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Passenger Air and River Travel in the OKI Region

Region’s Aviation System Complex, Big Traffic Generator

The OKI region has an extensive aviation system that comprises a complex array of airspace, flight paths and facilities that support air travel. One aspect of passenger air travel’s role in transportation planning is the consideration of them as significant traffic generators to the surface or roadway network, both today and as the region nears 2050.


The OKI airport system serves all forms of air travel. General aviation activities within the OKI region include corporate flight, pleasure flying, medevac, gliding and skydiving. Most of these operations take place at 29 smaller, reliever private facilities and other general aviation airports across the region.

The region’s two airports that have an air traffic control tower:

CVG is the primary airport of the OKI region. In CVG’s 2012 Airport Master Plan Update, the airport re-envisioned itself as a regional airport serving the needs of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area, versus the international hub it was until the 2005 Delta Hub Realignment. In year four of the five-year strategic plan, passenger air service is once again booming. CVG’s total passenger volume has grown 31 percent since 2016.

CVG has done this through attracting and retaining a balance of legacy airlines and low-cost carriers. These options give travelers more choices, price points and expanded routes. In addition, CVG continues to invest in a state-of-the-art facility with amenities customers demand in today’s air travel market. These include IT work stations, restaurants and comfortable waiting areas. A new entrance road to the main terminal was recently completed, while construction on a new rental car facility and customer service building has begun.

Lunken Airport, a general aviation airport, is owned and managed by the City of Cincinnati. It is located on 1,140 acres east of downtown in Cincinnati’s Columbia-Tusculum neighborhood. Upgrades to the main runway were completed in August 2018. The airport serves corporate, private and charter aircraft. Aircraft operations have grown 22 percent since 2016, averaging 228 aircrafts per day, with 50 percent serving as transient general aviation, 33 percent local general aviation, 16 percent air taxi, less than 1 percent military and less than 1 percent commercial. Source: airnav 

Other nearby publicly owned airports with instrument procedures:

Future Technologies

Innovative solutions to utilizing air transport that completely avoids reliance upon surface transportation networks are underway. Research is in progress regarding air travel technologies.

Passenger Air Vehicles

Just as autonomous vehicles are being created and tested on roadways across the globe, firms and institutions are working to develop autonomous passenger air vehicles (PAVs). Several projects are underway to test and make PAVs a reality.

A few examples of autonomous PAVs initiatives:


  • In late 2019, GE Aviation was awarded a 24-month contract for the Teaming-Enabled Architectures for Manned-Unmanned Systems (TEAMS) prototype program. The project is sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) as part of their Flexible, Assured Manned-Unmanned Systems (FAMUS) program. The TEAMS mission is to define the architectures, processes, methods, tools and environments needed to evolve into increasingly complex manned-unmanned teaming technologies.
  • From January 2018 to January 2019, Boeing went from concept to a first test flight of its PAV using eVTOL aircraft technology. The prototype completed a fully autonomous flight from takeoff to landing with a 50-mile range.
  • In December 2018, the Airbus Helicopter’s VSR700 demonstrator performed a 30-minute fully unmanned autonomous flight in France. The unmanned demonstrator executed various flight patterns and a landing piloted and monitored from a ground station. Source: AIRBUS 

Shared Air Transportation

As Uber works to perfect ridesharing for surface transportation, it is also developing shared air transportation. Uber is teaming with partners in Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne to launch fleets of small, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Uber’s goal is to begin demonstrator flights in 2020 and commercial shared air transportation operations by 2023. CVG staff have met with Uber to discuss the VTOL technology as they seek opportunities for innovation at one of the region’s primary economic engines and traffic generators. Source: Uber Elevate

Model of Uber’s eCRM-004 eVTOL concept displayed at Uber Elevate Summit 2019. Source VFS

Ohio River Great Source of Recreation, Healthy Lifestyle

Often referred to as the region’s “Main Street,” the Ohio River is what first attracted people to settle in this part of the U.S. Used by a fraction of residents and visitors today, the river still continues to serve as a means of moving people and attracting them to the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region.

Ferry Service

Before bridges spanned the Ohio River, ferries transported people between Ohio or Indiana and Kentucky in the most direct and efficient manner. Today, two private ferries operate within the OKI region. For some, the ferries are used to dramatically shorten travel distances and avoid congestion along the region’s I-71/75 (or Brent Spence Bridge) corridor, between Kentucky and Ohio. Under the FAST Act’s expanded focus on the resiliency of the transportation system, ferries provide an alternative travel option to ensure continuous connectivity for our OKI region.

