Council Approves Halting Streetcar for Downtown Festivities

Ordinance allows organizers of seven major events to stop service

City Council passed an ordinance today that could halt the streetcar's operation during seven downtown heritage events during its first two years of operation. 

The sunset ordinance would give the organizers of the Flying Pig Marathon, Taste of Cincinnati, Oktoberfest, Opening Day Parade, Thanksgiving 10K, Health Expo and the Heart Mini Marathon 90 days before their event to alert Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) to stop service. The ordinance is effective through 2018 when City Council will re-evaluate it. 

After a two-and-a-half-hour debate in Council's Transportation Committee on Tuesday, the ordinance passed on Wednesday after about a half hour of debate in a vote of 6-2. Council members Wendell Young and Yvette Simpson voted against it; Councilman Chris Seelbach was absent from the meeting.

Mayor John Cranley, who introduced the ordinance, said event organizers had expressed interest in adapting their events to the streetcar but that there needs to be an adjustment period so they are not forced to do something drastic like move the event. 

"Some people are out there spinning this as if it's an attempt to hurt the streetcar," Cranley said. "I think it would be very bad for the streetcar if somehow these issues weren't resolved." 

Cranley also said the police and fire departments have expressed safety concerns about the streetcar's operation during events, which sometimes serve alcohol and often attract tens of thousands of attendees. 

Simpson said she believed Council needed more time to make the decision and to consider all possible options. 

"I just requested that we have more time," she said. "This is a very important endeavor for the organizations involved and the streetcar."

Councilman Kevin Flynn responded to Simpson, saying he believed the closures would amount to just 12 hours total, often during off-peak hours like Sundays.

"I think that we had the information we needed," he said.

Councilwoman Amy Murray, who is also the chair of the transportation committee, said it would be closed the minimum amount of time as required by any particular event. 

Neither Mayor Cranley nor any council members directly addressed concern over the potential loss of revenue the streetcar could face by closing during heavily attended events. It is currently facing possible budget deficits for its first two years of operation. 

The streetcar is scheduled to start running in a 3.6-mile loop through downtown and Over-the-Rhine in September. The first major event after its opening will be Oktoberfest.

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