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Hole in Cincinnati streetcar operating budget?


Cincinnati officials could be looking to plug about a $500,000 hole in the streetcar operating budget.  

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which will run the system, now estimates fare revenues will be about $675,000 a year.  That is less than an earlier estimate of $1 million.  

Part of the reduction could be in how fares are charged.  SORTA is planning for $1 for a two-hour pass.  Earlier studies were based on $1 per trip.

“If going from a timed model to a per ride model will yield a net increase of any dollar amount, then it would be worth going back to that original model,” said Council Member Yvette Simpson said.  “Which is what this proposal was based on, it wasn’t based on the time model.”

SORTA Rail Service Manager Paul Grether said changing to per trip could be a problem.

“If the decision is made to switch to a per ride model there would likely be some additional fare equipment that would be necessary for validation of fares on board the vehicle or other ways that we can ensure that there’s a check in and check out process,” Grether said.

The city is also still looking for $1 million for streetcar start-up costs.  That money is needed even before the system begins offering passenger service in September 2016.

Meanwhile, a council committee wants a report on possible funding sources to extend the city's streetcar system to the Uptown area.  

Supporters, like Council Member Chris Seelbach, said they are just looking for numbers on how much that would cost.

“This is not in any way an indication that we are ready for or planning for Phase 1B or Phase 2, it’s just getting some facts on paper,” Seelbach said.

Seelbach said such a report will not cost taxpayers additional money.  But at least one member disagrees with that assessment.

“This seems to be beyond the scope of the normal report that’s part of what we do,” said Council Member Kevin Flynn.  “It will involve spending additional taxpayer dollars.  I don’t see how we can do it without spending taxpayer dollars for this.”

Opponent also said any discussion about the next phase of the streetcar should wait until the current project in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine is complete and operating.