A few weeks back, I found myself in downtown Cincinnati, keeping my eyes peeled for a glimpse of the Bell Connector, the Queen City’s new streetcar line. When it opened in September, ridership was strong, especially on weekends. Boosters of the project, who had to overcome fierce resistance from conservative state lawmakers (and the city’s new mayor) to get the rails in the street, were sounding pretty pleased. As I wrote in October, new streetcar lines in Cincinnati and Kansas City opened with healthy ridership numbers, warming the hearts of trolley fans in places like Detroit and Oklahoma City, where similar next-generation streetcar projects are in motion.
So on the blustery Saturday after Thanksgiving, fortified with a rum-spiked cup of glühwein from the delightful German Holiday Market in Fountain Square, I planted myself at a sleek and glassy streetcar stop on Walnut Street and waited. And waited.