Quinlivan Explains Streetcar Project to Rotarians

by Pat Moynahan on June 28, 2016

laure-streetcarFLORENCE – The Cincinnati streetcar project may have cost Laure Quinlivan her seat on city council, but she remains an unabashed champion of the light rail line.

The 3.6-mile streetcar loop, scheduled to open September 9, will connect Smale Riverfront Park, The Banks, Great American Ballpark, Findlay Market and the Over-the-Rhine entertainment district.

“Two-thirds of the major cultural attractions (in downtown Cincinnati) are along the line,” said Quinlivan, a former investigative reporter for WCPO-TV.

Laure Quinlivan.

Laure Quinlivan.

“Nothing else in the area provides greater accessibility. That’s why I believe it will be a great success.”

Quinlivan, president of LQ Consulting, showed a promotional video she produced on the streetcar to the Florence Rotary Club at a June 20 luncheon. She predicted the $150 million project will spur repopulation and reinvestment in downtown Cincinnati, which has seen its population fall from more than 500,000 in 1950 to 300,000-plus in 2010.

Quinlivan led the WCPO I-Team for 13 years and won two national Peabody Awards during 25 years in broadcasting. When former Cincinnati manager Milton Dohoney Jr. proposed a light rail system in 2008, the idea sounded a bit silly, she said.

Then she visited Portland at the behest of John Schneider, a longtime proponent who has come to be known as Mr. Streetcar as a result of his advocacy.

“I came back convinced it would be a transformational project for Cincinnati for economic development and reinvestment,” Quinlivan said. “I went back in 2014 to see how things had changed and saw new development all along the streetcar lines.”

She said Portland’s population has increased 56 percent since its streetcar line started in 2001. Kansas City, which launched a light rail line in May, already has seen $1.7 billion in development along its route, she added.

As Quinlivan sees it, the proximity to Cincinnati’s central core and cultural and entertainment venues will spur conversion of long-abandoned buildings along the rail loop into commercial and upscale housing stock. The reinvestment will attract Baby Boomers with their retirement income and young professionals who want to live close to work.

“The business community in Cincinnati is reluctant to talk about that aspect because the major (John Cranley) opposes it,” she said.

Quinlivan won a seat on Cincinnati Council in 2009 and openly supported the streetcar project. Cranley campaigned against it and defeated Roxanne Qualls, who supported expansion of the project, in the 2013 mayoral race.

Quinlivan was among three incumbents who were not re-elected. She has said her position on the streetcar project may have cost her the seat.

It didn’t derail her zealous support for light rail or dissuade her from talking about it.