City council sets price for summer monthly streetcar pass

CINCINNATI -- It will cost $33 per month for unlimited rides on the streetcar this summer.

The city's transportation committee convened a special meeting Wednesday, after learning last week the transit authority and city administration initially recommended a $50 price point for the promotional monthly passes. The passes will will be available for June, July and August.

City Council member Chris Seelbach proposed the $33 after reviewing fare revenue sales data the transit authority provided.

"Only four people spent more than $40 riding the streetcar in March," Seelbach said.

But Assistant City Manager John Juech warned: "Forty (dollars) would be workable. If we go lower, we might see lower fare revenues."

Council member Kevin Flynn, who initially proposed $25 for the monthly pass, said a higher price might deter new riders.

"This is a promotion," he said. "This is not just about making the streetcar more convenient for people who already ride it, but to capture new riders."

IN DEPTH: Would monthly pass increase streetcar ridership?

Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority -- which oversees streetcar operations -- told the committee the sales data presented only represents repeated purchases from riders using credit cards or the Cincy EZ Ride mobile app.

"If someone's using cash, we don't have that data," she said.

Still, Seelbach insisted the numbers paint a clear enough picture. "Common sense tells us that people aren't spending $40 in cash a month to ride the streetcar."

Because SORTA aims to begin offering the passes for purchase in May, chair Amy Murray urged her committee to come to a consensus quickly. The $33 price got unanimous approval, although it was not a decision that required a formal vote.

Hilvers said SORTA is in talks with local non-profit ArtsWave to coordinate a similar promotion for the fall months.

Due to Federal Transit Administration regulations, SORTA cannot offer a permanent monthly pass option for the streetcar without a full report from the city administration and FTA approval. Promotional offers are exempt from this restriction.

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