AAO Annual Meeting May 12, 2018

Makoy Center graphic


  • All Aboard Ohio Annual Meeting
  • Saturday May 12, 2018 at 09:00 am to 03:00 pm
  • Makoy Center, 5462 Center Street, Hilliard, Ohio (MAP)
  • To RSVP and pay at the door, call toll-free (844) 464-7245 (if message, please leave your name(s), # in party, telephone #) or e-mail info@allaboardohio.org

Join All Aboard Ohio, Ohio’s premiere passenger rail advocacy organization, for its 2018 Spring Meeting.The Spring Meeting will provide the latest information on the state of passenger rail in the United States, the Midwest, and Ohio. Additionally, attendees will learn about the recent developments in public transit in Columbus / Central Ohio.

Doors open at 9:00 AM. A continental breakfast will be provided. (Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to allow for everyone to be checked-in prior to the start of the presentations and to have some time for socializing.)

Lunch (included with all tickets) will be served around 12 PM, and the event will end around 3:00 PM

This event is open to the public, but registration is required.

Featured speakers/topics:

  • Thea Walsh and Dina Lopez, transportation planners at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC): Chicago-Lima-Columbus-Pittsburgh corridor planning update
  • Midwest Regional Rail Plan update
  • Federal passenger rail funding boost in the latest omnibus spending bill
  • Ohio state government/rail/transit matters
  • Public transportation funding issues
  • All Aboard Ohio board of direction election


Registration by May 1 – (advance registration)

$30/person (AAO members)
$25/person (AAO member & guest (limit of 3 guests per member))
$40/person non-AAO member (includes annual membership)

Registration after May 1 –  (standard registration) 

$40/person (AAO members)
$35/person (AAO member & guest (limit of 3 guests per member))
$50/person non-AAO member (includes annual membership)

What are my transport/parking options?
Public transit: COTA provides bus service
Automobile: Complimentary parking is available onsite
Greyhound bus: If arriving Columbus by Greyhound, contact Eric Childress at 614-889-8336 or eric.childress@gmail.com to arrange free pickup/dropoff

What food will be served?
During check-in, coffee and breakfast (Danish pastries, muffins, scones with fresh fruit & berries, bagels and cream cheese) will be offered. For lunch, a deli buffet (an assortment of sliced deli meats and cheeses, breads, relishes, condiments,  chips and potato salad) will be served.
Can you accommodate special dietary requirements?
Please query info@allaboardohio.org

Is the event accessible?
Yes, Entrance to the building is at ground level, and an elevator is available to take guests to the floor where the Spring Meeting will be held.

Local attractions:
The meeting venue is adjacent to the entrance to the Heritage Trail Park (the trail traces a former rail line)  and near Hilliard’s historic district and Station Park (located near the site of Hilliard’s former rail station).
Also nearby is the Early Television Museum, which is open til 6:00 PM on Saturdays.

Do I need to bring my printed ticket to the event?
A printed ticket is preferred but not required.
Is my registration/ticket transferrable?
Yes. If possible, please update your information at least 5 days prior to the event.
May I update my registration information?
Yes. Please note: Complimentary AAO 2018 memberships (a $35 value) for persons purchasing “Standard Registration” tickets will be issued based on the information provided in the Eventbrite system.
The name on the registration/ticket doesn’t match the attendee. Is that OK?
We will do our best to be flexible to honor all paid tickets. If possible, the ticket-holder or purchaser should email info@allaboardohio.org in advance to advise us of the substitution.
What is the refund policy?
Refunds will be issued only if the event is cancelled.
How may I contact the organizer with any questions?
Email: info@allaboardohio.org
Toll free phone: (844) 464-7245


Want up-to-the minute news, updates?

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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!

