We’ve moved!

Please note as of Dec. 1, 2014, All Aboard Ohio moved its statewide offices to Cleveland’s public transportation and retail hub, Tower City Center! Our new mailing address is:

All Aboard Ohio
230 West Huron Road #85.53
Cleveland, OH 44113

Our telephone number remains (844) 464-7245, a toll-free number you may better remember as 844-GO4-RAIL. Our e-mail address continues to be info@allaboardohio.org for general inquiries.

 

Want up-to-the minute news, updates?

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YOU TUBE. It’s easy. Just click on the above logos or the links in this text to go to All Aboard Ohio’s social media pages. Simply join us or follow us. If you haven’t registered for Facebook or Twitter, take a moment to sign up.

You’ll enjoy instant news on rail travel discounts or special packages, travel tips, rail and transit service interruptions, local/state/federal policy issues, discussion and dialogue from around Ohio, the U.S. and even the world. For more in-depth news, dues-paying members receive the quarterly Ohio Passenger Rail News. Click HERE (5mb PDF) for a free sample of our newsletter. Please join All Aboard Ohio if you think this flow of information is important and you want it to continue. With your support, it will!

Save Hoosier State train, expand to Cincy

A southbound Hoosier State train arrives Lafayette, Indiana on its way from Chicago to Indianapolis. All Aboard Ohio wants this train to run daily, run faster and run to Cincinnati.  (J Feister photo)

A northbound Hoosier State train arrives Lafayette, Indiana on its way from Indianapolis to Chicago. All Aboard Ohio wants this train to run daily, run faster and run to Cincinnati. (J Feister photo)

In a March 18 letter, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) urged the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration to continue the Chicago-Indianapolis “Hoosier State” train service and to improve the service to attract more riders. Among the improvements, he advised INDOT and FRA to extend the train service to Cincinnati. All Aboard Ohio thanks Senator Donnelly for his constructive, well-timed letter supporting the Cincinnati extension.

He joins Senator Dan Coats (R-Indiana) in supporting the Hoosier State service. Senator Coats’ recent letter dealt with a dispute involving INDOT and the FRA (see last paragraph of this blog posting) rather than any expansions or service improvements. Regardless, the bipartisan support of this train is much appreciated.

All Aboard Ohio believes that the best way to boost ridership on the Hoosier State is to:

  • Run the northbound and southbound Hoosier State trains daily (each currently runs four days a week with Amtrak’s Cardinal service on the other three days)
  • Reschedule the Hoosier State two hours later northbound and two hours earlier southbound
  • Reroute it via faster tracks into Chicago
  • Add three new passing sidings and install more seamless welded rails for higher speeds (already underway)
  • Improve grade crossing safety with “triggers” set farther from road crossings and constant-warning-time circuits
  • Extend the train service to current and future Amtrak stations in Connersville, Indiana plus Ohio stations including Oxford, Hamilton, I-275/Tri-County area and Cincinnati Union Terminal
  • Provide coordinated, connecting bus service with through-ticketing to off-route destinations such as Middletown, University of Dayton and downtown Dayton.

Numerous cities, businesses and civic organizations are supporting the Hoosier extension to Cincinnati including the Hamilton County Commissioners, city councils of Hamilton, Norwood, Oxford, Wyoming and Cincinnati Council’s Transportation Committee Chair Amy Murray, Miami University, University of Cincinnati, the U.S. Bank/Haile Foundation, Cincinnatians For Progress and others.

All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast noted the Cincinnati expansion depends on continuing the Hoosier State train service beyond April 30.

“You can’t expand and improve a train that no longer exists,” Prendergast said. “That’s why were so interested in what’s going on in Indiana. The long-term future of this train must be secured first. Then we want to consider expanding a faster, more frequent version of this train service to Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio.”

Senator Donnelly acknowledged this course of action in the letter he sent today to INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning and FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg.

“I write today to support the continued service of the Hoosier State line. I was pleased to see that the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has announced the continuation of service through the end of April, and I ask that INDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) work together to continue the safe operation of the Hoosier State well beyond that time.

