Contact Us!

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.

 

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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!

Summer Outing 2015 (Cleveland rail transit & TOD tour) photo gallery

On Aug. 15, 40 members participated in All Aboard Ohio’s 2015 Summer Meeting & Family Outing, which was a guided tour of Cleveland’s 37-mile rail transit system, including several transit-oriented developments (TOD). Thanks again to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) for sponsoring this tour which attracted visitors from around Ohio.

Attendees were provided with a packet which included an GCRTA all-day pass and a presentation of selected real estate developments and transit projects (10mb download) along the tour. The tour started at All Aboard Ohio’s office at Tower City Center (former Cleveland Union Terminal), then rode the Waterfront Line round trip, Blue Line to Warrensville and return west to East 55th, Red Line east to the new Little Italy station, and west to Hopkins International Airport. The last part included a race between the Red Line train and the HealthLine BRT bus to Tower City, which the train easily won (the bus had 70 blocks to go as the train arrived Tower City!). Attendees returned from the airport on the Red Line to Tower City after a busy fun day.

Downtown Cleveland seen from Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's Cleveland State Line Bus Rapid Transit from Rocky River, Lakewood and Cleveland's Edgewater neighborhood. (CLICK TO ENLARGE - credit All Aboard Ohio photo)

Downtown Cleveland seen from Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Cleveland State Line Bus Rapid Transit from Rocky River, Lakewood and Cleveland’s Edgewater neighborhood. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

Tour attendees gathered at All Aboard Ohio's office at Tower City Center for morning refreshments and to pick up their tour packets. (CLICK TO ENLARGE - All Aboard Ohio photo)

Forty tour attendees gathered at All Aboard Ohio’s office at Tower City Center for morning refreshments and to pick up their tour packets. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

Summer Outing tour attendees rode the Waterfront Line light-rail, past transit-supportive real estate development and possible sites for a new multi-modal station designed to unite the existing Cleveland services of Akron Metro RTA, Amtrak, GCRTA, Greyhound, Laketran, Megabus, Portage Area RTA and Stark Area RTA.

Summer Outing tour attendees rode the Waterfront Line light-rail by transit-supportive real estate development and possible sites for a new multi-modal station designed to unite the existing Cleveland services of Akron Metro RTA, Amtrak, GCRTA, Greyhound, Laketran, Megabus, Portage Area RTA and Stark Area RTA. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

Flats East Bank Phase 3 will soon rise next to the Waterfront Line light rail. See presentation at link above for site plan. (CLICK TO ENLARGE - Courtesy Cleveland Planning Commission)

Flats East Bank Phase 3 (11-story apartment building over a cinema, grocer, retail etc) will soon rise next to the Waterfront Line light rail. For a map of the built portions of the $750 million Flats East Bank development, see the presentation at the link preceding these photos. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – Courtesy Cleveland Planning Commission)

Tour attendees changed trains at Shaker Square, one of the nation's first planned TOD's, from a train bound for the Green Line (Shaker Blvd) to one bound for the Blue Line (Van Aken Blvd). (CLICK TO ENLARGE - photo credit "All Aboard Ohio")

Tour attendees changed trains at Shaker Square, one of the nation’s first planned TOD’s, from a train bound for the Green Line (in the median of Shaker Blvd) to one bound for the Blue Line (in the median of Van Aken Blvd). (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

At Warrensville station at the end of the Blue Line, Shaker Heights Planning Director Joyce Braverman displayed RMS Investments' $91 million first phase of the Van Aken District will look. Streets are being eliminated or relocated this year so TOD construction can start in 2016.

At Warrensville station at the end of the Blue Line, Shaker Heights Planning Director Joyce Braverman displayed RMS Investments’ planned $91 million first phase of the Van Aken District. Streets are being eliminated or relocated this year so TOD construction can start in 2016. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

From left, Shaker Planning Director Joyce Braverman, All Aboard Ohio SW Ohio Director Derek Bauman and Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach share ideas and experiences about transit-supportive real estate development at the Van Aken District site in Shaker Heights.

