Subway FAQs

This FAQ lists quick answers to questions regarding the subway in Cincinnati, more detailed answers are found in my book.


Is the subway haunted?
It is rumored to be haunted, but I have not witnessed anything myself during my tours, and have never heard of anyone who has.


When did construction start?
January, 1920.


When did it end?
The $6 million ran out in 1925 and the project was planned to be finished in 1925. However, unexpected problems arose and bad weather forced construction to continue until February, 1927.


Why was it built?
Its main purpose was to allow all interurban railroads to access downtown. Secondary reasons included replacing the Miami-Erie canal, and allowing commuters who lived in the suburbs to more easily access their downtown workplaces.


Why did it fail?
The new Mayor Seasongood in 1929 decided not to continue the project after its $6 million had run completely out. Plus, the subway was part of the previous administration which he was working hard to eliminate from City Hall. Also, by 1929 the interurbans were going out of business due to the growth of the automobile.


Did anything happen with the subway after 1929?
Oh yes! There were proposals and plans to use the subway for various purposes in every decade until the 1980s. It was also proposed to be included in a modern light rail system in 2002, but voters turned the plan down. These stories can be read about in my book.


Did Cincinnati really need a subway?
It did at the time, that is, the 1910s to the 1920s when it would have eliminated the canal and serve the interurbans. It also would have created faster growth for Cincinnati as the rapid transit system would expanded north, east, and west.


Does Cincinnnati need a subway now?
A light rail system would greatly help the current ever-increasing traffic situation in Cincinnati, but if one were to start being built now, it would not be complete for forty years, and nobody knows what Cincinnati will be like a half-century hence. As for a subway (running underneath downtown streets), downtown isn’t really that big and expansive as New York, so a downtown subway would not be all that beneficial. Nice maybe, but not necessary. While it may take fifteen minutes to walk from one side of downtown to the next, taking a subway to cover the same distance doesn’t seem very logical.


Is there a fallout shelter?
A fallout shelter was built in the 1950s and was operational until the 1980s when the Cold War had run its course. The remains are still there.


How do you get inside?
If you can jimmy open any of the doors, you can get inside. This is illegal, and I don’t condone or suggest it. Otherwise you have to attend a tour.


Are there ever tours?
The Cincinnati Museum Center offers tours, and the City Engineering Office will take groups by request.


Can it be used as an underground shopping or nightclub district?
As it stands right now, no. Someone would have to pay multi-millions to update it to modern codes and seal off the water main. And the City of Cincinnati would have to approve. It didn’t approve the 1974 proposal.