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Author Topic: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News  (Read 207896 times)

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Offline taestell

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30210 on: February 08, 2018, 02:03:01 PM »
There has definitely been deferred maintenance. Transdev has had so much turnover, they have hired and fired like 5 different general managers since the system opened. Many of the best people at the city, Metro, and Transdev has been so frustrated with the way that the City runs things that they have left for jobs in other cities.

Offline Gordon Bombay

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30211 on: February 08, 2018, 02:15:30 PM »
I said this from the first day of operation - accurate real time displays are not a cute toy. Not in 2016 (or now). They are a necessity. Not spending money on them was a decision made by dinosaurs who didn't know what they were doing, or by streetcar killers with a political angle to exploit. Signal timing and prioritization are not esoteric luxury items, they are essential core components of the system, because reliable transit availability is absolutely essential.

This. This. This. 1,000x THIS! Love your comment, Jim.

The cold weather issues being experienced currently and recently aren't unique to our system. Kansas City has faced similar issues, but seems to somehow be tackling them a lot more effectively. Let's put those mechanical issues aside for a moment, though, and go back to the core issues with the Cincinnati Streetcar.

- Real-Time signs took way too long to work properly and effectively. By the time they did, confidence in them had been eroded.

- Even if the real-time signs didn't work, effective tracking via a phone app would've more than made up for it. However, unlike Kansas City and several other similar/bigger systems throughout the nation/world, the Cincinnati Bell Connector has no app that allows you to track vehicles. You can pay fare from your phone, but that app provides absolutely no useful information for knowing when/if a train is coming.

- Even if an app wasn't developed, there are free, downloadable alternatives using data put out by transit agencies. I've used the free "Transit" app on iOS in New York City, Boston, Las Vegas, and Chicago; that app tracks those systems far, far, far more effectively than any Metro bus or Cincinnati streetcar. When the streetcar is working, it rarely appears on the app in real-time at all. When it does, it's only showing 1 (or if you're lucky maybe 2!) vehicles. Ironically, the only time I've seen it show all vehicles in a reliable format was when Metro buses marked as "Route 100" were filling in during the recent shutdown. If other cities can somehow make this seemingly reliable service work, why can't we?

- Even if the real-time signs aren't reliable and there's no app available, a proper frequency wouldn't right the ship, but it would make things easier. It's a lot easier to walk to a station and think "Hmm, at most, I have ten minutes until a train comes" than think "I believe trains come every 12-15 minutes, maybe." Yet, our frequency is ridiculous.

- Even if you rely on frequency and no technology, this system was designed with certain sections having proper signal timing in mind. When that was eliminated, relying on any sort of frequency is just a guess at that point, because cars are likely to get bogged down or delayed, especially in evening commute traffic. And then there's the whole issues of vehicles blocking the tracks and facing no repercussions.

I don't buy into the arguments that you can "walk faster than the streetcar." You can't. I've walked from 4th to 12th several times on nice days and been passed by trains making that trip quicker. However, when you factor in that your station wait time could be anywhere from a few to fifteen (or more) minutes, why wouldn't you just hop on a bike or start hoofing it? If you're a downtown office worker, having no confidence in location, availability, or frequency gives you little incentive to use the system to grab lunch, run errands, etc. within a reasonable time frame.

There are all these little things that can be quite clearly and easily fixed, yet here we are over a year into this thing opening and what's been done? Nothing.

We can all commiserate about Cranley, Smitherman, and their ilk. At least they've said they've been opposed from the beginning, that was never any secret. But where's the leadership looking to make this thing not just run, or even run well, but just run properly?. Who's out there promoting that it should be done right, should be an asset, and something we can do well? Because like it or not, it's here to stay.

Yet P.G., Seelbach, and Young, who have been proponents in the past, are seemingly quiet (or bogged down with twitter spats). Where's the leadership? In my opinion, Murray handled things alright for someone who was opposed and clearly isn't going to tackle the issue, David Mann always seemed lukewarm. We won't see them be champions anytime soon. Landsman, Dennard, and Pastor are new or made their positions known.

