Ohio Hub Advances as Passenger Rail Connections to Toledo and Pittsburgh Studied

» Governor Ted Strickland’s push to connect state via intercity rail is likely to go beyond initial Cincinnati-to-Cleveland corridor.

Following through on a years-long promise to include fourth-city Toledo in the next phase of rail investment in Ohio, the administration of Governor Ted Strickland has announced the awarding to an engineering firm an $8 million study of future intercity routes that would connect the Lake Erie city to the rest of the Buckeye State. A line into Pittsburgh is also up for evaluation.

Because of its geographic position between the Chicago-based Midwest rail network and that of the East Coast focused in New York, Ohio could serve as an essential link in a national rail network if the state makes the right investments.

In January, Ohio received $400 million from the federal government to implement intercity rail service on the 256-mile 3C rail line between Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton — the state’s four largest metropolitan areas. According to current plans, initial 79 mph operations would begin in 2012 on an improved freight corridor, bringing trains to the state’s capital in Columbus for the first time since 1977. The 3C project does not qualify as high-speed rail under anyone’s definition, especially considering its 6h30 estimated travel time, but future investments could increase speeds to 110 mph. The FRA is expected to approve the first direct grants for the state sometime in the next few weeks.

The 3C corridor, however, is not the be-all and end-all, since it lacks connections to Toledo, Akron, and Canton, three other large metropolitan areas. In addition, it does not provide for direct links either to Pittsburgh (and the East Coast network) or Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis, three major Midwest cities. Thus the newly announced study, which builds upon the larger Ohio Hub proposal, illustrated above and studied repeatedly over the past decade.

Consultant AECOM will specifically consider potential upgrades for the 3C route, plus new 110 mph links between Detroit, Toledo, and Cleveland; Cleveland and Pittsburgh; and Toledo and Columbus.

The new study is the long-expected next step for Ohio, but it comes at a fortunate time for Governor Strickland, a Democrat who is running for reelection in a tightly contested race against Republican John Kasich. Depending on the timing of the study’s results, Strickland may be able to claim that his administration aims to spread rail throughout the state; Toledo was especially frustrated by the fact that it wasn’t included in the state’s initial priorities. Though the Ohio Hub’s current plan suggests that the next major investment in the state will be connection between Cleveland, Toledo, and Detroit (arguably the more important link from a national perspective), other sources suggest that the new study may prioritize a capital-centric line between Columbus and Toledo.

But Ohio is not steps away from a massive rail network. The 3C corridor has been subject to relentless criticism from state Republicans, who claim that it is a boondoggle since operations would require an annual state subsidy and train running times between termini in Cincinnati and Cleveland would be a full two hours longer than typical car travel. Republican Kasich has been no major supporter of rail (and has posted an anti-rail editorial from another source on his site), so if he were to win the election, the federal government’s $400 million grant and the 3C line in general could be abandoned, leaving any rail improvements considered in the new study by the wayside.

Nonetheless, assuming Strickland remains in the Governor’s office (no sure thing), rail service along 3C will begin as expected. All of the major connections considered in the Ohio Hub plan seem worthy of eventual use as part of the national rail network, especially those that eventually lead to major cities outside of the state, like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Chicago. Ohio is relatively dense and many of its cities, despite losing population in the last few decades, have strong urban cores (or at least the potential to restore them).

Moreover, Ohio’s position as the connection point between the Midwest and East Coast rail networks cannot be passed over; any trains between Chicago and the East Coast would have to pass through the state. As part of what is truly a national imperative to improve intercity rail service, the state has an obligation to restore its system. The 3C plan, followed by the investments to be proposed by AECOM’s study, are the right ways to begin.

Image above: Ohio Hub potential corridors, from Ohio DOT

71 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • laldm

    As important as high speed rail is, America is putting the cart before the horse by developing it before having a decent intercity rail system. America used to have a real passenger rail network, and it will need to recreate it alongside any initial high speed lines in order to make rail travel a national phenomenon again. True that rail can be slower than cars on old freight lines, but it’s an important start to a long-term investment, and not every line needs to be fast. In Europe, who we always hold up as an embodiment of our goal in rail, most lines are not true high speed, though they are faster than 80 mph. Before Europe had high speed, it had reliable intercity rail.

    As for politics, I hate to even mention them. Obviously Strickland has his priorities more correct than his challenger. Anyone who thinks the automobile is the future is out of touch with the reality that confronts us nowadays.

    • If what you mean is Express HSR, then “developing it before having a decent intercity rail system” is a massive non sequiter in response to an article about establishing (1) a conventional rail starter system for a (2) 110mph “Emerging HSR” system which might be upgraded to (3) a 125mph “Regional HSR” system, and which would at most junction with an Express HSR system.

