Statewide groups say pro-rail vote in Cincinnati essential for keeping young people, jobs and hope in Ohio

For Immediate Release
Nov. 9, 2011

Ken Prendergast
Executive Director
All Aboard Ohio
kenprendergast@allaboardohio.org
(216) 288-4883

Jack Shaner
Deputy Director
Ohio Environmental Council
jack@theOEC.org
(614) 466-1693
________

All Aboard Ohio and the Ohio Environmental Council congratulate the voters of Cincinnati for turning back anti-rail and anti-city forces who would restrain the city from competing with others for economic development investments.

On Tuesday, Cincinnati voters took control of their city’s future by voting 51.5-48.5 against Issue 48, a proposed City Charter amendment that would have prevented the city from participating for 10 years in any passenger rail improvements, including its planned streetcar. This was the second defeated ballot issue since 2009 that was intended to stop all passenger rail development in the city.

The streetcar prevailed, in spite of alleged false statements by rail opponents who repeatedly claimed that the streetcar project has already caused city fire stations to close. Opponents even tried to confuse voters by saying that a “no” vote would stop the streetcar; actually, a “yes” vote was necessary to pass the charter amendment to kill the streetcar.

Legal action by Cincinnatians For Progress is pending against streetcar opponents who, incredibly, asked a federal court in Cincinnati this week to overturn a long-standing Ohio election law which prohibits making false statements in an election campaign. All Aboard Ohio and the Ohio Environmental Council congratulate Cincinnatians For Progress for running an honest and informed campaign to defeat Issue 48.

Cincinnati voters also voted Tuesday for City Council candidates – all are at-large seats in Cincinnati. When the new city council organizes in January, it will have a supermajority of streetcar supporters, with six of its nine members solidly will be solid pro-streetcar. This should enable City Hall to fend off any further attacks that could keep the city from moving forward.

“Finally, there is a ray of light for passenger rail in Ohio – a ray of light rail, that is,” said Jack Shaner, Deputy Director of the Ohio Environmental Council. “Better mobility, cleaner air, new investment – this is the ‘cargo’ of benefits that Cincinnati voters have once and for all positioned Cincinnati to receive.”

“Forcing young professionals to drive everywhere is a sure way to drive them right out of Ohio,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast. “In the 21st century, if a city or a state lacks quality public transportation that includes rail, it is going to have a tougher time competing for young professionals and their entrepreneurial spirit for creating the jobs of tomorrow.”

Young people do not have the same love affair for cars that their parents or grandparents had. The share of miles driven by people aged 21 to 30 in the U.S. fell to 13.7% in 2009 from 20.8% in 1995, according to the 2010 Federal Highway Administration’s National Household Travel Survey. This decline came despite the fact that the current crop of 20-somethings is the largest generation in American history. The Baby Boom is second.

According to business research firms Kiplinger and J.D. Power & Associates, as well as automakers like Ford and Toyota, young people increasingly value their participation in the digital revolution more than buying new cars. Meanwhile, public transit allows them to use their smart phones and be more productive while they travel.

They also view rail transit and the walkable neighborhoods they energize as more environmentally sustainable than gas guzzling, drive-everywhere suburbs. Rail transit provides long-term infrastructure and high-volume pedestrian traffic around which dynamic urban neighborhoods are emerging in every city that has a significant rail investment.

Thanks to Tuesday’s vote, this will soon become evident in Cincinnati, too.

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