The University of Cincinnati is a proposed station stop along what may one day become a four-mile streetcar system in town. As such, UC recently turned to an internationally recognized economics researcher to help analyze whether the costs and benefits of such a system had been rigorously and accurately projected.
“We applied the smell test to the HDR study,” said Vredeveld, meaning he compared the process and methodology of other studies to that of the HDR study. The UC center also compared the ridership estimates in the HDR study to actual ridership for the Memphis and Portland, Oregon, streetcar systems.
“And we found that HDR was in the ballpark,” Vredeveld stated, regarding both ridership and economic-development payoffs in the form of increased property values, business development, employment and tax revenues along and close to the streetcar line.
Looking at what critics have to say
The UC center also closely examined criticisms of mass transit, specifically from the Cato Institute as applied to Portland, Oregon. They found that most of the criticisms don’t apply to Cincinnati streetcar proposals. That’s because the focus of the Cato Institute critique of Portland were more broadly based objections to the political process and a regional transit system – not related to any dispute of ridership and development results related to streetcars.
ConclusionCincinnati is on the right track in considering a streetcar system, according to Vredeveld. The likely average net economic payoff of $315.8 million, as estimated by HDR over a 35-year period, is sound, as is HDR’s most conservative net economic payoff estimate of $186.8 million over 35 years. Even if this most conservative payoff comes to pass, “the proposed streetcar system is economically worthwhile,” said Vredeveld.
M.B. Reilly | EurekAlert!
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