Here's another one from Cincinnati, OH. The "Queen City" has been in a slow decline for a long time (arguably since rail took over from rivers as the most important form of transport in the US) and has been another victim of the "hollowing out" pattern that many older cities show. To spark a regrowth of the inner city areas, in 2008 the council proposed a 3.9-mile streetcar loop
through some underused neighbourhoods. For sake of comparison, the tramline from the railway station to the entertainment centre is about 2 miles, so there and back makes a 4-mile loop. So it's a pretty modest proposal, budgeted in the low $100-millions, and goes through areas of the city that have 92 acres of surface parking lots (so there's plenty of opportunity for development around the line). There was an attempt in 2009 to block the project that was soundly voted down, all in all it seems that there's some pretty well developed support and good reasons for it.
Enter the Cincinnati Enquirer, the local paper. Inspite of their claims that
"[a]s we have written before, The Enquirer does not oppose the streetcar", their coverage provides a steady flow of negative press about the project and regular opportunities for the streetcar's opponents to have their opinions printed.
Enquirer poll buoys streetcar foes
A new poll showing strong opposition to the proposed Cincinnati streetcar, particularly to borrowing tens of millions of dollars to build it, has redoubled opponents' determination to block the project ... "Once again, we see that Cincinnatians are a lot smarter than their politicians," said leading streetcar opponent Tom Luken, a former Cincinnati congressman, mayor and councilman.
Tom Luken gets 3 more quotes, and 4 other councillors who oppose the streetcar all get attention to. On the pro-side, only one person gets a mention. And who was that survey from? The paper themselves, of course. Indeed, they liked the poll so much, they gave it their headline that day - Poll: Most oppose streetcars
(In fairness, several days later they did give a supporter the chance to criticize the survey in a guest editorial - Streetcar poll biased, misleading
And here's another marvellous piece of editorializing - Streetcar could reduce number of parking spaces for Cincinnati residents
which comes with the sub-heading "City thinks people won't need cars, wants to change zoning code". The actual content of the article is better written than the deliberately inflamatory headline; in the area around the streetcar stops, why not reduce the number of parking spaces that developers are required to provide:
By a unanimous vote, the Cincinnati Planning Commission on Friday approved a zoning code change that would allow the city to reduce by 50 percent the parking places required for any residence within 600 feet of a streetcar stop. If that reduction lowers the number required to fewer than three, the building’s developer or owner would not have to provide any spaces for residents.
Currently, Cincinnati’s code requires between one and two spaces per residential unit, according to city planner Cameron Ross.
The theory behind the proposed change, which must be approved by City Council, is that many people living near the streetcar route will depend on it for much of their daily transportation, reducing their use of cars. That in turn would lower the number of residential parking spaces needed in buildings along or near the streetcar route, which will extend from Downtown’s riverfront to the Uptown communities around the University of Cincinnati.
Historic preservationists also like the idea of reduced parking requirements, because space mandates often consume more land and complicate efforts to save older buildings.
So there's almost a note of regret when the city received a federal grant for part of the costs - Cincinnati gets $25M for streetcar line
. "The long, contentious debate over whether Cincinnati’s proposed streetcar system will be built has effectively ended, with a $25 million federal grant announced Thursday having made the controversial project all but a done deal." But that doesn't mean that they're going to go down quietly, as the next paragraph says:
The ferocity of the verbal salvos on both sides Thursday, however, demonstrates that the debate over whether the streetcar should be built likely will continue unabated for years.
And they make good on that threat - err, I mean comment - giving the afore-mentioned Tom Luken et al
another airing in that very article, and with blog postings like Moving beyond the old streetcar questions
(which seemed like all the same old questions all over again).