Congress Elections High-Speed Rail Intercity Rail

Republican Wave Could Spell Trouble for High-Speed Rail Projects from Coast to Coast

» With governorships up for grabs in most of the nation’s states, local support for more spending on infrastructure could be eliminated.

Intent on demonstrating their resistance to virtually all of President Obama’s policy objectives, Republicans nationwide have staked out an anti-rail position that they hope will stand out as the fiscally reasonable choice when they present themselves in this fall’s elections. Though the current Democratic administration will remain in power at least until early 2013, shifting control of Congress and potential power changes at the state level could dramatically reduce the ability of the Department of Transportation to advance its plans for the development of intercity rail.

Current polling suggests that Republicans are likely to do well in November across the country. The GOP has been leading the charge against high-speed rail since the program was first announced in February 2009.

Most problematic are the governorships, up for grabs in 37 of 50 states this year. Though the majority of recent spending on new intercity rail projects has originated at the federal government, the U.S. DOT is now requiring that state applicants agree to fund at least 20% of construction costs in order to receive a federal contribution. States will also be responsible for most operations expenses.

If Republican-led state governments are unwilling to commit to spending their own dollars on these projects, they simply will not be built. Since intercity rail projects are long-term investments, even if the federal government has already agreed to sponsor some investments, the takeover of a governor’s mansion by an anti-rail Republican could mean putting a full-stop in infrastructure development. As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s announcement last week of a work stoppage on the ARC tunnel project shows, this could affect even projects that have already entered the construction phase.

As the table below demonstrates, the current difficulties of Democratic candidates puts in doubt almost every project that has thus far been allocated significant capital funding from Washington. Current polling is based on analysis by political blog Campaign Diaries.

Where U.S. High-Speed Rail Projects Stand
StateAmount Received from US DOT (million $)Current PollingGOP Candidate Position on HSRDem Candidate Position on HSR
Illinois1240Lean GOPSupportsSupports
Wisconsin822Lean GOPOpposesSupports
North Carolina545n/an/an/a
Ohio400Lean GOPOpposesSupports
New York151Strong DemUnclearSupports
Massachusetts70Lean DemOpposesSupports
Connecticut40Likely DemUnclearSupports
Michigan40Likely GOPUnclearUnclear
Iowa17Lean GOPUnclearSupports

Most directly threatened are projects in Wisconsin and Ohio, where Republican candidates have been waging an all-out war on high-speed rail, calling it a major waste of taxpayer funds. In both states, Republicans have suggested that they would shut down projects because they do not want state taxes to be used to subsidize operations on relatively low-speed rail systems. And those individuals are poised to win in November.

In California and Florida, both of which are proposing full-scale true high-speed networks, GOP candidates have suggested that they too would disrupt completion of their respective projects. Meg Whitman, running as the Republican candidate in California, has said shebelieves the state cannot afford the costs associated with high-speed rail due to our current fiscal crisis.” These races are currently rated as a tossup, just as likely to go Democratic as Republican. The current governors of California and Florida — both moderate Republicans — have been in recent years sponsors of rail investment, but they aren’t likely to pass on that view to their successors, even if they share political stripes.

In all four states, the Democratic candidate has been a proponent of increased intercity rail investment. States where Democratic candidates are expected to win — including New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut — can be expected to continue their promotion of local funding for rail. States in which there is no gubernatorial race this year, such as Missouri, North Carolina, Washington, and Virginia, are unlikely to diverge from their current pro-rail stances.

But states are just one part of the equation.

Just as problematic is the possibility of a shift of control in Congress, which must approve any federal government spending on rail programs. Though Democrats in power in the House of Representatives and the Senate have agreed to large contributions for the infrastructure effort, GOP Senators have thus far been unwilling to compromise on their distaste for government spending. Though the Senate is unlikely to shift hands, the almost certain decline in the current Democratic majority will mean further difficulties in getting new spending approved, such as President Obama’s proposed $50 billion down-payment in rail and highways.

The possibility that the majority in the House of Representatives could shift to the GOP column — more likely than a change in control of the Senate — is incredibly threatening to the agenda of promoting intercity rail as well, since the House must of course also approve any government spending.

For proponents of intercity rail development, election 2010 will not bring positive change.

136 replies on “Republican Wave Could Spell Trouble for High-Speed Rail Projects from Coast to Coast”

This opposition is all the more surprising, disturbing and unfortunate considering it represents a total about-face from this policy plank in the 2000 Republican Platform:

Our national railroad network is a crucial component of our public transportation system. Railroads helped build our country, and our national passenger railroad network remains a precious resource that can play a key role in transportation and economic growth. Republicans support a healthy intercity passenger rail system, and where economically viable, the development of a national high-speed passenger railroad system as an instrument of economic development, and enhanced mobility. We also support a multi-modal approach to our transportation needs.


Transportation and infrastructure didn’t used to be a partisan issue because this nation understood it could not compete without mobility. I am afraid for our future.


Republican politicians lie. What else is new? Did Bush do *anything* in the Republican Party Platform from 2000? How about being a “uniter, not a divider”? How about not engaging in nation-building?