From left in the foreground are Shaker Planning Director Joyce Braverman, All Aboard Ohio Southwest Ohio Director Derek Bauman and Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach share ideas and experiences about transit-supportive real estate development at the Van Aken District site in Shaker Heights. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

Thanks to GCRTA for letting All Aboard Ohio tour its 4-acre railcar maintenance building Central Rail Facility next to the East 55th station.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE - photo credit "All Aboard Ohio")

Thank you GCRTA for giving All Aboard Ohio members a tour of its 4-acre railcar maintenance building Central Rail Facility (at left) next to the East 55th station! (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

Casey Blaze, GCRTA Rail District Equipment Manager described the various shops within the Central Rail Facility which operates 24 hours a day five days a week, and during daytime hours on weekends. GCRTA's 30- to 35-year-old trains are maintained here, which includes making some replacement parts in-house as they are no longer available on the market. (CLICK TO ENLARGE - photo credit "All Aboard Ohio")

Casey Blaze, GCRTA Rail District Equipment Manager described the various shops within the Central Rail Facility which operates 24 hours a day five days a week, and during daytime hours on weekends. GCRTA’s 30- to 35-year-old trains are maintained here, which includes making some replacement parts in-house as they are no longer available on the market. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

GCRTA Central Rail Facility next to the East 55th station. (CLICK TO ENLARGE - photo credit "All Aboard Ohio")

GCRTA Central Rail Facility next to the East 55th station. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

GCRTA Central Rail maintenance workers are renovating and moderning the mid-1980 interiors of Red Line trains. GCRTA can renovate two cars per month, meaning the whole fleet should be done by March 2016. (CLICK TO ENLARGE - photo credit "All Aboard Ohio")

GCRTA Central Rail maintenance workers are renovating and modernizing the mid-1980 interiors of Red Line trains. GCRTA can renovate two cars per month, meaning the whole fleet should be done by March 2016. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

Rising costs of maintaining the two types of trains in GCRTA's aging rail fleet means new railcars are on the horizon. GCRTA acquiring a standardized rail car that can serve the low-level platforms of the light-rail Blue, Green and Waterfront lines and the high-level platforms of the Red Line. (CLICK TO ENLARGE - photo credit "All Aboard Ohio")

Rising costs of maintaining the two types of aging trains in GCRTA’s rail fleet mean new railcars are on the horizon. In about 10 years, GCRTA will likely acquire a standardized rail fleet that can serve the low-level platforms of the light-rail Blue, Green and Waterfront lines and the high-level platforms of the heavy-rail Red Line. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

Only days after opening for regular service, the AAO tour used the new Little Italy-University Circle station at Mayfield Road amid crowds of people heading to the Feast of the Assumption.  (photo courtesy of Mike Collier)

Only days after opening for regular service, the AAO tour used the new Little Italy-University Circle station at Mayfield Road amid crowds of people heading to the Feast of the Assumption. This is the scene from the Aug. 11 ribbon-cutting ceremony. (photo courtesy of Mike Collier)

Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle Inc., talks to the AAO tour group about how transit and real estate development have energized University Circle. This includes developers seeking city permission to provide fewer parking spaces than the building code requires. (CLICK TO ENLARGE - photo credit "All Aboard Ohio")

Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle Inc., talks to the AAO tour group during lunch at Constantino’s Uptown grocery store about how new transit services and transit-supportive real estate development have energized University Circle. This includes developers seeking city permission to provide fewer parking spaces than the building code requires. That allows developers and residents to save money. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

The tour split up at Uptown, a TOD in University Circle. One group took the Red Line and the other took the HealthLine Bus Rapid Transit in a race to Tower City. (CLICK TO ENLARGE - photo credit "All Aboard Ohio")

The tour group split in two at Uptown, a new $110 million TOD (including the Cleveland Institute of Art expansion and the new Museum of Contemporary Art) in University Circle. This new neighborhood was built on a sea of surface parking lots. One group took the Red Line and the other took the HealthLine Bus Rapid Transit in a race to Tower City. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

