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?

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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!

Major delays, cancellations affect Ohio trains

Amtrak's westbound Lake Shore Limted (Train 49) rolls through Berea, OH four hours behind schedule on Feb. 23, 2015. That was actually better than in the past week when its average delays was nearly six hours! (George Sillett photo)

Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limted (Train 49) rolls through Berea, OH four hours behind schedule on Feb. 23, 2015. That was actually better than in the past week when its AVERAGE delay was nearly six hours! (George Sillett photo)

At 3:17 a.m. today, Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited (Chicago-New York City train #48) departed Chicago Union Station. In other words, it started its 960-mile journey 5 hours, 47 minutes late. The eastbound train was more than six hours down when it met and passed its daily westbound counterpart, train #49, somewhere between Sandusky and Toledo about 10 a.m. as #49 is running more than four hours late. Amazingly, that’s an improvement over its average delay of 5 hours, 57 minutes per daily train since Feb. 20! (See details below)

Meanwhile, rail travelers in Cincinnati and other communities along the Ohio River have had no train service at all. Their thrice-weekly Amtrak Cardinal (Chicago-New York City trains #50/51) was canceled after a CSX oil train derailed and exploded Feb. 18 in West Virginia. No replacement bus service has since been offered between Cincinnati and Charlottesville, VA. Amtrak has also canceled Chicago-Boston trains #448/449, citing severe winter weather across New England. At least Amtrak has provided substitute bus service Albany-Boston to connect with trains #48/49. But that’s hardly a convenience considering how late those trains have been.

How late? Since Feb. 20, these are the average delays per Ohio train that haven’t been canceled during this period…

  • Train #49 arriving Chicago: 5 hours, 57 minutes late
  • Train #48 arriving New York City: 4 hours, 15 minutes late
  • Train #30 arriving Washington DC: 2 hours, 44 minutes late
  • Train #29 arriving Chicago: 2 hours, 11 minutes late

(NOTE: daily trains #29/30 are the WB/EB Capitol Limited serving the Ohio stations of Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria, Cleveland & Alliance. Daily trains #48/49 are the EB/WB Lake Shore Limited serving the Ohio stations of Bryan, Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria & Cleveland).

“This is downright offensive to the traveling public,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast. “Amtrak President Joe Boardman must be held to account for this, starting with a personal apology to all passengers who had to endure this pathetic excuse for transportation in a civilized nation. It is clear by their poor performance that these trains are being neglected by Amtrak and its private-sector partners who own and manage the tracks. Rail transportation used to be largely indifferent to bad winter weather. Nowadays, the railroads can’t seem to get their trains through the snow and cold.”

Some of the reasons for the delays include those beyond Amtrak’s control, including speed restrictions as low as 25 mph on tracks owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern (NS) who fear the cold will crack their seamless welded steel rails. But other delays are Amtrak’s responsibility, namely equipment malfunctions. Locomotives have failed en-route while doors between rail cars freeze open, dropping temperatures inside for passengers and causing toilets, pipes and water tanks to freeze and rupture.

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3 steps to a more multimodal ODOT

ODOT logo1

All Aboard Ohio today released its POLICY STATEMENT on how the Ohio General Assembly can create a more multimodal Ohio Department of Transportation. We can achieve more and better transportation choices by spending only $7.5 million more per year to leverage tens of millions more in federal transportation dollars which leave Ohio for other states’ public transit.

The policy statement is timely as the Ohio House of Representatives’ Finance Committee will hold hearings this week on ODOT’s budget. It’s not too late to contact your state REPRESENTATIVE. The Ohio Senate will next take up the ODOT biennial budget for 2016-17. Please also contact your state SENATOR. Kindly keep your communiques with your legislators polite and brief.