So who, if anyone, of our elected city officials is going to step up?

Sorry for the rant, but it just seems so typical of Cincinnati to not be able to remotely execute a project that has been proven successful in so many other places. These problems aren't hidden and the solutions aren't some mystifying sorcery. Yet, here we are.

Edit: Spelling
« Last Edit: February 08, 2018, 02:20:09 PM by Gordon Bombay »

Offline jmecklenborg

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30212 on: February 08, 2018, 02:43:38 PM »
you can "walk faster than the streetcar." You can't.


You can't jog faster than the streetcar. But the perception that you can is the same fun house mirror section of the brain that makes people think they're going to save time by crawling around a supermarket parking past open spaces looking for a close space. 

Offline edale

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30213 on: February 08, 2018, 04:10:55 PM »
You can't walk faster than the streetcar, but you can definitely walk to a destination faster than taking the streetcar. If you're walking from Fountain Square to 12/Vine, you're talking maybe a 10-15 minute walk. Currently, you'd often have to wait longer than that just to get a streetcar. But even if you only have to wait 8-10 mins for a streetcar, you still have to walk a two blocks over to Main Street, and take a 3-5 minute ride up to 12/Vine, so it ends up being about the same amount of time or slightly longer to take the streetcar. Add in rush hour traffic, and you can certainly cover more ground on foot than the streetcar. If the route was longer, then those wait times become less significant, because walking wouldn't really be a viable option.

Offline jmecklenborg

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30214 on: February 08, 2018, 04:30:19 PM »
I am skeptical that you can walk from The Banks station to 12th & Vine faster than the streetcar, even if you get a 10-minute head-start, except under the very worst conditions.  I have actually raced the streetcar while jogging (usually several miles into a jog, so I'm not sprinting) several times for fun and usually get passed by it right at 12th & Vine.  It then pulls far ahead as it circles around Washington Park if it catches any green lights.  It is much faster, generally, in OTR than it is downtown, but the extent to which it is doesn't come into focus until you actually try to beat it on foot. 

Offline LtCheese

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30215 on: February 09, 2018, 09:52:35 AM »
It is much faster, generally, in OTR than it is downtown, but the extent to which it is doesn't come into focus until you actually try to beat it on foot. 

This would lend credence to making Walnut and Main transit only south of Court St or something like that. I wish that could get some traction because as someone had mentioned earlier in this thread, it could be a great idea.

Offline Gordon Bombay

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30216 on: February 09, 2018, 10:26:09 AM »
It is much faster, generally, in OTR than it is downtown, but the extent to which it is doesn't come into focus until you actually try to beat it on foot. 

This would lend credence to making Walnut and Main transit only south of Court St or something like that. I wish that could get some traction because as someone had mentioned earlier in this thread, it could be a great idea.

This would be a boon to Metro buses as well. I used to catch an express on Walnut and would track it. The bus was always on schedule, but it rarely ever made it to my stop (and then Gov. Square D) on time, due to traffic on Walnut. If the streetcar had a dedicated lane shared with buses and a priority light at 5th that allowed that buses to turn into Gov. Square/5th/or continue South with the streetcar, it would really hasten not just transit, but ALL traffic. Same with Main. I now catch a bus on Main/7 every day and it's a constant flow of Metro routes contesting with cars. Main generally flows better than Walnut, though.

Online IAGuy39

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30217 on: February 09, 2018, 10:34:15 AM »
^Yes, I don't think we would need transit only streets, just lanes.  That would push it through so much faster.

I'd be more than willing to send out e-mails to council on this.  Anyone want to make up a template and we can all send it in with our thoughts?  I think we need to emphasize, we are our taxpayers and the lack of action is a detriment to the investment.  Roll up your sleeves in a non-partisan non-bias way and make it work.  You know what we need to do.

Also, something like a timeline of sort to demand dates (and we can demand because we are the taxpayers, they are the stewards of our money):

When is the traffic study finished and published and what is the mode of action? (also I want to ask when it was started so I want to make certain and compare it to when it was supposed to start)

When is the real time traffic fixed and what is the mode of action to get this fixed?