The tour group members who took the HealthLine BRT (pictured) to Tower City lost badly to those who chose the Red Line. The train arrived Tower City with the bus still 70 blocks away. (CLICK TO ENLARGE - photo credit "All Aboard Ohio")

The tour group members who crammed into the HealthLine BRT (pictured) to Tower City lost badly to those who chose the Red Line rail service. The train arrived Tower City with the bus still 70 blocks away. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

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All Aboard Ohio SW Director Derek Bauman ponders the rail possibilities for Cincinnati while riding a renovated GCRTA Red Line train to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Trains run every 10 minutes during rush hours and every 15 minutes off-peak, with rail service starting at 4 a.m. and ending at 1 a.m. (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

Arrival at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport station on the GCRTA Red Line. The tour group returned to Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland after having ridden 51 miles of rail lines, hearing three guest speakers and having a good time. We look forward to riding the Cincinnati Streetcar in next years family outing! (CLICK TO ENLARGE - photo credit "All Aboard Ohio")

Arrival at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport station on the GCRTA Red Line. The tour group returned to Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland after having ridden 51 miles of rail lines, hearing three guest speakers and having a good time. We look forward to riding the Cincinnati Streetcar in next years family outing! (CLICK TO ENLARGE – photo credit “All Aboard Ohio”)

Thanks for riding with All Aboard Ohio!

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Ohio to be part of Midwest rail plan

All of the routes shown on this map have at least one daily passenger train scheduled in each direction. Most routes have 2-5 daily passenger trains. Start of service to Quad Cities and Rockford delayed.

All of the EXISTING/UNDER CONSTRUCTION routes shown on this map have at least one daily passenger train scheduled in each direction. Most routes have 2-5 daily passenger trains. The lack of service to Ohio is glaring. Because passenger rail operations are public and rail infrastructure is private (the inverse of aviation/highway modes), public-sector agencies typically initiate new passenger rail services. NOTE: the FRA plan will likely consider new/expanded routes not shown on this map.

Ohio will be part of a multi-state planning initiative for the Midwest led by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) according to a recent announcement to Congress. While more details will be announced soon, the timing of this planning work (which is required by law before federal funding can be awarded to service expansions and capital improvements) could not be better.

The news comes as Congress is wrapping up work on a reauthorization of a six-year surface transportation law that includes passenger rail provisions under Senate bill 1626. That legislation includes 100% percent federal operating funding for new or expanded routes of 750 miles or more. All of Ohio’s existing routes fall into that category, as might future expansions such as those in Amtrak’s Performance Improvement Plans for its Chicago-Cincinnati-Washington DC-New York City Cardinal or the Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland-Washington DC/New York City Capitol Limited/Pennsylvanian. More significant expansions may be considered.

A more detailed, formal announcement of the grant award will soon be made by the FRA who notified Congress recently about the multi-state planning. The funding, totaling $2.78 million, is being used for FRA-led planning in the Midwest and Southeast. For the Midwest, the FRA approved an application submitted in November 2014. This planning will be similar to that which was recently conducted for the Southwest.

“The Midwest is the second-largest megaregion in the United States (trailing only the Northeast) and seventh largest in the world in terms of population and economic output,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. “While the Northeast has an extensive and growing network of fast trains to enhance that region’s economy, the Midwest system is lacking especially in populous Ohio. Fast trains linking transportation hubs in small, medium and large cities will create jobs and regional connectivity, support educational institutions, and enhance productivity and Midwest competitiveness.”

Here is the FRA’s notice to Congress:

“The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is utilizing authority provided under Section 192 of the FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 113-76) to retain $2,780,651 in funding made available to the agency to facilitate multi-state rail planning. Due to the complexities in coordinating among multiple states and other stakeholders, FRA is retaining these funds and leading the planning effort at the Federal level, rather than awarding funds to entities through a grant or cooperative agreement. In October 2015, FRA solicited statements of interest from states for participating in this FRA-led multi-state planning process. FRA is using these funds to engage stakeholders in both the Southeast and Midwest regions in forming more comprehensive regional governance organizations to sustain current planning work and develop a long-term passenger rail vision for their respective regions. Funding will also be utilized to enhance FRA’s passenger rail network planning tool with updated cost and trip table data, as well as new mapping and benefit-cost analysis features. These efforts will build off the pilot Southwest Passenger Rail Study that was funded under similar authority in FY 2010 and released in October 2014.”

