Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy:
The election held earlier this month marked the 10-year anniversary of MetroMoves, the Hamilton County ballot issue that would have more than doubled public support for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA). Specifically, a half-cent sales tax would have raised approximately $60 million annually, permitting a dramatic expansion of Metro’s bus service throughout Hamilton County and construction and operation of a 60-mile, $2.7 billion streetcar and light rail network.
Unfortunately, the 2002 ballot initiative failed, largely due to an anti-tax attitude following the county’s 1996 stadium sales tax fiasco, and Cincinnati’s five light rail lines never came to be.
But in the decade since, gas has jumped from $1.50 to around $4. Downtown Cincinnati has improved significantly, and been transformed into a place where so many people want to live that hardly any apartments are available and new condos are sold out before they’re finished. The city and affiliated groups have proven that they can handle large projects like The Banks, Fountain Square, Washington Park, and the Gateway Quarter.
Even with those factors, I agree with Jake that a county-wide transit tax would be unlikely to pass today, with the resurgence of anti-government furor from the Tea Party crowd. But Cincinnati will continue to move forward — we’re building the streetcar with city and federal funding, and it didn’t require raising taxes — and maybe in a few years the city will be able to launch a new light rail plan.