Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Enquirer stole my video idea AND soundtrack!

In the early days of The Great Struggle, Councilman John Cranley was the streetcar's primary opponent. As chair of the Finance Committee, he set the agenda, and on January 31, 2008 sent this request to the City Manager:

QUESTIONS FROM THE STREETCAR FEASIBILITY STUDY
I. Financing
a. What projects will need to be cut to fund the streetcar project?
b. How many lane miles can be repaved with the $30 million in capital dollars that are proposed for the construction of the streetcar?
c. What is the capacity of the downtown TIF districts?
d. If these TIF districts are used as sources, how much capacity will be left?
e. How much money from these TIF districts does 3CDC need to complete its long-term and short-term plan for downtown and Over-the-Rhine? Please request an answer of this question from 3CDC.
f. How much money is likely to be requested by the proponents of the Brewery District?
g. After accounting for the needs of 3CDC and the Brewery District, would the downtown and Over-the-Rhine TIF districts retain any capacity? If so, how much?
h. Will the use of the $10 million from the Blue Ash proceeds leave any of those funds available for neighborhoods? If so, how much?
i. Please breakdown the funding plan specifically.
j. How much has been spent on the streetcar project? Please include staff time dedicated to the streetcar project.
k. How was the money for the Feasibility Study expended?
l. How was the money for the Feasibility Study authorized?
m. Was there a specific appropriation by Council for the Feasibility Study?
n. How much private money has been committed to the project and who has committed it?
o. Will construction of the streetcar not begin until the $30 million from the private sector is raised?
p. In the PowerPoint presentation given to the Economic Development committee, one source of funding discussed for operations was a special assessment district. In particular, it was expected to generate $900,000 per annum. Are you proposing creating a new special improvement district under section 1710 of the Ohio Revised Code, levying a special assessment under section 727 of the Ohio Revised Code, or some other mechanism?
i. Is this special assessment/improvement district already established?
ii. Is it fair to assume that construction of the streetcar will not proceed until the special improvement/assessment districts are in place?
A. If you are proposing to levy a special assessment under section 727 please answer the following:
iii. Are the property owners aware that you are proposing a tax increase? Have they consented? Do you plan to impose the assessment even if they do not consent?
iv. How can you use these funds for operating expenses on a recurring basis when the total amount that can be generated by the assessment is 80% of the total cost of the improvement?
B. If you propose creating/using a special improvement district please answer the following:
v. There currently is a special improvement district downtown, which funds DCI. Does the administration propose eliminating and/or converting DCI’s special improvement district to streetcar funding? If so, has DCI consented or been consulted?
vi. Any evidence that downtown property owners are willing to pay an additional special levy for a streetcar?
vii. Has there been any attempt to identify a possible special improvement district in Over-the-Rhine?
viii. How much would such a district in Over-the-Rhine have to generate?

II. Economic Impact
a. Page 21 of the study discusses the economic impact of the streetcar, specifically the growth in useable housing stock.
i. For each of the other cities listed, how much additional public subsidy (i.e. excluding the streetcar) was put into developing those units?
b. The Feasibility Study on page 22 states that using a conservative estimate that there are 1574 housing units that can be converted to use along the streetcar route.
i. Does the plan include any funding for converting these 1574 units?
ii. Isn’t it true, according to the experience of 3CDC, that condo
redevelopment requires a minimum of $50,000 subsidy per unit? And isn’t it true that subsidies for apartments are higher? Please answer by evaluating 3CDC’s Gateway Project, and include any publicly contributed amounts from non-city sources, i.e. New Market Tax Credits.
iii. Where will the city get the money for the subsidy per unit to meet the projected 1574 housing units associated with the streetcar?
iv. If the streetcar reduces the required subsidy on a per unit basis, how much does it reduce the subsidy? Please provide specific market analysis from another city. How was that analysis made?
v. Are any developers willing to develop these units without a subsidy? Who?
vi. If the city alternatively spent $100 million to revitalize these 1574 units, wouldn’t it be cheaper than subsidizing these units and building the streetcar?
c. The study discusses vacant land and surface parking in downtown and Over-the-Rhine on page 23.
i. How much of this vacant land and surface parking is along the proposed route? Please list the addresses.
d. Page 23 of the Feasibility Study states that on the low end 107 housing units will be made from vacant land or surface parking on annual basis as a result of the streetcar.
i. What is the average subsidy on a per unit basis for new construction in the city? Please answer by referring to Parker Flats.
ii. Where will we get the money to pay for this required subsidy?
iii. How many vacant lots are properly zoned for residential conversion?
iv. Will the construction wait until after the land is rezoned?
v. How much of the vacant land is in a historic area or historic overlay district?
vi. What limitations does this impose for property development?
vii. Does the city propose to undo the historic area and overlay district rules in order to reach the goal of adding 100 new housing units on vacant land annually?
viii. If so, have the community councils consented?
ix. Will any zone changes that are necessary to meet the stated economic outcomes destroy the architectural significance of the buildings or districts?