How many decades have they been bemoaning the availability of abortion? They had both houses of Congress and the Presidency for years and did almost nothing. They never will do anything. It’s a plank in their platform designed to get certain voters to the polls. They’ve been doing it for decades, very effective, why would they actually act on their promises?

> This opposition is all the more surprising, disturbing and unfortunate considering it represents a total about-face from this policy plank in the 2000 Republican Platform:

Yeah, like how much did the Bush administration invest in rail? Not very much I don’t think.

Doubtful the U.S. will ever get high-speed rail. It’s seen as a political football rather than an infrastructure need, and the well-funded and already subsidized highway, auto, and airline industries will fight it tooth and nail.

That, and Republicans seemed to have internalized the idea that trains equal “socialism”.

If this becomes a purely partisan divide, then in the short term the states with Democratic leaders will build rail, and the Repub states won’t. By the time the next mid-term elections roll around, we should have some on-the-ground comparisons of successful rail projects vs the do nothing option.

In that case, the rail winners will probably be New York’s Empire Corridor NYC-Albany-Buffalo; North Carolina’s Raleigh-Charlotte Corridor; New England’s New Haven-Hartford-Springfield-Boston routes; and Washington State’s Cascades line Seattle-Portland. If a couple of Repub Governors can restrain themselves from going crazy, Michigan and Virginia would move up in line as well.

California’s HSR could do OK, but it could hurt, too, because it looks like that project will need more funding from the broke state and much more from the feds, and I just dunno.

Ohio’s 3Cs starter route and Wisconsin’s Madison-Milwaukee HSR line look to be the two biggest likely losers, a pity. And maybe Florida, where the Tampa-Orlando line only makes good sense as Stage I, with Orlando-Miami as Stage II. We could be left with an HSR white elephant in Central Florida.

I’m not sure this will be all bad for rail. Currently, the demand by applicants far, FAR exceeds the supply of funds available. If a bunch of applicants drop out, those states remaining have a better chance. And I’m not sure much more money would be forthcoming if all incumbent Democrats in Congress were re-elected. They seem intent on repeating the mistakes of the mid-30s, cutting government spending and employment before real recovery takes hold.

I do worry about Amtrak. It has been taking small but important steps to improve: Rebuilding a small fleet of wrecked cars to return them to service, making a few hundred stations ADA compliant, placing a small order for new sleepers etc to replace the oldest, most rickety cars in the fleet, and moving toward a massive order for new trains to replace the aging fleet.

And I worry about the NorthEast Corridor. Its upgrading needs were given a lower priority than new faster trains across the country, largely for good political reasons IMHO. But in the next session, a special appropriation for the NEC seems as vulnerable to postponement as the ARC tunnel.

Don’t forget if Indiana is unwilling to invest, it will undermine investments in Michigan and Ohio. And if Wisconsin gets a Republican governor, the Twin Cities, a metropolitan area of 3 million people where 60% of the state’s populace lives, will be screwed.

For the Detroit/Chicago line via Kalamazoo, with the Ohio Hub Stage 2 was to use, the link via Gary is short enough that it just might be carried. But without support from Indiana, the Columbus Hub Phase 3 is dead in the water.

Of course, without a substantial turnout from discouraged Democratic voters, its hypothetical in any event ~ the Ohio Hub will not happen under a Kasich administration.

How will the Twin Cities be “screwed”? Does a few people having to spend an hour in the car to drive from Minnetonka to Red Wing instead of spending 15 minutes driving to the HSR station, 30 minutes waiting for train / getting through security, and 30 minutes to get there (no way HSR isn’t going to have both a STPL and MPLS stop even though they’re only a few miles apart).

How exactly is that “screwed”???

HSR doesn’t have security theater. The only HSR anywhere in the world that does is the Channel Tunnel, and that’s meant to protect the tunnel, not the at-grade tracks. The actual real-world waiting time is closer to 10 minutes.

And generally the parking, even at suburban stations with huge parking lots is much closer to the train than the plane is to the parking. The walk from the parking lot to the train is usually less than the walk from the ticket counter to the plane.

Woody wrote:

By the time the next mid-term elections roll around, we should have some on-the-ground comparisons of successful rail projects vs the do nothing option.

That’s no longer possible.

The U.S. now has at least two constructs of “reality” that are mutually exclusive, yet equally plausible at the same time.

Even what constitutes “reality” itself is irreconcilable.

Case in point: Most of the readers on this blog are politically liberal, and an even greater number are educated in the liberal tradition (that simply means knowledge and methods developed in Europe during and after the Renaissance).

Under this system, we would first have to run trains, then use a mathematical framework to determine how much a system costs in capital and operations outlay, then figure the ridership output. Further, we would weigh it against trade-offs in money, but increasingly energy expenditure and environmental impact as well.

Under the other “reality,” the one used among the insurgent political and religious reactionaries in the U.S., knowledge is arrived at and interpreted tribally.

Tribal knowledge does not have a similar process. The tribe must first create a knowledge and then determine what and how the tribe interprets the knowledge.

In this case, the tribe cannot reconcile the building of rail with its system of processing “reality.” Blocking an invasive reality protects the purity and cohesion of the tribe, which the society may value higher than knowledge.