Bye Capitol/Lake Shore diners, Penn Station summer access

Full-service dining aboard Amtrak's Capitol Limited as seen on April 6, 2018, with freshly cooked meals, will soon go away. Dining service has already been replaced with a Diner-Lite concept on the Lake Shore Limited, featuring a limited selection of meals, all microwaved. (Ken Prendergast photo)

Full-service dining aboard Amtrak’s Capitol Limited as seen on April 6, 2018, with freshly cooked meals, will soon go away. Dining service has already been replaced with a Diner-Lite concept on the Lake Shore Limited, featuring a small selection of meals, all microwaved. (Ken Prendergast photo)

The first item below from Amtrak’s media center is very disappointing news, but not surprising considering that Amtrak is now run by a former airline executive. Questions are: what will the food options be for coach passengers? What will happen with all the brand-new Viewliner dining cars that Amtrak acquired? Will they be used for this new food service concept? The second item below follows the news that the Cardinal route will be temporarily shortened this summer, with Washington DC being its temporary eastern terminus during Penn Station infrastructure work. Unfortunately, ridership will be negatively affected from these service interruptions. –Ken Prendergast, AAO Executive Director


New And Contemporary Dining Soon On Two Amtrak Routes

WASHINGTON – Amtrak will offer contemporary and fresh dining choices for sleeping car customers, instead of traditional dining car service, embarking aboard its Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited trains starting June 1.

Sleeping car customers will choose meals delivered to their Bedrooms or Roomettes – or eaten in a private café or lounge car – and entrees such as:

  • Lunch & Dinner: Chilled beef tenderloin, Vegan wrap, Chicken Caesar salad, or Turkey club sandwich.
  • Breakfast: Assorted breakfast breads with butter, cream cheese and strawberry jam; Greek yogurt and sliced seasonal fresh fruit plate.

These meals will continue to be included in the sleeping car fare and are delivered to the trains just prior to origination, eliminating on-board preparation. Customers will also be offered unlimited soft beverages, a complimentary serving of beer, wine or a mixed-drink and an amenity kit.  A Kosher meal continues to be available with advance notice.

“Our plan is to provide new and fresh food choices in a contemporary way for these overnight trains,” said Bob Dorsch, Vice President of the Amtrak Long Distance Service Line. “Our continued success depends on increasing customer satisfaction while becoming more efficient.”

Dorsch said this enhancement will continue to be refined and we look forward to hearing from our customers.

The Capitol Limited (Trains 29 & 30) operates daily between Washington, D.C. and Chicago, via Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Toledo. The Lake Shore Limited (Trains 48 & 49) operates daily between Chicago and New York via Toledo and Cleveland, with a section to and from Boston (Trains 448 & 449).


Amtrak Announces Summer Infrastructure Renewal Work

Critical work to benefit New York State, improve reliability for LIRR, NJT and Amtrak customers

NEW YORK – Amtrak will continue its Infrastructure Renewal program at New York Penn Station during Summer 2018 by performing critical reconstruction of three major railroad infrastructure assets in New York City: The Empire Tunnel and the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, which provides train access between Upstate New York and New York Penn Station, as well as renewal work on Track 19 in New York Penn Station, which will help provide commuters with more reliable service. The total cost of the projects is estimated between $45 and $50 million, which will keep this important infrastructure in a state of good repair for Amtrak and benefit New York State with an upgraded, state-of-the art railroad.

Due to the work on the Empire Connection and Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Adirondack, and Maple Leaf trains will all be rerouted from New York Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal between Saturday, May 26, and Tuesday, Sept. 4. The Lake Shore Limited will only operate between Boston and Chicago, with New York City and Hudson Valley customers connecting from Empire Service trains at Albany-Rensselaer.


Feds boost rail funding; will Ohio sit this out, too?

In its 2018 appropriations bill for Transportation-Housing Urban Development (THUD), Congress is providing a major boost to passenger rail funding that will improve rail safety, reliability, convenience, accessibility and speed. But will Ohio sit out this opportunity as it did before by scuttling its 3C rail project in 2010?

The bill includes $2.813 billion for intercity passenger rail – an increase of $1.3 billion over last year! Urban and regional passenger rail, funded through transit appropriations, was also increased thereby providing older urban rail systems like the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to maintain a state of good repair.

Also, subsidies for aviation and highways were increased without raising user fees to pay for them. Meanwhile Amtrak covers 95 percent of its costs from customer revenues and relies on a mostly private-sector owned and funded rail network.

Federal intercity rail funding includes $1.9 billion for Amtrak ($650 million for the Northeast Corridor and $1.3 billion for the National Network); $593 million for the Consolidated Rail Improvement, which includes $250 million for Positive Train Control implementation; $250 million for the State of Good Repair program; and $20 million for the Rail Restoration program, which will be instrumental in restoring rail service to the Gulf Coast and possibly daily Cardinal service. All of these are significant increases over 2017 funding levels and are consistent with levels authorized in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act that Congress passed in 2016 (see chart below).

