Passenger Rail in Ohio and UK; Light Rail in Charlotte and Detroit

Ohio‘s interested in getting into the passenger rail game. The state is planning new service between Cincinnati and Cleveland based on the assumption that it will be able to apply for – and get – $100 million in infrastructure spending money. This plan would be incorporated into the Midwest High Speed Rail plan, but for the meantime, it wouldn’t mean fast or even frequent trains. Rather, the system would be limited to 79-mph and only have two trains, running one round trip a day. This is a nice idea, though quite modest, considering that Ohio will eventually play an important role as the link between the East Coast and Chicago once high-speed rail nationwide becomes a reality.

Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary of the United Kingdom (Labour Party), has now come out in favor of a high-speed rail link between London and Scotland via the east coast of the country. This is in contrast to the Tory Party’s plan for a west coast high-speed rail line, which they contend would make a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport unnecessary. Hoon argues that the west coast line – which serves Birmingham and Manchester – was recently upgraded, but there isn’t any doubt that it is the west coast line that would attract more users. Perhaps in the long term, both are good ideas?

Charlotte, North Carolina, is facing rising questions about whether its current 1/2-cent sales tax will be enough to provide the kind of transit expansions its politicians have been promising since the tax was passed in 1998. Agency leaders are now suggesting that another form of funding will be necessary if the system is to expand to all parts of Mecklenberg County, as was originally envisioned. The Lynx light rail system’s first line has been a smashing success, however, so support may be more forthcoming than it would have been in the past.

Finally, in Detroit, the plan for a light rail line down the city’s main strip, Woodward Avenue, is taking shape. The State Legislature has approved a plan that would allow the development of such a line, which is currently being proposed by both a private group and the Detroit Department of Transportation. The issue of transit is increasingly important in the Motor City – it is even playing a role in the upcoming Mayoral election. Whether such a network will save the city from what increasingly looks like eternal damnation is unclear at this time, though.

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