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


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

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.


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


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
Elissa Schneider, Chair, TransitColumbus (614) 580-5109
Larry Robertson, Coordinator, Central Ohio Group, All Aboard Ohio; Member, National Association of
Railroad Passengers(614) 370-3447

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:


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

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.

Ohio Rally4Trains events June 23-24

ohio amtrak routes n stationss

For immediate release

Contact: Ken Prendergast, All Aboard Ohio Executive Director, 216-288-4883

Summary of Ohio Rally4Trains events:

  • Columbus – 11 am Friday June 23rd – NW corner of High Street and Nationwide Blvd, downtown
  • Cleveland – 12 noon Friday June 23rd – Amtrak station, 200 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, downtown
  • Toledo – 3 pm Saturday June 24th – MLK Plaza/Amtrak station, 300 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, south of downtown

With these rallies, All Aboard Ohio proudly and actively supports the National Association of Railroad Passengers’ (NARP) campaign to respond loudly to the Trump Administration’s proposed budget that would eliminate all funding for passenger trains and public transportation. Our active support will be expressed on June 23rd and 24th at three rallies in Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. Other rallies will be held across the country CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

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. Eliminating funding for Amtrak would have a profound negative impact on every intercity, rapid transit and commuter rail passenger in the country. More than 220 communities across the country and over 40 million riders will lose their service.

COLUMBUS is our cautionary tale of what happens when a major city loses passenger train service. It is extremely hard to get trains back. When Columbus lost Amtrak’s New York-Kansas City National Limited due to federal budget cuts on Sept. 30, 1979, it has since gone more than 13,750 days without passenger rail service. Columbus is the largest city in the western hemisphere and possibly the world without any regularly scheduled passenger trains (urban light-rail, regional commuter, intercity Amtrak etc). Columbus would be an even more vibrant, sustainable city with passenger rail.

Please join the Columbus Rally4Trains at 11 a.m. Friday June 23rd at the corner of High Street and Nationwide Blvd in downtown Columbus — across the street from where Columbus Union Station stood.

CLEVELAND will not only lose its Amtrak trains immediately but also its rapid transit trains in 5-10 years under the administration’s proposed cuts. Cleveland’s rail transit system is already facing a half-billion dollar backlog of unfunded state-of-good-repair needs. Its loss as well as many bus routes will mean that tens of thousands of people each day won’t be able to get to work, school, health care or shopping. On Amtrak, more than 650,000 passengers a year use the four daily trains through Cleveland, including nearly 50,000 boardings at Cleveland in 2016. Any hope for service improvements and expansion will disappear along with them.

Please join the Cleveland Rally4Trains at 12 noon Friday June 23rd at the Cleveland Amtrak station, 200 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway in downtown Cleveland — where the city’s planned Lakefront Multi-modal Transportation Center is planned. Special guest is Steve Vagnozzi, Chair, Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers.

TOLEDO is Ohio’s busiest train station where not only Amtrak trains but Amtrak buses, Greyhound buses and Toledo Area RTA buses all converge in a single transportation center. The MLK Plaza station has offices in the building above and a Subway restaurant in the station below. That station stays busy ’round the clock with rail and bus passengers traveling to places near and fare. This multi-modal station is an example for the rest of Ohio to follow. That example will fade away without federal Amtrak and public transportation funds, making it more difficult for Toledoans to travel within their city and to other cities.

Please join the Toledo Rally4Trains at 3 p.m. Saturday June 24th at MLK Plaza/Amtrak station, 300 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, south of downtown. It is also the site of a major community redevelopment effort that will not succeed without federal funds. Special guest speaker is Bruce Becker, Vice President of the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

Here are some other impacts of these destructive federal funding cuts:

  • Restoring lost trains is extremely difficult. Columbus and Dayton lost their Amtrak train services in 1979 as a result of 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.
  • 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. There are nearly 50,000 people who boarded Amtrak trains last year in Cleveland, an increase of nearly 40 percent over the past decade. More than 55,000 people boarded Amtrak trains in Toledo in 2016.
  • 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. That includes Ohio Amtrak employees buying $6.45 million worth of goods and services (multiplier of 1.5 on base wages of $4.3 million).
  • All Ohio Amtrak trains (part of the National Network) would end as a result of the proposed budget cuts, and force increased costs and the loss of connecting revenues to state-supported trains in two dozen states, many of which may not be able to afford them anymore.

Please join us at these important events to raise public awareness of this critical issue!