All Aboard Ohio has joined with the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance in advocating for the expansion and improvement of passenger rail service in the populous Cincinnati – Indianapolis – Chicago travel corridor, or Hoosier Corridor. This route is home to more than 17 million people, numerous employers and hundreds of thousands of college students — and it is fast-growing.
By 2030, population is expected to increase in the major metro areas of Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago by 2 million people. We want to see that growth happen in a sustainable way that promotes development of our urban cores, increases access to educational and employment opportunities, minimizes environmental impact and doesn’t choke off future growth.
That means offering a diversified transportation system including high-speed rail that meets 21st century challenges and opportunities in the Hoosier Corridor. The proven way to achieve high-speed rail is to develop it incrementally. No high-speed rail service in the world was ever achieved without a successful, popular conventional-speed precedent (up to 125 mph). The incremental approach builds the rail travel market, ignites station-area development, nurtures urban transport connectors and energizes political support for the heavy lift of true high-speed rail (125 mph and higher).
Such efforts are well underway between St. Louis-Chicago and Detroit-Chicago where $2 billion in private, state and federal funds are being invested to increase train speeds to 110 mph by 2017. Components for these trains are being made by Siemens in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood and other companies in Ohio and Indiana which have the first- and second-most rail industry suppliers in the Midwest, respectively.
Already, five daily round trips STL-CHI and 3-4 daily round trips DET-CHI are offered at 79 mph (with 100+ miles traveled at 110 mph) and carry more than 1.3 million passengers per year. These ridership totals have doubled since 2000 as states have sponsored increases in the number of trains, smoother tracks and new/improved stations. Infrastructure improvements have also improved safety and the reliability of rail freight services which are scheduled primarily at night to avoid daytime passenger services.
Extend and Enhance The Hoosier State service
A journey of many miles begins with a single step, and that step is indeed a modest one — expanding The Hoosier State service. Starting in 2015, this service is supported through an innovative public-private partnership led by the Indiana Department of Transportation. Trains are operated by Iowa Pacific Holdings through an agreement with Amtrak (providing access to its national reservations systems and federally provided liability insurance) and CSX Inc. which owns and maintains the tracks. Unlike highways and aviation where governments own and subsidize the infrastructure, rails are typically privately owned and maintained. Only the trains require ongoing public support.
This public-private partnership sets the Hoosier State on a path to growth, which All Aboard Ohio and others believe should include faster, more frequent and more modern trains that reach into Southern Indiana and Southwest Ohio. Why?
- At full build-out, fast passenger trains linking Chicago, Indiana cities and into Ohio will produce user benefits of $2.3 billion – $3.5 billion and community benefits of 4,540 new permanent jobs plus $86 million of extra household income.
- Cincinnati must continue to compete with St. Louis, Detroit, Bloomington, Kalamazoo and other Midwest cities that have or are gaining 110-mph trains to Chicago, the economic capital of the Midwest.
- Taking the train elsewhere in the Midwest costs about 10-20 cents per mile vs 55-65 cents per mile for driving. This doesn’t include government subsidies that make driving artificially cheaper.
- The train is also one-fifth as expensive as flying as Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport has the highest air fares in the nation. A round-trip nonstop flight to Chicago with 2-weeks advanced purchase costs upwards of $700 (as of spring 2015). This is despite significant aviation subsidies.
- Expanding the Hoosier service into SW Ohio means tapping a growing ridership base of 3 million people, plus many small/large corporations and 100,000 college students.
- Most of Greater Cincinnati’s 2.1 million population is to the north of the city. For Chicago-bound travelers, the airport is the other direction in Kentucky, requiring an often-congested drive across the Ohio River.
- Since the Hoosier will likely stop at future stations in Hamilton and Oxford, it will also tap Greater Dayton’s 900,000 population most of which is to the south of the city. This could include coordinated bus service with through-ticketing from Hamilton to downtown Dayton, the University of Dayton (11,000 enrollment) and Wright State University (17,000 enrollment).
- University of Cincinnati (44,000 enrollment) and Xavier University (6,000 enrollment) will likely contribute significant ridership as would a stop in Oxford, tapping Miami University (24,000 enrollment).
- In the rest of the country, colleges with good rail access to other cities or recreational areas for weekend getaways are important factors in young people deciding where they want to go to school. If students like their school’s city, many will stay to look for jobs and raise families.
- Trains are much more comfortable than taking the bus. Many bus services no longer stop in smaller cities that are away from the interstate and not worth the bus service’s time and fuel cost to serve. Trains, on the other hand, go right into town centers.
How do we proceed?
All Aboard Ohio believes that the best way to gain multiple daily trains traveling at 100+ mph is to start with improving the Hoosier State service:
- Run the northbound and southbound Hoosier State trains daily (each currently runs four days a week with Amtrak’s Cardinal service on the other three days).
- Reschedule the Hoosier State two hours later northbound and two hours earlier southbound.
- Reroute it via faster tracks into Chicago.
- Add three new passing sidings and install more seamless welded rails for higher speeds (already underway).
- Provide alternative routes for some CSX freight traffic to avoid Cincinnati’s congested Mill Creek corridor (already underway).
- Improve grade crossing safety with “triggers” set farther from road crossings and constant-warning-time circuits.
- Extend the train service to current and future Amtrak stations in Connersville, Indiana plus Ohio stations including Oxford, Hamilton, I-275/Tri-County area and Cincinnati Union Terminal.
- Provide coordinated, connecting bus service with through-ticketing to off-route destinations such as Middletown, Miami Valley universities and downtown Dayton.
Are you on-board?
Numerous persons, cities, businesses and civic organizations are supporting the Hoosier extension to Cincinnati including the Hamilton County Commissioners, city councils of Hamilton, Norwood, Oxford, Wyoming and Cincinnati Council’s Transportation Committee Chair Amy Murray, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), Miami University, University of Cincinnati, the U.S. Bank/Haile Foundation, Cincinnatians For Progress and others.
+ Sample resolution (by the Hamilton County Commissioners) for your community, company or organization to consider adopting.
+ Sample letter (by the City of Hamilton, OH) for your community, company or organization.
+ One-page briefing (2MB PDF) on the Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago “Hoosier” corridor.
+ Oxford Station flier (100K PDF) on the need for constructing a station in Oxford, OH for existing and future rail services.
How you can help…
Contact All Aboard Ohio’s Southwest Director Derek Bauman at (513) 262-0345 or e-mail him at email@example.com. Please refer general All Aboard Ohio inquiries to 844-464-7245 (toll-free) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fast trains have already arrived in the Midwest. Get on board or get left at the station!