Skip to content

Stepping Up to Restore Cincinnati's Neglected Pedestrian Stairways

The city says it can't afford to maintain them. Can private citizens make up the difference?
relates to Stepping Up to Restore Cincinnati's Neglected Pedestrian Stairways
Cincinnati Transportation and Engineering Department

There are more than 400 pedestrian staircases threading through the steep hills of Cincinnati. Today they resemble a kind of skeleton of that city's once-robust pedestrian infrastructure, originally designed to get workers to and from their factory jobs and afford residents of hillside neighborhoods easy access to the old streetcar system.

But the staircases of Cincinnati have long been in decline, with the city steadily reducing funding for their maintenance and eventually de-funding them altogether in 2011 as the municipal budget got squeezed. At the same time cities around the country are looking to build new pedestrian facilities in the urban core, or to improve what already exists, too many of Cincinnati's staircases are overgrown, littered with broken glass, and poorly lit. While steps in some neighborhoods attract runners looking to boost their heart rate, many others are perceived as dangerous places, incubators for drug dealing and prostitution.