God, I’d love for New York to get some of that HSR money if Florida, Wisconsin, or Ohio is stupid enough to reject it.

The map doesn’t reflect the Northern Lights Express line, which may be in trouble if Tom Emmer is elected in Minnesota.

I’m hoping the Northern Lights Express is fairly immune because they have a coalition of cities and counties along the route who have been actively working together to promote the idea for some years now. From what I’m aware, that’s different than HSR in other places like Wisconsin where the leadership in some cities (e.g. Oconomowoc) were critical of the project being pushed down from the state government. However, if political changes occurred at the local level, it could be in trouble.

Another positive is that the project has been aiming at using an 80/20 funding framework that existed with the Federal Railroad Administration well before Obama was elected. Considering that the project was moving forward reasonably well in the Bush/Pawlenty era, I’m not expecting much difference going forward. I believe the chance of Emmer winning is relatively low anyway…

Personally, I’ve pretty much written of HSR and Amtral due to the undeniable fact that the Republican surge is both unstoppable and irreversible. And in the State of Ohio where I happen to live I consider the 3C project to have a black future sue to inevitability of John Kasich’s election this November. I wish I were wrong but history appears to be proving me right with each passing day. Let’s face it, those of us who advocate any kind of passenger transportation by rail are going to have our work cut out for us as never before.

If you were surprised that HSR sailed through with ARRA, now you know the game. Because urban public transit is so bad HSR will be underused and easy to tag as boondoggle. Likewise complete-streets, bike share, and light rail can be spun by fossil-fuel trolls as subsidy for the elites. It is time for the transit/rail advocates to address the problem head-on. We need to break the back of the autosprawl critical-mass/subsidy cycle. Free transit is the way. Low tech. Available now. Proven.

How certain is that “opposes” for the GOP gubernatorial candidate in Illinois?

As I recall, Bill Brady was one of the few (two out of seven or more, IIRC) candidates in the GOP gubernatorial primary to expressly support HSR. His state senate constituency is Bloomington/Normal, which due primarily to Illinois State University makes heavy use of the existing Amtrak Lincoln Service trains.

Despite his radical conservative rhetoric, especially on social issues (“John Wayne’s America”), I had presumed that he was maintaining his pro-HSR position. Am I mistaken? He certainly hasn’t ran on a prominent anti-HSR platform as in Wisconsin and Ohio.

I’m going to have to agree with Yonah. Unless something is done on the transportation bill in the lame duck session don’t expect to see any new money for high speed rail. Republicans are all shifting as far right as they can. They claim to all be against rail due to the subsidies required for operation which in the case of Ohio and Wisconsin is less than their budgets for lawn mowing the centers of interstates. Why can’t they use that money for high speed rail and let the grass grow a little longer?

I’m going to guess that Wisconsin and Ohio’s projects are done as well. I think the rest will proceed. Maybe they can redirect Ohio and Wisconsin’s money to making Illinois’s project run on dedicated tracks. Would 1.2(800 +400) be enough to make this a reality? If the money has to be redirected I think it would be better for it to go to the bigger projects. I think shared rail projects are going to run into problems in lots of places due to freight companies opposition. I think it will be better to pour billions into new corridors than give billions to upgrading companies property who don’t want to play nice. Anyways I’m not looking forward to November 2nd.

IL filed multiple applications for the St. Louis to Chicago corridor including a big one for $3.1 billion to double track and upgrade the entire St. Louis to Chicago corridor. The major application that was awarded was for $1.1 billion for faster service between Alton and Dwight IL for five daily trains. There have also been TIGER awards for several CREATE projects since the applications that will help the Chicago to St. Louis corridor.

Michigan also had a number of applications for the Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac corridor including one for $413 million that were not awarded. Michigan has filed an application for $308 million for the FY2010 HSIPR funding for the Chicago to Detroit corridor with much of the money going to buy the Kalamazoo to Dearborn segment from NS to keep the service running at acceptable speeds.

If Wisconsin and Ohio are going to return their awards – and I hope they don’t – the funds will have to reallocated to projects that can get construction started fairly quickly because the clock is still ticking on spending the $8 billion (by 2016 IIRC).

If the leadership in Wisconsin and Ohio are not going to actively support the Mid-West regional rail plan, then spend their grants on projects in adjacent states to make a point. If there are limited funds, perhaps the focus in the Mid-West should be on mainly funding the Chicago to St. Louis and Chicago-Detroit corridors to get them to the travel times called for in the regional rail plan. Get those 2 corridors up to speed with increased # of daily trains along with funding of CREATE projects to improve access through Chicago to get part of the mid-West plan in place. Show that improved and faster service does result in major increase in ridership and wait for the political climate to change in OH, IN, and WI.

For the Ohio funds, I would split them between either MI or PA Keystone East application or give it entirely to the $489 million Keystone East application since Amtrak owns the corridor (no need for freight RR negotiations). PA did get $26 million for various Keystone East improvements, so the $400 million allocated to Ohio along with Amtrak funds might just about cover upgrading the Keystone East service to 125 mph speeds. Get at least 1 project completed.

Empire Corridor, south of Albany might be a good place to spend money too. Speeds up Metro North, Empire Service west of Albany and the long distance trains to Chicago, Toronto and Montreal.