      All but two of the HSR systems funded in the stimulus are precisely in these tiers which are “Higher Speed than what we got now”, but not Express HSR.

      And in California, the Express HSR project is following up on more than a decade of successful development of intercity rail, and indeed the likelihood is that one or more of the existing Amtrak-California lines will be upgraded to 110mph before the California HSR system is finished.

      So rather than “America” proceeding with Express HSR before developing intercity rail, it seems to be a case of Florida proceeding with Express HSR before developing intercity rail. And that’s a valid argument, but Presidential politics is Presidential politics … getting all but one state in the sequence you call for seems to be awfully close.

    • Those European intercity trains are nothing to sneeze at. They may not be AS nice, but they still move along well, and get the job done. They provide a great service for those not willing to pay for the fast trains. I rode a couple in Italy, and they were both packed when we rode them.

    • Brian D

      Agree that restoring usable intercity rail is very important. If the Keystone trains were 110 mph and went to Toledo or Detroit, I would choose them over flying or driving, which I do now.

    • The current plans in Ohio have the 3C route running at an average speed of 39 mph, not 80 mph.

      • Simon

        If true, this is really not very good. So-called “express” trains on the Metropolitan Line of the London Underground go at an average of 32 mph between Amersham and Baker Street, and the stoppers on the same route go at an average of about 28 mph. To achieve 39 mph on a so-called long distance “high-speed” line isn’t really that impressive.

        Having said that, the journey from Leeds to Preston (a journey I make a lot), officially 62.4 miles by rail, takes 101 minutes on a so-called “express” train (theoretically capable of 90 mph), so this “express” is still only 37 mph, with 7 intermediate stops. This is therefore slower than 3C, if only slightly. The track on this line is not in good condition, especially between Burnley and Hall Royd Junction and this section is particularly slow.

        Even having 125 mph HSR is not a guarantee of high speeds. Some stopping trains from Blackpool North to Manchester Victoria use 125 mph trains. This is a distance of officially 48.4375 miles and these trains take 87 minutes, with 13 intermediate stops. I make this an average of 33.4 mph. (I don’t think they actually reach 125 mph at any point on this journey: the trains were built for actual express use and co-opted for this local service because they were available.)

        Of course 50 mile long regional routes, and 20 mile long subway lines, are somewhat different from 250 mile long intercity corridors, especially those with only eight stations. In those circumstances one would expect rather higher speed. To take a more typical example, London to Manchester is officially 183.475 miles and typically takes 137 minutes with 5 stops. I make this an average of 80 mph, with 125 mph rolling stock. With sensible rules and enough ambition, 3C should be able to achieve 55 to 60 with 80 mph rolling stock. 39 is really setting their sights too low.

        • Woody

          Please understand that Ohio’s 3C’s project — like most of the ObamaRail projects — is based on making incremental steps.

          The FIRST step is to have trains at an average speed of 39 mph. The second step, or rather, the next set of steps will lead to top speeds of 110 mph, some years and hundreds of millions of dollars down the line.

          Of course, with a plan projected to take a decade or more to fully implement, large changes may occur before completion. In the meantime, major issues will be decided that may have a large impact on the 3C’s. For example, the FRA specs that require passenger coaches in this country to be built like tanks could be updated, inviting a rethinking of using tilting trains or other changes. The big issue of sharing right of way with the freights, with some operators demanding 30 foot separations of the tracks, could be decided in a way that makes dedicated passenger tracks imperative.

          But while we can’t be sure how or where the 3C’s will turn out, it is imperative to start with something, and that something is the 39-mph service that could begin operating within just two or three years from now.

          • The problem with FRA-compliance is that as soon as the PTC mandate goes into effect, all existing rolling stock will become obsolete. This means that it will be wise to take the time and wait a few years, opening service only after unmodified lightweight DMUs are legal on US track and only after other issues like cant deficiency are straightened. (Remember: a non-tilting train in Europe can do about the same cant deficiency as a tilting train in the US.)

          • Adirondacker12800

            The problem with FRA-compliance is that as soon as the PTC mandate goes into effect, all existing rolling stock will become obsolete.

            Huh? All they have to do is add PTC to the locomotive.

          • Sure, if they don’t mind lugging tens of tons of deadweight. If instead they prefer running the best train that regulations permit, they’ll switch to something like the FLIRT as soon as possible.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Assume that they get a good price for the obsolete trains how much does a FLIRT have to save them in fuel costs to make selling off the fleet, worthwhile?

          • Woody

            Alon, is it really a problem that “as soon as the PTC mandate goes into effect, all existing rolling stock will become obsolete”? I thought that much of the existing rolling stock is obsolete right now, and the rest will surely be obsolete before it can be replaced.

            Anyway, at the rate LaHood and team and the Congress are moving on Amtrak’s fleet replacement plan, no new rolling stock will be coming off the assembly lines any time soon.

