Monday, October 19, 2009

Cincinnati Streetcar - Ballot Issue

Image Courtesy: Portland Sentinel

It has been sometime since my last blogpost but it cannot come in a more opportune time than to talk more about rail and alternative transportation. The other day I had the opportunity to catch a debate on Issue 9, one of the ballot issues for the City of Cincinnati in the upcoming November 2009 elections. Coming from a country that survives on mass transit systems, it just bothers me to acknowledge the fact that Midwest is still not warm and fuzzy regarding promotion of rail, streetcars, rapid transit etc. Understand that the density requirements might not warrant such a system but the issue is way more than that. Buying into an expanded rail system or something permanent needs a huge paradigm shift from the individually owned and driven car owned culture; its a social change.

But c'mon-isn't it time yet? Although the oil prices are lower than the same time last year mostly because of the economic downturn but it is going to rebound to the higher prices sooner or later. And this is the time to make such sweeping changes of introducing a mass transit such as streetcar.

The debate session was a healthy dialog to highlight the pros and cons of Issue 9, which not only includes streetcar but also other forms of transportation improvements and ROW acquisitions. Proponents/supporters of streetcar voiced opinions about the economic development that can happen around the streetcar lines and as such the need to turn down the ballot issue (examples of other cities were cited along with ROI and how streetcar passively helps to increase ridership in other forms of available transit). It was also discussed that if the ballot measure goes thru’ it will mean never-ending referendums for any and all improvements much like California governance. Opponents of streetcar/supporter of Issue 9 argued that as federal budget requirements do not differentiate between streetcars, passenger rail, trolley etc. the language has to be the way it is and how bad it could be to spend taxpayers money to spend on another potential failed plan much like the subway, Union Terminal and 70Mil downtown transit center which had no ridership so far. At the end of the debate an informal voting was taken and out of approx 50 attendees the “Nays” for Issue 9 overwhelmingly outnumbered “Ayes”.

At the end of the day the streetcar initiative will help in economic development along the permanent lines as evidenced by other cities and best practice examples. That means more jobs and a pro-development environment-let's put Cincinnati on the map from the streetcar perspective.

Cincinnatians - PLEASE VOTE and VOTE "NO" to help the streetcar initiative!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

High Speed Rail

Image Courtesy: ORDC

It is encouraging to see all the discussions and pro-active efforts of the Federal and State governments considering the pro-automobile oriented lobbies which are still trying to promote the over dependence on the dwindling natural gas. Of course the change of guard has a lot to do with it along with the rising cost of gasoline. Feasibility studies have shown us already that instead of continuing to expand the existing roads and airports, it is beneficial to use the existing rights-of-way and thus optimize cost of public transportation thereby reducing congestion, traffic mess and pollution. It is not to emulate what has been there in Europe and Asia already but provide something which has been tried and tested and provide different transportation offerings and contribute to the environment with clean energy utilization. Who wouldn't want to get from Cincinnati to Cleveland via Columbus within 2 hours or from San Diego to San Francisco bay area within 3 hours, while not driving. This effort needs to touch upon every part of US. Really it is very heartening!!!

For more info on 3C (Ohio Hub) or California High Speed Rail, please refer to:

For additional info for other regions:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Smart" and "Green"

Well this being my nascent experience in the wide world of blogging, wanted to express my warm gratitude to all visiting my blogposts! 

Urban planning in US is going through a sea of change on either side of the turn of century. Growing smart and green initiatives capture all the headlines. What we all don’t perceive is the fact that these “smart” and “green” were already part and parcel of life before transportation networks took over the urban fabric. Although transportation related improvements was a trend-setting initiative during the 50’s and 60’s at the wake of extensive oil drilling and automakers political agenda but it had the roots of long-term negative effects. The subsequent oil embargo of early 70’s taught us some lessons but our fascination with automobiles and eventual tryst with destiny were already cast in stone. 

All the principles of compact planning with ample recreational and green spaces aka smart growth were present during and before the first half of the 20th century. Going about daily life was very social as the tight-knit planning harnessed community feeling, safety and security. Office trips and grocery trips were a stone’s throw away, of course, with some exceptions. Some would say this was possible for the less population at that time but if one researches examples in New England area or for that matter in Europe this lifestyle has been there for ages irrespective of population shifts. People used to reuse and recycle without being said to do so. Nowadays everything seems “forced” as if the human evolution is towards being robots. Again there are so many issues that have changed our behaviors and habits but I would be the first to say that these “forced” changes are something we need at this crucial time when our mother Earth needs them the most.

We should all take a moment to think, even if it is for 5 minutes, within our 24-7 lifestyle how effectively we can contribute towards these behavioral changes which are essential in changing our urban pattern from a picture of sprawling suburbs (developer’s wrath and every person’s wish of a home that he/she couldn’t have afforded within the City), congested and choked cities towards a more compact, denser urban core, with opportunities for alternative transportation thereby resulting in pristine countryside. Let everyone breathe easy!

Stay tuned for more!