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Streetcar Hits Million Rider Milestone, Overall Ridership Still Lags

Angie Jolevski wears a t-shirt proclaiming her the one millionth person to ride the Cincinnati Bell Connector.
Angie Jolevski wears a t-shirt proclaiming her the one millionth person to ride the Cincinnati Bell Connector.

Angie Jolevski brought some of her Rapid Run Middle School students downtown Friday with plans to visit the Banks and Findlay Market. As Jolevski got on board the streetcar to make the trip north, she found herself surrounded with balloons, confetti, music and mascots, and Metro recognizing her as the streetcar's one millionth rider.

It was also her first trip on the streetcar. "It's overwhelming," she said.

She received a gift basket filled with Reds, Cyclones, Cincinnati Pops, and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company tickets, gift cards, and other souvenirs.

The streetcar started operations in September 2016, and according to Metro's website, it hit the 500,000 rider milestone in May 2017. The actual 1,000,000 rider is estimated to board this weekend.

"It will probably hit it sometime today. It's hard to tell exactly who that person is. I think everyone today can celebrate that achievement," says Paul Grether, director of rail services for Metro, which runs the streetcar for Cincinnati.

A 2007 study from engineering firm HDR predicted higher ridership. With a $1.00 fare, HDR expected 3,700 people to ride the streetcar per day in the first year of operations. That number was predicted to climb to 5,000 a day by the fifth year.

In the second year of operations, actual streetcar ridership is below those estimates. According to a report to Cincinnati City Council on March 6, there were

  • 34,000 rides in Nov. 2017.
  • 32,000 in Dec. 2017.
  • 17,000 in Jan. 2017. (The streetcar system was idle for part of January because of ongoing vehicle problems during cold weather.)

Grether says Metro is working with the city to improve the reliability of the streetcar system. "The city is working on a traffic signal coordination study. We've been working with Transdev to make sure all our operating practices support reliable operation."

There have been ideas from city hall to increase ridership, including raising fines for blocking the streetcar line. "We work hard every day to run as reliable a service as we can. I know there are a lot of efforts and a lot of discussions underway. Ultimately that's going to be up to the city. We provide the data and the information to help support that and that's what we'll continue to do," Grether says.

He says with warmer weather and more activities and events in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, ridership should climb again.

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