So five years into this failed experiment with commuter rail a hardened Cincinnatian would expect the who's-who of Nashville talk radio hosts, anti-tax groups, and the local newspaper to be calling for the service to be halted. Except in Nashville -- also a Republican hotbed -- the exact opposite is happening.
On Sunday, The Tennessean ran a front-page feature on The Music Star, which not only condoned its atrocious ridership, but called for similarly inauspicious lines to be built in every direction:
Zero negative voices appear in this article. Officials are happy, riders are happy, and more of the same is on the way. Meanwhile, up in Cincinnati, anti-intellectualism reigns:
Here is a video of one of the short Music City Star trains leaving downtown Nashville:
Why does The Music City Star perform so poorly? The primary reason isn't its used equipment (The Star uses retired Chicago commuter rail passenger cars), or its unimpressive average speed, or its threadbare stations. Rather, the main problem is that Downtown Nashville is simply not a major employment center -- it is home to perhaps half as many workers as Downtown Cincinnati. What's more, the line's terminal station is on the edge of downtown, a hilly walk away from most office and state government buildings.
Cincinnati's proposed Oasis Commuter Rail (read my August 2010 UrbanCincy.com article) would attract more riders, but with its $400 million capital cost (10X more expensive despite being less than half as long as the Music City Star's line) and an annual operating subsidy of between $10 and $20 million, it should not be built according to current plans.
But the point of this post was not to get into the details of what exists in Nashville and what is proposed for Cincinnati. The point is that two nearby Republican-controlled metro areas have very different media coverage of this same issue. Nashville's business community has, since about 1990, copied the growth strategies of Atlanta and Charlotte. Meanwhile, Cincinnati's business community perpetuates the narrative of decline that it concocted soon after WWII so that a short list of companies and wealthy families can retain their positions of power, to the detriment of the City's overall development.