Cincinnati, OH - When I lived in Cincinnati, I supported their proposed streetcar project, called the Cincinnati Bell Connector. I lived on a bus route and used that, so I thought a streetcar would be even more useful. Advocates say the 3.5-mile streetcar loop, which has since been built, helped revive Over the Rhine, a depressed neighborhood near downtown. Critics dismiss it as little more than a ride for tourists. But since the connector didn't start operation until after I left, I wasn't able to see for myself until this Thanksgiving, when returning to visit family.
Though my Airbnb was two blocks from one of the streetcar's stops, I didn't use it my first day there because the attraction I wanted to go to was across the river in Kentucky. Then I decided I'd rather get groceries at a large Krogers supermarket in the suburbs than the badly-stocked "Kroghetto" on the streetcar route. Nor did I use it the second day, because I ran a Turkey Trot whose starting line was only a few blocks from my Airbnb. Et cetera, et cetera. Everything I wanted to do was either a short walk to the skyline or a drive to the 'burbs. And it's not just me: fewer commuters ride the streetcar than expected. Since the streetcar lacks right-of-way, it gets stuck in traffic as easily as a bus, but without the bus' coverage area.
Still, I wanted to use this streetcar. So on my last day in Cincinnati, I took it as a tour of downtown, a cheap thrill for $2. I saw some new stores and construction along the route, but the gentrification barely went beyond those blocks. As the passenger next to me prepared to leave the streetcar, she told her child, "Well, that's the tour."
The critics were right. This is a tourist ride!