Cincinnati Transportation Officials Unveil Long-Awaited Traffic Study

Cincinnati's first downtown traffic study in two decades calls for changes to walk lights, four more streetcar signals.

Cincinnati Transportation Officials Unveil Long-Awaited Traffic Study
Nick Swartsell

Two-and-a-half years after asking for a study of downtown's traffic patterns, Cincinnati City Council is finally getting some answers — and finding a few more questions.

The city's Department of Transportation and Engineering today presented to council's Major Projects and Smart Government Committee the results of three separate studies that consider traffic flow and how potential parking spaces are utilized. DOTE also detailed ways in which it will shift traffic flow downtown over the coming months.

Some of the big changes will be welcome additions as calls for pedestrian safety around the city have increased: Signals at 140 locations that give pedestrians 15 percent longer to cross intersections and vary in duration from morning, midday and evening, plus tests for a signal that will gives walkers lead-off time to cross streets before traffic begins after a red light. The signals will be connected along a previously-planned, $9 million fiber-optic network that will run along Central Parkway, Sixth Street and Second Street and along Broadway Street, Vine Street and Central Avenue.

DOTE officials also suggested adding four more signals that prioritize the Cincinnati streetcar at downtown intersections. Those signals would cost the city roughly $80,000 if council approves them.

The studies are the first overall analysis of downtown's traffic patterns in two decades. The city is continuing to study other measures that could impact downtown's driving and parking landscape. The city partnered with Uber to study parking and other street usage patterns in high-traffic areas on Second Street, Walnut Street and Freedom Way with an eye toward pickup and drop off locations for rideshar drivers. And workers with the Cincinnati Area Geographic Information System are currently mapping downtown's curb space to see if adjustments are necessary to parking spaces, taxi stands, loading zones and other street side areas. That project will be ready in the next few months, DOTE says. Any additional spaces added would cost the city up to $1,400 each.

DOTE's studies also suggested considering whether to reconfigure Metro stops downtown in high-traffic areas along Central Parkway and Fifth Street. That suggestion comes as Metro has been reevaluating bus stops across the city, removing a number it says are redundant.

Council first asked for the study shortly after the streetcar launched in 2016, and the data was seen as a way to help boost the transit project's lagging headways. Council heard an interim report on traffic back in December, and some members expressed frustration with that study's lack of details. Committee members today seemed somewhat more satisfied with the final product, though a few raised questions about the role parking garages play in downtown's traffic patterns and other issues.

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