Streetcar saw half the riders expected in January; Kasich's comments draw ire from gun groups; more news

Cincinnati's streetcar was expected to carry 35,000 riders last month, but saw only 17,000

click to enlarge Streetcar saw half the riders expected in January; Kasich's comments draw ire from gun groups; more news
Nick Swartsell

Hello all. Here are some quick news updates for you today.

If you’re a regular CityBeat reader, you probably already know about the Alms, the 200-unit affordable housing apartment building in Walnut Hills. That building, and its residents, have been in limbo for the past couple years. But the uncertainty may be over soon. New buyers for the property and several others who would very likely keep them as affordable housing may be close at hand. You can read more about that in our story here. Severe neglect by owners PE Holdings moved the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and the Greater Cincinnati Legal Aid Society to organize residents, convincing the city to get the building put in a court-ordered receivership.

• Who makes up the city’s appointments to boards and commissions? The answers may surprise you. A recent city-commissioned survey got responses from 100 of the city’s 228 appointees to various posts on boards overseeing transit, historic preservation, parks and a number of other institutions. You can find all the major takeaways in our story here, but I’ll give you a spoiler: the appointees on the whole don’t line up with Cincinnati’s racial, gender and income demographics. For example, in a city that is 60 percent female, only 35 percent of board appointees surveyed were women.

• Transit advocates today showed up to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s monthly board meeting to push for a sales tax boost to improve Metro bus service. The board this month got six new members via the Hamilton County Commission who must mull the tax ask as the transit agency increased scrutiny around its finances — the Cincinnati Business Committee just launched an audit the agency requested months ago — and tension between the union that represents its drivers and the agency’s administration. You can read all about what activists had to say, as well as SORTA’s challenges, in our story here.

• Speaking of SORTA, here’s another little tidbit from today’s board meeting: The streetcar last month saw just 17,000 riders — half of the 35,000 riders the transit agency had budgeted for the month. That’s after brutally cold weather sidelined all of the city’s streetcars for a few days during the month. Streetcar manufacturer CAF is currently working to fix the problem with the cars’ air compressors, though it’s a major effort to do so. During the times the streetcar was out, SORTA pressed Metro buses into service. That cost $20,000 to carry 339 riders around the streetcar’s route — $60 per rider. Normal cost per rider for Metro buses is under $6 a rider. That money is being split between CAF and Transdev, the company that is contracted to manage the streetcar’s day-to-day operations. The streetcar is about $9,000 under its projected revenue for the fiscal year to date, according to a report by SORTA Chief Financial Officer David Riposo today.

• Gun control politicking, day two: After Ohio Gov. John Kasich weighed in in support of “commonsense gun laws” Sunday following the Feb. 14 mass shooting that killed 17 in Parkland, Fla., gun rights advocates had some rebuttals. Folks like Ohioans for Concealed Carry have blasted the outgoing, National Rifle Association-endorsed governor, calling his change of tone a “naked political play” ahead of the 2020 presidential election, which Kasich is reportedly considering diving into. And the remarks could influence the state’s gubernatorial election this year: GOP primary contender Mary Taylor, who serves as Kasich’s lieutenant governor, had sharp words about the move.

"All too often in the aftermath of these tragic events, there is knee-jerk reaction to attack the Second Amendment rights of our citizens rather than to address the root causes, which often center around mental illness," Taylor said in the statement issued Monday. "Restricting the rights of law-abiding Ohioans to legally purchase a gun does not do that. Neither does removing your prior support for pro-2nd Amendment legislation from a website."

That last remark refers to the fact that Kasich’s campaign had changed a section of his site from a full-throated defense of the Second Amendment to something milder with the title, “Common Sense on the Second Amendment.”

Not that Kasich has become a full-on anti-gun crusader, though. As recently as December, Kasich had signed a bill that expands the number of places that concealed carry permit holders can have weapons, including university campuses — if the schools decide to allow that.

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