Mayor vetoes ordinance that would spend up to $600K to relocate Downtown Metro stop

Posted at 7:00 AM, Jul 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-02 08:02:14-04

CINCINNATI -- A Downtown bus stop was the point of controversy last week when Mayor John Cranley vetoed an ordinance that would have spent up to $600,000 to move Shelter G at Government Square off Main Street.

Why move the shelter? Councilman Greg Landsman defended the move during council's June 27 meeting. 

"It will eliminate a great deal of congestion there in that Government Square area," he told his colleagues. "The congestion in this area is unarguably and undebatably (sic) responsible for a huge chunk of the (streetcar) blockage issue."

As WCPO has previously reported, the area surrounding Fifth and Main streets -- where the shelter currently sits -- stands out as a hot spot for streetcar delays, bus delays and overall traffic gridlock during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

IN DEPTH: Streetcar blockages getting worse, data show

The ordinance, which council passed Wednesday before the mayor vetoed it, directed the city administration to amend its agreement with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority to pursue efforts to reduce congestion in the area. SORTA owns and operates Cincinnati Metro.

Shelter G serves four Metro routes. (Pat LaFleur/WCPO)

Councilwoman Amy Murray voted against the measure, saying it's too early to decide if the shelter even needs to go.

"It seems to me that this is premature, because I know we've been waiting for this traffic study so we can understand the flow," she said.

City Council ordered the traffic study shortly after the streetcar launched in 2016, as it quickly became clear that the streetcar was struggling to move efficiently through Downtown traffic. The study is meant to investigate traffic signal timing and other factors that could contribute to congestion, especially on Walnut and Main streets where the streetcar runs.

The study is set to be ready for council's review by the end of 2018, said Assistant City Administrator John Juech. It will be the first time the city has reviewed Downtown's traffic patterns in more than 20 years.

A city spokesperson emphasized to WCPO after the meeting that the cost would be only up to $600,000.

"We are working with all involved parties to explore available options," said interim communications director Casey Weldon.

Because of its direct correlation with streetcar delays, the amendment to the agreement with the transit agency calls for the streetcar's capital maintenance fund to pay for the new bus stop and shelter.

With that, Cranley took issue.

"Any good financial management will keep money aside for capital maintenance and operating," he said. "Since the streetcars have been in several wrecks it's a real issue to make sure we have money for fixes."

The streetcar's capital maintenance fund totals a little more than $1 million, Juech said.

"I think that there's a 'good faith' effort to look at where the streetcar stops are and where the bus stops are to reduce congestion, and that's a good thing," Cranley said. "But there's no reason to spend $600,000."

Landsman said he's open to multiple options beyond moving the stop, and he urges the city administration and SORTA to pursue the least expensive fix possible.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) and on Facebook.