“As you know, the Hoosier State is an important transportation option connecting Indianapolis, Chicago, and the communities in between. Even as its future has been uncertain in recent years, demand for the service continues, with nearly 34,000 passengers during Fiscal Year 2014. I regularly hear from constituents who rely on the Hoosier State, as well as from those who would like to see the service improved and extended into southern Indiana communities and Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I know many Hoosiers support the state working to improve and expand the Hoosier State service. I am sensitive to concerns related to employment practices and state resources that may result from FRA policies. It also is important, however, that the state work closely with FRA to ensure the safe operation of the Hoosier State line. I also expect FRA to continue working with the state to address their concerns, while also ensuring that the safety of Hoosiers is not compromised.

“It is my hope that INDOT and FRA will quickly reach a resolution that will ensure the safety and continued operation of the Hoosier State line. If I may be of assistance, please do not hesitate to let me know. I stand ready to assist you,” Senator Donnelly wrote in his letter.

INDOT and the FRA are attempting to work through new rules implemented by the FRA to assign safety and liability compliance on states who are already required by a 2008 federal law to sponsor passenger rail routes of 750 miles or less. Longer routes are a federal responsibility. Indiana is the first state to be notified by the FRA, apparently because it is attempting to involve a private-sector third party (Iowa Pacific Corp.) to provide train equipment and on-board service crews to improve customer service over what Amtrak has delivered. North Carolina Department of Transportation was the first the state to engage a private-sector third party in 2008 which was also met with resistance from the FRA, then administered by Joseph Boardman. Boardman is now the president and CEO of Amtrak. NCDOT sued the FRA which then backed off.

END

 

Rail passengers win Supreme Court victory!

gavel on white background

Rail passengers have won an important victory for making their trains more reliable. The Supreme Court released their opinion this morning on Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-1080. READ THE OPINION HERE

It was a unanimous Supreme Court opinion that Amtrak is a government entity, making it able to help the U.S. DOT develop and enforce performance standards over the track-owning host railroads (most of whom run only freight) represented by the Association of American Railroads.

Had Amtrak not prevailed, train services would have suffered worse than they already have. After the freight railroads prevailed last year in the lower court, Amtrak’s on-time performance sank especially on trains through Ohio.

All Aboard Ohio joined with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, National Association of Railroad Passengers and the Virginians for High Speed Rail in filing an “amicus brief” or friend of the court document in support of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s position that Amtrak can help develop and enforce performance standards for using the rights of way of host railroads.

So if you’re a member of one of these organizations, you just won an important victory for more reliable passenger train services! It shows that YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE by being a member of All Aboard Ohio. And if you’re not a member, join us today HERE! Thank you for your support!

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How did your U.S. Rep vote on Amtrak?

Amtrak's eastbound Cardinal (train #50), pauses in the wee hours at Cincinnati Union Terminal on March 1. Amtrak's presence in Greater Cincinnati is much larger than this, as 125 people are employed by Siemens in suburban Norwood, making components for new Amtrak locomotives for trains in the Northeast, California and Midwest--except Ohio.  (Will Gawin photo)

Amtrak’s eastbound Cardinal (train #50) from Chicago to the East Coast, pauses in the wee hours at Cincinnati Union Terminal on March 1. Amtrak’s presence in Greater Cincinnati is much larger than this, however, as 125 people are employed by Siemens in suburban Norwood, making components for new Amtrak locomotives for trains in the Northeast, California and Midwest–except Ohio. (Will Gawin photo)

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a final vote of 316 to 101, House Resolution 749, the Amtrak Reauthorization bill. Six of seven amendments were agreed to by voice vote, and will be harmless to Amtrak. However, the seventh amendment by Rep. McClintock of California would have stripped all funding from Amtrak authorizations and killed intercity passenger rail in America. It was defeated by a vote of 272 to 147.

Thanks to the eleven Ohio Congresspersons who voted to continue passenger rail service in America! (see roll-call vote below)

And thanks to all dues-paying All Aboard Ohio members who responded to All Aboard Ohio’s action alerts to contact your Congresspersons. You helped make a difference in generating bi-partisan support for Amtrak from Ohio’s Congressional Delegation. If you want to receive these action alerts and other news by e-mail and newsletter, please JOIN US today!

