Better Bus Plan fact sheet

The Better Bus Plan is a plan for countywide bus service in Hamilton County.  Our current transit system fails to connect people to where they need to go, and the Better Bus Coalition believes that a complete system overhaul is needed to create a transit system that serves our county efficiently, quickly, and safely


We propose*:

  • 23 Local Downtown-bound Routes

  • 14 Local Crosstown Routes (primarily east to west)

  • 28 Express Routes to Downtown/Uptown

  • 2 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Routes

  • 7 Enhanced Limited Stop Routes

  • 11 Transit Center Hubs (no more waiting at Government Square!)

*Further bus route details can be found in the full Better Bus Plan


This plan vastly increases access and mobility for the county as a whole.  Under this plan:

  • 80% of Hamilton County residents & 86% of Hamilton County jobs will be within a 5-minute walk of a bus route

  • 89% of Hamilton County residents & 93% of Hamilton County jobs will be within a 10-minute walk of a bus route


Route Types Descriptions

The combination of the Downtown-bound Local Routes and the Crosstown Routes will ensure that no one will ever have to go downtown unless that or Northern Kentucky is their destination.  The Express Routes will provide a quicker commute for suburban and outer city neighborhood residents, with the goal being a consistent 30-minute commute to Downtown/Uptown regardless of traffic conditions.  These routes will utilize the highway system for faster travel, with dedicated High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on I-71 & I-75.

The 2 BRT Routes will be the Blue Line and the Red Line.  The Blue Line serves the Montgomery Road/I-71 Corridor, utilizing the SORTA-owned Blue Ash Rail Line as a dedicated busway capable of providing highway speeds for the BRT buses.  The Red Line serves the Hamilton/Clifton Avenue Corridor, which is one of the densest in Hamilton County. 

These routes feature stations every ½-mile to 1-mile with dedicated bus lanes and signal priority wherever possible to reduce commuting times dramatically compared to their Local Route counterparts.  These BRT routes will run between Downtown and Uptown via a new deep-bored tunnel underneath Mt. Auburn, with a travel time of 2 minutes between UC and Liberty Street.  Travel times from UC to The Banks are projected at 10-12 minutes consistently.  In Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, buses will have dedicated lanes on Walnut and Main Streets with stations at Liberty, Central Parkway, Government Square, and The Banks.

The 7 Limited Stop Lines will serve the major corridors in the county including Vine/Springfield Pike, Reading Road, Glenway Avenue, Madison Road, and the Crosstown Westwood Northern/Hopple/MLK/Madison Road Corridor.  2 additional diagonal lines will quickly connect the southeastern portion of the county to the northwestern portion, and the southwestern portion of the county to the northeastern portion.  For example, the projected travel time from Westwood to the Kenwood Mall is 30-35 minutes – compared to 90-120 minutes today.  The purpose of these routes is to provide longer distance travel options with significantly shorter travel times compared to their Local Route counterparts.


Transit Centers

We propose a ‘web’ network of 11 Transit Center Hubs throughout the county.  These hubs are generally located in the centers of dense areas and act as convenient, comfortable transfer points and centers of communities.  The hubs will feature covered seating areas, fare vending machines, real-time bus arrival countdown clocks, system maps, route timetables, lighting, and more. 

These hubs generally have a wide variety of shopping and service businesses around them.  They will be convenient places to run errands and shop during your commute, the same way you might stop at the bank or grocery store on your drive home from work.  These hubs will also offer enormous potential for development. 

The 11 proposed Transit Centers are:

  • Government Square

  • UC/Jefferson

  • Northside

  • Oakley

  • Western Hills Plaza

  • Anderson Towne Center

  • Kenwood Towne Center

  • Northgate Mall

  • Tri-County Mall

  • Midpointe Crossing (Bond Hill/Roselawn)

  • Mt. Healthy Center


Plan Costs & Financing

Using an operating cost formula provided by SORTA via the 2017 AECOM SORTA Service Evaluation, Development, and Management Study, we calculated the annual operating costs of each type of service and for capital costs to provide a projected budget using 2017 dollars.  For more information, see the Methodology section in the full Better Bus Plan. 

The financials are:

  • $55 million for Local Downtown-bound service

  • $40 million for Local Crosstown service

  • $32 million for BRT/Limited Stop service

  • $10 million for Express service

  • $10 million for Access Rider service

  • For a total annual operating cost of $147 million

  • $30 million for bus purchases/replacements (enough for ~60 buses per year)

  • $20 million for BRT construction, Transit Centers, & infrastructure improvements

  • For a total annual capital cost of $50 million

All told this plan will cost $197 million annually in 2017 dollars.  To pay for this, we propose the elimination of the existing Cincinnati City earnings tax (currently 0.3% earnings tax for Metro) replaced by a new .75% countywide sales tax levy to bring in $120 million annually (up from $55 million raised locally with the earnings tax).  Adding in Fares, Advertising, Contract Service, Federal Flex formula funding, and a miniscule funding amount from the State of Ohio and we can raise this amount of money to fund new and improved service.