincinnati. Few Ohioans realize the powerful benefits of a solid public transportation system. Why, Because Ohio has no good public transportation systems. Cincinnati would be the first. Let me give you a little background on where I come from on this matter.

From July 2001 I moved to Bairnsdale, Australia. Bairnsdale is 3 hours east of Melbourne and 8 hours south of Sydney. Despite the distance from Melbourne, I could hop on a train and ride into the city. Once in the city, I could hop on numerous trams to go all around downtown and see the sights, or take the trams straight into some of the near suburbs. It was wonderful. It greatly reduced the reliance on cars to get everywhere, and made it easy for me to check out Australia without a chaperon (I wasn't allowed to drive while I was there).

In July 2002 I moved back home. It was so sad to be 45 minutes away from downtown Columbus Ohio and not even capable of catching a bus into the city. The closest bus stop was halfway into the city. At that point, taking the bus was pointless. Then in 2003 I moved to Salt Lake city. Anybody familiar with Salt Lake will agree that traffic on I-15 can be a burden. For the 2002 Olympics, Salt Lake City installed a light rail system that paralleled I-15. It greatly reduced the congestion on I-15 and continues to be a boon to the city out there.

Then I moved back to Ohio, this time to Cincinnati. Here is a town that has an extensive rail network, much bigger than that of Columbus or Salt Lake City. Many of these rail corridors are no longer in service, but they still exist. Although the bus system is better than Columbus, it is still ridiculously slow. Now the Mayor and several other key groups want to get funding for a Tram system downtown. I think it is a brilliant idea.

I hate to pay for parking. I will park 8 blocks away at the University of Cincinnati just to ensure I get free parking. That is by far the worst part for me of going downtown. If it was possible to get free parking (it is) and then hop on a tram into the heart of downtown (not yet) I would visit downtown significantly more often. It would make it much easier to see a Reds game too. I've uploaded a map of the proposed corridors.

The key to remember here too is that this is phase 1 of a much bigger plan. Later phases of the plan would implement light rail all around the city, mostly on preexisting rail corridors. The real scary thing about issue nine isn't that it bans street cars. Issue 9 changes the city charter to ban any "passenger rail transportation." This seems a little extreme for the people against a Trolley system. Hey if you love hanging out on I-75 for an hour on your way home from work, be my guest. I won't lie and say that a rail system will reduce your commute time. It might and it might not, but it will reduce your commuting stress. I would much rather hop on a train and read the newspaper for that same hour. You can't read the newspaper and drive, finish that big project for work and drive, or even safely talk on the phone and drive at the same time.

Don't vote yes. Cincinnati has a great opportunity with it's preexisting corridors to become one of the best public transportation cities in the country. Why would we want to ruin that forever. By the way, I'm not even going to count this blog post toward my four hours of service requirement.

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