The Streetcar/SORTA Divorce Is About To Be Final

Dec 10, 2019

The city of Cincinnati is about to add transit agency to its list of responsibilities.  

Starting Jan. 1, the city will take over the maintenance and operation of the city's streetcar system.  

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) has been doing that under an agreement from 2015.  

A City Council committee approved an ordinance Tuesday that will terminate the plan, and the full council will vote Wednesday.

"This would be essentially the final document to complete the transition between the two entities regarding the streetcar," Interim Deputy Director of the Streetcar Travis Jeric said. "It would be effective on New Year's Eve, so that the city would take full management of the streetcar January 1."

SORTA approved its part of the plan last month.  

The transit agency had wanted to be separated from the often-controversial streetcar before going to voters next March with a proposed sales tax increase to fund Cincinnati Metro buses and infrastructure projects in Hamilton County.  

The SORTA Board approved ballot language Tuesday to place the issue on the ballot. It would ask voters to approve a 0.8% increase in the county sales tax.  A sentence in the ballot language states: "None of the levy money shall be used for the Cincinnati Streetcar."

Council Member Chris Seelbach has expressed opposition to the city running the streetcar system since it was first proposed earlier this year.

"I voted no because I don't think that it's a good idea that the city is who's running our streetcar system," Seelbach said. "I think our transit authority - which is almost how every other streetcar system is running in the country - should be running our streetcar. And so that's why I voted no."

Transdev has been and will continue to operate the streetcar under a contract that was with SORTA and is being transferred to the city.

Sometime next year, the city is expected to make riding the streetcar free and to complete work that will give the streetcar priority at some traffic lights along its route in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.