Dispute About Extra Streetcar Service For This Upcoming Weekend

Sep 13, 2016

Credit Jay Hanselman / WVXU

Everyone seems to agree that two will not be enough, and four should be on the tracks.  

But Assistant City Manager John Juech said there is a disagreement between the city and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which is running the system under a contract with Cincinnati.

"SORTA is saying that they will not authorize Transdev to provide the additional service levels unless the city at this point commits at least an additional $20,000 for the weekend," Juech said.

Vice Mayor David Mann called the situation bizarre.

"We will provide what the contract requires except we won't unless you give us more,"
Mann said.

Mann suggested putting extra streetcars on the route this weekend and then taking the issue to court.  

Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld also seemed perplexed by SORTA's position during an exchange with a SORTA representative at Tuesday city council committee meeting.

"I just thinking digging in on the front-end on the heels of the opening weekend is not the right approach and I would encourage you to send that to your supervisor as well," Sittenfeld said.

Council member Amy Murray also said there needs to be a long-term solution to the problem, so the committee is not making decisions on streetcar service during busy weekends and other special events in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

SORTA General Manager Dwight Ferrell raised the issue Monday in an e-mail to City Manager Harry Black.

"Pursuant to Section 2.7 of the 2015 Cincinnati Streetcar Operations and Maintenance Intergovernmental Agreement (OMIGA) regarding supplemental service:  At the direction of the City, SORTA will provide supplemental Cincinnati Streetcar service for Special Events or for Charter Operations," Ferrell wrote. "This supplemental service will be contingent upon availability of Cincinnati Streetcar vehicles to provide the service and the availability of qualified personnel.  The City will pay for the additional costs of such services upon receipt of SORTA's invoice."

Ferrell asked Black to advise how the city wished to proceed with "off setting" supplemental service.

Black responded that this was not the city's understanding of the OMIGA.

"Must say that I am disappointed in the overall lack of leadership on the part of SORTA in the operationalization of the streetcar in general," Black wrote in an e-mail. "... appears as though SORTA is simply lacking in its ability to get this done on multiple fronts."

Unless there is a solution, from late Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday only two streetcars will be operating.

Last weekend there were at least four streetcars operating during the opening weekend, which drew large crowds.