This is extremely depressing that our voters are associating rail with waste. We need to fight this, PRIGs have been in support around this country. The political attitute of the Republicans makes me want to puke. Just oppose to blame the Democrats for getting nothing done. There has been some bad legislation but we need to reform transportation.

How do we educate the public that our current pattern is not sustainable and the Republicans are not the answer to our transportation needs? How do we get the point across that we need rail as part of any transportation bill?

I’m not certain. Perhaps one can take a few themes out of the book, “Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation.” One has to point out that highway and automobile costs are not just limited to gas ( ie., out-of-pocket ) money.

One also must point out that just because the opponent would not take the train doesn’t mean that nobody would take the train.

Bone up on how to refute some of the “Common Myths regarding Amtrak,” and how to refute those. For example, highways and interstates don’t pay for themselves. People have been voting for more transit.

One place to start looking for themes to use as refutations is here:

To wit: 1. Wisconsin has been planning this for the better part of two decades. Numerous studies have been published and rail service is part of the State Rail Plan.

2. The federal government has been involved in transportation spending for almost a century now, including funding the Interstate System. While objecting to the funds for the improvement of rail service, does Mr. Walker also suggest that all federal funding for all programs — including highways — be refused ?

3. The $ 7.5 million operating cost is less than 2/10ths of one percent of the entire WI DOT budget.

4. HSR is a transportation investment, not a jobs program. Note that nobody is measuring highways by how many permanent jobs their maintenance creates.

5. For every one dollar invested, the return is estimated to be $ 1.80.

6. Highways do not cover their costs, and, lately, the gas tax has covered only 51 percent of highway maintenance costs. This route is estimated to cover 65 percent of its costs, possibly more.

7. This is an extension of an already popular Hiawatha service. it is estimated that the service will have over 300,000 riders in its first year of operation alone. Dane County ( of which Madison is the seat ) has a population of 491,357 ( 2009 est. ) ( source: US Census Bureau ) .

8. Just because one person wouldn’t take the train doesn’t mean that nobody will. Driving has costs that are not limited to gas money alone. “Wear and Tear,” and insurance, and even costs of lost wages due to collision-related injuries and deaths, are all costs associated with driving. Currently ( 2009 and 2010 ), the IRS allows for driving costs to be calculated at $ 0.50 per mile. That would make driving between Madison and MKE one-way ( 79 miles ) cost $ 39.50, or $ 79 per round trip.

9. The use of transportation funds for non-transportation purposes is of concern to all transportation advocates. This is an investment in the future, in anticipation of future transportation needs between Chicago, MKE, MSN, and Saint Paul, MN.

10. HSR is innovative, and an investment in the future. If Scott Walker wishes to emulate Tommy Thompson, Mr. Walker ought to invest in passenger rail service improvements, particularly investments that have been planned for two decades.

In other words, we have to confront these opponents, testify before our Elected Representatives, and post on line, and counter the rail opponents. This may include becoming involved in NARP.

Avoid coming across as condescending or like an arrogant know-it-all.

However, being in Wisconsin, the winds are blowing rather strongly against the pro-rail candidate. I guess this means that rail supporters will have to figure out how to put the pieces of rail enthusiasm back together.

This is a very good analysis but it assumes these people are receptive to fact and reason and willing to change their opinion instead of blindly accepting whatever Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin tells them. Unfortunately, if you read the comments for any article or column these days in any newspaper, it is clear a good portion of the electorate is off in a fantasy world. Within one political party now, anti-intellectualism is rampant.

You raise a good counter-argument, Ben. Some of the electorate will refuse to listen. One has to argue about how rail works for those who do not directly benefit from it. That’s a tough argument to make.

1. Rail can ease congestion on roads. Attempting to build one’s way out of traffic congestion only results in more congestion, and (key in this environment) more spending and debt.

2. Rail will also serve the entire community, even those who would use it only on occasion, while buses largely serve the population who can’t drive. Everyone in the community may need rail at some point in time, so its best to get the system up and running now, instead of in the middle of a transport crisis, or bad weather, or because they don’t wish to park at the stadium during the ball game.

3. Rail can bring large increases in residential property values, in a way that only having a car available doesn’t.

You’ll have to tailor your responses, and adapt some of these themes to fit the situation and counter-argument you face. It will not be easy. You’ll also have to come up with examples to support these statements.

Remember, the goal is to convince someone that passenger rail is a good thing, even though they might not ride it.

No, sorry, your bare, unsupported assertions do not comport with reality. There are actual peer-reviewed studies showing that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe in things which are known to be false. You can look them up.

Ben: One has to talk in language conservatives use, such as referring to improvements in passenger rail service as an investment. For example: The Madison ( and, in the future, ) Saint Paul service would be used as a placeholder for future service improvements. It is an investment in the future,as well as providing some necessary jobs for today.

If Wisconison and Ohio drop out of the high speed rail funding I think Pennsyvinia and Vrginia would be very happy to get a hold of the money for their states.

Vrginia is a Republican state but what makes it intersting is that even though we have a republican governor there are still active plans to expand Amtrak serivce down from Richmond to Norfolk and add Norfolk into the US Amtrak rail system. Once Norfolk is linked into the rail system the light rail will take people to Vrginia Beach.