Photo courtesy of Anderson Ferry

Anderson Ferry

Anderson Ferry Boat Inc. runs an automobile ferry service on the Ohio River, between the foot of Anderson Ferry Road in Hamilton County, about 10 miles west of downtown Cincinnati, and River Road (KY 8) in Boone County, near the Kenton-Boone County line. During routine maintenance of the Brent Spence Bridge, ridership on the ferry increased dramatically creating long queues during peak commute times. Anderson Ferry, which celebrated 200 years of continuous operation on the Ohio River in 2017, is a National Registered U.S. Historic Site (2007). The ferry is also on the route of the trans-continental American Discovery Trail.

Anderson Ferry operates from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and holidays; and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. News and updates, including closures due to high winds, fast currents or high river levels, are posted to their website and Twitter.

The tickets for cars and passengers are $5 per river crossing. Trucks, trailers and recreational vehicles are $5 or more depending on number of axles and length of vehicle. The ferry transports an average of 400 to 500 vehicles across the river per day. Due to the absence of river crossings in that area, the ferry is also important for transporting bicyclists for one dollar. The fare for pedestrians is 50 cents. Payment is cash only at the port of departure. The website has online ticketing and reduced pricing for multi-trip pass advance purchases (10 trips for $35 and 40 trips for $134).

River City Ferry

The River City Ferry, dubbed MS Lucky Lady, is a $1.7 million project made possible by the Rising Star Casino. The ferry began service in October 2018 between Rising Sun, Indiana, and Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, across the Ohio River. A ferry operated in the same location from the 1880s to 1948 before it sank.

The MS Lucky Lady cuts what had been a nearly hour-long trip between the two towns into a five-minute ferry ride. It operates Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight. The ferry can carry 10 vehicles at a time and costs $5 one way or $8 round trip.

Water Taxi Service

Other river cities across the globe are served by public and/or private water taxi service to move people more quickly between ports up and down the river network. Water taxi service can operate via a fixed route and daily timetable, similar to bus transit, or function from an “on-demand” customer origin/destination request, similar to a traditional taxi or, if app-driven, like Uber or Lyft.

River City Water Taxi

River City Water Taxi, a private company, is targeting spring 2020 to begin a fixed route service between 13 docking stations, which will be located from Bromley in Kenton County, Kentucky, to Coney Island in Clermont County, Ohio. The proposed 25-foot water taxis will be able to transport up to 10 passengers. The water taxi is intended to complement and work with TANK’s Southbank Shuttle, the Cincinnati Streetcar and RedBike to enhance shared-mobility options to residents and tourists.


Beyond passenger service to get from point A to point B, the Ohio River provides a means of attracting tourists and locals to simply enjoy the beauty of the natural resource itself, whether from more passive or active recreational use. In this way, the river promotes a higher quality of life and healthy lifestyle. The FAST Act expanded the scope of consideration of the metropolitan planning process to include the enhancement of travel and tourism.

Image courtesy of Nick Brown

Ohio River Recreation Trail

The Ohio River Recreation Trail is a joint effort between OKI, River City Paddle Sports in Louisville, and members of the Adventure Crew/Paddlefest team in Cincinnati. The group plans to develop a 274-mile-long Ohio River Recreational Trail from Portsmouth, Ohio, to West Point, Kentucky. In fall 2019, the group was awarded a Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance grant from the National Park Service to help develop the trail.

The trail will be useable from land and water, and supported by an on-line digital guide developed by OKI. The guide will contain the information and resources needed for either land-based or water-based tourism. It will provide details about the Ohio River such as marinas, locks and dams, weather and water condition information, as well as information on hiking and bicycling trails located along the river. It will also have links to river community websites and social media pages, where local points of interest and amenities — including shops, lodging and restaurants — may be posted.

Riverboat companies

Several companies capitalize on the river’s beauty by offering passengers a view of the cities from a different perspective.


The Ohio River Paddlefest is recognized as the largest paddling celebration in the U.S., with more than 2,000 participants traveling nine miles through downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky in canoes, kayaks and other human-powered craft. In 2017, OKI developed the Digital Guide to the Ohio River for Paddlefest. This tool helps participants and others appreciate some of the more unique features of the river through narratives of its history, morphology and riverside development. Following Paddlefest 2017, OKI developed a story map that provides highlights of this annual event and its impact on the region. 

Private Vessels

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) website provides key information for boating along the Ohio River. Because the river is also bounded by Kentucky and Indiana, the ODNR website provides contacts for the numerous enforcement agencies that patrol the river and have authority to enforce boating safety laws and aid boaters in distress. Boating safety equipment and operating laws vary from state to state.

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