Monday, April 14, 2008

Illustration Friday: FAIL

Disclaimer: this post is less about artistic merit, and much more a chance to tell an interesting Cincinnati anecdote.

So there I was on Saturday morning, poised to fail at being inspired by this week's IF theme. Then I headed downtown for a tour I'd booked a few months ago of Cincinnati's subway.

What's that, you say? Cincinnati has a subway? How now?

In the early 20th century, Cincinnati (then one of the largest cities in the U.S.) began plans to build a subway where the Miami-Erie canal once flowed. A bond was passed, funds raised, contracts won, ground broken, and 2 miles of tunnels built--and then the money ran out in 1925. Despite attempts then and since to finish the project, no rail was ever laid, no cars ordered, and no passengers have ever been transported on the subway. But those 2 miles of tunnel remain intact.

Along with 49 others, I got to descend through a hole in a Central Parkway median island and walk around the platform at the Race Street station and then meander about 4 blocks down the tunnel toward Liberty Street. Aside from some graffiti and a bit of standing water, the tunnels are still in perfect condition. At the end of the tour, we all turned out our flashlights and stood in complete darkness for about 30 sublime seconds.

The tour itself was amazing and I highly recomment it to others. But as much as I was fascinated by the history, I was mostly saddened by how different my city would be, how different my childhood would have been, how different my current life would be if this subway plan had succeeded rather than failed. When they flashed up the proposed subway route during the pre-tour slideshow, I spotted the "Winton Place" marker on the map and cried a little inside. What if I'd been able to hop a subway 6 blocks from my house to go downtown to the library or a Reds game? Or over to my favorite bookstore in Oakley? By now the subway would have been expanded, I'm sure. Where could I get today from Clifton? I wonder if Ohio would be losing so many young people if we had a subway in Cincinnati today?

I can only speak for one young Ohioan: if I move away from Cincinnati again, it will be to somewhere with a subway or other good mass transit--and because of mass transit. As a non-driver and an environmentalist who for both reasons has no desire to own a car, I miss the independence I felt when I lived in DC. In spite of an okay bus system, I've had to miss out on plenty of social opportunities (and a frustrating number of potential jobs) because of my inability to quite simply get to parts of the city without the help of others.

Okay, rant over. Congratulations to anyone who made it this far, especially since the accompanying sketch isn't even that enticing. If you want to know more about the Cincinnati subway, you can check these out:

The Basics
The Definitive Account
A cool t-shirt I just might buy someday


  1. That's an interesting story. You should move to Boston! Of course you'd have to become a Sox fan... (my husband is listening to the game right now!) But our transit's pretty cool so maybe it would be worth it. ;)

  2. ha ha this is such a cool 'take' on the theme, primitive yet nothing whatsoever to do with primitive at all!



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