The key to All Aboard Ohio’s policy statement is to make better use of existing statutes and limited tax dollars in several ways:

  1. Ohio budgets approximately $228 million (not including ODOT’s $14.5 million) per year in state and federal funds for Human Service & Public Transportation Coordination, but is spread among five health and human service agencies that tap federal Medicare funds on a 50/50 federal/state matching basis. All Aboard Ohio urges consolidating this funding under ODOT Transit where it can instead leverage U.S. Department of Transportation transit and flexible transportation dollars on a more favorable 80/20 federal/state matching basis either through ODOT’s or the metropolitan planning organizations’ federal allocations.
  2. Under the new budget, ODOT will retain its legal flexibility under ORC Sec. 203.80 to spend state fuels taxes on public transportation improvements for highway purposes. These include providing high-occupancy vehicle lanes, park-and-ride facilities, public transit vehicle loops, and bridges used by public transportation vehicles including those owned by public transit agencies. All Aboard Ohio urges budgeting $7.5 million in Sec. 203.80 funds and $7.5 million per year in General Revenue Funds to flex $60 million in federal dollars to support the creation of a $75 million-per-year Ohio Transportation Choices Fund to which local jurisdictions can apply to for road, rail, transit, bike, pedestrian, buggy and other multi-modal capital and operating support.
  3. While ODOT would preserve Ohio passenger rail jurisdiction under its proposed Division of Freight, this is probably not the most appropriate department to oversee recent and future passenger rail funding awards. Passenger rail has more in common with public transit especially as it relates to modal connectivity. All Aboard Ohio urges Ohio’s passenger rail statutory jurisdictions be transferred to ODOT Transit along with the human transportation funding noted in our first recommendation and renamed as the Division of Passengers.

For more information, please see All Aboard Ohio’s POLICY STATEMENT. Feel free to share the document or its link with others, including state legislators!

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Ohio Amtrak stations going intermodal!

 

All Aboard Ohio graphic.

All Aboard Ohio graphic

One by one, Amtrak stations along the Lake Shore corridor across Northern Ohio are becoming more intermodal. The reasons are fundamental to community growth: to improve connectivity, expand transportation choices and provide magnets for more jobs in our historic business districts.

Community leaders are working to make existing or new stations the “Go-To” site for all regional and intercity public transportation plus in-town connections with local transit, taxis/Uber/Lyft, car-share, bike-share and pedestrian access. All Aboard Ohio began advocating these intermodal concepts in 2014 to community leaders and transportation planners in this presentation (10mb). Amtrak stations at Cleveland, Elyria, Sandusky and Toledo saw their annual boardings grow anywhere from 37-91 percent in the five years between 2008-2013, making them the fastest growing stations in Ohio.

Each mode of travel – Amtrak, Greyhound, Megabus plus local and regional transit services – individually has a small number of boardings. But when combined they can become economic engines, attracting restaurants, shops and other spin-off commercial activity while encouraging further expansions of transportation services to each of these cities:

Toledo MLK Plaza Greyhound station concept.

Toledo MLK Plaza Greyhound station concept (CLICK TO ENLARGE).

TOLEDO – Construction work is due to start as early as mid-May to relocate Greyhound and possibly Megabus into MLK Plaza, a mixed-use complex built in 1950 as the central railroad station which hosts Amtrak’s five daily train and bus departures plus several frequent Toledo-Area Regional Transit Authority bus routes. New Greyhound and Megabus bus loading areas will be established at the front of the station on the lower level. Greyhound ticket counters and offices will be at the existing Amtrak waiting room and at least one restaurant is planned (could be a 24-hour Subway). Combined Amtrak, Greyhound, Megabus and TARTA boardings would exceed 400,000 per year, exceeding that of the Key West International Airport.

Elyria-Lorain County Transportation Center Amtrak platforms and overhead access.

Elyria-Lorain County Transportation Center Amtrak platforms & overhead access (CLICK TO ENLARGE).

ELYRIA – Engineering is complete and most of the non-federal funding is available to combine Amtrak with Greyhound at downtown’s historic Lorain County Transportation Center as well as to provide two ADA-compliant platforms that will reduce trip times and ease rail traffic congestion for 100 trains a day. The combined 11,500 annual inter-city boardings (not including intra-city Lorain County Transit bus boardings) would equal those of the Bar Harbor, Maine airport, a popular tourist destination. With an expanded station, more Amtrak train services can be accommodated on this busy mainline.

Cleveland multimodal station site to be studied.

Cleveland multimodal station site to be studied (CLICK TO ENLARGE).

CLEVELAND – The city and Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority approved an interagency agreement to conduct a feasibility study of revenues, costs and legal issues of an intermodal station on the lakefront municipal parking lot just east of East 9th Street. This site could be served by Akron Metro RTA, Amtrak, GCRTA trains and buses, Greyhound, Megabus, Laketran, Portage Area RTA (Kent) and Stark Area RTA (Canton) whose combined annual boardings would be nearly 1 million per year, or more than those boarding planes at Akron-Canton Regional Airport.

