Metro planning organizations form rail alliance

Despite inadequate station facilities, inconvenient departure times and train delays caused by rail traffic congestion ridership at Northern Ohio stations grew 36-91 percent over the past five years. This is Cleveland on July 13, 2013 as photographed by Mark Schwinn of Chicago.

Despite inadequate station facilities, inconvenient departure times and train delays caused by rail traffic congestion, Amtrak ridership at Northern Ohio stations grew 36-91 percent over the past five years. This is Cleveland’s lakefront station at dawn on July 13, 2013 as photographed by Mark Schwinn. Click for a larger image; when reprinting this photo, credit “All Aboard Ohio.”

May facilitate planning for traffic growth on Ohio’s busiest rail corridor

For Immediate Release
April 11, 2014
 
Ken Prendergast
Executive Director
All Aboard Ohio
kenprendergast@allaboardohio.org
(216) 288-4883

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) Board of Directors today passed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create a “northern Ohio rail alliance” among three Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). Identically worded MOUs were recently approved by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) and the Erie County Regional Planning Commission which includes Sandusky. MPOs administer federal transportation and air quality programs for their respective regions.

The alliance was sought in response to growing traffic along an east-west rail corridor that’s already one of the busiest in the nation. Seventy daily freight trains carry about 20,000 truckload equivalents and four daily passenger trains carry enough passengers to fill a dozen 737s per day. The Ohio Statewide Rail Plan of 2010 estimated that rail freight tonnage is expected to increase by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.6% until 2030.

Meanwhile passenger boardings have grown dramatically in the past five years at train stations in Cleveland (+38%), Elyria (+91%), Sandusky (+64%) and Toledo (+36) despite nocturnal Amtrak service. Even more rapid growth may be possible if the corridor was served by more passenger trains on faster schedules and at convenient daytime hours.

See All Aboard Ohio’s presentation on the need for this alliance HERE.

NOACA’s action was also in response to a federally funded public involvement process conducted by the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC) of which NOACA is a member. In NEOSCC’s recent released Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Vibrant NEO Initiative 5.4 recommends evaluating “the condition of all existing rail trackage and rail crossings to determine what investments would be necessary to bring substandard infrastructure up to standard for freight and passenger service.”

The MOU was passed to create a Multi-Jurisdictional Initiative – a framework recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a structure for megaregion planning. The megaregion, dubbed “Chi-Pitts”, ultimately stretches north and west to Detroit and Chicago. The Chi-Pitts megaregion is the second-largest in the United States with 42 million people and generates $2.3 trillion in annual economic output – equal to the world’s seventh-largest nation.

MOU language adopted for the northern Ohio rail alliance was borrowed from an existing, USDOT-recognized Multi-Jurisdictional Initiative called the Western High Speed Rail Alliance among transit agencies and MPOs across the Inter-Mountain West.

Concurrently, the Ohio Association of Regional Councils which represents MPOs throughout the state joined the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) in March. The MIPRC is an 11-state compact comprised of state legislators, other state, and local officials, members of the private sector and the advocacy community. OARC joined MIPRC to enhance interstate cooperation and communication, as well as to strengthen Ohio’s voice in Midwest passenger rail policy issues.

“We are pleased to be working together with TMACOG and ERPC on this important issue,” said Grace Gallucci, NOACA executive director. “Northeast Ohio rail infrastructure needs to be upgraded and enhanced to meet the needs of both passengers and freight. The MOU approved today authorizes us to develop a strategy that will prove successful in securing a federal funding grant.”

All Aboard Ohio is very grateful to NOACA, TMACOG and Erie County for joining together to consider further improvements to passenger and freight rail – the fastest-growing transportation modes in the 21st century,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of the nonprofit association.

The next steps are to identify additional partners in Ohio and adjoining states, develop a scope of planning work and secure funding for it. It’s an exciting time for Ohio’s cities which are seeing significant redevelopment. Enhancing rail infrastructure that already focuses on our urban cores is a cost-effective way of supporting their continued redevelopment,” Prendergast added.

CLICK ON THIS LINK to read NOACA’s press release on creating the rail alliance.

END

Concept for uniting Amtrak, Greater Cleveland RTA, Greyhound, Megabus, Akron Metro RTA, Laketran, Portage Area RTA, Stark Area RTA services under one roof, creating a transportation center where up to 1 million passengers would board per year -- more than the annual boardings at Akron-Canton Regional Airport. All Aboard Ohio graphic.

Concept for uniting Amtrak, Greater Cleveland RTA, Greyhound, Megabus, Akron Metro RTA, Laketran, Portage Area RTA and Stark Area RTA regularly scheduled transportation services under one roof, creating a transportation center where up to 1 million passengers would board per year — more than the annual boardings at Akron-Canton Regional Airport. All Aboard Ohio graphic.

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