Friday, October 19, 2007

Cincinnati ready to bet it all

Cincinnati OH - Cincinnati City Council is all set to hop on the streetcar bandwagon but has already had a power failure. The City Council, eager to show how business will support their plan, found out that businesses aren't quite as eager to participate as they had hoped.

Chris Bortz, a member of council, stated earlier that Duke Energy could pay to build the power grid needed for the city's streetcar plan but Duke Energy quickly put a stop to that idea. Duke Energy stated that it would not be the "sole funder" of the power infrastructure.

Not deterred, Bortz spinned Duke's refusal to go along as insignificant. He stated that "even without Duke, the streetcar line is such a good investment that other companies will put up money to make it happen."

Excuse me while I stifle a laugh.

While Bortz may find support from other businesses as he claims, that support will primarily be symbolic, not financial. The City Council wants private business to pick up the tab for about a third of the cost of the proposed $102 million dollar boondoggle. That proposed cost will surely be $200 million or more by the time all is said and done. Businesses, while supportive, have their own worries and making sure the city can build a streetcar line isn't one of them.

What is even more worrisome about the project is that the city is jumping on the streetcar bandwagon while already facing a $29 million dollar deficit without the project. Taxpayers of Cincinnati, hold onto your wallets as your about to get rolled big time if this streetcar idea isn't stopped now.

The streetcar line is being proposed strictly for developmental reasons. A virtual guarantee of financial failure. Taxpayers will be picking up the tab for decades to come for a project that won't even come close to doing what it is being promised.

Development will not occur unless the taxpayers are forced to fund tax breaks, sweetheart deals, grants and low interest loans (which are rarely ever paid back). This will cost hundreds of millions more on top of the cost to build and operate the streetcar line.

What is going to happen if this unneeded streetcar idea moves forward is this. Businesses will not even come close to contributing a third of the cost. If the city is lucky, they might get 5 to 8 percent from the private sector. Taxpayers will have to pick up the rest of the tab. Development will not happen for decades and then only on the backs of the taxpayers. Ridership will come nowhere close to projections and at the proposed 50 cent fare, a year's worth of farebox revenue will barely make a dent in the cost to operate the line for a week.

I give the Cincinnati City Council a big Lance for going out of their way to find new ways to spend money while already facing a huge deficit. The streetcar line is unneeded and the city clearly can't afford the luxury.

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