List of critical chokepoints on the streetcar and mode of action to fix?

List of track blockages and mode of action to fix?

Offline jim uber

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30218 on: February 09, 2018, 11:08:31 AM »
You can't walk faster than the streetcar, but you can definitely walk to a destination faster than taking the streetcar. If you're walking from Fountain Square to 12/Vine, you're talking maybe a 10-15 minute walk. Currently, you'd often have to wait longer than that just to get a streetcar. But even if you only have to wait 8-10 mins for a streetcar, you still have to walk a two blocks over to Main Street, and take a 3-5 minute ride up to 12/Vine, so it ends up being about the same amount of time or slightly longer to take the streetcar. Add in rush hour traffic, and you can certainly cover more ground on foot than the streetcar. If the route was longer, then those wait times become less significant, because walking wouldn't really be a viable option.
Hey I've never heard anyone ever say that the streetcar is better/more convenient for every trip, right? It just needs to be better/more convenient for a significant number of the possible trips. And, yes, it can be, for more than enough trips to make the streetcar a genuine asset to the core region. I don't think you believe that, but I do. The only way to tell is to remove the various things that are current operational impediments. Everyone should agree to do at least that.

Offline taestell

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30219 on: February 09, 2018, 11:13:16 AM »
I live on Main at basically the midpoint of the streetcar route. So depending on where I'm going it may or may not make sense for me to take it. If I'm going to Rhinegeist, it absolutely makes sense for me to walk 2 blocks the wrong direction in order to catch the streetcar at 12th & Main, then ride it 4 blocks west and 8 blocks north to my destination. If I'm just going to Vine Street, I'll just walk two blocks west. The streetcar is not about making sense for every trip every time. It's about having different transit options that might make sense for different people making different trips in different circumstances.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2018, 12:22:32 PM by taestell »

Offline Ram23

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30220 on: February 09, 2018, 11:53:50 AM »
Main generally flows better than Walnut, though.

Walnut has a huge bottleneck between 6th and 7th - it is only 3 lanes because of the Aronoff sidewalk bumpout, one of which is always crowded with stopped cars due to the 21C valet. Anytime I'm on the streetcar heading south, particularly in the evening, I get off at the stop just north of 7th. It's almost always faster to walk south from there. A transit only lane there would be the biggest help, but seems difficult to implement because of the hotel valet and the fact that the streetcar tracks are essentially right down the middle of the street.  Making that whole block a transit/pedestrian only street would solve the problem, and might even improve traffic flow all around in the long term.

Offline taestell

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30221 on: February 09, 2018, 12:26:08 PM »
Agreed. That is the one part of the route that would benefit most from a transit-only lane. However I do think there's still going to be a pretty big benefit just from coordinating the green lights on Walnut and optimizing for southbound traffic flow.

Offline jmecklenborg

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30222 on: February 09, 2018, 12:34:12 PM »
They could test turning 1-2 blocks of Walnut into a transit-only street by simply putting some cones out.  They could also ban left turns onto Walnut from 9th St. and Central Parkway.  We'll never see that though with this administration. 


Offline edale

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30223 on: February 09, 2018, 12:42:09 PM »
You can't walk faster than the streetcar, but you can definitely walk to a destination faster than taking the streetcar. If you're walking from Fountain Square to 12/Vine, you're talking maybe a 10-15 minute walk. Currently, you'd often have to wait longer than that just to get a streetcar. But even if you only have to wait 8-10 mins for a streetcar, you still have to walk a two blocks over to Main Street, and take a 3-5 minute ride up to 12/Vine, so it ends up being about the same amount of time or slightly longer to take the streetcar. Add in rush hour traffic, and you can certainly cover more ground on foot than the streetcar. If the route was longer, then those wait times become less significant, because walking wouldn't really be a viable option.
Hey I've never heard anyone ever say that the streetcar is better/more convenient for every trip, right? It just needs to be better/more convenient for a significant number of the possible trips. And, yes, it can be, for more than enough trips to make the streetcar a genuine asset to the core region. I don't think you believe that, but I do. The only way to tell is to remove the various things that are current operational impediments. Everyone should agree to do at least that.