I would not mind if Ohio dropped out as it will only be used for a 79 mph rail corridor. Those funds would probably be better utilized in Virginia for an Amtrak extension to Norfolk. I would prefer though that a DC to Richmond connection be electrified and sped up.

Ohio’s speed and time estimates have been based on the presumption that the train must stop everywhere there is a station. (Which is just funny.)
Express service would allow the trains to exceed 79mph, and some long term track improvements might allow them to crush 79mph.
DC to Richmond connects the 43rd largest MSA to DC. Ohio provides future HSR links: New York to Chicago via Cleveland, Chicago to DC via Cincinnati. Ohio’s plan also connects 6million people and 20+ Fortune 500 Companies.

Express service does not allow the trains to exceed 79mph, signal and level crossing upgrades do.

The point of breaking the project into a 79mph max starter line and a set of upgrades to 110mph was that the Republican Senate would not allow a direct construction of a 110mph from the outset.

And then after forcing a 79mph starter line on us, the Republicans run against it because the starter line is too slow, deliberately ignoring the fact that its a down payment that puts us $400m in unmatched Federal grants closer to a 110mph corridor.

The Cascades, Downeaster, Piedmont, and most other corridors that have started in the past several decades currently run at 79 mph max speed – and get pretty good ridership numbers. The Amtrak trains are limited to 70 mph max between DC and Richmond VA on the RF&P line. Get the service started and then incrementally improve it so there are some sections that run at 90 or 110 mph is a good approach if the funds are not there to build a high speed line in 1 big project. You can get competitive with driving run times with a 79 mph max speed if you can fix the really slow segments to avoid 25 or 30 mph max speeds.

I am happy to see that no matter who is elected, the higher-speed rail line from Chicago to St. Louis will remain a priority. It is already under construction as of August (the first HSR project to actually begin construction) and improves service on an already well-used portion of Amtrak. This is the first time in a long time that I have an excuse to praise Illinois politics.

I think if the Republicans see a rail line under active construcion and it is running on buget and on time construciton wise they are not going to mess with it or attack it. If it makes ridership grow say by 10% and 20% in a few months or at least cases say ridership to grow steady at 8% for say in six month sections over a peroid of five years then the rail line would gain some respect. Right now it would be safe to say that the Republicans are going after rail projects that have not taken off running and are stuck at the gates. The longer a project sits at the gates and no one sees anything being done or happening the easer it is and the more time the aniti rail people will have to attack it.

The Party of No released their Pledge to America’s Corporations yesterday. John Boehner/Agent Orange and the rest of the GO(B)P would rather give $700B in tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent than invest in this infrastructure that will reduce our consumption of oil, improve mobility, and create hundreds of thousands of good jobs.

Wisconsin is a real shame. This has been the closest that there has ever been to connecting Madison by rail to the rest of the nation in a generation. I wonder how many more decades will pass before the Rs see the error of their ways, opposing investment in rail while spending like a drunken sailor on highways. In part, opposition to rail is easy, as most people consider only the gas money when figuring the cost of their cars. Also, almost everyone drives in the Midwest, while very few take rail, or any sort of intercity transportation, so spending on roads is something that they can justify as “necessary,” while spending on rail is “unnecessary.”

All we can do is get out and write on blogs, and write on the news websites, and write Our Elected Representatives, and also get involved in your local chapter of rail advocates. IN Wisconsin, the incumbent governor has done a couple of thoughtless things, and the D gubernatorial candidate will be tainted by party association. The Rs have done a serious disservice by opposing this investment in transportation and by mischaracterizing it. Why are the Rs and conservatives so opposed to investment in passenger rail ?

@Jay: The GO(B)P is opposed because there is not money for wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, a $600B Dept. of Defense budget (the Republican Pledge to America’s Corporations wants to decrease all spending to 2008 levels except for defense), huge tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent, while actually investing in significant infrastructure needs and our people so they can compete for jobs.

Ohio and and Wisconsin WIL be dropping out since the Rpublican candidates for governor in each state, who both oppose their respective states’ rail plans are the front runners and front runners generally don’t lose elections. Across the border in Toronto, the mayor’s race is to be won by an anti-streetcar candidate due to his frontrunner status. His election as mayor is to occur next month.

pray for peak oil asap. then we’ll be laughing all the way to the bank as these places that sold out to terrorist-hugging oil companies are immobile.

I am thinking, “just wait until oil goes to $150 a barrel again” Then they will severly regret it.

@poncho: you forgot to mention a war with Iran driving gas prices up to $6/gallon while America deals with even more crumbled infrastructure due to the anti-gov forces not wanting to use public money to repair.

@Ken Prendergast: “Transportation and infrastructure didn’t used to be a partisan issue because this nation understood it could not compete without mobility. I am afraid for our future”

Chalk that up to blowhards who want to advance their own recycled ideas from the ’90s. Something that should be common sense will be used to sell off more American infrastructure off to foreign companies because the public has gotten used to viewing taxes as a four-letter word.

As CTA Gray Line Project said, voters will get the leaders that they deserve. So, if they follow electing anti-govt/anti-transit pols in Capitol Hill with someone like Palin or Romney, it’s lights out.