III. Ridership
a. The Feasibility Study discusses preliminary ridership estimates on page 15.
i. Were preliminary ridership estimates done for the alternative routes? Please provide the ridership numbers associated with the alternate routes.
ii. Was ridership greater for the proposed alignment than the alternatives? If so, why?
b. Further on page 15 the Feasibility Study discusses the three classes of trips that will be made on the streetcar: internal trips, external trips, and special event trips.
i. What percentage of trips will be internal, external, and special event trips respectively?
ii. How were the initial ridership estimates made?
iii. What formula was utilized? Is it based on the number of workers downtown, or workers within a block or two of the streetcar? Is it based on how many workers eat out?
iv. How did the city arrive at these numbers?
v. Were these numbers drawn from other streetcar markets? For each of the other markets (Portland, etc.), how many people worked and lived near the line when it opened, how many shops, restaurants, etc. were there?
c. Page 11 of the Feasibility Study lists the purposes for which the streetcar will be used. The first purpose is to get to work.
i. How many people live within two blocks of the proposed route and how many will need to use the streetcar to get to work? How did you generate these numbers?
ii. Is the projection based on existing or hoped for population figures?
iii. How many people do you project will drive to downtown or Over-the-Rhine and then use the streetcar to complete their commute to work?
iv. Where will these commuters park to ride the proposed streetcar?
v. Will anybody park at Findlay Market? How many?
vi. Will any new structures be needed for parking? Where and at what cost?
vii. What percentage of streetcar riders will consist of those making the trip to and from work?
d. The second use for the streetcar is shopping: how many will use the streetcar for shopping purposes on a daily basis? What percentage of the total ridership does this constitute?
e. The third use is entertainment: how many will use the streetcar for entertainment purposes on a daily basis? What percentage of the total ridership does this constitute?
f. The Feasibility Study asserts on pages 2 and 11 that the streetcar will be used to take downtown workers to lunch.
i. How many workers are expected to use the streetcar to eat out?
ii. How many lunch restaurants are available along the Over-the-Rhine portions of the streetcar route?
iii. How long would it take the average downtown worker to leave work, get to the restaurant, eat lunch, and return to work? Will a worker have enough time to take the streetcar to lunch during a typical one-hour lunch break?
iv. What is the expected loss to downtown restaurateurs as a result of the streetcar, if downtown workers take the streetcar to Over-the-Rhine for lunch?
v. How long does it take to walk from Fountain Square to Findlay Market?
vi. Wouldn’t it be quicker and cheaper to drive or ride a bike?
vii. How long does it take to walk from the Kroger building to Fountain Square?
viii. If it is faster to take the streetcar, how much faster?


IV. Construction
a. On page 10 of the Feasibility Study there is a picture labeled “Typical Track Construction”. This picture indicates that laying track will cause a major disruption to downtown traffic.
i. How long will the track take to construct?
ii. How many lanes and roads will it shut-down? For how long?
iii. Have property owners and business owners along the route consented to this plan?
b. On page 13 of the study it states that the streetcar costs $22 million per track mile. How does this compare with the cost of repaving a lane mile in the city?
c. How much will we be needing for annual maintenance and for street track repair?
V. Fares
a. The study assumes on page 16 that the highest fare level is $1, which is 50 cents cheaper than SORTA’s base fare. Why is it justified to make circulation cheaper than commuting?
VI. Operations
a. The Feasibility Study asserts on page 11 that streetcars will operate every ten minutes during peak times.
i. What happens if a streetcar breaks down along a route?
ii. How do you get a broken streetcar out of the right of way?
iii. Will it prevent other streetcars from passing?
iv. What is the average disruption for a breakdown?
v. Who does the plan presume will operate the streetcar?
vi. Will SORTA operate the streetcar? If not, why not?
vii. Will the workforce that operates the streetcar be unionized?
viii. If it will be unionized, is that cost factored into the $2.3 million operating cost?
VII. Practical Alternatives to Streetcars
a. On page 15 the study states that the streetcar is an urban circulator, not a commuter service.
i. If the city were to invest $100 million in a commuter service (i.e. bus service) how many people would it serve?
ii. What would an additional $100 million given to SORTA do to expand ridership?
iii. How many additional people could ride METRO if we gave them an additional $2.3 million annually that it will take to operate the streetcar?
iv. What would the economic impact to downtown be if we gave such funding to SORTA? Would it be greater than the streetcar?
v. There is talk of expanding the streetcar to Uptown. How much would it cost SORTA to build a rubber tire trolley along the proposed route to Uptown?
b. The Southwest Ohio Transit Authority currently maintains several bus routes within the study area.
i. Was SORTA or any transit agency asked to test the proposed alignment route as a bus route and test ridership levels?
ii. Is there any data to suggest what bus ridership may be along any of the alternative routes?
iii. How much money would it cost SORTA to run rubber-tire trolleys along these routes?
iv. How does the cost of rubber tire trolleys compare with the streetcar?
v. The Feasibility Study on page 8 lists a number of extension routes, how much does each cost to build and operate?
vi. How much would it cost to purchase and operate rubber tire trolleys along these extensions?
vii. Does SORTA have any existing routes that mirror these extensions?

