It's A Wonderful Light Rail System

In It's A Wonderful Life, George Bailey got to see an alternate world where he had never existed. A couple weeks ago, Kevin Osborne over at CityBeat blogged about the 2002 Metro Moves regional transit plan that overwhelmingly failed at the ballot. He offers a glimpse of what could have been.

In November 2002 voters overwhelmingly defeated a proposed $2.6 billion light rail system for Hamilton County. The measure to increase the county’s sales tax by a half-cent was rejected 68-32 percent.
Perhaps the timing of the issue was not the best, occurring only a few years after the sales tax increase to build the stadiums. But moving on, what's this about streetcars (emphasis mine)?
A little-known aspect of the Metro Moves plan called for implementing a streetcar system downtown and in the uptown area around the University of Cincinnati and area hospitals. That system would’ve become operational in 2006 — two years ago.
Further into the crystal ball, CityKin has posted an email from John Schneider's pro-transit email list along these same lines.
At $126, a barrel of oil now costs $100 more than it cost on November 5, 2002 when Hamilton County voters defeated an extensive plan for transportation choices here. Economists hired to study the plan concluded that it would cost an average Hamilton County family $68 per year, about what I paid for a tank of gas last week.

The plan defeated in 2002 would have built sixty miles of light rail in five corridors: along I-74 to Green Township; I-75 to Tri-County; I-71 to Blue Ash; and a line from Uptown through Hyde Park to Newtown. Another rail line would have enabled Cincinnatians to travel across the county without having to go downtown and transfer. There were two streetcar lines, a 25% increase in the bus fleet, new bus routes and neighborhood hubs and more hours of bus service. When the plan was fully built-out by 2030, 95% of Hamilton County residents would have transit within a mile of their homes. It would be nice to have that option now.
Oh well.

Back in reality, one might figure that the cost of gas will continue to rise, with oil being a finite resource and all. One might also figure that this means a rail system will happen some day - maybe not in our lifetimes, but some day.
With gasoline prices moving ever upward, some urban planners think it’s inevitable that some sort of commuter rail system will be built here someday. If true, the 2002 sales tax defeat only means the completion date is even further off and the total cost will be higher, due to inflation.

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