HAVE BEEN SADDLED WITH a toy train set, a textbook boondoggle for rich downtowners because they want to look all cool and shit next to Toronto, Portland, and Berlin or Bonn or Geneva or something. We’ve been gifted with a streetcar line.
Now, you have to understand that Cincinnati is somewhat unique in that, like Pittsburgh and a few other similar cities, it is built largely atop bluffs which form the banks of a major river valley. We call this being built on hills. Which, from the perspective of surface transportation, means just that — a lot of inclines to be traveled. Steep ones. And, in the era before pavements and pneumatic rubber tires, a lot of slipping and sliding. Even a lot of that these days. There’s one street near the university — the street called Straight — which plunges down a five-hundred-foot slope at — I kid you not — a forty-five-degree angle. (In all fairness, Straight Street really is straight, just… straight DOWN. Trust me, in that, it’s not unusual.)
All of which makes rail a bad choice for in-city transport.
Unsurprisingly, the city was nearly bypassed in favor of Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Chicago (which stand on more flattened circumstances) by early rail development. Fortunately, we got more-or-less caught up and, today, you can see a massive freight switching yard in one of the flatter areas of the central basin. (Plus the city owns a railroad — if we can keep the kleptocrats in City Hall from selling it to some crony or other.)
But, for transit, for the most part, we’ve relied on other modes. And, as late as the ’60s and early ’70s, you could see wheeled busses on central routes being powered by overhead catenaries. Trollies on tires, so to speak.
But, even then, it was being proven in the biggest laboratory in existence — the real world — that mass transit solutions are uneconomic outside a very narrow set of circumstances (very large and high-density populations, such as new York and Tokyo, where land or underground rock layers support construction). The bus company then extant went belly-up because the family which owned most of the stock could no longer earn its way running the thing. So the government took it over and turned it into a massive white elephant. I haven’t seen figures for years, but I would not be surprised at all to find it costing many multiples of the per-trip fares per-passenger-mile. It is certain that the equipment is the best and latest, takes up disproportionate space on the roads, and creates all manner of traffic problems and probably, despite “green” initiatives in fueling, is partly responsible for the region’s having been forced into a recently-terminated “consent” agreement to lower levels of certain EPA-defined pollutants. (Things like 15% ethanol at the pump and strict monitoring of “air quality”.)
But Portland has light rail, as do myriad other cities to which statists in city government like to compare the Queen City. So, of course, we have to have it.
And, as I say, the reason Democrats like light rail so much is that they like to imagine THEY can make the trains run on time.
All irony, sarcasm, et al, intended.
I tell you all that to tell you this.
At the beginning of this month now closing, we here in Cincinnati held an election for a new city council and mayor. The streetcar boondoggle was a bone of contention in the race. It had been pushed through on a ballot initiative where the ballot language had you voting “No” to support the levy and “Yes” to deny it; the break-even requires the completions of two additional phases of development; its eventual goal is the development of an inter-city line to Cleveland that will never, in a million years be realized, but much of the hand-wavium is founded in assumptions it will; none of the exemplars — not Portland, not Toronto — none of them — are anywhere near paying for themselves from fares, (So why is this being done?)… For once, the issue didn’t polarize the political class along party lines. The Democrat mayor was term-limited. The Democrat vice-Mayor was running against a Democrat former-councilman for the top spot. And the mud-slinging was glorious, if strangely restrained. The incumbent was pro- and the challenger anti-. A coalition of Republicans and Charterites (an independent party which has actually been the majority in the city from time-to-time) ran against the streetcar, and enough of them were elected to form a majority — with some anti-streetcar Democrats in the mix.
And there was this one Democrat who played the part of the moderate — claiming to look at the issues and seek the best option for the people of the city. Sounding all reasonable and shit, he drew a lot of his support from the anti-streetcar right. He was the top vote-getter in the election. His name is P.G. Sittenfeld. (Never trust a man who won’t tell you his name.)
This week, he has announced that he has changed his stand on the streetcar. He is now in favor of it.
Da Doll submits the belief that was his intent all along. Once again proving: You. Can’t. Trust. Democrats.