Cincinnati Streetcar to Resume Carrying Passengers

The Cincinnati streetcar line is expected to resume carrying passengers in late August with rides being free.

The reopening was made possible after the Cincinnati City Council voted 6-3 in favor of a plan to resume service, which was suspended in late March during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reopening will come despite the opposition of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who wants the streetcar line to remain closed.

Cranley, who has long opposed the streetcar, described it as a luxury the city cannot afford, particularly at a time when it has had to borrow $10 million to balance its budget.

The council vote overrode a veto that Cranley issued on a funding plan that will divert $1.8 million from the city’s transit fund to pay for operating the streetcar.

That fund is largely used to fund public transit bus service provided by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority.

The city is currently spending $3 million to periodically operate streetcars without passengers in order to maintain the functionality of the streetcar infrastructure.

“We’re not even discussing whether to fund or defund the streetcar, we’re discussing today whether we’re going to use $3 million to run an empty streetcar — which from my vantage point is fiscally irresponsible,” said council member Jeff Pastor.

“Or we’re going to fully run the streetcar so that people can get around in Over-the-Rhine as it was intended to do.”

That prompted Cranley to ask who was going to ride the streetcar in the middle of a pandemic.

“And is that more important than finding addition dollars for bus riders?” he said.

Cranley argued that for every month the streetcar is closed the city saves money.

The council vote to reopen the streetcar will mean that 19 furloughed employees will be recalled to work.

The streetcar line connects downtown Cincinnati with the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood over a 4-mile loop. It opened in September 2016.

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