Rail Passengers Association graphic

CLICK TO ENLARGE (Source: Rail Passengers Association)

Note that this doesn’t include already existing and substantial federal financing programs for passenger rail and station-area real estate development, namely the $35 billion Railroad Rehabilitation Improvement Financing (RRIF) available through the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Private Activity Bonds (PAB) from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Amtrak, Brightline, and other railroads have used these programs to expand, improve, or start new services.

The THUD bill also provides $13.5 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) – $1 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $2.3 billion above the Trump Administration’s request. Transit formula grants for urban and rural systems were increased by nearly $400 million to $9.7 billion – consistent with the FAST Act – to help local communities build, maintain, and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems.

More than $400 million was added to Capital Investment Grants transit projects, totaling $2.6 billion. “New Starts” projects are funded at $1.5 billion, Core Capacity projects at $716 million, and Small Starts projects at $400 million. These programs provide competitive grant funding for major transit capital investments – including light rail, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail – that are planned and operated by local communities. But the bill limits the federal match for “New Starts” projects to 51 percent, thus requiring communities and states to increase their funding shares if they want to access these federal dollars.

Lastly, Congress agreed to triple the funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, from $500 million in 2017 to $1.5 billion. TIGER program grants are intended to be used as “gap funding” – to fill the remaining gap in funding for multi-modal transportation projects that already are substantially funded.  This program will fund states’ and local communities’ most critical transportation projects, and language is included in the bill to ensure that at least 30 percent of these funds go to rural communities.

All Aboard Ohio’s assessment

Naturally, All Aboard Ohio is very happy that Congress is increasing funding for passenger rail, public transportation and multi-modal investment and rejected President Trump’s calls to slash federal funding. Congress is responding to the needs of its constituencies as our aging Baby Boomers demand more diverse mobility options, the younger generation seek to live in less car-dependent settings to reduce costs of living, and the urban and rural poor need much greater access to jobs (only 1-in-4 jobs in Ohio’s metro areas are accessible within a 90-minute one-way transit trip).

“We are grateful to the Republican-led Congress for providing a transportation policy direction to states like Ohio,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast. “Transportation and infrastructure investment is one area in which Congress is acting in a responsible, bipartisan manner. We encourage all Ohioans to thank their Congressperson and Senators for their vote to boost investment in a multi-modal transportation system that creates jobs and improves access to jobs.”

Unfortunately, Ohio appears ready to sit out this boost in funding for passenger rail and, to a large degree, for transit expansion as well. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and its Ohio Rail Development Commission have $0 in state matching funds budgeted for passenger rail to leverage a federal match. Furthermore, ODOT/ORDC have no funding-ready plans in place to legally tap the new federal dollars although one metropolitan planning organization (MPO), the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), is developing such a plan for Pittsburgh-Columbus-Chicago passenger rail. The lack of activity is not for a lack of needs, as All Aboard Ohio revealed in its Ohio Passenger Rail Assessment of Needs report a year ago. Several Ohio cities have passenger rail projects ready to go now and could benefit from these added funds.

“That report also showed what Ohio’s neighboring states are doing with passenger rail development, which is a lot,” Prendergast said. “And they have more funding-ready plans coming forward to further increase safety, service frequency and speeds above 100 mph to boost their economies. Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Illinois, and now West Virginia are all in a position to use their passenger rail programs to leverage the new federal funds. Ohio is the nation’s most populous state without any passenger rail development program.”

What Ohio cities/MPOs/state can do for passenger rail this year:

  • ODOT/ORDC should include the FRA’s new Midwest Regional Rail Plan in their Access Ohio 2045 plan and State Rail Plan as well as the findings and recommendations from our Ohio Passenger Rail Assessment of Needs report.
  • As ODOT/ORDC begins planning its 2020-21 biennial budget in the coming months, include $12 million per year in state funds/credits from non-motor vehicle fuel tax sources for passenger rail planning, development and operations.
  • Although more federal funding will be available next year, cities (or their MPOs) like Oxford, Sandusky and Toledo can apply for federal funds today to complete the funding packages for building/improving their Amtrak/multi-modal station facilities.
  • Cities like Bryan, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Mentor and Ravenna-Kent should secure local funding sources now and apply for federal matching funds through their MPOs to create funding-ready plans for new or improved multi-modal transportation centers that include rail in their communities.

