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Streetcar Operator Vote Can Proceed On Monday; SORTA Choosing Illinois Company

Tana Weingartner

A judge says the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) can move forward with a vote on how the Cincinnati streetcar will be operated.

The Amalgamated Transit Union and the local AFL-CIO branch wanted Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve E. Martin to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop that vote. They argued City Council passed a motion saying council  would decide between a turn-key or management operation system.

City Council did, in fact, pass a motion saying it wanted to make the choice. However, it failed to actually do so during a June 24 meeting, effectively turning the decision over to SORTA.

The city and SORTA argued that only ordinances are binding law - not motions - so SORTA is within its rights to make the decision.

The judge agreed and denied the TRO request.

SORTA is scheduled to meet Monday morning at 9 o'clock. It's expected the board will approve a contract with Illinois-based Transdev.

The unions were also seeking an injunction and that request may still go forward. They have until a hearing Tuesday morning to decide.

SORTA Will Vote To Approve Transdev As Streetcar Operator:

Credit Provided / Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority
Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority

SORTA's staff is recommending the board approve Transdev's offer. Transdev operates the New Orleans streetcar system as well as "conventional fixed-route, paratransit, BRT, student transportation, university and airport shuttle, commuter rail, light rail, streetcar, taxicab and limousine service with over 18,000 employees and contracts in more than 200 locations across the U.S." according to a fact sheet provided by SORTA.

The Transdev proposal will cost:

o Start-up through Sept, 15, 2016: $ 1.10 million
o Year 1 beginning Sept. 15, 2016: $ 3.27 million
o Maximum: start-up, base contract + 5 option years $38.33 million
(start-up + 10-year contract maximum)

SORTA's Sallie Hilvers says electricity costs, right of way costs and other administrative responsibilities beyond just the $3.27 million contract mean the total cost will be closer to $4 million, but under the $4.2 million council had set aside.

Proposal details: