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City Manager, SORTA Sparring Over Streetcar Wait Times

Jay Hanselman

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black is putting pressure on the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) to eliminate long waits at streetcar stations, but SORTA officials say that will cost money.

City Manager Harry Black wrote a letter Monday to Dwight Ferrell, CEO of SORTA, saying SORTA and the company it hired to run the daily operations of the Cincinnati Bell Connector, Transdev, is not meeting its promise of no more than a 15-minute wait at any streetcar station.

SORTA's contract with the city requires the 15-minute "headways."

"If the headway problem is not resolved once the streetcar operations normalize in the coming weeks, the City expects that SORTA will motivate Transdev to take any and all necessary steps to meet its contractual obligations,'' Black wrote.

Black said he has "every reason to hope" that Transdev will cooperate with SORTA and the city.

But, Black wrote, "if the headway issue is not resolved expeditiously in accordance with contractual obligations, the City, as owner of the system, will not hesitate to use its express authority under the Transdev contract to protect its interests."

That could be construed as a warning that the city would take legal action.

Ferrell sent a one-page letter back to Black Monday, saying the "outstanding ridership in the first three weeks of operations are a testament to the great work that the City of Cincinnati, Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority and Transdev can accomplish together."

But, he said, it will cost money to fix the glitches.

"Many of the issues you reference are related to ridership far exceeding projections, the growing pains of a new system and assuring adequate capacity of the system,'' Ferrell wrote to Black. "We are prepared to increase capacity by adding vehicles as requested by the City, but that requires additional resources."

The streetcar system opened to the public on Sept. 9.  SORTA said the streetcar system handled 102,932 passengers in its first two weeks of operation.