No, I do believe that the streetcar can be an asset to the core, and I do think it serves a purpose for some trips, for sure. The problem I see with it, is that it is not more convenient for a significant number of possible trips, for a few reasons. I've long said that I think the largest ridership for the streetcar will come from the 'poles' because when you get to the far northern and southern sections of the route, the distance to other desirable locations becomes long enough to warrant taking transit as opposed to walking. Movement within the CBD, or from the riverfront to Fountain Square, or Fountain Square to 12th/Vine is just generally not an arduous task to the point where most people would be looking for alternative transportation methods besides walking. So right off the bat, the utility has already been limited. Add in the service issues and lack of real time arrival info, and the scales become even more imbalanced, because the margins for time improvement with walking vs the streetcar are already pretty thin for most rides, and requiring someone to wait 15 minutes basically eliminates whatever time savings might have occurred. Finally, there just aren't that many people in the core who RELY on the streetcar for real transportation purposes. The vast majority of workers downtown drive, and the vast majority of new residents downtown and in OTR also own cars. It's hard to convince people to ditch their cars if parking is affordable and relatively easy. Unless the alternative presents an obvious advantage in time or ease, people will generally drive.  This isn't a Cincinnati phenomenon, but occurs everywhere. The people who are moving to OTR are increasingly wealthy and not transit dependent, and when that occurs, transit usage generally goes down. We're seeing this now in LA, where transit usage has been declining pretty steadily, in spite of Metro adding more and more rail lines. Large swaths of LA are gentrifying, and the poorer people who used to take transit are being replaced by rich people who have and use their cars. All of these situations are in play in with the Cincinnati streetcar, in my opinion.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2018, 12:45:31 PM by edale »

Offline taestell

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30224 on: February 09, 2018, 12:49:27 PM »
Another idea that just crossed my mind: if they end up converting Main Street to two-way north of 12th, then you could make the streetcar lane transit-only from Central Parkway to 12th. The simplest way would be to ban cars from turning left from Main onto 12th, so cars in the right lane would have no other option but to continue straight on Main. Alternatively, if you added a transit signal at that intersection, you could have a total of four phases:

- streetcar gets transit-only signal to turn left from Main to 12th
  - cars on Main northbound could also get green light during this phase with a red left arrow to prevent left turns
- cars on Main northbound get green light and green left arrow to make turn onto 12th
- cars on 12th get green light (left turn only)
- cars on Main southbound get green light (right turn only)

Offline thomasbw

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30225 on: February 09, 2018, 12:56:06 PM »
Doesn't matter if you can jog faster, jogging isn't a mode of transportation.  No one jogs to work or to the store.

Offline jmecklenborg

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30226 on: February 13, 2018, 12:34:56 AM »
Here is a video of new CAF streetcars operating just fine in cold weather:

Offline LtCheese

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30227 on: February 13, 2018, 09:12:31 AM »
^Wow, shocking! It's almost like CAF knows how to build a streetcar that operates in cold weather.

Now if only we had a city willing to provide basic cold weather maintenance and support...

Offline jjakucyk

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30228 on: February 13, 2018, 09:46:04 AM »
Ok here's the explanation I got.  There's both a design issue and a duty cycle issue.  Because of some oddities in the design specifications, CAF used a different air compressor than they normally would.  This is a pretty small unit, similar to the ones used to start electric locomotives which would be run off batteries to create just enough air pressure to raise the pneumatic pantograph to the overhead wire.  A compressor like that would be generally used for a couple minutes a month, whereas ours are being used 18 hours a day for maybe 50% of the time.  That's much longer than such a small unit is intended.  Also, one compressor serves an entire car, powering the sanding system which is used for braking in slippery conditions.  Without the sanders it's not safe to run the cars.  The air system also runs the track oilers. 

