March 27th, 2014 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: City Hall, Transportation

Cincinnati Learns Pros and Cons of the Streetcar Charlie Hales Sold It

streetcar halesCharlie Hales makes a cameo in Portland Afoot's fundraising video - Portland Afoot

Wednesday's edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer included a rather striking guest editorial: a city official recounting Portland Mayor Charlie Hales' advice about installing a streetcar system.

The editorial, written by Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Mann, explains how he visited Portland last weekend to examine the Portland Streetcar.

It's a rare look at how Hales, who sold streetcars for a decade before running for mayor, continues to promote the system.

"We looked for ways to make sure that the Cincinnati system comes in on time and under budget," Mann writes. "We had a very busy agenda of meetings with public and private sector leaders. Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and local U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer were very generous with their time, sharing a meal with us at one of Portland’s fine new restaurants."

Cincinnati's 3.6-mile streetcar system is currently under construction. It's a project Hales sold Cincinnati officials while working as a senior vice president at consulting firm HDR Engineering.

Mann's editorial talks chiefly about the importance of tax-increment financing—in this case, that means getting property owners along the streetcar line to pay for its construction.

But Mann concludes by describing the drawbacks that Portland officials conceded during his visit:

Still, for all the good that is clearly happening in Portland, there are some notes of caution.

Portland has been working on its streetcar system in one way or another for 30 years and is only now learning how to fully recoup operating expenses.

Portland has seen gentrification of the downtown area and is struggling with providing needed affordable housing options throughout the city.

And Portland has a far less diverse population than Cincinnati, with an African-American population of less than 10 percent.

 
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