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Northwest Ohio Rally4Trains drew passenger rail advocates from near, far

Rally4Trains-Toledo 062417-BillGill2

Northwest Ohioans rallied June 24 outside Toledo’s MLK Plaza station served by Amtrak to protest federal budget cuts that would eliminate passenger rail service, proposed by the Trump Administration. Ohioans are urged to ask their Congressperson/Senators to stop Trump’s proposed Amtrak cuts by calling 202-224-3121 or via the Web at http://www.house.gov or at http://www.senate.gov (Bill Gill photo).

UPDATE: Below are links to media coverage of the Toledo Rally4Trains event:

_________________________________________________

For Immediate Release

June 24, 2017
Contact: Bill Gill 419-536-1924

Bruce Becker, Vice President of Operations, National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) Joins Tim Porter, Chair of the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association (NOPRA) and Toledo Rail Passengers to Protest Cuts to Trains
Local Event Mirrors Rallies Held Across the Country for #Rally4Trains

TOLEDO, OH — Along with leaders of NARP, NOPRA and All Aboard Ohio, Patrick Miller, Chair of the Passenger Rail Committee of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, and State Representative, Michael Sheehy, joined more than two dozen local rail passengers as part of a national “Rally For Trains” at the park in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza – home to Toledo’s Amtrak facility – on Saturday afternoon at 3 o’clock June 24. The rally was one of dozens that were planned across the country in response to a proposed federal budget that would wipe out long distance train service in more than 220 communities and 23 states.

“The goal of the ‘Rally For Trains’ was to come together as one voice to ensure that the proposed federal budget is not implemented without considerable amendments to restore and even increase funding for passenger rail,” said Jim Mathews, President and CEO of the National Association of Railroad Passengers in Washington, D.C. “This series of events shows enormous, bi-partisan and widespread support for our national rail network,” he said.

As part of the rally, local volunteers in Toledo held signs and engaged in enthusiastic conversations with visitors. The event was also attended by Tom Galloway, on the Legislative Board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Robert Seyfang, head of the Toledo Design Center and J. Michael Galbraith, candidate for Ohio’s 5th Congressional Seat.

“A train ride as a boy taught me to appreciate the geographic diversity of my home state,” said Representative Sheehy. He went on to point out that the proposed cuts in President’s budget will hurt job growth and deter people from traveling to Toledo. “It’s another nail in the coffin of the economy in the state of Ohio.”

Michael Friedman, retired Amtrak Conductor and Democratic State Central Committee representative, joined the speakers in urging everyone to contact their local congressmen and representatives and voice concerns about the railroad cuts. An invitation was extended to all to join one or more of the advocacy groups to further the cause.

Loss of long distance rail service would dramatically affect Toledo – as well as Cleveland, Elyria, Sandusky and Bryan – along with more than 31 million passengers nationwide. The Amtrak cuts would impact as many as 500 communities nationwide. In Toledo, Ohio’s busiest Amtrak passenger station, there would no longer be passenger trains to Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, New York City, Boston or Chicago served by the Lake Shore Limited and the Capitol Limited.

“It would be a terrible loss,” said Toledoan Bill Taylor. Mr. Taylor detailed many enjoyable trips taken on several Amtrak trains.

Economic and other data have shown that towns without trains have fewer jobs, less tourism, lower economic activity, lower real estate values, less healthy people, more traffic congestion, less mobility and fewer travel options. While Congress holds the purse strings and will eventually decide on a federal budget for 2018, the initial proposals from the White House have drawn scrutiny from both sides of the aisle.

The rallies show strong support for trains in both rural and urban areas, and the rail passengers plan to continue their fight for as long as it takes to achieve funding that will help achieve a positive outcome for trains.

They have also continued their effort online at www.townstwithouttrains.com and on Facebook and Twitter @railpassengers. Visit the website to see the full list of train stations that would lose service under the proposed budget.


 

About the National Association of Railroad Passengers
NARP is the only national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.

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Northeast Ohio rail passengers rally at Cleveland to raise the alarm – and hope

Rally4Trains-Cleveland

Several dozen passenger rail advocates gathered June 23 at the Cleveland Amtrak station to urge that Congress support better access to opportunities and reject the Trump Administration’s proposed transportation budget. Instead, All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Ken Prendergast, second from left, urged Congress to increase funding for public transportation and passenger rail. In attendance was Cleveland City Council Transportation Committee Chair Marty Keane, staffers for Congresswomen Marcia Fudge and Marcy Kaptur, along with representatives of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, and Western Pennsylvanians For Passenger Rail.

For Immediate Release – June 23, 2017
Contact: Ken Prendergast,
Executive Director, All Aboard Ohio
(216) 288-4883
KenPrendergast@AllAboardOhio.org

Click to download a printable PDF of this press release

CLEVELAND – Northeast Ohio rail passengers gathered today at the Cleveland Amtrak Lakefront Station to sound a cautionary alarm but also a message of hope about federal transportation funding. The concern isn’t just about Amtrak funding but also for capital improvement funding for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (GCRTA) rapid transit train system.

