SORTA Board Approves Streetcar Operating Agreement

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority board of trustees voted to approve the proposed Operating & Maintenance Agreement, which delineates the responsibilities of SORTA and the City of Cincinnati related to the operations of the Cincinnati Streetcar. 

Defines relationship between City and SORTA for streetcar

CINCINNATI - The Cincinnati Streetcar is an economic development tool, but it’s also a transportation mode that must be integrated with current transit service to operate efficiently and effectively. 

Today, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority board of trustees voted to approve the proposed Operating & Maintenance Agreement, which delineates the responsibilities of SORTA and the City of Cincinnati related to the operations of the Cincinnati Streetcar.  The agreement, which has been in development with the city for several months, has been approved by Cincinnati City Council. 

The City has adopted dedicated funding sources for the streetcar operations, including property tax abatement offset revenue, parking fees, fares, and advertising.  Under the agreement, funding to operate the streetcar would be provided by the City of Cincinnati through an annual funding request submitted by SORTA.

There are advantages to this City/SORTA partnership:

  • Federal compliance: As the designated recipient of federal transit funding for the Greater Cincinnati area, SORTA currently administers the federal grant dollars for the streetcar project.  SORTA will continue to oversee compliance with Federal Transit Administration requirements for operations, procurement, and safety.  SORTA will be responsible for all FTA reporting for the streetcar.
  • Integration with Metro: The streetcar operating plan and fare policy will be closely coordinated with Metro bus service to maximize both efficiency and ridership, reduce costs and ensure equity for existing and future transit riders.
  • Reduced cost by leveraging existing public investments: The streetcar will share existing Metro back-office systems, such as real-time information, fare and ticketing technology, radio control center integration, and information system software.
  • Transit expertise: SORTA is in the business of operating transit and can provide administrative support to the streetcar without duplication of effort and cost (safety, procurement, communications, scheduling, and other transit-related functions).

Some of the most significant aspects of the Operating & Maintenance agreement include:

  • Sets the process for City approval of the fare and fare policy for the Cincinnati Streetcar
  • Delineates the responsibilities that the City will handle, including traffic signal maintenance, clearing blockages from the streetcar such as improperly parked cars, cooperation on utility interfaces, safety and security
  • Delineates SORTA’s responsibilities, including streetcar operations, vehicle maintenance, facilities maintenance, fare collection system provision and maintenance, marketing, and advertising sales
  • Provides for the most cost-effective and equitable approach by leveraging the existing taxpayer funded investments in SORTA and the City of Cincinnati. 

SORTA operates Metro and Access non-profit, tax-funded public transit services, providing about 17 million rides per year in Greater Cincinnati. 

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