Getting Around Cincinnati: Guide to Public Transportation and More

Cincinnati viewed from Covington, Kentucky
Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin) / Getty Images

From bus service, streetcars, and rental cars to electric scooters, bike shares, and riverboats, there are plenty of good ways to get around Cincinnati, both by land and water. Laid out on a grid system, the downtown region is convenient to navigate using the Ohio River as the most recognizable orientation point, with major highways and thoroughfares extending to points north and south into Kentucky (considered a vital cog of the greater Cincinnati metro area).

How to Ride the Cincinnati Metro Bus

With fixed-route service, the Cincinnati Metro bus system is the major local commuter service, transporting 20 percent of the area’s workforce to jobs in the downtown sector and accommodating more than 14 million rides annually. It’s also a convenient way for visitors to reach many popular cultural attractions and tourist destinations, including the Cincinnati Zoo, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Cincinnati Museum Center.

A downloadable app simplifies trip planning by making bus tracking and fare purchase options available directly from your smartphone. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available on designated vehicles, and free parking is offered at many Park-and-Ride stations dotted throughout the service region.

Fares will set you back $1.75 per one-way ride. Or, you can purchase a day pass for zones 1 and 2 once you’re actually on the bus. Cincinnati Metro busses operate on daily schedules that begin at approximately 4:30 in the morning and continue running as late as 1:30 a.m.

For schedules, maps, rates, and other helpful information, visit the Cincinnati Metro website.

Another bus option, the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (a.k.a. “TANK”), oversees service between downtown Cincinnati and points south across the river in Kentucky, including Newport and Covington. A route connects the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron directly to downtown for a $2 one-way fare. Local cash fares are $1.50, and one-day passes are available for $3.50.

How to Ride the Cincinnati Bell Connector

Looking for a way to seamlessly navigate the city’s urban core between downtown, the riverfront bars and restaurant of the Banks mixed-use development, and the buzzy historic Over-the-Rhine district? Hop on the Cincinnati Bell Connector electric streetcars, a fairly recent addition to the city’s public transportation service offerings. The fleet of five modern streetcars runs in a 3.6-mile loop, and the connector operates for up to 18 hours a day every day of the year.

If you only need a short ride, a two-hour fare costs just $1; or, grab a full day pass for $2, both available from vending machines at each of the 18 station stops along the looping path. The streetcars load and unload at even ground level, making them fully accessible for wheelchair users.

Taxis

Traditional taxi cabs operated by a handful of service providers are conveniently found throughout the downtown region, especially outside major downtown hotels, as well as at designated taxi stands at the airport and throughout the city.

Ride-Sharing Services and Apps

Uber and Lyft customers will be happy to know that both ride-shares operate in the greater Cincinnati metro area. Download the app for either service to create an account if you don't already have one, schedule a pick-up, and you’ll be off and running in no time.

Car Rentals

Visitors who prefer having their own set of wheels handy during their Cincinnati visits can find major car rental companies including Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz in downtown locations and via service counters at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Zipcars

Only need a car for a quick spin? Available at designated parking areas, innovative new Zipcars offer grab-and-go vehicles to borrow for an hour or the day. Licensed drivers age 21 and up can apply online. Once approved, choose from a selection of economy, SUV, or luxury car models; pick one up; drive it wherever you need to go, and then drop it back off at the same location later when you’re done. Rates vary depending on time and distance.

Bikeshare

For those who prefer to sightsee on two wheels instead of four, the Cincinnati Red Bike service maintains more than 500 bicycles to grab and go from 59 self-serve stations scattered across downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Clifton, Covington, and Newport. Book your ride using the Red Bike app, pick up a bike and drop it off at any other bike share station when you’re done riding. Single-ride passes cover you for quick jaunts up to 20 minutes for $3; 24-hour day passes cost $10. (Helmets aren’t included or required but are strongly recommended.)

Electric Scooters and Segways

Zoom around town with a little electric assistance. The latest trend in transportation, Bird scooters have landed in Cincinnati for quick jaunts with new and improved acceleration to assure a smooth ride. To get started, download the app to your mobile phone, scan a QR code, hit the throttle, and you’re good to go. On arrival, simply engage the kickstand and leave the scooter outside your destination; make sure it’s not blocking the street or sidewalk.

Or, see Cincinnati from a sleek Segway via a themed tour from downtown or Eden Park led by destination marketing guides. Do some research online ahead of your visit to schedule a tour, or ask about options at the downtown visitors center at Fountain Square.

Walking and Hiking Trails

There’s no better way to discover a city than on foot. The paved Ohio River Trail rolls out a warm welcome to walkers, joggers, and bikers skirting the city’s most notable geographic feature and passing through Smale Riverfront Park, Yeatman’s Cove, and Sawyer Point along the way. For something a little more natural and rugged, lace up your hiking shoes to explore the Sharon Woods Gorge Trail, the Cincinnati Nature Center, or Mt. Airy Forest.

Riverboat Rides

The Ohio River has always been a lifeline for Cincinnati, delivering goods and passengers to the Queen City. See the city from a whole new vantage point with a sightseeing, lunch, dinner, or sunset cruise aboard a majestic riverboat.

Horse-Drawn Carriages

In town to celebrate an anniversary, an engagement, or just feeling particularly romantic? Leisurely horse-drawn carriage rides lead off from downtown locations; get more information at the downtown visitor’s center on Fountain Square.

Tips for Getting Around Cincinnati

  • When it opened in 1867, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge was the longest structure globally, linking downtown Cincinnati with Covington, Kentucky. These days, pedestrians traverse the iconic landmark to enjoy stunning skyline views and the opportunity to stand in two states at once.
  • In town for a conference? In the heart of downtown Cincinnati, the Duke Energy Convention Center is centrally located and conveniently accessible, just a quick walk away from several hotels.
  • Cincinnati is called the City of Seven Hills for a good reason. Be prepared to exert some energy if you set out to explore the city on foot or by bike.
  • If you rent a Bird, note that riding electric scooters on city sidewalks is prohibited. You’ll have to (carefully) stick to designated bike lanes or stay as close as you safely can to the curb.
  • Downtown traffic can get gnarly during Bengals and Reds games, festivals, and special events. Use public transportation if possible to avoid potential parking hassles.
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