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Councilman calls for new streetcar manager, nonprofit organization

Councilman calls for new streetcar manager, nonprofit organization
Posted at 1:02 AM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 10:10:16-04

CINCINNATI -- After a year and a half of technical and managerial issues, one City Council member issued late Wednesday a list of "fixes" for Cincinnati's beleaguered streetcar.

Council member Greg Landsman heads up the Major Projects and Smart Government Committee, which oversees most big transportation projects, like the streetcar. In his motion, Landsman called for the creation of an executive director position who would report to both the city and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which oversees streetcar operations on the city's behalf.

The new position would also work with a new nonprofit organization -- consisting of corporate and community leaders -- that would support the executive director's leadership.

Proposed streetcar management structure, from City Council member Greg Landsman. (Provided)

"The executive director must be empowered to manage all the aspects of the streetcar operations, including all contracts and decisions," Landsman wrote in his motion. "(T)his new leader is arguably the only way to establish an effective management structure in the short-run."

Concerns over streetcar management have brewed since March, when officials worried the streetcar's management structure might not be working. Currently, the city owns the streetcar, and SORTA oversees operations, which are carried out by a third party, Transdev. 

Councilwoman Amy Murray chaired the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee during the previous council term -- since renamed as the Major Projects and Smart Government Committee -- and oversaw streetcar construction and its launch. She suggested there were too many cooks in the kitchen.

"If you look at what's happened in the administration of the streetcar over the last two years, it's not working," she told Landsman's committee. "If we don't make a change, it's going to continue not working."

In that same meeting, Assistant City Manager John Juech said, to address the streetcar's problems, the administration needed "one neck to choke" when looking for answers to the streetcar's continuing issues.

"I don't know if we're going to get where we need to go under this management structure," he told the committee.

Landsman's motion calls for several provisions to be put in place until an executive director and nonprofit can be established, including:

  • performance and financial reviews from both the operations firm and the streetcar vehicle manufacturers
  • an "expedited plan" on vehicle maintenance and repairs
  • a plan to resolve streetcar track blockage issues
  • a feasibility report on making the streetcar free to ride
  • new marketing strategies
  • expanding the program that provides tax incentives to developers investing along the streetcar route

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