There are several takeaways from this:

  • The multi-state plan will include Ohio plus Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Kentucky. All Aboard Ohio encouraged the Ohio Association of Regional Councils to join the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission to retain Ohio’s voice in Midwest rail planning after the Ohio Department of Transportation withdrew its membership in 2012.
  • Planning will be federally led rather than awarded to states, thus the FRA would conduct passenger rail planning in Ohio and other states.
  • For Ohio’s short-distance corridor planning (ie: Columbus-Chicago, Cincinnati-Chicago, Cleveland-Toledo, etc), it means regional planning agencies no longer need to take the lead on sponsoring planning and instead take on a more traditional role of supporting the FRA planning work, notifying stakeholders of developments, and being conduits of stakeholder input.
  • If S.1626 passes, there will be a framework for 100% federal operating funding of long-distance (750+ miles) rail components of the FRA plan. The total amount of available funding will be determined through Congress’ annual appropriations process.

Thus it is even more imperative that All Aboard Ohio and our friends make our long-distance service expansion preferences known and to get buy-in from stakeholders along routes. Check back here at allaboardohio.org for occasional updates and for an upcoming release of our long-distance expansion preferences. We will share more information about this Midwest rail planning work as we receive it.

 

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Amtrak addresses Cleveland checked baggage issues

Cleveland Amtrak station, April 6, 2015. (All Aboard Ohio photo)

Cleveland Amtrak station, April 6, 2015. (All Aboard Ohio photo)

Regarding recent issues involving checked baggage at Amtrak’s Cleveland station, All Aboard Ohio raised a number of concerns. We present without alteration Amtrak’s description of those issues and their response to our concerns. We appreciate Amtrak taking the time to detail these issues and to describe their corrective actions:

Thank you for allowing Amtrak the opportunity to respond to concerns expressed by All Aboard Ohio regarding recent problems with baggage service at Cleveland.

Amtrak Cleveland staff reported Friday, July 10th, that the station baggage tractor had inoperative brakes. Station management and staff arranged for a service call. The local company that normally handles routine maintenance did not have a repair person available until the following Friday, July 17th. Attempts were made to find another servicer. Amtrak did find another local company that offered to service the tractor.

The diagnosis revealed an out-of-stock part was needed to make the repair and had to be ordered. To inform customers, a nationwide, internal notice was issued that baggage and express services would not be available at Cleveland. Once the part was received, the repair as made Friday, July 17, at which time baggage and express service resumed.

Amtrak’s primary goal is to provide safe, comfortable transportation service for our customers. A key strategy to achieve that goal is to insure a safe workplace for Amtrak employees. We regret that we were unable to provide baggage service for our Cleveland-bound and originating customers and pursued options deemed the best to resume service quickest.

The Amtrak baggage tractor used at Cleveland is about six years old. As do most consumers we expect the products we purchase to perform without incident. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Amtrak baggage carts are much older, and to improve baggage handling Amtrak has ordered a fleet of new carts to replace many dating back prior to the corporation’s formation. We should take delivery of new carts for Cleveland station in early Autumn.

— Derrick James, Amtrak Government Affairs

Infrastructure repair tab growing: Cleveland

S-Curve Red Line construction-050513-Prendergast2m

Major infrastructure improvements like the 2013 reconstruction of the Red Line S-curve on Cleveland’s west side are needed system-wide. As funding for infrastructure dries up, infrastructure needs are on the rise. All Aboard Ohio says about $2.5 billion worth of rail investment is needed in Greater Cleveland in the coming decade to rebuild the rail system and expand it to respond to changing commuting patterns.

