By: Alex Hale
Of all the obstacles to a full and well-rounded education that we face at Xavier, there are few that are as lasting as the ‘Xavier Bubble,’ the invisible wall that encourages students not to leave campus, explore their surrounding neighborhoods or get involved with the community life outside of campus.
The bubble is a true detriment to students because it encourages safety and coddling. This stifles exploration and opportunities to have our beliefs questioned or our worldview changed. After years of hard work and lobbying from community activists outside of Xavier, as well as a recent push from students in the Philosophy Politics and the Public Program (PPP), that bubble may finally burst.
The abandoned railroad line that crosses Montgomery right by the new Delicio Pizza Restaurant has been purchased by the City of Cincinnati with the intention of turning it into a 7.6 mile bike trail that extends from Xavier all the way to Ault Park, passing through vibrant places such as the Hyde Park Plaza and the Rookwood Commons.
The trail is called Wasson Way and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2017. Hopefully it will make a big difference, not just for our community here at Xavier, but for all of the 11 communities that it will pass through. For example, it will increase property values for all homes within a mile of the trail by an average of about $9,000.
The University of Cincinnati DAAP program did a long-term economic analysis of the trail and concluded that the trail would lead to a $7.18 million increase in annual household incomes across the city and will generate $5.18 million in annual sales along the trail from food, beverage, and convenience items. In addition, the city estimates that the trail will generate approximately 140 new permanent jobs.
Right now, Cincinnati is not a very walkable city and lacks in public transportation. However, the new streetcar, which officially opens in September, will hopefully change that. Wasson Way will directly affect Xavier students, unlike anything else could. Now Xavier students without a car can easily get jobs and shop at Rookwood.
The trail will also make our community safer. According to national crime statistics, bike trails are two to three times safer than parking lots and streets. Before the City of Cincinnati purchased the property from Norfolk Southern (Railroad Company), it was considered private land, which meant law enforcement could not regularly patrol the area. Now that the land is owned by the city, it can regularly be patrolled and protected.
Besides all of these benefits, the obvious advantage is health. Biking promotes a healthy lifestyle and will lead to a healthier community.
“There aren’t really a lot of options around other than running routes on streets, which is fine, but actually having a trail to run on would be phenomenal,” junior Josh Menke, an avid runner and member of Xavier’s running club, said.
Right now, there aren’t many trails near Xavier. With the creation of Wasson Way, we will see an increase in safety for bikers, runners and the general community.
This trail is for more than biking, though. It is a place for runners and walkers as well. It spurs economic development, promotes sustainable living and will even link the Little Miami Bike Trail to the Ohio to Erie bike trail that crosses the entire state of Ohio.
It will open up new doors of opportunity to Xavier students through these connections. It will bring people together for fun all across the city and, most importantly, it makes Xavier University and the City of Cincinnati a better place for everyone.
It was my pleasure to be a member of the team of PPP students who were able to lobby for this project. I know without a doubt that the final push couldn’t have happened without my colleagues and the input of fellow Xavier students into this project. I’m very excited for the future of this project and I can’t wait to bike down it soon.