Passage of this bill is a big victory for the American passenger rail program. While Amtrak has limited service in Ohio due to no state support for rail service, our state is home to hundreds of companies that employ thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs to build Amtrak locomotives, rail cars, track systems, signals and day-to-day supplies.

Amtrak is a public-private partnership which uses privately owned infrastructure, unlike buses, cars or planes that all depend on government-owned infrastructure. Amtrak covers 93% of its costs from customer revenues, compared to the Federal Aviation Administration which covers only 80% of its costs and federal highways that cover even less of their costs (51%) from user fees. The rest is made up by taxpayers who artificially reduce the per-trip costs of driving and flying and thereby distort the travel marketplace.

The strong bi-partisan support for Amtrak will help passenger rail supporters in the Senate, and eventually when the two chambers resolve their different bills in conference.

So how did your Congressperson vote on the Amtrak-killing McClintock amendment?

US House of Representatives roll call #110: March 4, 2015

FOUR Ohio congresspersons supported the McClintock amendment to kill Amtrak

Rep. Steve Chabot (R, 1st district)
Rep. Jim Jordan (R, 4th district)
Rep. Bob Latta (R, 5th district)
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R, 2nd district)

ELEVEN Ohio congresspersons opposed the McClintock amendment

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D, 3rd district)
Rep. Bill Johnson (R, 6th district)
Rep. Bob Gibbs (R, 7th district)
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D, 9th district)
Rep. Mike Turner (R, 10th district)
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D, 11th district)
Rep. Pat Tiberi (R, 12th district)
Rep. Tim Ryan (D, 13th district)
Rep. David Joyce (R, 14th district)
Rep. Steve Stivers (R, 15th district)
Rep. Jim Renacci (R, 16th district)

ONE Ohio congressperson DID NOT VOTE:

Rep. John Boehner (R, 8th district)

Now, on to the U.S. Senate!

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When a frozen Cleveland transit system melts down

Passengers wait to board a delayed Green Line train at the Green Road station in Shaker Heights. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority rail service has melted down in this cold winter. (Kevin Goodman photo)

Passengers wait to board a delayed Green Line train at the Green Road station in Shaker Heights. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority rail service has melted down multiple times in this frigid winter. (Kevin Goodman photo)

MARCH 4 UPDATE: CLICK HERE to read an official statement from GCRTA GM/CEO Joe Calabrese “We apologize to our customers for significant service delays.”

ALL ABOARD OHIO STATEMENT, March 2: Bad winter weather causes pain from exposure. It exposes poor planning, insufficiently-maintained equipment and infrastructure, and a lack of attention to detail in response to bad weather.

Winter will also indiscriminately claim the overseers of transportation systems as victims, too. Just ask Chicago Mayor Michael Anthony Bilandic whose poor response to the Blizzard of January 1979 caused him to lose the primary election three months later. Or more recently, Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority General Manager Beverly Scott resigned Feb. 10, 2015 after a record-setting snowstorm crippled that city’s transit system.

Neither of those departures fixed, or will fix those cities’ transportation problems. Nor might the departure of top brass at the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) after multiple missteps this winter. But even though winter happens every year, it seems that the people who run our transportation systems seem to get caught unprepared by its snow and cold. Yes, we understand that infrastructure is underfunded. Yes, we understand rail cars are old and need to be replaced. And we also understand that quick fixes aren’t going to happen immediately.

But too many mistakes are being repeated for All Aboard Ohio to remain silent and enable an otherwise beloved transit system.

Even when all goes wrong unexpectedly, All Aboard Ohio believes that a little bit of attention to detail and treating passengers with respect and dignity — such as with active communication networks, timely sharing of information, and quickly implemented temporary fixes — will help GCRTA retain customers in the face of adverse weather and service conditions. Some 40,000 weekday customers, or one-fifth of GCRTA’s ridership, depend on its rail system to get to work or school in a timely, relaxing manner each day. This is Cleveland’s highest rail ridership in 27 years.