            When or if they do end up with truly obsolete stuff, they will just put it all on the Cardinal and let the Repubs continue to denounce that route for losing so much money.

          • The existing rolling stock should have 10 more years in it, enough time to buy better trains. The problem with selling FRA-compliant trains is that come 2015, there won’t be anyone to sell them to. Outside North America they use lighter trains, the US won’t need any compliant rolling stock, and Canada is a tiny market and may well follow suit and permit lightweight trains.

            The FLIRT gets about 4 car-mpg, which compares with about 1-1.5 for Amtrak. But its main advantage is not just fuel consumption, but also one of the best acceleration profiles available, which means higher average speed, i.e. more riders and lower labor costs.

  • Mike O

    On a 256 mile route, at 79 mph, I come up with 3.24 hours. Add in nine stops puts it about 4 hours. Where does the 6.5 hour figure come from?

    Still, 110 mph running gets you to 2.32 hours, well within the competitive range of air travel. 110 mph rail lines are a whole lot cheaper ($2.5 mil per mile) than the $20 million a mile high speed (175 mph) track.

    • Adirondacker12800

      79 MPH is the maximum speed in a few places. All the other places are slower, some of them much slower. Acela trains can go 150, doesn’t mean they make it between NY and DC in 90 minutes.

    • AlanF

      79 mph is the max speed which may be reached in only a few segments depending on the condition of the tracks. Getting an average speed that us 2/3rds of the max speed would be doing pretty good. There are curves, bridges, slow segments through towns, railyards, crossovers, all which will slow the train down.

      The election for governor in Ohio this fall may have a major effect on the development of a mid-west rail system. With IN being non-supportive for improved rail, we may see a split mid-west and east coast system with IL, MS, Iowa, WI, MN building a system for the western half of a Chicago hub system while VA, SC, PA, NY upgrade lines off of the NEC. If Ohio shuts down the 3C project, my advice would be to give the $400 million to PA for the EAstern Keystone corridor. Giving the funds to the state next door would send a message.

      • Woody

        If Ohio shuts down the 3C project, my advice would be to look at giving the $400 million to VA for the Richmond-D.C. corridor. Giving the funds to a state with a Republican Governor would send a message. Of course, we need to have a little more time to see if the Repubs in VA continue to support rail investment in the Old Dominion.

        • jim

          we need to have a little more time to see if the Repubs in VA continue to support rail investment in the Old Dominion

          We’ll see in three weeks. The applications for 2010 HSR funds are due by Aug 6th and will require a commitment to a 20% state match. How much (if any) VA applies for will indicate how the current state leadership views rail.

          • AlanF

            There was a recent article about VA submitting grant applications for study funding for the DC to Richmond to Petersburg part of the SEHSR corridor, but no mention that I recall of applications for major construction work. Gov. McDonnell is not openly anti-rail, but my take is that he is not a strong supporter. More or less indifferent.

            The 20% state match will keep a lot of budget strapped states from applying for more than small rail projects. Many states may have only $20 or $30 million available for rail projects, while they have hundreds of millions or billions available for road projects.

            If the goal is to encourage the development of intercity rail, perhaps Congress should only require a 10% state match for rail grants in the next 6 year transportation bill. 10% match means a 9:1 return of federal bucks per state dollar versus a 4:1 for a 20% match. I may be wrong on this, but I believe back in the earlier days of the interstate build out, the federal component was 90% to push states to build highways.

          • Ocean Railroader

            In the Richmond Times the Railroad Company CSX said that they would give the state the 20% in funds out of their own pocket they need to take on the high speed rail funds if the state wins them. CSX has said in the news paper that the high speed rail funds would be used to rebuild the old S railroad birdge that was torn down in the 1970’s when the rail line was torn out. But once the new birdge is rebuilt it will open up the gateway to the S line rail bed.

          • RVA_Exile

            There should be no concern over Virginia’s commitment to state funding for rail transportation, even under a socially conservative (reactionary) governor. See numerous examples below. VA will gladly take any rail construction money that Ohio or any other state doesn’t care to use.

            An additional state-funded Northeast Corridor round-trip started service from Richmond to DC this week:
            http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/2010/jul/20/8/railgat20-ar-53268/

            The same train will be extended to Norfolk in 3 years using state transportation dollars out of the same pot as road funding ($93 million, already approved):
            http://hamptonroads.com/2010/06/train-link-norfolk-richmond-three-years?cid=srch

            VA will reapply for the $1.8 billion it did not receive in the last fuding round for Washington-Petersburg and may request the full $5.3 billion needed for Washington-NC state line and Petersburg-Norfolk “HSR”. Note that this HSR represents 90 mph top-speed trains and 90 minute trip time from Richmond to DC and 110 mph service south and SE of Richmond:
            http://www2.timesdispatch.com/business/2010/jul/18/rail18-ar-317680/

          • jim

            I do have concerns.

