Streetcar won't operate over the weekend; Ohio online charter school shuttered; plus more news

Cold-weather equipment failures will once again close the streetcar this weekend as the city withholds payments from manufacturer CAF until issues are solved.

Cincinnati Streetcar - Provided
Cincinnati Streetcar

What’s up Cincy? Let’s get news out of the way as we speed toward a (hopefully) warmer weekend.

All five of Cincinnati’s streetcars will be shut down until at least Monday, according to a news release from the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority yesterday. Cincinnati Metro buses will run their routes along the 3.6-mile streetcar loop instead. Those buses will display streetcar signs, stop near streetcar stops on the streetcar’s schedule and honor streetcar tickets.

The closure comes after continued problems with the cars’ cold-weather performance related to compressor units in the transit vehicles. CAF, the Spanish company that manufactured the streetcars, is in Cincinnati making fixes. But it’s also billing the city $4 million and counting for those repairs.

“We are working with the City of Cincinnati, CAF and Transdev to resolve problems and restore service as quickly as possible,” Metro’s Director of Rail Services Paul Grether said. “Suspending service will allow the team to work intensively on the identified issues with the goal of providing service that is reliable and safe.”

The city says CAF should resolve the issues free of charge since the issues have been apparent since the streetcar started running and the warranty period on the cars hasn’t even started yet. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black yesterday fired off a memo to the mayor and city council saying the city has been holding back $4 million in payments to CAF until the issues are resolved.

“Due to these ongoing manufacturer issues, at my direction, the city has not paid CAF since November 2016, nor has the city agreed to final acceptance of the vehicles, meaning the clock has not yet started on the vehicle warrantees,” Black wrote in that memo. “The city will continue to withhold final acceptance and payments, now totaling more than $4 million, on the streetcar vehicles until they are in full working order, including air compressors, brakes and the wiring systems.”

• So. Oof. Cincy is waking up to that day-two rejection hangover after basically getting booted off the economic development version of The Bachelor, with suitor Amazon saying ‘no, thanks.’ Do we have bad breath? Are we too needy? Not stylish enough? If you ask Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber CEO Jill Meyer, according to this Cincinnati Business Courier article, it’s at least partly about our struggling transportation system. Is this the first time in history someone has been dumped for not taking the bus enough? (I usually get dumped for the opposite reason but I’m not courting Jeff Bezos so yeah.)

• Seven Cincinnati City Council members want quicker action on the city’s affordable housing gap. During last year’s mayoral election, Mayor John Cranley outlined a long-term plan to shore up affordable housing funding in the city involving a fund that developers pay into. Councilman David Mann, along with others, say the city administration needs to move quicker. Mann yesterday introduced a motion directing the city to find stop-gap solutions that can quickly result in more affordable housing units. You can read more about that in our story here.

• Will Clifton’s long-beloved Ludlow Avenue become a community entertainment district with more liquor licenses? It could if council approves an application from the neighborhood’s community council and business association. If the city grants the groups’ request and designates the area around Ludlow Ave. a CED, the state could issue up to 15 more low-cost liquor licenses to restaurants there. Clifton Town Meeting and Clifton Business and Professional Association say that could help retain existing businesses and draw more to the area. Read more in our story here.

• Is Preschool Promise living up to its… err… promise? Not quite, at least not yet, though it has provided more preschool options for some students. Enrollment in the program, which voters agreed in 2016 to give about $15 million a year, isn’t as high as the predicted 2,000 students. About 1,100 have signed up — though proponents point out that the number has been increasing since enrollment started six months ago, especially at private preschools.

There are other concerns, however. Some education activists, like 2017 Cincinnati City Council candidate Michelle Dillingham, say that United Way, which runs the program, is dithering on a commitment to pay preschool teachers with the program the promised $15 an hour. That was included in the ballot language, but hasn’t happened yet. United Way is reportedly studying what wages are most appropriate while working on fundraising to supplement the levy funds to pay instructors more. Dillingham and other critics say $15 an hour for instructors was part of the deal and needs to happen now.

• As of last night, online charter the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is no more. The school is shuttered after a long fight with the state of Ohio over ECOT’s very sketchy attendance numbers, which seemed to show that the online charter over-counted the number of students logging in to the order of thousands every year. The state demanded money back for those phantom kids, and the financial blow was too much for ECOT. That’s left its students in the lurch, according to this Columbus Dispatch article.

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