VIII. Demographic Considerations
a. On page 20 of the study it discusses historical population trends.
i. Why do these graphs not take into account that the City has experienced population growth since 2000?
ii. How does the fact that the population assumptions are wrong affect the study?
iii. The numbers assert that downtown is shrinking, but isn’t it true that the downtown population has doubled in the last couple of years?
iv. What is the current population of downtown and Over-the-Rhine?

IX. Process of choosing proposed alignment
a. On page 5 of Appendix A of the Feasibility Study it states there were over 50 members of the Stakeholder Working Group (hereafter SWG) and then lists 47 members.
i. Please list all voting members of the SWG that are not listed on pages 5 and 6.
ii. Please provide a list of all the votes taken by the SWG. For each please list the resolution voted on and the outcome of the vote.
iii. Were the votes done by roll call? If so, please provide the roll call.
iv. What was attendance at each of the three meetings of the SWG? Please list those who attended.
v. Who appointed the members of the SWG and under whose authority were they appointed?
vi. Did the SWG include every business owner along the proposed alignment? If not, which were included and on what basis?
b. On page 6 of Appendix A of the Feasibility Study it states that the SWG confirmed the Project Management Team’s selection of a study alignment.
i. What qualified the SWG to make such a decision?
ii. Why was it decided to let the SWG vote on this $100 million decision regarding the proposed alignment, rather than let City Council decide?
iii. Who decided that City Council should not make the final decision?
iv. Have any members of the SWG made pledges toward the $30 million in private contributions to help build the streetcar? If so, who and how much?
v. Were there any members of the SWG that opposed any or all of the streetcar plans? If so, who and what was the basis of their objection(s)?
vi. Please provide all minutes from all meetings of the stakeholder group and the project management team. Who called such meetings? Who was notified of such meetings? How was notice made? Please provide copies of all notices.
c. The Feasibility Study states, on page 5, that the study area is bounded by “…Liberty and McMicken to the north, the Ohio River to the south, I-71 to the east, and I-75 to the west.”
i. Who decided the limits of the study area?
ii. Why was Uptown, with its 60,000 jobs, not included in the study area?
iii. Also on page 5 the study discusses selecting a study alignment. How were the three alignments proposed?
iv. Why was each alignment proposed?

So, 31/2 years ago, an official walking time between Fountain Square and Findlay Market was established. On May 23, 2011, yet another Barry Horstman hit piece set out to see if anything had changed. Apparently it did -- according to The Enquirer, Americans now walk twice as fast as they did 31/2 yeas ago.

The story was accompanied by a web video of the route made with a camera mounted on a car, which made little sense, since the story concerned walking. What's more, the sped-up video itself not only resembled one I made in 2009 (it starts at the exact same place and travels in the same direction), almost the exact same song plays in the background.

Here is The Enquirer's video from May 2011:

Here's mine from September 2009:

Why did I make this video?

In 2009 I set out to film the entire bike trail between Cincinnati and Columbus. This was the very first video I made with a new camera a day or two after it arrived in the mail -- I simply taped it to the front of the bike frame, which is why the brake and shift cables appear in the image.

The next day, I tried mounting the camera on the handlebars and made another video (I was debating Uptown streetcar routes with people on www.urbanohio.com -- this was before the official Uptown routing was announced):

But here is where it gets really weird -- on a whim I dropped a Miles Davis song from my iTunes collection into iMovie simply because I needed a long instrumental song. Turns out it meshed well with the video's nervous character (the first video originally had a Bob Dylan song, but Youtube removed it and so I "audio swapped" some canned jazz from Youtube's library).

Later that month I filmed the 125~ mile ride between Cincinnati and Columbus. My computer couldn't handle 12+ hours of footage so I outsourced the job to my little brother, who works on an Avid machine. I told him to set it to some fast small combo jazz from the 50's or 60's similar to what I put in that second video. He found a great live version of "Walkin'". If you came to the UrbanCincy Visual Showcase in May 2010 (in the former A Lucky Step Space -- now A Travola and Queen City Underground), you saw the finished product with the Miles Davis soundtrack.

Because the video was made on Avid, it's in a file format that can't be uploaded to Youtube or Vimeo (we will eventually, but it's a major chore). I did upload this scratch version from Final Cut, but it's missing 90% of the footage and is very low resolution:


Mainstream media types like to say bloggers simply steal their content. My video (really just a test video) has gotten 500 hits since September 2009 -- but it's somehow just a coincidence that The Enquirer's video begins in the same spot, travels in the same direction, is similarly sped up, and uses the same type of music?


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