            1. The additional Washington-Richmond train has been in the works for two years. It’s taken Amtrak until now to round up the rolling stock (and perhaps crew; it’s suspicious that it starts so soon after the VRE contract termination). It’s no indicator of current state leadership thinking.

            2. Extending to Norfolk is being funded out of the Rail Enhancement Fund — dedicated funding for rail; has to be spent on rail. Thelma Drake used to be Congresswoman from Norfolk (she was defeated for reelection in 2008, which is why she’s running DRPT), so she uses money that has to be spent on rail to provide rail to Norfolk. That’s not evidence of commitment to rail.

            3. I hope DRPT does not just reapply for $1.8B. There’s only $2.1B in the 2010 pot. No state is going to get $1.8B. DRPT has to figure out what work is the highest priority and apply for that to be funded. Maybe it’s building the ACCA bypass and reconstructing around Main St. Half a billion and you speed up the Newport News trains by at least half an hour and bring all trains through downtown. Maybe it’s triple tracking from the Long Bridge to ACCA. Six hundred million and you get a big increase in capacity. Run a separate Norfolk train at a schedule convenient to Tidewater, rather than extending a train scheduled to be convenient to Richmond. Maybe add other trains. But someone with some commitment to rail has to think through what the Commonwealth most needs, not just run the last application through the xerox and bung it in again.

      • It bears stressing that 79mph is the maximum speed of the starter line, and that from the speed profiles of the original Ohio Hub planning, it is likely that it will be running a 79mph for substantial stretches.

        Assuming that tilt trains are obtained up front, the upgrade of a segment to 110mph is then upgrading the signalling and level crossings, which can be pursued in individual segments on an incremental basis.

        • Tilting trains and FRA regulations don’t mix. The Acela is a disaster, and the Talgo tilts too little to be of much use. On high-quality track, European regulations allow non-tilting trains to run at the same cant deficiency the FRA allows the Talgos. Tilting trains in Europe get up to twice that cant deficiency.

    • The “110mph running” is the 125mph corridors … the 110mph corridor includes sections shared with freight with 10mile:50mile passing track, so it is scheduled with 17% slack. Assume 90mph running with 17% slack is 76mph, which is why in the more direct Cleveland/Columbus alignment it is faster than Google maps driving time estimate, while with the less direct Cincinnati/Columbus alignment it is time competitive.

      At the 110mph, the two main legs are about two hours each, with the supplementary Cinci/Cleveland, Dayton/Cinci and Dayton/Columbus providing additional patronage.

    • Mike, there are a couple of answers. First, station stop time is much longer than you think. Amtrak has long dwell times, due to a) non-level boarding, b) chronic lateness leading people to not wait at the platform right when the train comes, and c) old time practices such as checked baggage. In addition, the ultra-heavy diesel trains have poor acceleration.

      Second, curves slow trains more in the US than elsewhere. Superelevation is low in order to accommodate freight trains; the FRA restricts cant deficiency because of a single bad experiment done in the 1950s.

      And third, poor timetable keeping means Amtrak has to pad its schedule more than other passenger railroads.

      Don’t believe the people telling you it’s just curves and single-tracking. The Sapporo-Hakodate express trains average 63 mph, on a single, unelectrified track, with a top speed of 75 mph. The way they do it: aggressive tilting (in practice illegal in the US due to the FRA). The problem is that the tracks in Ohio are still going to remain freight train tracks with some passenger service, with all the problems that entails.

      Finally, the cost of upgrading rail lines depends on a lot of things, but for every given service level, expect American costs to be far higher than Continental European costs. Read this comparison of rail lines for further details.

      • Nathanael

        There are other things slowing Amtrak dwell times. Checked baggage actually isn’t that big a deal; baggage coming off and going on is presorted before the train’s arrival and moved in two quick motions (bags OFF, bags ON).

        But when the station platform is too short to unload all the cars (including the baggage car) at once, this doubles station dwell time due to the need to make two stops…. and this happens at many locations….

        • John W

          Wow. Don’t they tell passengers that for destination X, they should board only the first four coaches (or whatever), as they do in other countries (usually for trains that split – but the same principle works for this situation).

          For a station small enough that it has under-sized platforms, it seems unlikely they’d have the passenger numbers to necessitate unloading the whole train in two separate manoeuvres. And if there are that many passengers, why don’t they pull their finger out and extend the platforms?

