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Transit Authority, Not City, Will Choose Streetcar Operator

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SORTA

Once again this week, Cincinnati Council could not reach an agreement on an approach to operate the city's streetcar system. 

The group was expected to approve the "management" option to let a private contractor provide oversight while current unionized transit workers would operate the streetcars.  But Council Member Wendell Young changed his mind on the issue. 

He had supported it during a committee meeting Tuesday, but Wednesday he said, "No matter what we have tried to do, we cannot seem to get away from the impasse that we have with SORTA (Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority). We're at the point now where we want to blow up the agreement. We're talking about the feds stepping in perhaps wanting to sue us. If we have to start over, we're looking at being fined. There's nothing good that can come of this. I'm not going to drag it out any longer."

Council member Christopher Smitherman has opposed the project from the beginning and says what's happening now is the result of no planning.

"Those who have supported the streetcar, you're in a pickle. You're having to make choices like households have to make choices. You've gotten us into this mess and it's your responsibility to get us out of this mess."

Council also rejected setting aside $2 million from the city's expected budget surplus this year to help pay for streetcar operations.

There was some debate about cutting back service hours. Doing so would free money to pick the more expensive union contract option.

Mayor John Cranley says he doesn't believe the streetcar needs to offer 15 minute service. He says there's no demand for it.

SORTA says it will meet July 6 to begin discussing an operating approach.  It's likely to be the "turn key" option which lets a private contract manage the system and also hire its own operators.

In a statement, SORTA writes:

Under the terms of SORTA's streetcar operating and maintenance contract with the City and consistent with SORTA's Federally compliant procurement requirements, the SORTA Board will award a contract in July.

*The July 6 meeting was originally set for June 29. This story had been updated to reflect a date change by SORTA.