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 Meeting & Family Outing — Cleveland rail tour!

Join us Aug. 15 for a guided tour of Cleveland's rail system including all-day transit pass, morning refreshments, boxed lunch and guest speakers!

Join us Aug. 15 for a guided tour of Cleveland’s rail system with an all-day transit pass, morning refreshments, boxed lunch & guest speakers!

Join us Saturday August 15 at 8:30 a.m. for All Aboard Ohio’s Summer Meeting & Family Outing! Spend the day with us riding trains and learning about recent and ongoing track and station reconstruction projects, plus station-area real estate developments!

Thank you Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority for sponsoring this fun and informative event!

Gather at All Aboard Ohio’s office at Tower City Center in the Sustainable Cleveland Center located above the Food Court and across from the Hard Rock Cafe. We’re two levels up from the rapid transit station. Tower City is the former Cleveland Union Terminal, crowned by the landmark Terminal Tower on Public Square. It is the hub for GCRTA rail lines fanning outward in five directions totaling nearly 40 route-miles and 52 stations. There is a lot to see on our guided tour…

AGENDA/ITINERARY

  • 8:30 a.m. Gather at All Aboard Ohio’s office for refreshments and briefing packets, including your All-Day Pass to ride all GCRTA trains and buses (included in registration cost).
  • 9:00 a.m. depart on Waterfront Line light-rail (part of the Blue/Green lines): see progress on Flats East Bank and possible sites for a downtown intermodal hub.
  • Blue Line to Shaker Heights: see track improvements at Shaker Square, reconstruction of Lee Road station and learn about the Van Aken District development from Shaker Planning Director Joyce Braverman.
  • Stopover at new East 55th station and Central Rail Facility (tour request pending). Transfer from Blue Line to Red Line.
  • Red Line to brand-new Little Italy-University Circle station: see Intesa development site and Uptown development.
  • Lunch at Constantino’s in Uptown (included in registration cost), UCI guest speaker invited.
  • Red Line across the city to Hopkins International Airport: see numerous recent and ongoing track and station improvements and recently renovated trains.
  • Return to Tower City Center or your original boarding station.
  • Adjourn by 4 p.m.

NOTE: the above agenda after 9 a.m. could change without notice. Aug. 15 was chosen because it is the only Saturday this summer that no track, station or bridge construction project was scheduled to disrupt rail service. However, this could change and our itinerary may have to be adjusted accordingly.

Cost is $25 per person:

After you click on “Add to Cart”, you may need to scroll down the page to complete your order.

DEADLINES: Please submit payment online by Aug. 10 — remit payment by mail by May 7 with check/money order payable to “All Aboard Ohio” at: All Aboard Ohio, c/o Summer Mtg, 230 West Huron #85.53, Cleveland, Ohio 44113.

LATE REGISTRATION: To make a late registration by Aug. 10 and pay at the door, contact Executive Director Ken Prendergast at (216) 288-4883 or at kenprendergast@allaboardohio.org and mention the Summer Meeting, leave your full name, number of persons in your party and your phone number. Thanks!

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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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US Senate rail bill: A huge leap forward!

Funding to expand rail service in Ohio, such as on routes with only nighttime trains, less-than-daily trains, or routes that Amtrak abandoned, would be possible if a new U.S. Senate bill becomes law. This is Toledo, OH on National Train Day.

Funding to expand intercity passenger rail service in Ohio — such as on routes with only nighttime trains, less-than-daily trains, or routes that Amtrak abandoned — would be possible if a new U.S. Senate bill (S.1626) becomes law. This is Toledo, OH on National Train Day, March 2, 2015. (All Aboard Ohio photo)

One of the most innovative passenger rail bills seen in a long time was introduced this week in the U.S. Senate. It is a companion to the already passed U.S. House of Representatives bill that would reauthorize the Passenger Rail Investment & Improvement Act of 2008.