          • jim

            For some long-distance trains, yes, they do. Or rather they sit passengers heading for the same station together. My experience on the Crescent and Silver Meteor (I frequently take one of them coming back from New York; you have to be ticketed to south of Washington, but Alexandria is OK; the Silver Meteor is the last train from New York that calls at Alexandria) has been that as one boards, the car attendant assigns a car and seat number. My assumption is that this is to help the car attendant make sure that people get off at their station stop. On overnight trains, most coach passengers sleep as best they can. The car attendant can more easily wake the passengers for a stop reached in the middle of the night if they’re all seated together.

            Of course, assigning seats on boarding slows boarding and increases dwell time.

          • Nathanael

            The Lake Shore Limited has a split at Albany and therefore has baggage cars at *both ends*. You can’t tell the baggage to walk through the train to the other end, so it makes two stops at each station.

            That train is getting long enough and busy enough it may deserve to become two separate trains.

          • John W

            Any particular reason they couldn’t put the two ends with the baggage cars together when they join the two sets, rather than at opposite ends of the train? (ie when they separate, one will have its baggage car at the front, the other at the rear)

          • Nathanael

            “Any particular reason they couldn’t put the two ends with the baggage cars together when they join the two sets, rather than at opposite ends of the train?”

            Yes, then the passenger cars wouldn’t be connected (you can’t walk through the baggage cars), and they’d need an additional conductor — and an additional dining car. Not feasible or reasonable.

  • political_incorrectness

    The Democrats in Congres need to beef up funding for rail and give it a big chunk like air and highway funding. Give them all the same and see what happens. I believe that you put them on the same funding level, rail will win due to a return on investment and less subsidization. It would be great to implment 110 mph service upgradable to 125 mph in the future but also have express HSR to breathe down the necks of the major airlines. I’d like to start a catch, $110 billion for 110 mph. 110 mph track is about the same price per mile as adding a lane to a limited access highway with much more throughput.

  • Don

    One minor quibble. Columbus Ohio’s last Amtrak train was the National Limited, which came off in mid-1979 with the rest of the Carter Admin’s Amtrak cuts. Not 1977.

    The biggest reason the avg speed on the CCC corridor is so low is the running time from the Cincinnati suburbs to downtown. Getting through Dayton and Columbus is no picnic, either, but not as bad Cincy. Big stretches of the route north of Columbus are well suited for higher speeds.

    • And indeed in the 110mph plan, its the Columbus/Cinci leg that is equal to the Google maps driving time and the Columbus/Cleveland leg that is faster.

      That is of course offset by the fact that Dayton is right in the middle of the Columbus/Cinci leg, so a likely smaller share of Cinci/Columbus transport is offset by larger intermediate markets on that leg.

  • I don’t know the territory very well (I didn’t take very good notes when I rode the National Limited in 1976), but it looks like a good regional network (better in many ways than California’s rather linear SF-LA HSR proposal).

    This map makes me think – we just got back from a month in Italy, including 3 days by train (Turin-Monte Rosso-Florence-Venice-Milan-Turin). The Italian railways website lines up a good range of connections and options, and you can compose a trip mixing local and high speed trains almost seamlessly… choosing by time, cost, and routes. A robust schedule AND booking system will make sense of some of the complexities of the Ohio network.

    What was impressive on the regional trains was at most of the stations we stopped, there was connecting service to somewhere north or south, usually with a train waiting (Bombardier diesel or electric self-propelled cars or ancient but stylishly refurbished standard locomotives/coaches). Having mostly commuted by rail, I am not used to that level of lateral connections. Something to shoot for.

    Our one fast leg sped underground from Florence through the scenic Tuscan countryside (10 seconds between tunnels went too fast to shoot any photos), then strode across the plains east of Bologna toward Venice at a pretty good clip. Limited stops was as much a factor than outright speed. Our route was a 50-50 mix of dedicated and regular right of way, slowing (even stopping!) a few times near junctions to get into the right time slot. I noticed on the main line from Padova to Venice there are freeway style sound walls (though with glass top panels) as a concession to neighbors.

  • Is Ohio missing an opportunity by trying to please everyone in their state? Why are they wanting high speed on every rail line? A little regional cooperation could lead to such a better plan – that they could become a higher priority. We have such a long way to go with this nationwide rail buildout. Already the winners are the ones focused on the basics first. Who says Chicago has to be a hub? Just lines on a map – I have no self interest here as I am in PrimeNC.com

    View hsr-3c-link-1 in a larger map

    • Bear in mind that this is not 220mph Express HSR, its the 110mph Emerging HSR, which as noted above would in many parts of Europe just be an express intercity … but in the US is substantially higher speed than what we have now.

      These are precisely the kind of cities we want to connect with our “higher speed” rail system.

      Upgrade the system to 125mph electric with dedicated or time-segregated track, and a single Express NYC/Chicago corridor can junction with the Regional HSR for:
      NYC / Cleveland / Toledo / Detroit
      NYC / Columbus / Cincinnati
      Chicago / Columbus / Pittsburgh
      Chicago / Cleveland / Buffalo / Toronto

      … in addition to the main Express corridor service and the original Ohio Hub services.