Sandusky station expansion concept (CLICK TO ENLARGE).

Sandusky station expansion concept (CLICK TO ENLARGE).

SANDUSKY – Planning has yet to begin for expanding the station with two ADA-compliant platforms to reduce trip times and ease rail traffic congestion, as well as unite shuttle buses to the Jet Express boat dock downtown and possibly Greyhound at the city’s refurbished, historic New York Central depot (already served by Amtrak and transit buses), could unite nearly 200,000 boardings at one site, equal to those of the Montgomery Airport serving Alabama’s state capital and 200,000 residents. With an expanded station, more Amtrak train services can be accommodated on this busy mainline.

Stay tuned for more updates, with much more detail provided in the Ohio Passenger Rail News (FREE SAMPLE), a color newsprint newsletter mailed to members of All Aboard Ohio who are current in their dues. To join, visit the JOIN/RENEW page.

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Where is ODOT’s “Passenger Division”?

Ohio_Statehouse_columbus

What would Ohio’s transportation system look like if the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) had the same passion for moving people as it does for moving freight?

That question is being asked by the nonprofit All Aboard Ohio as ODOT seeks to create a Division of Freight to oversee the rail, maritime and trucking modes to foster more intermodal connectivity for cargo. As part of this, the Ohio Rail Development Commission would cease to exist as an independent commission and instead be fully assimilated into ODOT.

Please ask your state legislators in Columbus to support at least $62.5 million per year in state and federal funds for ODOT Public Transit for urban, rural and intercity public transportation capital and operating support. This amount was a draft policy recommendation to ODOT by its consultants who assessed Ohio’s critical public transportation needs outlined in a recent ODOT report. Without a larger state funding share for transit, Ohio cannot leverage federal transportation funds that are instead going to states and cities with robust transit programs.

Please contact your STATE REPRESENTATIVE and your STATE SENATOR.

So why isn’t ODOT pursuing an effort similar to its proposed Freight Division to create an ODOT Division of Passengers to foster more intermodal passenger transportation among intercity, regional, rural and urban buses and trains, cars, bikes, Amish buggies, walking and ground transportation access to/from airports?

“The reason is that, unlike freight where state leaders are appropriately focused on the movement of goods, your state officials aren’t yet focused on the movement of people but rather their vehicles,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast. “Thus, if an Ohioan can’t afford to drive, isn’t able to drive or doesn’t want to drive a car, then your state officials may not understand your transportation needs. That’s a lot of Ohioans being neglected and isolated.”

How many? One million Ohioans are without a car to get to work, school or between cities.

According to the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey, 25 percent of Cleveland households have no car; 23 percent in Cincinnati; 20 percent in Dayton; 10 percent in Columbus. Even households that have cars may not be able to fully use them. For example, many cars aren’t maintained for safe, reliable operation due to the decline in Ohioans’ real wages and the high cost of driving.

The cost of owning and maintaining a car is nearly $9,000 per year. Basically that’s a transportation system access fee that all Ohioans are forced to pay by the government due to its lack of support for less expensive passenger transportation alternatives. Many Ohioans don’t earn more than $15 per hour — the minimum income needed to afford owning a car.

Also, Census data shows that 13 percent of Ohioans are 65 years and older today. That will rise to 20 percent by 2030. After the age of 65, physical driving abilities erode dramatically. The large Baby Boom generation began turning 65 years old in 2011. Increasing numbers of elderly Ohioans face house arrest as Baby Boomers demand a level of mobility and an active lifestyle that far outpaces any of America’s previous generations, and thus outstrips the current resources of public transportation systems to provide that mobility.

Employers in Ohio depend on access to labor and thus need public transportation. Many companies are forced to provide their own employee shuttles at their own expense to get workers to their factories, warehouses, hospitals and other large places of employment. Small business owners can’t afford to provide their own employee transportation. The typical job is accessible to only about 27 percent of its metropolitan workforce by transit in 90 minutes or less.

Furthermore, Ohio is a populous state with metro areas spaced ideally for passenger rail. Ohio is tied with Florida and Texas with the second-most metro areas of 500,000 or more people. Only California has more large metros. Yet California, Florida and Texas are all developing fast passenger train infrastructure and services linking their cities with a mix of private and public funds. Ohio has chosen to be a passenger rail pariah.