Congress provided an additional $834 million in transit infrastructure grants compared to the fiscal year 2017 level. This includes $400 million to help communities modernize their bus and rail systems, and $400 million for capital assistance to transit systems across the country to maintain a state of good repair. There is also more funding for “new starts” projects (such as for rail and bus rapid transit) but the maximum federal share is capped at 51 percent. Even so, there are no Ohio new-start transit projects that have funding-ready plans in place, although Greater Cleveland and Greater Cincinnati have projects that are close.

What Ohio cities/counties/MPOs/state can do for transit this year:

  • ODOT should update its excellent 2015 Ohio Transit Needs Study in its Access Ohio 2045 plan.
  • As ODOT begins planning its 2020-21 biennial budget in the coming months, include approximately $75 million per year in state funds/credits from non-motor vehicle fuel tax sources for public transportation planning, development and operations.
  • Transit agencies that have not already done so should establish a new vision for serving community needs, including becoming more engaged with the community and customers, a more diversified funding base, better ways of delivering services, and collaborating or combining seamless services with transit agencies in surrounding areas.
  • Cities, counties and major employers need to augment local funding to buy into their transit systems’ new vision so they can improve and expand the reach and speed of their transit systems to access jobs farther away from the established transit network.

“It’s time for Ohio to better position itself to tap into this new funding opportunity from the federal government,” Prendergast said. “It’s time to reconsider the model of transportation investment with one that is more responsive, multi-modal and better funded at the local, regional and state levels. Otherwise, this opportunity will leave Ohio at the station — again.”


Pittsburgh-Columbus-Chicago transportation plan starts

Midwest rail-Chicago

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission will build upon Federal Railroad Administration plans nearing completion to develop fast ground transportation to link Pittsburgh, Columbus and Chicago as well as the smaller cities in between.

All Aboard Ohio welcomes the Pittsburgh-Columbus-Chicago high-speed transportation study announced today by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission of passenger rail and Hyperloop. This important study will extend to Columbus and Pittsburgh the planning work already occurring between Gary, IN-Lima, OH of 110-mph high-performance passenger rail and add Hyperloop as an alternative technology for consideration. Because Hyperloop is an unproven technology that does not operate in revenue service anywhere, a feasibility study of its practicality is warranted. It remains to be seen whether this technology is better suited to moving passengers or shipping time-sensitive freight between regional distribution centers.

“Because of this and because Hyperloop, if built, is unlikely to serve any cities between the major cities of Pittsburgh, Columbus, Fort Wayne and Chicago, it is important to also advance the planning for and development of proven, modern, high-performance passenger rail,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast.

High performance passenger rail, when combined with station-area real estate development in major urban centers and small cities alike, is a growth industry for public-private partnerships throughout America and around the world. Brightline in Florida, Acela Express in the Northeast Corridor, Texas Central in the Lone Star State, and higher-speed (90-110 mph) passenger rail in the Midwest, California and Pacific Northwest are all models for Ohio.

“Brightline, in particular, is leading a disruptive renaissance in passenger rail,” Prendergast said. “It’s a private-sector initiative that creates and captures value and positive synergies between transportation and supportive land use to eliminate the need for ongoing operating subsidies. A similar initiative between Columbus and Chicago could capitalize on both cities’ economic growth as well as a reported fire sale of CSX-owned rail corridors and the state’s ownership of a significant portion of the rail corridor between Columbus and Pittsburgh.”

Columbus-Chicago is already part of a Midwest Regional Rail Plan, sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration, that considers this travel corridor as viable for passenger rail. This plan is scheduled to be released this spring. Envisioned for Columbus-Chicago are limited-stop express trains taking less than four hours to reach downtown Chicago regardless of weather, and local-stop trains boosting local economies in smaller cities in between. Fares will cost less than flying or driving while on-board comfort and business travel productivity will be superior to all other forms of transportation. The planning funds contributed by the City of Marysville, City of Lima and Union County demonstrate the interest by these en-route communities in being served by this transportation corridor.