The Trump Administration’s 2018 proposed budget would eliminate the Federal Transit Administration and its $4 billion annual budget within four years. It would also slash all funding to Amtrak’s National Network that has seen ridership grow 18 percent since 2000.

“I remain hopeful because on May 1, Congress agreed to a omnibus spending plan for 2017 that would have increased funding for public transportation and Amtrak,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. “I believe Congress will fund trains and transit in 2018 as it outlined in its five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015.”

For GCRTA riders, Northeast Ohio employers and our quality of life, the cuts to public transportation would be devastating:

  • GCRTA gets about $34 million per year in federal funding for capital purchases and preventative maintenance. About 80 percent of that goes to the rail system that GCRTA owns and is wholly responsible for, unlike the road system to which GCRTA pays no fuel taxes or other fees to support.
  •  One out of five GCRTA boardings is on the three-route rail system (GCRTA has nearly 100 bus routes). Rail accounts for only 17 percent of GCRTA’s operating budget. About 150,000 people board GCRTA buses and trains each day. Additional weekday boardings in downtown Cleveland and University Circle are on Akron Metro RTA, Laketran, Portage Area RTA and Stark Area RTA who would also be hurt by the proposed budget cuts.
  • This comes on top of a nearly 10 percent loss in sales tax revenues from Managed Care Organization transactions starting later this year. Many Northeast Ohioans depend on public transportation to get to work, school, health care and shopping.
  • These federal cuts are proposed as transit in Cleveland faces a backlog of more than a half-billion dollars worth of unfunded state-of-good-repair needs. Due to GCRTA owning its rail system, this backlog and the proposed federal cuts would hit disproportionately hard on the rail system.
  • The backlog of state-of-good-repair needs include track, signal and bridge work, bringing stations up to ADA compliance, and replacing train cars whose average age is about 35 years — well past their normal life expectancy.
  • Without federal funds, public transit in Greater Cleveland could be cut back to a handful of bus routes. Rapid transit trains would stop running in 5-10 years due to declining train, track, signal and bridge conditions. Bus replacements, garage repairs, equipment replacements, and other unfunded capital needs will hit the bus system hard as well.

Amtrak budget cuts would cost Northeast Ohio these emerging opportunities:

  • All Ohio Amtrak trains (part of the National Network) would end as a result of the proposed cuts and push higher costs and a loss of connecting passenger revenues onto surviving routes which may not be able to offer the same level of service.
  • The existing Amtrak trains that travel through Cleveland and Toledo each night are used by 650,000 people per year, enough to fill every seat on more than a dozen Boeing 737 jets per day. They link big cities to small towns that have no other intercity public transportation, like Bryan, OH and Alliance, OH.
  •  Nearly 50,000 people boarded four nightly Amtrak trains last year in Cleveland, an increase of almost 40 percent over the past decade. For perspective, Greyhound boards 250,000 people per year at Cleveland but that’s on roughly 30 buses per day.
  • The city of Cleveland, Amtrak, Greyhound and GCRTA are planning a multi-modal transportation center at the site of our rally to improve connectivity and promote downtown development. This and other Ohio rail improvements will need federal funds.
  •  The Federal Railroad Administration’s Midwest Regional Rail Plan and Ohio’s neighboring states are seeking passenger rail improvements that could expand into Ohio. If we lose our existing train services, we cannot improve them.
  • Restoring lost trains is very difficult. Columbus and Dayton lost their Amtrak trains in 1979 due to federal budget cuts. Akron and Youngstown lost their trains in 2005. None have returned due to the difficulty of restoring lost trains or instituting new services.
  • Despite having only five trains a day serving Ohio, Amtrak in 2016 spent $30 million into Ohio’s economy buying goods and services from Ohio companies.

END

Central Ohio passenger train advocates gather to sound alarm — and hope

Rally4Trains-JackShaner-ElissaSchneider-LarryRobertson-062317CROPs

At the June 23rd Rally4Trains event in Columbus, from left, are All Aboard Ohio Chairman Jack Shaner, TransitColumbus Chair Elissa Schneider and All Aboard Ohio Columbus Coordinator Larry Robertson. The event was held at the corner of High Street and Nationwide Boulevard, across the street from the site of the old Columbus Union Station, but where a new station could be built to serve new, fast trains linking Central Ohio to Lima, Fort Wayne and Chicago.

Press Release – June 23, 2017

Contact: Jack Shaner, Chair, All Aboard Ohio (614) 309-1169 JackShaner29@gmail.com
Elissa Schneider, Chair, TransitColumbus (614) 580-5109 elissa.k.schneider@gmail.com
Larry Robertson, Coordinator, Central Ohio Group, All Aboard Ohio; Member, National Association of
Railroad Passengers(614) 370-3447 Robertson.9@osu.edu

Click to download a printable PDF of this press release

Train advocates rail against Trump proposal to slash Amtrak…while hoping that emerging new plan to link Columbus and Chicago continues to pick up steam
Local Event Mirrors Rallies Held Across USA for #Rally4Trains

(Columbus, OH) — Local passenger train advocates gathered today near the site of Columbus’ former Union Station to sound a cautionary alarm but also a message of hope.

