Thursday, September 19, 2002

Heading downtown? Good luck


Officials say plan ahead for weekend congestion

By James Pilcher, jpilcher@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        More than 150,000 cars trying to squeeze into about 40,000 parking spaces on one day. Nearly 100 extra buses. Up to 200 extra police officers.

DOWNTOWN PARKING
PDF Map of parking areas and routes in and out of town
TIPS ON GETTING AROUND
    Here are some tips for getting around downtown this weekend:
   Leave early and plan ahead. Officials say to expect delays and problems finding parking, adding that leaving even two hours ahead of time may not be enough. They advise mapping out alternate routes, and not committing to one road into town, especially because the following streets will be closed at some point during the weekend:
   Fifth Street between Race and Broadway.
   Vine Street between Fourth and Sixth.
   Main Street between Fourth and Sixth.
   Sycamore Street between Fourth and Sixth.
   Use public transportation. Metro is planning shuttles from the following locations: Western Hills Plaza; Forest Park park & ride (1160 Kemper Meadow Drive off Winton Road); Raymond Walters College (9555 Plainfield Road); and Anderson Township park & ride (Beechmont Avenue behind the Municipal Building). The shuttle will be available 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Fare is $1.50 each way.
   On Saturday, Metro will also offer a shuttle from the University of Cincinnati to the Transit Center for the football game. Fare for the football shuttle is $3 round-trip and parking is free at UC.
   In addition, TANK will increase the frequency of its Southbank shuttle between Covington, Newport and downtown Cincinnati to every 15 minutes.
   Call or check ahead. ARTIMIS operates a 24-hour traffic update line, which can be reached by dialing 511. In addition, travelers can get more information at www.cincyusa.com, www.tankbus.org and www.sorta.com.
        When four major traffic-disrupting events converge on downtown Cincinnati this weekend, those in charge of the city's streets will be facing one of the most complicated choreographies ever, even if the size of the separate crowds won't rival that of single events such as Riverfest.

        Cincinnati police, mass-transit agencies and the city traffic department have planned for the “Red Hot Weekend” for at least six months.

        The hope is to try to lessen congestion that will undoubtedly surround the Ohio State-University of Cincinnati football game, the AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati walk, the last weekend of pro baseball at Cinergy Field and Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati.

        “Considering we have to shut down a major artery like Fifth Street, and the different times of the events, yes, this is one of the most complicated events I've had to deal with,” says Sgt. Bruce Hoffbauer with the Cincinnati Police Department's special events unit.

        “But we are used to dealing with a lot of cars and routing traffic, and we're good at mustering up a large amount of police officers in a short amount of time. So while we anticipate some delays, I think if we can get the word out, people can still come down and have a good time.”

        Sgt. Hoffbauer says his department's planning has placed a lot of emphasis on Saturday. That's because the day holds the AIDS walk in the morning, then the afternoon college football game which is expected to let out just before the Reds game begins.

        All this against the backdrop of Oktoberfest, which will have a good portion of Fifth Street closed.

        “It's almost like Opening Day for baseball, with one complication removed, and that is that Opening Day occurs during a normal business day,” says Steve Bailey, the city's traffic engineer.

        Police and event planners won't promise that visitors will be able to cruise in and out of downtown and find a parking space right next to their chosen event.

        “If you drive, don't leave an hour before game time and expect to get a spot right next to the stadium,” says Sgt. Hoffbauer.

        “And make sure to have alternate routes planned, because a lot of the major routes will be backed up. If I had to sum it up, be flexible both in time and routes. If you get out of the football game, don't try to get home right away. Go and have dinner at Oktoberfest instead.”

        Helping matters is that this summer's downtown street rehabilitation project was finished earlier this year. Still, because of the expected parking crunch, officials stress that the best way to get downtown is public transportation.

        Enter Metro, Hamilton County's transit agency, which is using 90 extra buses for shuttles throughout the Tristate. TANK, Northern Kentucky's bus service, is increasing the frequency of its Southgate shuttle between Covington, Newport and downtown Cincinnati to every 15 minutes. Both agencies will also be using the new transit center under Second Street.

        “We've been working on this weekend since July ourselves, so we're ready,” says Metro sector manager Phil Lind, who handles special-event planning for the agency.

        “We've been through all of this before with the Fort Washington Way construction as well as past events,” Mr. Bailey, the city's traffic engineer, says.

        “There will be delays, but I think we'll do a good job preparing for them and getting people to where they need to be so they can have a good time.”

       



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