The inability of the State of Ohio and the federal government to address our infrastructure needs continues to rear its ugly head in an increasing number of case examples. Here’s the latest….

Cleveland needs $150 million to bring its rail Rapid transit system’s tracks up to a state of good repair. This was noted in a recent article that trains of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) must travel at reduced speed over one out of every 10 miles on Cleveland’s rail system.  Cleveland’s 63 miles of track on three rail lines (Blue, Green and Red Lines) carry 20% of GCRTA’s ridership; the other 62 GCRTA transit routes (bus) carry the remainder. Despite the track improvement backlog, Cleveland’s rail system is still more cost-effective (measured using industry metrics like cost per passenger-mile and cost per unlinked passenger trip) than regular route buses.

But that backlog is just the tip of the fiscal iceberg. The $150 million figure doesn’t include about $250 million needed ASAP for new trains or roughly $80 million for modernizing the trains’ electrical power system with low-maintenance, constant-tension catenary wires. GCRTA’s aging trains and outdated, overhead catenary wires have affected GCRTA’s service reliability, especially last winter. But the reliability problems have occurred this summer as well, as GCRTA struggles to find replacement parts to keep old air conditioning systems operational. Some Red Line trains have operated with only one car, causing overcrowding.

A transportation network comprised of rails, roads and aviation systems requires constant maintenance and occasional replacement. In 2013, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority had to replace a poorly draining floor of their Red Line airport tunnel, which emerges next to the Berea Freeway.

A transportation network comprised of rails, roads and aviation systems requires constant maintenance and occasional replacement. In 2013, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority had to replace the poorly draining floor of their Red Line airport tunnel, which emerges next to the Berea Freeway.

Cleveland was one of the nation’s few cities with rail until the 1980s. Its Shaker light-rail (Blue & Green) lines were constructed between 1913 and 1936, although the short Waterfront Line was added in 1996. The crosstown heavy-rail Red Line was built between 1928 and 1968. Cleveland and a handful of other legacy rail cities enjoyed exclusive access to federal “rail modernization” grants to keep their systems in a state of good repair.

Since the 1980s, many US cities have built rail systems and those systems are now aging, too. Cleveland must compete with more cities for fewer federal rail modernization grants. And, of course, Ohio provides near-zero transit funding. This must change! We cannot maintain a first-world transportation system on a third-world transportation budget with many costly regulations.

SAVE THE DATE: Join All Aboard Ohio from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 15 (the only weekend this summer when construction of rail bridges and/or tracks isn’t scheduled!) for a guided tour of the good, the bad and the ugly in Cleveland’s rail system including most routes, its new/rebuilt stations, maintenance facilities, plus station-area developments. We thank GCRTA for sponsoring this fun, informative event!

In case you’re wondering, GCRTA can’t easily abandon any of its rail lines. To do so would require refunding tens if not hundreds of millions of federal rail grants from the last 10-20 years for major station, track, bridge and substation projects. GCRTA must also hold public meetings for any proposal to terminate or substantially alter rail service. There was a loud neighborhood outcry recently when GCRTA considered closing the little-used East 34th and East 79th Red Line stations. Imagine the response to GCRTA attempting to abandon an entire rail line.

In All Aboard Ohio’s opinion, improving the efficiency and utility of Cleveland’s rail system is paramount. It should involve:

  • modernization of existing rail infrastructure, power delivery systems and rolling stock costing about $500 million;
  • supporting the growing interest in job-producing transit-oriented development with focused development incentives (tax credits, small-business loans, etc) as well as cleaning and clearing under-utilized and polluted industrial sites within walking distance of transit stations; and
  • expanding the reach of rail lines with short extensions of rail or dedicated buses, costing up to $2 billion, to serve 21st-century commuting patterns and growing employment centers.

Considering the lack of political resolve for transit at the state level and an ongoing political stalemate at the federal level, Cuyahoga County may have to take care of its own infrastructure needs by adding new local funding sources. What is clear is that the status quo is failing us.

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