As a Wisconsinite living in Ohio I’ll be very sad to see these rail projects cut. Linking Madison and Milwaukee to Chicago would be extremely beneficial to connect the region and make some good/great cities even better.

Also, linking Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati via rail just makes sense.

I would love to be able to avoid the hassles of airport security, frustrating airlines, and the draining process of driving from region to region. Riding rail, I could actually get something done or relax during a commute.

The US is so far behind in non-auto transportation compared to other parts of the world. It’s a shame. I really wish this wasn’t a bipartisan issue.

The process runs like this: candidate runs for office, promising to cut the budget, and the rail project is a high profile project. 2. Candidate wins and sees what it would take to cancel the project. 3. the governor finds out that it would cost a massive amount of state funds to pay back the Feds and stop the project. 4. The governor holds a press conference saying that after gathering all the information and working vigorously to find ways to deliver on his promise, it is “sadly” not possible to cancel the project without causing greater harm to the state and blames the previous governor for the mess. 5. Train opens up to massive crowds and is highly successful, the governor holds a press conference praising his foresight, and leadership in getting this train to run and benefit the economy, conveniently forgetting everything that he promised in his campaign.

The canny Republican candidates will do this. But what about the batshit crazy Republican candidates, the ones who *will* cut off their noses to spite their faces? Unfortunately the one in Wisconsin looks likely to be one of them.

I was thinking about that because of the July Biz Times article parodying WI’s GOP gubernatorial candidates’ stance on the Madison extension. After the last two months, it’s obvious that Walker isn’t into parody and OH’s Kasich even less so.

I can only hope that this turns out to be true. Walker, despite what folks here might think of him, has to realize that if he wants to emulate Tommy Thompson, that Thompson supported rail, and passenger rail service expansion. Thompson supported this to the point that he got us in WI to where we are right now. Mr. Walker is seriously wrongheaded when it comes to transportation. Likewise, some of Walker’s supporters hold to the old view that spending n roads is “investment,” while spending on rail is “wasteful,” and “pork barrel.”

Given that Walker pursued a consistent policy of deferred maintenance as Milwaukee County Executive, I expect that if elected he’ll be perfectly awful on *all* forms of infrastructure. I’m just glad I don’t live in Wisconsin.

While fact-based analysis isn’t nearly as much fun as political football, why not just judge these projects on their merits. Do benefit/cost analysis of any and all transportation projects, sort’em out and let the states pay for their 20% on a best goes first basis. The total cost would be not only the capital, but the net present value of any future operating shortfall. That way, it’s a close to a level playing field as possible.

I was just reading something a little bit ago which said that the 3C service will have a 50, rather than a 39, mph average speed at the start. That 39 mph speed has been a major bone of contention among opponents of the plan. Perhaps if the 50 mph average had been known right from the getgo, it might not have suffered quite as much opposition as it has. Now if those in favor of it could just finf a way to win enough converts with this new finding as a tool maybe they’ll have at least a bit more of a chance of getting it. I’m not going to hold my breath though.

A rare excellent article on trains from traditional media. It said the Kasich camp had a 1935 schedule with the same running time; the reporter pointed out that the 3Cs train will make more stops AND work thru much heavier freight traffic than during the Great Depression.

The AP also got the right lede. The estimated schedule drops from 6 1/2 hours to barely 5 hours Cleveland to Cincinnati. Of course, most riders will be going about halfway, not all the way, so the run from Columbus to Cleveland, the longest but fastest section, will be about 2 hours and change. Columbus-Dayton, Dayton-Cincinnati, and Columbus-Cincinnati will only 2 or 3 hours under this new computer model.

No new modeling of passenger totals, but the old 39-miles per hour model gave an estimated 478,000 a year, so a 50-mph train would soar past half a million riders.

I agree with Buckeyeman that now the updated figures will have a hard time overtaking the 39-mph worst case scenario estimates released earlier. But the new numbers make it a lot easier to defend the 3Cs project.

Fair enough. But no, the “This service is good because there are more stops than in 1935” bit isn’t good. It damns the project with faint praise. The trains in 1935 were pieces of crap, schedule keeping was poor and required plenty of recovery time, and so on.

On the other hand, 60 mph service between Cleveland and Columbus is okay. It’s not brilliant – modern DMUs can do nearly 70 – but it’s at least mildly useful.

Alon, I would refer you to the official 3c corridor website, the Linking Ohio website, and the All Aboard Ohio website plus their respective FaceBook pages on the issue of speed. After reading what I did about the 50 mph average speed, I’ve feeling ever since that a mistake was made in using 39 mph as a worst case scenario because thar scenario, I feel, only served to have added fuel to the opposition’s fire.

I also live in Ohio.

The Ohio rail proposal originally was to work with both Indiana and Pennsylvania providing daylight enhanced faster service from Pittsburgh to Chicago that would average 69mph. The state of Indiana applied for federal funding on this route, expecting Ohio to be on the other end.

The Governor of Ohio at the last moment dusted off an old plan that had been shown to be a failure multiple times and stabbed both Indiana and Pennsylvania in the back.

