The reopening of Metro's Government Square on Aug. 14 will signal another completed phase in downtown Cincinnati's facelift. Metr'™s General Manager Michael Setzer says the new design will be "a lot more modern and attractive," and provide service that's "more and more consumer-oriented."

The new outdoor transit station will unveil signage that's easier to understand, as well as a new paint scheme and some new buses. The design features pink granite and stainless steel, and a layout that keeps buses from waiting in line. The safer setup also means buses no longer pull out onto Fifth Street.

Coupled with the redesign of Fountain Square and the revamped Duke Energy Center, this could bring a morale boost downtown.

"I would never underestimate what that means to downtown," Cincinnati Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell observes.

He says this kind of revitalization project sends a strong message about how the city feels about its future. 

Setzer, who occasionally takes the Metro from the new Park & Ride station in Anderson Township, sees Government Square as a perfect introduction for those who don't usually ride a bus. Metro is also working with Project Lily Pad to get free WiFi "hot spots" on the buses.

"They'll be on the internet all the way home," Setzer says.

Forget the image of dreary old stations and dirty buses, Setzer adds. No rider should ever feel "second class." As for security, the new Government Square will have lots of video cameras, and no hiding places.  

Tarbell says the automobile's influence is too invasive, while the city's need for public transportation is so great. "We just don't have the room for cars." He points to a parking lot across from Silverglades Grocery on Eighth Street. "There ought to be a building there," he says.

Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Guy C. Guckenberger has a free parking spot downtown, but he takes Metro to work every day. "The bus is the best deal around," he says. "How could you not take it?" Guckenburger, who lives in Mt. Lookout, says he'd rather spend $1 on rush hour bus fare than a gallon of gas to and from work.

Most of the project's funding came from federal and state dollars, so the project doesn't affect Metro fares.

The reopening, plus added amenities and rising gas prices, could mean plenty of new Metro passengers. As Sallie Hilvers, Metr'™s director of public affairs says, "We're part of this whole urban environment."