Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Streetcar: W Clifton or Vine?

The Clifton Heights Improvement Association (CHIA) wants residents to let Cincinnati City Council know their preference for a future streetcar route through the Uptown neighborhoods.

At issue is whether the connector route will climb the hillside via Vine Street or W Clifton Avenue.

Many Clifton Heights residents believe that the W Clifton Avenue route would bring the most immediate positive results.

In a draft letter sent out to community members, the CHIA says that, by using W Clifton Avenue, the streetcar would encourage homeownership along W Clifton and link the Clifton Heights business district to the Downtown and Findlay Market zones.

"A future expansion of the streetcar line could easily, in a second phase, go down McMillan Street, and then connect to Vine Street in both directions," the letter reads. "This would provide a Vine Street-W. Clifton loop that would improve the route, and allow for easy expansion to the east side of the campus, through 'Short Vine', and down past the hospitals and to the zoo."

Rob Neel, secretary of the CHIA, is asking residents to forward the letter to council.

The CHIA will be discussing the streetcar proposal at their September 11 meeting.

Previous reading on BC:
Cincinnati streetcar vote possible today (4/23/08)



JFD said...

As I understand it the route up West Clifton will provide the best opportunity for TIF Financing; as well as the potential for much greater ridership. Clifton Heights is the most densely populated community in the City. Vine St is better as a thoroughfare for cars.

Jason said...

I agree that the W. Clifton route would be smarter for starters. It would allow people from downtown and OTR to go up to Ludlow Ave., Good Samaritan Hospital, UC and many other very important areas for business and entertainment.

justforview said...

In terms of TIF funds, it seems like there is more potential for increased development (increased increment in taxes) along Vine.

Matt Ross said...

Yeah, aside from the amount of vehicular traffic it sees, I like the initial phase going up Vine, with a later connector down Clifton. With Vine being such a heavy thoroughfare, I can envision it really getting cleaned up nicely (if the streetcar = development idea does work).

UncleRando said...

I have no problems with the route going up W. Clifton. But that is also the route of one of Metro's best bus routes. I would like the streetcar to potentially hit an area that doesn't currently have quick/reliable transit service to/from Downtown and Uptown.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if it ran up W Clifton; however, only if it was worked into upcoming the improvement project (repaving road, putting in new sidewalks, etc.) that is supposed to be completed by Feb 1, 2010,

John Schneider said...

I think ... neither Vine nor Clifton.

Rather, it will go through Broadway Commons to Gilbert and on to the Taft/McMillan pair across the entire breadth of Uptown.

This route takes 9-10 minutes to get to University Plaza from Government Square, significantly less time than it takes to wind around Findlay Market to McMicken, then reverse direction to Findlay Street, and then go up Vine or Clifton. Try it, you'll see.

Gilbert is straight, wide and relatively flat. On the other hand, the five-way intersection at the foot of Clifton is a very problematic for streetcar operations.

Going to Uptown via Gilbert would put our city's next big development site, Broadway Commons, in play sooner and open up the wasteland east of UC to development. It would also be a way to serve Eden Park and Mt. Adams via a branch on Eden Park Drive to the old streetcar turnaround by Rookwood Pottery. Another line could branch north and east at Peebles Corner to Obryonville and Hyde Park.

Vine and Clifton are too steep and curvy for a vehicle that requires most people to stand. Sometime, try standing up on a bus up and down those hills. Not fun.

Matt Ross said...

(^) That's a good suggestion, esp. since it hits the Greyhound station, but wouldn't the long stretch of 'uninhabited' land between 7th (where it turns into Gilbert) and Eden be a problem? Besides the Broadway site, I don't see anything else being constructed along that route. You've got a good point with standing on hills (it isn't fun), but then wouldn't Mt. Adams be pure hell?

I know that streetcars used to saturate this whole city (& into nKy, etc.), but isn't the idea of building the initial lines to spark investment and create the most ridership as possible - 'saving' blighted areas from themselves?

I would love for it to go east, and you know the areas mentioned would ride it (if not for anything other than romantic reasons), but connecting the two largest employment centers in the city first makes too much sense. I'm positive that Hyde Park will someday realize their own recreation of a line through the parks and such, esp. with private donations, but it isn't needed there now. I think it makes more sense to connect the West, such as the Terminal (the largest museum draw in the country).

Nevertheless, I'll be riding it wherever it goes, if just out of nostalgia. And as far as Broadway goes, I think we all know what could've made that area a prime draw, which wouldn't have needed a streetcar line to spark development. :)

Anonymous said...

Vine St to Short Vine to the Zoo will fill more needs than any other route

Mark Miller said...

