All Aboard Ohio this week thanked the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Access Ohio 2040 planning team for its detailed draft planning document, but wondered why so few ideas were offered for improving and expanding passenger rail and public transportation services. While 9% of Ohio households have no cars (or 1 million Ohioans!), and many more households with multiple wage earners must share a car, ODOT spends only 1% of its $3+ billion per year budget on public transportation and freight rail, with nothing for passenger rail.
In its submitted comments, All Aboard Ohio Chairman Ron Sheck wrote “We believe the draft document gives short shrift to passenger rail, intercity bus and local transit; and largely ignores the connectivity between modes that allows travelers to make their trip without an automobile.” It noted that Ohio is trying to compete for jobs and residents (especially young people) with states who are more aggressively pursuing intercity passenger rail and local public transit services that help foster more vibrant urban centers and smaller, yet dynamic college/research-based towns.
To rectify that, the statewide nonprofit association that represents rail and transit passengers made several suggested additions, including:
- Improve Amtrak passenger service on the Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland-Buffalo-Albany-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited route; and also on the Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Washington DC Capitol Limited route. The first steps are underway to improve stations in Ohio at Bryan, Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria and Cleveland.
- Increase the frequency of Amtrak’s Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati-Charleston-Washington DC-Philadelphia-New York City Cardinal from tri-weekly to daily.
- Develop a new higher-speed corridor (up to 110 mph as in the Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Detroit corridors) linking Chicago-Ft. Wayne-Lima-Columbus and intermediate points with multiple daily round trips by upgrading existing freight rail lines.
- Extend the current Indiana DOT/locally-funded Amtrak Hoosier State from its eastern terminus in Indianapolis to Cincinnati providing daytime service linking Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago.
- Develop Amtrak Thruway connecting bus services to better link intercity trains serving Toledo with Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor and Amtrak/Michigan Wolverine trains serving central and western Michigan cities and towns.
“Public Transportation needs much more attention than it has received in the Access Ohio 2040 draft plan,” Chairman Sheck wrote in All Aboard Ohio’s comments submitted on Jan. 14, 2014. “It is very disappointing to see the minimal level of proposed state funding for public transportation assistance to our urban and rural communities. Neighboring states either provide state funds directly to transit agencies for capital or operating expenses, or allow greater flexibility in local funding. Ohio needs to do better in both areas. We hope ODOT will give serious consideration to our concerns and recommendations.”