Just the portion of the route from Pittsburgh to Cleveland showed twice as many riders as the entire 3C route. This route had the opportunity to break even, and if it didn’t, the cost sharing would have been spread out over three states.

I know this, as I was in on all four meetings when the agreement was made with all three states.

Sad story. I’m really surprised to think that Indiana was going to get behind any such plan. But they should. Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Toledo-Chicago is a serious route. I guess Fort Wayne or South Bend fits in there too. And I’d add a another train Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit. One daylight Pittsburgh-Chicago train per day would be full, and a daylight train Pittsburgh-Detroit would also be full.

Sorry about this train getting sidetracked, but not too surprising. Congress in its wisdom, and Team Obama trailing along wit it, had decided that our national passenger rail expansion will be done largely state by state. Oh sure, states can cooperate. In theory easy, in practice not so easy. Set up to fail, in this cynic’s view.

I agree that the Pittsburgh – Cleveland – Toledo – Chicago corridor would be a good place to invest HSR funds. However, this corridor already has a daily train (although it goes through Ohio at not useful times).

The 3C corridor restores service to cities that haven’t seen it in decades. It increases the network connectivity in a very useful way. I think it’s right that it’s the corridor the state of Ohio and FRA selected for their highest priority use of ARRA funds. Increasing speed and frequency on the other corridor should be their second priority.

This is the natural consequence of state-by-state funding and planning. Agreed with Woody, set up to fail. Few governors want to help people go to another state.

Was PA ever going to cooperate with funds on Pittsburgh-Cleveland? After all, their priorities were Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, just as Ohio’s were in-state.

The biggest slam-dunk route is Detroit-Toledo-(New York), based on people asking for train connections which don’t exist — Detroit-NY is apparently the most requested pair by a huge factor — but nobody’s even seriously proposed it, except in “stage 4” plans which recede beyond the horizon.

I have tons of information regarding the giant screw up the Governor of Ohio did to everyone.

I am a Republican.

Agreed it was one big screwup.

Good luck getting your party to provide a decent alternative. And I mean it, that’s not sarcasm.

If Kasich were pushing for the redirection of the funds to the Cleveland-Pittsburgh or Cleveland-Toledo or Toledo-Ft. Wayne routes… well, at this point, I suspect he’d be hounded out of the party the way Crist was in Florida. But we can hope.

From the press release on the Pittsburgh-Cleveland ridership study:

“A study done by the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) showed the Cleveland-Pittsburgh corridor met federal criteria for high-speed designation, and could serve as a vital link to Ohio’s proposed 3C “Quick Start” Passenger Rail Plan.

The study forecasted strong ridership between Pittsburgh and Cleveland with as many as 860,000 annual trips in a high-speed system, where trains reach speeds as high as 110 mph.”

It sounds to me like this pre-supposes the existance of the 3C corridor. It wouldn’t do as well without that already in place.

Thanks for the reference.

Do you have ridership estimates for the Cleveland-Chicago portion? That is of critical national importance, and anything which would help promote it would help.


I find your comments about the Gov dusting off an old plan and screwing other states interesting, since it would appear to be contradicted by the former head of the Ohio Rail Commission. In a recent news story Mr. James Seney, the former head of the ORC, said the following:

“James Seney, a Republican appointee who led the Ohio Rail Development Commission for six years, said he’s stunned the project is running into problems since the GOP endorsed federal funding for his plan when he was in office.”

Another quote from the article in the Toledo Blade:

“Just a few months before he left office, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate voted 33-0 for a resolution supporting congressional funding for an environmental impact study on the Ohio Hub, which identified the Cleveland-to-Cincinnati route as the first place to get trains running because of its strong ridership potential.”

Frankly it almost seems that all this controversy smacks of who is cashing the check from the Fed as it were. This is something that both parties are equally good at; I’m not trying to single anyone out here.

I just wish that something would get started, be it the 3C plan or the 3 state plan you’ve been talking about. And IMHO both are equally good plans and both are needed; sooner rather than later.

In many ways some republicans (i.e Florida rep John Mica) make more sense on HSR than most democrats who blindly support any project labeled as “high speed rail”. I would hope that the federal funds for Ohio’s rail improvements are returned when they are not put to use by 2012, because that will leave more funds to be allocated to true HSR projects like CHSR (maybe only CHSR). Have republicans been obstructionist? Yes, but this time some of them may be doing a good thing in refusing funds to build “high speed rail”.

Cleveland to Chicago estimated ridership was 1.2 million riders.

Again competeing the entire way with toll roads, lack of parking in Chicago, what parking there is, is very expensive and also connecting to the AMTRAK hub in Chicago.

The 3C route would have virtually no connecting passengers to anywhere. Very few passengers are going to wait in Cleveland or Cincy for 8 + hours to go east or west.

Seney was out of office well before Ohio was looking down the barrel of a 16 billion dollar budget deficit.

Ohio Republicans can not justify sticking a bill for empty trains for the next 20 years while closing state parks, slashing school funding and other vital services.

This route was looked at as having the most viable option of breaking even, if it didn’t 3 seperate states would defray any subsidies that may be needed.

The enhanced faster daylight service did have bipartsian support in both the state senate and house.