Clifton might be a better route, but unfortunately it's impossible. Streetcars can handle a maximum grade of 9% and minimum turn radius of 60'. Sections of that hill do not conform, and cannot be alterred to conform.

Even Vine Street hill is marginal. It easily meets the 60' radius, but the average grade is over 7% and certain portions are just under 9%. If the streetcar ever materializes you probably won't see any stops on Vine hill, at least going up. The streetcar would unsafely tie-up traffic while it creeps back up to normal speed.

Gilbert Ave would be the best choice. It's straight, wide, and has a low even slope. That's why Cincinnati's original streetcars used it. The routes under discussion were originally served by the Bellevue and Fairview inclines because horse-drawn streetcars couldn't manage the steep hills either.

Quim said...

I am still not convinced "connectors" are even needed between loops.
If you are going to travel from the middle of downtown to the middle of Clifton, a single bus will be more convenient.
If you just need to get from McMicken to McMillan, walk.
The Gilbert Ave to Clifton Ave route sounds good, tho.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I am wrong, but don't buses already do all of this?

Nathan said...

1. Streetcars are much, much better than buses for stimulating and promoting economic development

2. Streetcars once went up Vine St. to Uptown decaades ago. I sure they could manage that same grade today.

3. Streetcards required density and are best on streets that have existing or potential foot traffic. Vine is better than Gilbert for this reason.

jfd said...

Justforview: "In terms of TIF funds, it seems like there is more potential for increased development (increased increment in taxes) along Vine."

Vine St has a public park and a school on the East side and most of the West side is only one lot deep before you get to un-usable hillside. Neither of which will add to TIF funding.

I understand the concerns over the grade issue, and would say that a loop up Gilbert to Taft and down W Clifton makes sense. I hope they are not really considering bypassing the most densely populated neighborhood in the city.

Anonymous said...

I don't think a TIF District even exists on Vine between McMicken and Calhoun (which is where the connector would go) and therefore seemingly no TIF funds would be available. West Clifton is in the heart of a TIF District and the most densely populated neighborhood (with a population most likely to use a streetcar... students, professors etc!). If ridership and funding are the biggest political hurdles facing the streetcar (and I think they are), then W Clifton is the best answer. Lastly, the grade issue is ridiculous if you consider that up until the 40s streetcars went up and down W Cliton... you can still see the tracks at W Clifton and Vine... I have to believe since we landed a man on the moon our streetcar technology has not lagged.

Mark Miller said...

The slope issue isn't ridiculous; it's a cold hard fact inherent in the technology. See page 10 of the feasibility study , middle of the bullet points.

Historically, our streetcars were little bitty things that were horse-drawn and later electrified. The inclines were built to haul them up from the basin. Then they would ride their brakes down the hills, picking up and dropping off passengers en route. Some of the express trolleys rode the incline back down too. Typical passenger loads were 20-40 people.

Modern streetcars like those under consideration are designed for 100 more people each. Even though modern motors and brakes are infinitely better than those of yore, the limiting factor still hasn't changed, which is friction between wheels and track. Too steep a hill, and the whole thing just slips when you hit the brakes or throttle.

So Clifton hill is very much out and Vine hill is still in, but marginal. Please adjust your wish-list accordingly, or expand the budget to include reconstruction of an incline.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Mike Moose from Glaswerworks actually assessed the grade of W Clifton using CAGIS data... the results of which showed an avg grade of 7% that maxed out at 9% for short stretches. These results were shared with the actual engineers from the streetcar manufacturers, Inekon. Their designers reviewed those grades and confirmed that their cars could readily manage it. In fact, they are designed to run at full load capacity for 200 meters at a 9% grade. The longest stretch on W Clifton of 9% is 50 meters. In addition, the Manager of Maintenance for Portland's Streetcar system even stated that they have a stretch of track that is a 9% grade of 50 meters and they have had no problems at all. All of these facts would lead me to believe that while there may be "flatter" alternatives, W Clifton is certainly not "very much out". The merits of addressing the densest population with a captive TIF funding source should certainly be heard and weighed in the discussion.

Mark Miller said...

Nice work Anonymous.

I got similar numbers using older USGS topos (basis for much of the CAGIS data), but then measured up to 10.6% when I drove the hill with a gravity inclinometer. Barometric altimeter & odometer came out at 9.1%. The big bend where it turns north also scales right at 60' radius for the inside lane.

All of that seemed to rule out Clifton hill based on the published specifications. But if you have the manufacturer on board with actual field conditions, then it doesn't matter what the spec-book says.

As long as the builder will stand behind it, then the option should be considered. Any suggestions on a nice wine to wash down my crow?

Kevin LeMaster said...

You guys are nerds.

Just kidding...thank you for doing all of the calculations you have done. It adds a lot to the conversation.