Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The new streetcar connection

I spend a fair bit of time in Cincinnati. It’s the hometown to one of our largest clients, Procter & Gamble, and a place with an amazing heritage of innovation. That heritage lost energy for a while, but there has been a recent resurgence. I have watched Cincinnati transform from a city looking cautiously inward to a place starting to understand great city dynamics. The city made a great start with an incredible sports precinct with major stadiums lining the Ohio River, and the destination museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Now they are fixed on making major physical connections throughout the city and integrating sports, cultural hotspots, shopping and entertainment. They’re doing it with one of my Lovemarks, and I’m talking about streetcars, or what we call 'trams' in New Zealand. Friendly, familiar and fast enough to get the job done, street cars are making a comeback in a number of cities that want to get their citizens back downtown. In the United States alone, there are around 40 or so cities that are using the streetcar to cut back on traffic gridlock and tie neighborhoods together. I have a friend who, whenever he visits a city with a streetcar system, takes at least one of them to the end of the line or right through its loop. Talk about Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. Of course San Francisco held onto its street cars and what a tourist and community boon they have proved. So did New Orleans and the streetcar to Desire still rumbles through the city. Sometimes to move forward, it is a matter of stepping back.

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