Cincinnati Streetcar Will Shut Down Tomorrow Over Coronavirus Concerns

Advocates for the closure cite safety and budgetary reasons as the city faces a $60 million to $80 million deficit

Mar 30, 2020 at 3:02 pm
Cincinnati Streetcar Will Shut Down Tomorrow Over Coronavirus Concerns
Nick Swartsell

The City of Cincinnati will close the city's streetcar tomorrow, Mayor John Cranley announced today, as well as bar use of rental scooters.

Those closures — and the shuttering of the city's bike share Red Bike, which started last night — come as the city seeks to slow the spread of pandemic coronavirus COVID-19.

Cranley, a vocal streetcar critic, has said the intention is not to shut the streetcar down permanently but simply to slow the spread of the virus until the crisis is over.

Others calling for its closure also cite budgetary reasons for advocating its shutdown.

Longtime streetcar critic Cincinnati Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman called for Cincinnati's 3.6-mile rail transit loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown to shut down temporarily yesterday.

Smitherman introduced legislation seeking that closure, citing an unprecedented budget crunch facing the city.

Cincinnati City Manager Partrick Duhaney last week in a memo to Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati City Council said that the city could face a $60 million to $80 million budget deficit related to business closures and layoffs due to COVID-19.

The streetcar costs about $5 million a year to operate.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered non-essential businesses to close; most restaurants are now carry-out only if they are open at all. All of those closures have cut into the city's tax revenue, according to Duhaney.

"Disruptions in our budget will require difficult decisions to be made," Smitherman tweeted after announcing his legislation. "We MUST prioritize our core services and city workers."

Streetcar ridership is down significantly during the increasing concern over the virus. The system is currently averaging about 250 rides a day — down from 1,400 a day before the crisis. The streetcar has received regular cleanings throughout the budding crisis, officials say.

Detroit has suspended its streetcar service. Similar streetcars in other cities, including Kansas City and Oklahoma City, continue running on reduced schedules, however.

Cincinnati's Metro bus service continues to run, with most routes on Saturday schedules and no fares charged during the crisis.