    • Don

      The southern/eastern part of Ohio is a bit hilly so the existing rail lines are not straight enough to lend themselves to 110 mph w/o a lot of expensive realignment. We’d do well to get some easy(er) to do 110 mph links (say Cleveland – Columbus, Columbus – Toledo, Toledo – Cleveland, and even Columbus – Indy) with some 79 mph links (say, Cleveland – Pittsburgh, Columbus – Cincinnati)

      I think most of us will be dead before Ohio gets anything faster than 110 mph. Hope I’m wrong, though.

  • poncho

    i really like how the ohio hub system stitches the chicago hub with the nyc hub of the amtrak system. it has amazed me how underserved ohio has been with passenger rail over the last 40 years. cleveland-cincinnati has got to be one of the biggest missing pieces of the amtrak system.

    the st. louis-indianapolis-columbus-pittsburgh line (national limited) would be another great line to bring back

  • Aaron

    It would be nice to see an upgrade in service on the main rail corridor between Cleveland & Chicago. The Capitol Limited and Lakeshore Limited amount to two trains per day, which is rather inferior service, particularly due to the fact they’re both longer distance services. Because of this, they’re subject to frequently lengthy delays and have inconvenient travel times. Though having stated my preference, I’m now remembering that the main high speed rail line from Chicago eastward wouldn’t necessarily go along this corridor, but would rather travel a little further southeast through Fort Wayne, before turning back to the northeast through Defiance and onto Toledo where it would travel along the already existing Amtrak corridor to Cleveland & points eastward. If the Ohio government wants to improve Toledo’s rail links, maybe it should work with Indiana and focus on getting the Chicago/South Bend/Fort Wayne/Defiance/Toledo/Cleveland high speed line further along. Though it’s worth pointing out that all of these discussions could end up being worthless if the current pro-rail governor, Ted Strickland, isn’t reelected this fall.

    • Any higher speed alignment with daytime corridor service will be an upgrade to the present service … an advantage of the Stage 2 Cleveland / Toledo / Detroit West / Chicago route is that it has the minimum run through Indiana, making it a lower hurdle for the other three states to cross subsidize the improvements on that link.

  • JMB

    Ohioans are knee-jerk voters, and as of now they’re buying into the Republican political ads that claim “that Dem Governor Ted Strickland lost 400,000 Ohio jobs!” In reality, Ohio has been losing jobs and people for decades, and Gov Strickland has been more or less consumed by putting out fires created by the Great Republican Recession. …but as I mentioned before, Ohioans are knee jerk voters and they’re just going to vote any way the wind blows, basing their votes entirely on political advertisements. …and the wind is blowing against the Dems right now.

    With this in mind, I’m betting that come fall Ohio will have a new Republican Governor who will ichsnay the entire 3-C Rail Plan, leaving a massive gap in our nation’s rail system.

    If I were planning this system, I’d plan on bypassing Ohio via Ontario.

    • Can’t really bypass Ohio in an Ohio Hub system.

    • Nathanael

      I’m not sure even the Republicans will be willing to just hand $400 million to another state (which is what will happen if they cancel the 3C). Though I wouldn’t mind too much if the $400 million got moved to NY for the Empire Corridor. :-)

      • That is also an issue. Train stations are growing in popularity among property developers burned in sprawl suburban developments during the recent oil price shock.

        We saw just this week Fox news getting a good christian lady in the Dept of Agriculture fired for testifying about practicing her faith, then when the evidence used to drive the good Christian lady turned out to be bogus, turn on a dime and criticize the Administration for a rush to judgement.

        If there is some minor tweak to the project that an incoming governor can make to claim the project as his own … say, some dedicated source of funds to claim the whole problem all along was funding operations of the starter line out of the general fund … it would be up and running by the next gubernatorial election.

  • Glen

    Of all the proposals in the Midwest this route really could up and do something if they could get it up to 110mph.the cities are large enough and close. This should Have been the route for that 1.2billion that went to FLA

    • Politics intervened … the Republicans objected that 110mph routes are untried, and then after the incremental starter line approach was adopted to placate that concern, and the starter line project got funded, they turned around and criticized it for being too slow (the same criticism that Alon Levy parrots above in this thread).

      • Bear in mind two things, Bruce:

        1. The low average speed is not an issue of top speed. It’s an issue of acceleration, government regulations, and passenger train priority on single-track segments. As I mentioned before, JR Hokkaido has a 75 mph diesel train that averages 63 mph, on a single curvy track.