While the House bill does little damage to passenger rail (except for keeping it on a survival-only budget), the Senate bill offers some innovative elements and recognizes the need for service expansion. Specifically, the bipartisan Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act of 2015 (Senate bill #1626), released this week by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, could help Ohio in a couple of notable ways:

  • The bill would give local and regional governments a stronger voice in rail planning and development decisions. This is important in a state like Ohio that has an anti-rail state government but pro-rail local and regional governments;
  • The bill includes a provision called Section 301 that, for the first time in the 21st century, provides federal operating funding for passenger rail service to expand. Among the criteria for expansion are restoring service over former Amtrak routes and providing daily or daytime service where such service does not previously exist. All of these conditions exist in abundance in Ohio.

For further detail and analysis on this exciting bill, please CLICK HERE. To read accurate media coverage of S.1626, please CLICK HERE.

All Aboard Ohio strongly encourages you to contact your two US Senators (Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman) in Ohio to let them know your personal feelings on this bill. Please reference the Senate bill number (S.1626 ) in your communications with Ohio’s senators. Since S.1626 is markedly different from its House counterpart, there would have to be a conference committee to resolve differences. If you support more and better passenger train services in Ohio, kindly urge your U.S. Representative to replace the House version with the Senate version.

Thank you!

Transport subsidy double-standard hits again

Lee-VanAken-Construction-Spring2015-2

Construction is proceeding on GCRTA’s rebuilt Lee-Van Aken station on the Blue Line in Shaker Heights.

For some reason the Brookings Institution and Crain’s Cleveland Business recently singled out for criticism rail transit fares not covering the operating costs of rail systems. This just in: “No form of transportation covers their operating costs.” This selective criticism was extracted by Brookings from a Hamilton Project report which addressed government subsidies for multiple forms of surface transportation. Crain’s then shared Brookings’ selective criticism in a recent blog.

Such criticism of rail is regrettable. Sometimes this double-standard against rail is the result of the need for more education by nonprofit associations such as All Aboard Ohio. Other times the double-standard is is the result of drive-or-die special interests (petroleum, tire makers, automakers, highway builders, etc.) who have sought to destroy trains and transit for decades. Even more frightening is a new brand of ideologues who deride public transportation as a symbol of a feared central government. Instead they want government to prescribe only the individual autonomy of private cars while ignoring the inconvenient reality that they require massive subsidies from a central government.

Fact is, public transit is a cost-effective investment, even in a moderate-density transit system like Greater Cleveland’s. If the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (GCRTA) buses and trains disappeared tomorrow and all of its passengers had to use cars (not realistic since 25 percent of Cleveland households have no car available because they can’t afford the $10,888 annual cost), it would require the construction and maintenance of 200 miles of new lane-miles of highway, according to the League of Women Voters.

Rush-hour crowds wait to board a Red Line train at Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland.

Rush-hour crowds wait to board a Red Line train at Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland.

Do roads really pay for themselves? No, far from it. The Federal Highway Administration warns: “Construction costs for adding lanes in urban areas average $10–$15 million per lane mile. In general, the funding for this type of construction comes from taxes that drivers pay when buying gas for their vehicles. Overall, funds generated from gas taxes on an added lane during rush hours amount to only $60,000 a year (based on 10,000 vehicles per day during rush hours, paying fuel taxes amounting to about 2 cents per mile). This amount is grossly insufficient to pay for the lane addition.”

In other words, it takes up to 250 years for the gas tax revenues from one new lane-mile of urban freeway to equal the original construction cost of that lane-mile. So roads don’t pay for themselves. They don’t even come close. A recent tax-gap analysis by the Texas Department of Transportation showed that some urban highways cover only 16 percent of their costs from gas taxes. For those roads to pay for themselves, the Texas analysis said gas taxes would have to be raised by more than $2 per gallon. Attempts to privatize highways have failed with either the road or its operator going bankrupt in Northern Indiana, San Diego, Austin, Denver, Richmond, Detroit and elsewhere.

Further eroding the financial viability of roads is the decline in driving since 2004. Combined with vehicle fuel efficiency that is higher than ever and Congress’ inability to raise gas tax in 20 years, the federal Highway Trust Fund is broke. The HTF has been propped up by multiple Congressional bailouts totaling $54 billion in general tax revenue (pure subsidy!) since 2008, with another $18 billion bailout possible this year.