If GCRTA wants these riders to stay and to encourage others to ride too, we believe GCRTA must address these issues and questions:

  • The Blue/Green Line trains underwent extensive overhauls in 2006 and the Red Line trains were overhauled in the past year, yet trains are breaking down in the annual winter cold. Why?
  • GCRTA officials say they can’t afford to replace its 30-year-old trains because of the $200+ million cost. Since no railcar fleet lasts forever, there had to be a railcar replacement plan established at some point in the past 30 years, correct? If not, why not?
  • What’s the current plan to replace GCRTA’s trains? Is funding being set side? Can they set up financing or leasing programs through railcar manufacturers?
  • Why were trains on all lines breaking down throughout much of February 2015, causing significant delays, with one train having to serve the time slot of the previous two trains which never showed, resulting in extremely overcrowded trains that did show up, only to have those break down too?
  • Why was the following service status shown on riderta.com from shortly after 7 a.m. March 2, 2015, when control over track switches at Tower City Center failed and shut down all rail lines into Downtown Cleveland, until 9 a.m. when the service status was finally updated to show train delays of 45-60 minutes?
From riderta.com more than one hour after Tower City Center station switches lost electrical power (the second time since Feb. 20). Another 40 minutes passed before this status was updated with alerts.

From riderta.com more than one hour after Tower City Center station switches lost electrical power (the second time since Feb. 20). Another 40 minutes passed before this status was updated with alerts.

  • This was not the first time power was lost to the Tower City Center switches this winter, so why was there no emergency back-up plan in place in case it happened again — which it did on March 2? Is there a back-up plan in place now?
  • On a previous loss of power to Tower City track switches (during the afternoon rush hour of Feb. 20), again there were no service advisories posted at riderta.com. In fact, All Aboard Ohio received reports from rail riders who contacted GCRTA staff after 5 p.m. and were the first to inform them of the rail shutdown and 1- to 2-hour delays. Why?
  • Why were hundreds of Blue and Green Line passengers discharged at Shaker Square March 2 without any connecting transportation available for an extended period of time nor any information when it might arrive while they waited in 8-degree windchills? Again, why was there no back-up plan after the Feb. 20 incident?

 

A Red Line train sits disabled after rolling backward without brakes out of the Ohio City station on Feb. 5, 2015. For unknown reasons, train operators weren't using "snow brakes" on trains to keep ice from forming on brake pads. (Ken Prendergast photo)

A Red Line train sits disabled after rolling backward without brakes out of the Ohio City station on Feb. 5, 2015. For unknown reasons, train operators weren’t using “snow brakes” on trains to keep ice from forming on brake pads. (Ken Prendergast photo)

  • Numerous Red Line trains have experienced diminished or inoperable braking power during cold and/or snowy weather this winter, representing a serious safety hazard. Are Red Line train operators using the train’s “snow brake” which is designed to keep gentle pressure and heat on the brake pads so they don’t get iced up during winter operation? If not, why not?
  • On the afternoon of Feb. 14, a Green Line train derailed and jackknifed at the Green Road station in Shaker Heights. No one was hurt. Reportedly, the train hit a roadway crossing maintained by GCRTA within the station grounds where the “flangeways” (a recessed area along and next to the rails through a road crossing — a flange is the extended inside rim of a train’s wheel that keep the train on the rail) were not cleared of compacted snow/ice. So the train’s wheels lifted on top of the ice-packed crossing and derailed. Why didn’t GCRTA maintain this crossing?

All Aboard Ohio wants what GCRTA wants — a safe and reliable public transportation system for Greater Cleveland. But moreso, we want to use this system as an example. Not only is it Ohio’s busiest transit system — it has twice the annual ridership of transit systems in Columbus and Cincinnati. But it is also the only transit system in Ohio that offers rail services, at least until Cincinnati’s streetcar begins service in 2016. We want transit to succeed, improve and expand — all of which requires more funding. However, funders fund success stories.

The reasons why we want transit to succeed are many: to improve citizens’ access to opportunities, promote economic development, sustain a cleaner environment and foster a more livable city. But none of those can be achieved if a transit system fails at its most basic function: getting people to work, school or wherever they want to go in a consistently reliable manner. We want others to believe in transit as much as we do. But GCRTA is making it difficult to demonstrate to its region or the rest of Ohio that public transit can be a transportation mode of choice and is deserving of more financial support. Help us help you.

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