The hard-bitten but hardy train supporters had a warming for the 31 million passengers who rode an Amtrak train to one of America’s 500 train stations last year: The Trump Administration’s budget proposes to slash all long-distance train funding. If Congress approves it, 27 states — including Ohio — will lose all Amtrak service.

“Once you lose your train, like Columbus did 38 years ago, it could take generations to get it back. That’s why we are sounding the alarm today in Columbus, Ohio – North America’s largest city without a train,” said Larry Robertson, central Ohio coordinator of All Aboard Ohio and a member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

The advocates crow that Columbus is ranked among the nation’s top cities for young professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, and music, sports and more. But it also has the dubious distinction as the largest North American city with no inter-city passenger rail service. The last Amtrak train left Columbus in 1979, a victim of federal budget cuts.

Public transportation advocates like Elissa Schneider, chair of TransitColumbus, have hardly lost hope. They are encouraged about the prospects of an emerging plan to link Columbus and Chicago with a new 110-MPH passenger rail line that cuts the travel time between the two cities to just 3 hours and 45 minutes, without the hassles of flying and driving.

“Columbus is isolated from the passenger rail network in the United States. I believe that Columbus is a destination worthy of that connection. For me, it’s that simple, the people of Columbus deserve to be connected,” said Schneider.

The Columbus-Chicago train appears to be picking up steam. Studies already are underway for the Lima OH to Gary IN portion of the route. All four Ohio cities with prospective stops along the route (Columbus, Marysville, Kenton and Lima) along with MORPC are helping fund the review. And unlike previous proposals, this one was initiated by business interests, in Ft. Wayne, IN.

But the train supporters know that President Trump’s proposal to slash Amtrak and transit funding could dash any plan to restart train service in Columbus. The Trump budget:

  • Eliminates all funding for Amtrak’s long-distance train network, shunting remaining Amtrak funding, instead, to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and state-supported trains.
  • Zeroes out funding for the highly successful TIGER grants program that invests in passenger rail and transit projects of national significance.
  • Slashes funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s “New Starts” Capital Investment Program, which is crucial to launching new transit, commuter rail, and light-rail projects.

President Trump’s backward budget is especially puzzling, given that Congress earlier this year had thoroughly rejected cutting Amtrak’s budget. Further, Amtrak has greatly economized operations. It trumps the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Highway Administration for recovery of total costs from user revenues: Amtrak-94%, FAA-88%, FHA-78%.

A recent report by All Aboard Ohio assessing Ohio’s passenger rail needs finds that neighboring states and Ontario are investing billions in passenger rail, leaving Ohio far behind.

That’s why train and transit advocates are rallying their members to support the prospect of a new train for Columbus by keeping alive Amtrak’s existing passenger rail network, even though there currently is no train to Ohio’s capital city.

“Connection. Convenience. Commerce. That’s the cargo passenger trains are delivering to smart cities like Ann Arbor MI, Harrisburg PA, Lafayette IN, Bloomington IL and others. Columbus may finally be in line for higher-speed rail. But if Congress pulls the plug on Amtrak’s long-distance train network, it could be ‘Goodbye Columbus’ for another two generations to get a train back,” said Jack Shaner, chair of All
Aboard Ohio.

More information:

END

Last chance to save access to jobs, health care, school, etc this year?

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Legislative Update
Ohio’s state budget continues to be at a critical juncture regarding public transit’s continued receipt of the Managed Care Organization (MCO) sales tax after this year. The Ohio Senate did not include an MCO fix in their omnibus budget amendment, but an amendment was passed in committee yesterday that will allow us to continue fighting for the MCO fix in conference committee.
 It is vital that transit riders personally reach out to your state senators and state representatives AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to discuss the need to address the MCO sales tax.  The conference committee will finish its work as soon as Monday.
When contacting your legislator
  • Tell them that the MCO sales tax is by far the largest issue facing transit this year and is the largest challenge the Ohio transit industry has faced for many years.  How it is resolved will have a significant impact on the services transit provides.
  • Up to 10 percent of public transit services will be cut and/or fares raised, reducing the ability for people to reach jobs, school, health care and shopping. One million Ohioans do not have cars and many more households share just one car.
  • Mention Senator Dolan’s amendment as a possible solution

Senator Dolan’s amendment would reset the proposed franchise fee July 1, 2018, to keep the state, counties and transit authorities whole, and retain the Administration’s one-time allocation for counties and transit authorities in the first year of the state budget. His proposal would not impact the state’s General Revenue Fund at all.

You can find your senator here.  You representative can be found here. Please keep your messages short and polite. Be sure to thank your state lawmakers for their efforts.
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