        2. None of the people here who’ve criticized the Ohio Hub for not being more like European intercity rail – me, Drunk Engineer, Max Wyss – has said 110 mph is untried so 79 is better. That Republicans pretend to be good-transit advocates when the Democrats build bad transit (only to switch to no-transit when the Democrats propose something useful) doesn’t make good-transit concerns dishonest.

        • Yes, but the starter line is a good conventional rail corridor in its own right, and can be far more easily upgraded to 110mph than, for example, the congested, crowded, heavily built around NEC.

          • Adirondacker12800

            The NEC south ( railroad west ) of New York is good for 135 in many places. Most places even the local track is good for 90.

          • You’ll be surprised how much easier the NEC is to upgrade than other corridors. It’s multi-tracked, has negligible freight traffic, and has high-quality track, mostly with concrete ties. The terrain around it is flat, except in Baltimore. Ohio has nothing of that sort; its track quality is low, and its Cincinnati-area slow zones involve tracks running through rolling hills.

          • The NEC may have negligable freight traffic, but its local passenger rail traffic is equivalent – and it remains true that there are a number of speed restricted curves due to centerline gaps that cannot be built out in available space in the corridor.

            The slower zones in Hamilton County and between Cleveland and Berea are less than 20% of the corridor – and the speed profile in the Amtrak feasibility study is conservative.

            And where there is space in the corridor to build out two new tracks, the quality of the existing track is more of an issue for the starter line than a constraint on the design envelope of the system. Its not new track that causes the big increase in corridor cost – its new corridor.

          • Passenger trains and freight trains are not the same thing. The commuter trains that run on the NEC are capable of 160 km/h, and with a handful of low-traffic exceptions do not make any non-Amtrak stops that do not have bypass tracks.

            The low percentage of zones that are slow doesn’t matter too much. Because the train travels through slow zones slowly, it spends more time in them, to say nothing of accelerating and decelerating toward them. Measured by curve radius, Connecticut doesn’t have that many slow zones either, but because they pop up regularly once every few km, the overall speed is restricted.

            Finally, Amtrak’s speed profiles are always conservative. It periodically slows trains down even when curve radius is not an obstacle. For example: the Acela does Newark-Philadelphia nonstop in 51 minutes. If it ran at the maximum speed permitted by the curves and the FRA, it would take a little more than 40.

      • jim

        The low average speed was, I suspect, a strategic move that may turn out to have been a tactical mistake. 6’30” is a pessimistic run-time estimate. The best possible, given planned speed limits on each section, is 5’20”. They’d like to get real run-times on the actually built system down below 6 hours. I assume they published the 6’30” estimate as part of an “under promise, over deliver” strategy. If they’d published a more aggressive run-time and then been unable to meet it, they’d have a lot more difficulty getting the next chunk of Ohio Hub built. Opponents would cite their over-optimism against them. But now they’re having difficulty with this chunk: opponents are citing their pessimistic run-time estimate against them.

        • Jim, I have two answers for this suggestions.

          1. At JR Hokkaido speeds, the end-to-end runtime should be about 4 hours. 3:45 is ambitious (but easy with 110 mph top speed) and 4:45 is easier and probably better than 4:00 on the Swiss “Run it as fast as necessary” principle, but in either case, 5:20 isn’t good by modern standards.

          2. Because of timetable keeping, 6:30 is locked in until the next change in timetabling. Trains can’t run hot; they have to wait at each station for the published time.

          • Um, “this suggestion.”

            I hate typos.

          • jim

            I assume that after they’ve done the construction, they’ll run some test trains before they promulgate real timetables. The 6’30” is in the proposal because there has to be a proposed run-time and because you have to postulate a run-time in order to estimate ridership. But it’s not fixed in concrete for actual operations.

            Also, there’s going to be a fair amount of Cleveland-Columbus traffic and Columbus-Cincinnati traffic, so it’s OK to pad the timetable a bit and underestimate the dwell at Columbus.

          • It doesn’t cost much to run good simulations. California HSR has done that, and not even its biggest critics suggest that, assuming tracks are built according to the original plan, the train will still be slower than advertised.

            Padding just at Columbus only solves the problem for Cleveland-Columbus and Columbus-Cincinnati passengers, and not even that well. It makes it impossible to time connecting transit. There are no plans for such transit, but if the trains could reliably keep to a schedule, then timed connections would do wonders to increase ridership.

        • This is quite possible – remember that the 6:30 is not with a full design and build plan … the $25m being spent as we speak will deliver the final plan, and obviously may provide the basis for a tighter schedule.

          And 6:30 end to end is a bit of a furfee anyway, since the primary markets are Columbus/Cleveland and Columbus/Cincinnati … Cleveland/Cincinnati is not projected to be close to the same mode share.