The other issue is that moisture is condensing in the compressor itself (not the air reservoir) overnight in the cold.  Since liquid doesn't compress, when the compressor piston hits water it basically blows apart the mechanism.  They have a large stock of spare parts to fix the broken compressors, but of course it takes time to do it and the car is out of service for that time.  Why exactly this is happening in the first place isn't really known, but it's on CAF to fix, which will likely require replacing them completely. 

Kansas City can get around this problem in part because their carbarn is large enough to hold all their cars.  If they stay warm then the moisture doesn't condense in the first place.  They are also better able to mitigate an out of service car because their route is isn't a continuous loop, there's a small loop at the north end and a stub-end terminal at the south at Union Station.  Normally they do a layover at Union Station but if a car is out of service they can skip it in order to maintain the same headways. 

Offline ryanlammi

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30229 on: February 13, 2018, 09:51:09 AM »
Any explanation as to why ours are being used more than usual? Is there a design difference in our cars or overhead wire that require the compressor to work so much more often?

Offline Robuu

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30230 on: February 13, 2018, 10:13:34 AM »
^^ That also explains the "beet juice" comment someone upthread reported an operator making. The brakes don't work as well in cold weather.

Offline jjakucyk

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30231 on: February 13, 2018, 10:14:13 AM »
Not more than usual for a streetcar, but more than usual for what you would expect from a compressor of that design/size/specification. 

Offline LtCheese

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30232 on: February 13, 2018, 11:29:12 AM »
Not more than usual for a streetcar, but more than usual for what you would expect from a compressor of that design/size/specification. 

Why was the small compressor fitted in the first place? Was it the expectation that each car would be used less often since we would be operating more units? It seems like a silly oversight.

Offline Arcade Fiyah

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30233 on: February 13, 2018, 11:35:07 AM »
Cincinnati streetcar stops to close for repairs

Repairs at the stops along the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar route will put stations out of commission intermittently for about a month.

Concrete repairs and weatherproofing for the ticket vending machines along the streetcar route will close each stop for two to four days at a time starting this week. No more than three of the systemís 18 stations will be affected at any one time.

More below:
https://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/news/2018/02/13/cincinnati-streetcar-stops-to-close-for-repairs.html
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Offline taestell

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30234 on: February 13, 2018, 12:13:56 PM »
Not more than usual for a streetcar, but more than usual for what you would expect from a compressor of that design/size/specification. 

Why was the small compressor fitted in the first place? Was it the expectation that each car would be used less often since we would be operating more units? It seems like a silly oversight.

Just guessing here, but it might be related to the "Buy America" requirements. CAF usually builds streetcars in Spain, and these were the first built in their New York facility, so maybe they sourced some of the smaller parts like the air compressor from US suppliers?

Offline LtCheese

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30235 on: February 13, 2018, 01:09:03 PM »
Just guessing here, but it might be related to the "Buy America" requirements. CAF usually builds streetcars in Spain, and these were the first built in their New York facility, so maybe they sourced some of the smaller parts like the air compressor from US suppliers?

Would CAF be on the hook for replacements/upgrades? Or was it contractually agreed upon making it a city problem?

Offline taestell

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30236 on: February 13, 2018, 01:42:04 PM »
Keep in mind that the city has still never "accepted" the vehicles from CAF. So I think CAF is still on the hook to fix them.

Offline JYP

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30237 on: February 13, 2018, 02:13:26 PM »
At this point, CAF should build Cincinnati a 6th car for free and then rotate out the existing 5 one at a time to repair the compressors. It would be a goodwill gesture and also could cover the cost of damages incurred by the city.
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Offline jmecklenborg

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30238 on: February 13, 2018, 02:15:31 PM »
At this point, CAF should build Cincinnati a 6th car for free

We should have ordered a sixth car to go along with the two that Kansas city ordered last year. 

Offline jjakucyk

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Re: Cincinnati Streetcar / Cincinnati Bell Connector News
« Reply #30239 on: February 13, 2018, 02:32:27 PM »
Keep in mind that the city has still never "accepted" the vehicles from CAF. So I think CAF is still on the hook to fix them.

That's not really true, they've taken title and everything, they just haven't released the final payment.