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No City Decision Yet On Proposal To Operate Streetcar

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SORTA

A Cincinnati council committee could not reach a decision Tuesday on the best way to operate the city's streetcar system.  So the group will meet again next Wednesday.  

There are two proposals with about a $700,000 difference between them.  

Council Member Yvette Simpson said she is concerned about the wages and benefits for the people who will operate the streetcars.

“I want to make sure we are not subscribing to the idea that if we bring a turn-key operator we’re going to allow them to be able to pay people less than what you guys would be paying them if you guys are managing them,” Simpson said.  “We want to make sure that people are paid fairly.”

The turn-key plan would let a private contractor manage and provide all the employees for the streetcar.  

The management approach means a contractor would manage the streetcar for a fixed cost and current Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority workers would fill some of the new positions.

SORTA CEO Dwight Ferrell said reducing streetcar service to close the gap could be a problem.

“We actually end up in kind of this death spiral in that, decreased fares mean decreasing revenue,” Ferrell said.  “And our fares are sensitive to changes in service, so if you cut service more, there’s even more less in revenue to a point where, how practical is it to provide the service.”

It appears a majority of Council favors the management approach.  But that could face a mayoral veto since it exceeds the initial estimate of $4.2 million to operate the streetcar.  It would take six votes to override a veto.

SORTA said it needs a decision quickly so it doesn't delay or interfere with the delivery of the first streetcar vehicle this fall.