  • I don’t see how this is much of a debate. ODOT’s budget is $3.8 Billion. A $17 Million a year operating subsidy is nothing and is actually less than ODOT’s highway mowing budget. Actually its .44% of their total transportation budget. I say just let the grass go a little bit longer and give Ohio more transportation options. If New Mexico can have a successful slower train why can’t Ohio? You have to start somewhere if you want to build a culture that demands high speed rail.

    • Wad

      Brandi, there is no debate in politics anymore. What we mistakenly call ideology is really gang mentality.

      You have facts on your side to show how inexpensive an Ohio rail service would be. This won’t matter to those that think spending zero on an Ohio train service is still spending too much.

      If you want to know why are things this way, there’s a concept that was described on Urbanophile, “The Racquet”:

      A racquet is when folks have something they complain about and commiserate about but don’t fix it. Upon delving into the roots of racquets one finds that the folks don’t really want it fixed – the subject of the racquet is a unifying force that if corrected will remove the common complaint and thus the unifying force. The cultural changes that would ensue from the change in practices that “no one wants” are not acceptable to the people (the complainers).

      The opposition to this train isn’t on the merits of cost, ridership or other technical merits. Opposition is really used as a mechanism for group cohesion.

      Though the same could be said for support, as supporters of the plan are like their opponents and also follow their like-minded (or like-emotional) cohorts.

    • Ocean Railroader

      The new Washingtion DC to Lynchburg Amtrak route that was added early this year is carrying double the people they had planned for and is in fact paying for it’s full opertating costs. Meaning in three years if it keeps this up and the three year $17 millon opearting funds run out this one Amtrak route could possibly keep going on on it’s own if it’s self standing in the way it is right now.

  • Hayde

    As great as this may seem, is it really needed? We have freeways connecting the four main cities this will serve. And when you travel with cars, you don’t have to: go through security, you don’t have to to arrive anywhere two hours before you leave, and on freeways, for the most part, you don’t have to pay anything(except for gas)and you go everywhere without stoppping. The trains are the exact opposite.

    • Nathanael

      I’ll tell you outright: there is a convention every year in Columbus which I don’t go to, and another in Cincinnati which I don’t go to, because you can’t get to either place by train. (From upstate NY.)

      Long-distance driving sucks, and don’t get me started on flying.

      Ohio is losing business because it does not have intercity rail connections to downtown Columbus or Cincinnati. If you want to continue to suffer economic hemmorhage, by all means, rely on your nasty, polluting, dangerous expressways. Otherwise, build a damn train.

      And yes, the 79 mph plan is unreasonably slow.

    • Woody

      To borrow a style from Talk Radio, Why do you hate your grandmother? ;-)

      You say, “When you travel by car …” But at a certain point in life, your grandma isn’t fit to drive any longer. Your teenaged son may be unfit to drive for a couple more years. Lock them up at home, or let them take the train?

      And all those others who are filling Amtrak’s trains in increasing numbers … I don’t know how many people can’t or don’t drive distances or how many won’t drive into confusing and threatening big cities. But iirc more than half of all Americans have never flown in a plane, and they tell pollsters that they never will. When you put yourself in the position of others who are not driving, you might better appreciate the need for more passenger rail choices, even at an average speed of 39 mph.

    • Woody

      BTW Hayde, your claim is false. Fact is that with trains “you don’t have to: go through security, you don’t have to to arrive anywhere two hours before you leave…”

      You also claim that “On freeways, for the most part, you don’t have to pay anything (except for gas).” Don’t go into the accounting profession, Hayde, you don’t seem to have the turn of mind for it. In fact, on freeways you drive a car that you pay for, at a price of thousands of dollars every year, plus insurance, maintenance and repairs, garage costs, etc.

      If you are trying to say that when you drive, you get a “free ride” because you don’t pay the full costs of driving, such as parking spaces, traffic police and courts, etc., and so you get subsidized by others including citizens who never drive at all, that would be correct.

  • OceanRailroader

    We had a intersting thing happen to us with this debate about rail vs highways. We orginally where thinking about driving to this place in Vermont to see what it was like up there for a few days. We thought about driving but found out that Amtrak can take us up there for $80 bucks and possiby a round trip for $114. Well we looked at the highway tangel nightmare that waited for us from Washingtion DC to Vermont and agreed where taking the train. Now I wish they would instead of having one train in the night to this place and one train back home in the morning I wish they would have a extra pair of around trips. The fear of people taking the train is that they are going to be stuck inbetween trains for six or eight hours.

  • celisti

    79-110 mph is not high speed train! Such a project should warrant none from federal money on high speed train project. It’s pathetic when Ohio got the money and don’t use it for building real high speed train. It makes no business sense as well when driving is faster than riding the train.

    What Ohio needs is a real high speed rail network, connecting the major cities with 110-200 mph. It’s the time for some people smarter to plan the project!

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