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Streetcar is Ready for Riders in Downtown Cincinnati

The Cincinnati streetcar - now known as the Cincinnati Bell Connector thanks to a $3.4 million advertising contract - is ready for its riders, and the region's most ambitious transportation project opens to the public on Friday.

Local media - including The River City News - got a preview on Tuesday, beginning with pick-up at Washington Park and then a trip that took riders the entire route, north on Walnut Street, past the library and the Aronoff Center, and then to the Banks at the riverfront, and back north to Over-the-Rhine.

The trip was well attended by local media writers and personalities, consistent with the amount of attention bestowed upon this $148 million project which has survived heavy scrutiny and two ballot measures that sought to stop it. Though the streetcar route is shorter than originally proposed, there are still plans to lengthen the tracks to Uptown near the University of Cincinnati, with others hoping to bring the project south to Newport and Covington, too.

John Deatrick, the City of Cincinnati's project manager for the streetcar, told reporters after the preview ride that the project could have been more difficult, but "a great team" kept it moving on time and on budget, in the wake of its public debut on Friday.

WATCH RCN'S MICHAEL MONKS ON THE STREETCAR'S MEDIA PREVIEW:

Already, the areas around the streetcar route have become a national story in their success in revitalization. Over-the-Rhine, once declared to be among the nation's most dangerous neighborhoods, is a standard-bearer for gentrification, with hot-selling real estate, destination restaurants & bars, and trendy retail establishments. The riverfront is booming with new development, from upscale residential units, to new restaurants & bars, to large office developments to house companies like General Electric.

On the Kentucky side, activists await the opportunity to connect the River Cities to Cincinnati's upstart streetcar project. In March, Newport City Commissioner Beth Fennell and Ian Budd, chair of the Northern Kentucky Streetcar Committee, went to Washington, D.C., with some assistance from the City of Newport, to explore opportunities to connect Northern Kentucky to the tracks.

Now that the streetcar is up and running, motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists are adapting to their new neighbor on the road. There were four accidents in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's media preview, though none were particularly serious. 

The streetcar rides and feels a lot like a bus, and moves with traffic as any other vehicle. Fares will cost $1 for a two-hour pass, or $2 for an all-day pass. For more on the Cincinnati Bell Connector, check out the FAQ offered by the City of Cincinnati.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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