Cincinnati Connector streetcar. Photo by John Alexander Reese


The Connector continues to break ridership records with its best summer  ever, highlighted by passenger counts consistently topping 100,000 each month since May. 

“We couldn’t be happier,” Lori Burchett, deputy director for streetcar operations with the Cincinnati Department of Transportation & Engineering, said of the ridership trend. “We are grateful to our customers for consistently using the service and to Transdev, our operations partner that keeps the streetcar running smoothly. It’s a great way to  celebrate the streetcar’s anniversary.”

The streetcar, which began passenger service seven years ago this month, notched a  new all-time monthly record of 105,624 passengers in June and did so again in July with 111,320 passengers. The previous best was October 2022 with 103,700 passengers. Ridership in May nearly tied the old record with 102,189 passengers. A total of 101,988 passengers rode the streetcar in August.

The momentum in 2023 comes on the heels of monthly records throughout  2022. Ridership is on pace to hit another annual record in 2023 with 733,902 passengers during the first eight months of the year compared to 519,592 during the  same January – August period in 2022.  

Ridership on the Connector notched an all-time annual record of 846,622 passengers in 2022. That tally significantly outpaced the previous annual record of 571,601 passengers recorded in 2017, the streetcar’s first full calendar year in operation. 

The streetcar, which travels 3.6 miles between OTR and The Banks via the Central Business District, is especially popular during major events such as this weekend’s 

Oktoberfest and Taylor Swift’s concert in late June at Paycor Stadium. The city adds service to accommodate more passengers during major events. 

Burchett credits a combination of reasons for the streetcar’s ongoing record ridership. 

“Our streetcar crews and city departments are doing a great job maintaining daily operations, passenger safety and reliable customer service,” she said, adding, “It also helps that more people are aware the streetcar is a free, convenient and enjoyable way to get to popular destinations at The Banks, in Downtown and OTR.” 

The city took over day-to-day management of the streetcar in January 2020 from  SORTA and it has been fare-free since September 2020, when it returned to service  after a five-month hiatus due to Covid pandemic restrictions. 

Watch a time-lapse video along the Connector’s route and read a timeline with highlights about the current streetcar system, which began passenger service Sept. 9,  2016. Cincinnati’s original streetcar discontinued service April 29, 1951. 

Other Streetcar Updates 

The streetcar has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a new advertising contract to replace its existing contract that expires this fall. The RFP submission deadline is  Sept. 21. The new contract is unrelated to the system’s naming rights contract with Alta  Fiber, which remains in place until 2026. 

The streetcar also recently received a $250,000 grant from the Federal Transit  Administration to use for technology upgrades to its headway management system. The city currently uses SORTA’s headway management system. Proceeds from the FTA  grant will allow the city to study the feasibility and cost to obtain its own headway  management system.

Monthly Streetcar Ridership Records 

New Record Passenger Count Previous Record Passenger Count
August 2023** 101,988 August 2022 83,078
July 2023** 111,320 July 2022 89,074
June 2023** 105,624 June 2017 61,404
May 2023 102,189 May 2022 81,175
April 2023 90,165 April 2022 65,352
March 2023 80,215 March 2022 58,874
February 2023 71,183 February 2022 49,641
January 2023 71,363 January 2022 43,131
December 2022 69,303 December 2021 55,105
November 2022 64,675 November 2021 52,440
October 2022 103,700 October 2016 82, 934
September 2022 88,992 September 2016 75,485
August 2022 83,078 August 2019 56,402
July 2022 89,074 July 2017 61,404
May 2022* 81,175 (Previous: 81,724) May 2017 53,116
April 2022* 65,352 (Previous: 66,391) April 2017 49,966
March 2022* 58,874 (Previous: 58,882) March 2017 37,471
February 2022 49,641 February 2017 36,681
January 2022 43,131 January 2017 35,334
December 2021 55,105 December 2016 52,209
November 2021 52,440 November 2016 49,920

*Denotes audited results versus previously reported passenger counts. ** Denotes estimates. See explanation below in the last footnote.  

Please note: 

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) requires the city to track, audit and submit ridership to its National Transit Database (NTD) every month. The city, which uses one of the most conservative methods for reporting streetcar ridership, derives its figures for passenger boardings from infrared sensors known collectively as the Automatic Passenger Counting system (APC). An APC sensor is mounted above every door on all five streetcars. 

The city also audits its APC figures to certify to the FTA that the system is accurate. The city does so by periodically conducting manual passenger counts and comparing those samples to the corresponding APC figures. 

Among the metrics measured for ridership, the sensors count each passenger as a single boarding except when unable to distinguish between one or multiple passengers. In those cases, a given passenger boarding is discounted to zero, which results in lower-than-actual passenger counts.

Ridership totaled 49,627 in June 2022, the only month the streetcar didn’t hit a record in  2022. Service on the Downtown loop was suspended for more than half the month due to the closure of the station stop at 12th and Main. The stop was closed June 12 – July 1 for safety reasons following the partial collapse of an adjacent building. 

Passenger counts for parts of June, July and August 2023 are estimates based on an FTA-approved method. A hardware upgrade to the streetcar’s headway management  system this summer didn’t integrate with existing software as configured, which resulted in inconsistent counts between June 29 and late August 2023. The integration issue has since been resolved and the streetcar’s APC system is working properly.

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