ODOT Director Jerry Wray gave testimony this week on ODOT’s 2016-2017 biennial budget to the Ohio House of Representatives Finance & Appropriations Committee. READ WRAY’S TESTIMONY HERE.

“In his testimony, Wray said ODOT will promote more seamless connectivity among transportation modes to find the most cost-effective, timely and reliable services, routes and facilities to move freight in and through Ohio,” Prendergast said. “Replace that word ‘freight’ with ‘passengers’ and Ohio would gain a sound policy foundation upon which a truly multi-modal transportation system can be built to mobilize more people to fully participate in Ohio’s economy.”

Sadly, state leaders ignored most of ODOT’s 2014 Statewide Transit Needs Study. A proposed change in the state’s sales tax policies in terms of what commercial activities may be taxed could result in a small funding boost for transit systems that benefit from county-based sales taxes. While funding increases are welcome, much more support is needed in all 88 counties to address the large, growing and unmet needs of Ohio transit systems and its benefit would be limited to only eight counties:

  • Cuyahoga (Cleveland)
  • Franklin (Columbus)
  • Lake (Painesville)
  • Mahoning (Youngstown)
  • Montgomery (Dayton)
  • Portage (Kent)
  • Stark (Canton)
  • Summit (Akron).

That leaves out 80 Ohio counties including Allen, Belmont, Butler, Clark, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lorain, Lucas, Muskingum, Richland, Trumbull, Wood and other populous counties.

The Ohio Statewide Transit Needs Study reported that Ohio should spend $1.1 billion per year over the next decade to meet growing ridership, operating costs and capital improvement needs (ie: new buses, trains, waiting shelters/stations, facilities, etc). However, local governments currently spend only $659 million per year. Transit spending must double to meet the need that ODOT’s report measured.

Instead, state leaders offered to increase its tiny $7.3 million per year transit spending by a mere $1 million in 2016 and again in 2017, or an extra 0.03% of ODOT’s budget. Thus, the roughly 60 cents per capita that Ohio spends on transit will rise to a still-pathetic 70 cents paid by each Ohioan per year. What else can you get for 70 cents?

  • 1 gallon of gasoline — in 1998
  • Wages paid to a woman in America for every $1 we pay a man
  • A taco on any Monday at El Ranchero’s
  • One hour of work in a 16-hour workday for a 13-year-old child making iPhone parts in Shenzen, China
  • One hour of work from an American iron worker — in 1915
  • A watt of electricity from rooftop solar panels
  • A double coupon at Fred’s Super Dollar store every Saturday
  • State taxes paid by each Ohioan over an entire year to support public transportation.

By comparison, the top-10 states in terms of their annual support of public transportation all invest at least $50 per capita. Ohio, the nation’s seventh-most populous state, spends less than West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota or Wyoming on public transit.

At the Ohio House hearing last week, state representatives like Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) pressed asked why Ohio isn’t doing more to help address public transportation capital and operating needs that are greater than the ability of local governments to address them on their own.

“Local communities are primarily responsible for devising their own public transportation systems since Ohio is a home rule state,” Wray responded.

Yet ODOT is willing to provide a tiny amount of funding to rural and small urban transit systems, and Ohio spent much more on transit in the past — $42 million per year in 2001 — which apparently wasn’t in violation of home rule. And of course ODOT pours massive operating subsidies into maintaining roads in townships and small towns that otherwise can’t afford to maintain the roads themselves. Meanwhile urban areas must maintain their state and federal thoroughfares, including removing snow and ice, maintaining storm drains, and cutting grass or other landscaping. These are some of the examples of cities subsidizing suburbs and rural areas, thereby undermining cities which are the incubators of innovation and economic growth.

Rep. Ramos noted that young people are choosing to relocate to cities that have good public transportation — few of which are in Ohio. He asked Wray how the state could help local communities to “build a real multi-modal human transportation system.” Instead Wray told him to go ask someone else for the money.

“Nobody has the money to build it,” Wray said. “I recommend you work with metropolitan planning organizations on the issue.”

Wray will testify further about the ODOT budget request this coming week to the Ohio House Finance Subcommittee. Then the Ohio Senate will hold hearings. Again, please ask your state legislators in Columbus to support $62.5 million per year (not including federal elderly/disabled funds Ohio will get anyway) for ODOT Public Transit for urban, rural and intercity public transportation.

END