RedLine-ColtmanTownhouses-2014

Station-area developments like these new townhouses in Little Italy are needed at more rail stations to generate more ridership. But many rail station areas are littered with abandoned, polluted industrial sites that scare off potential investors. A systematic effort is needed to clear and clean these sites.

Transit cost-effectiveness needs improvement as does access to jobs. These goals are interrelated and synergistic. Fixed-guideway transit like streetcars, light-rail, heavy-rail, regional commuter rail, and bus rapid transit feature permanent routes and stations that provide stability and density of traffic. Such features support pedestrian-oriented economic development, creating jobs that are physically accessible to all. Using the Brookings’ own data, only one out of four low/medium jobs are within a 90-minute transit trip. Cities and transit agencies and employers (many who complain about not getting enough job applicants after locating in areas inaccessible to transit and pedestrians!) need to make a concerted effort to place employment near existing high-capacity transit routes. That will also increase the cost effectiveness of existing transit services.

The National Transit Database shows that even an older rail system like Cleveland’s compares favorably with bus using cost-effectiveness metrics:

GCRTA OPERATING EXPENSE PER PASSENGER-MILE & PER UNLINKED TRIP

MODE                       /PassMile   /UnlinkedTrip

Bus………………………    $1.06         $   4.46
Heavy Rail……………    $0.64         $   4.37
Demand Response..    $6.02         $42.40
Light Rail……………..   $0.68         $  4.04
Bus Rapid Transit…    $0.48        $   1.28

New transit infrastructure like GCRTA’s HealthLine BRT performs well in cost-effectiveness metrics because new vehicles, right of way and facilities are more efficient and require less maintenance. GCRTA’s aging rail system is also more expensive to maintain than newer rail systems because Cleveland’s lacks modern features like constant-tension overhead electric wires (GCRTA’s wires must be tightened and loosened by hand in response to major temperature changes), regenerative braking systems that cause slowing trains to return electricity to the power supply, and modern trains that require less maintenance, are more reliable and still have replacement parts available. Replacement of GCRTA trains and their electrical systems will likely cost in excess of $300 million but save the transit agency millions of dollars per year in operating costs.

GCRTA’s rail network also needs to be modernized in a different way — its routes link travel markets that have been declining in significance since the 1950s. Today, its routes need new termini, new route alignments and/or don’t extend out far enough. For example the Red Line should be extended 6.5 miles from Windermere to Euclid to generate 11,000 new daily transit trips per day (3 times more than BRT options that were studied) and reduce driving by 75,200 daily automobile trips (also 3 times more than BRT options). Those are critical issues for fast-growing University Circle that’s experiencing serious traffic congestion and parking issues well before the Opportunity Corridor is built and dumps more cars into this treasured cultural district.

Existing 38-mile rail system of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Existing 38-mile rail system of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (click to enlarge).

Similarly, most of the commuting from the eastern Heights is no longer to downtown Cleveland but to University Circle, northeast Ohio’s second-largest employment center. Yet Shaker Heights has two rail lines to downtown and none to University Circle. All Aboard Ohio urges routing the Blue Line northwest from Shaker Square to University Circle instead of to downtown, extend the Green Line from Shaker/Green Road to Beachwood Place, and extend the Waterfront Line as a loop around the east side of downtown.

Each of these 2-mile rail extensions would provide Cleveland’s rail system with much stronger ridership anchors, as would the $5.5 billion in new station-area developments that are emerging citywide. More also needs to be done to clear and clean abandoned, polluted industrial properties along GCRTA rail lines so they can compete with clean-n-green properties outside Cuyahoga County for development.

Given the lack of action by state and federal leaders for public transit, All Aboard Ohio suggests consideration of a local/regional dedicated funding initiative for transit system expansion and the clean-up of old industrial sites near current/future stations. Greater Cleveland has the economic output of Hungary, thus tThe region has the capacity to financially support on its own a vastly improved public transportation system with station-area developments that bring jobs to within reach of job-seekers. We hope the skeptics will change their tune and embrace this vision instead.

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