Marcy Kaptur words are on record, ” What happened to the Chicago – Pittsburgh service ?”

State of Indiana applying for the federal funds for the route, while they easily could have applied for imroving the tracks on the Indy to Chicago line. Indiana expected Ohio to be on the other end, Ohio vanished.

Ohio will not get any improved service now.

Thanks. 1.2 million per year is pretty good, though it actually sounds low to me (only 3200 per day?) I suppose that’s due to lack of connectivity due to the nonexistence of other services in Indiana and Ohio.

I really hope the fast Cleveland-Chicago route gets built some time soon; it’s a key connection between east and midwest which will benefit people all over the country, and it provides a trunk line which so much else can build on.

And I ride Upstate NY-Cleveland-Chicago several times a year; speedups and reliability improvements would cut hours off the trip.

Indiana unfortunately doesn’t have its act together (waaay behind on environmental study work) and some of its Republicans don’t even want to work on any passenger trains, so even though there are some signs of activity out of Indiana, I’m not hopeful. The biggest improvements on the route funded so far have all been in Chicago (which is good because it’s the slowest and most delay-prone part), but even there there’s not nearly enough activity. At least Englewood Flyover is being built.

Again, add those figure combined with the Pittsburgh – Cleveland leg, you were looking at over 2 million riders projected by ODOT, INDOT and the Pennsylvania DOT.

All of this with out any assumption of any connecting riders from the propsed 3C. The 3C was not on the table.

We divided the figures in half and utilizing brand new DMU’s we were stiil posting profits on the route. Break even was at 43% of seats filled.

Dedicated feeder AMTRAK buslines from Ann Aror to Toledo, Akron To Cleveland, Kalamazoo to South Bend feeding into the route.

From the application:

The operating plan for the Chicago-Cleveland Corridor is be based on that developed by the 2004 MWRRS Plan. The service will be operated by Amtrak under contract with the states of Indiana, Illinois and Ohio using a fleet of eight “next generation” train sets featuring lightweight tilt coaches and two high horsepower push-pull locomotives per train set operated as a part of a larger Midwest equipment pool. A service and inspection maintenance facility operated by the equipment vendor will be located in Cleveland with a layover facility in Chicago. This next generation equipment will provide amenities desired by passengers including: bistro car food service, 110 volt power, Wi-Fi, video display panels, roomy seats and ample headroom and bag storage.

The MWRRI service plan for the Chicago-Cleveland Corridor features city center to city center travel times less than auto and in some cases less than air, given access and security clearance times at airports. The express travel time between the Chicago and Cleveland endpoints will be 4 hours and 22 minutes, a two hour reduction from current Amtrak service in the corridor. Local service to all stops will be a very competitive 4 hours and 48 minutes. About half of the trips will be express and half will be local trains to provide maximum access to rail transportation.

Eight to nine round trips per day in the corridor will allow travelers flexibility in travel times and will feature quick turn times to maximize equipment utilization and reduce fixed costs per passenger mile. This is facilitated by maintenance work being conducted at the Cleveland endpoint rather than in Chicago. Investments in new track, signals and equipment will result in 95 percent on-time performance. The combination of a relatively high number of frequencies, competitive travel times, service reliability and equipment amenities will maximize ridership and revenues.

The MWRRI plan forecasts 1.2 million riders annually when the service is fully operational after a 3-year start up period. Proposed ticket prices have been set to maximize revenues rather than ridership. After the required public investment in infrastructure and operating equipment, the Chicago-Cleveland Service is forecast to cover its operating costs with fare box revenues after a three-year ramp-up period where operating subsidies will be required. This assumes other MWRRS corridors will be implemented concurrently with the Chicago-Cleveland Service per the MWRRS Plan schedule

This application sounds promising; too bad they didn’t build it first. I’d quibble with the idea of adding express service when the base frequency is one train every two hours and when the time difference is this small, but it’s not that big a deal. Even the local trains would average 115 km/h on this route, about the same as the Acela. The plan suffers from the usual FRA compliance crap, though.

This I’m willing to believe would be able to operate subsidy-free, unlike the “We’ll get half as many riders as the Regional” 3C fantasy.

What was developed in 2004, was not too far off from what the plan was in 2009. We intendended to keep the max speed no higher than 90 mph to utilize existing rights of way, but ugrading to concrete ties and continous welded rails.


Service interval approximately every 2:20 hours.

Two DMU engines one pulling and one pushing 4 cars.

The Ohio plans was not exactly the same as the Inidiana plan. We intended to skip Lima, Ohio and Ft. Wayne as use the same route at the Capitol Limited.

Again speed would not have exceded 90 mph.

When the time came for the final sessions for three states to hammer out a final proposal to apply for the federal funding, Strickland cancelled them. Indiana had no further options at that point, as they had already gone too far into the plan and with just weeks before the deadline to apply for federal funding they were left holding the bag with no alternative.

This was the original Midwest high speed compact between all the 8 states.

Where did the 3C route come from ?

Why 2:20 and not a 2-hour takt, on the model of Germany? That way it’s easier to remember when the train comes…

I’m not going to say much more about the US Railcar DMU. It’s a piece of crap but it’s not Ohio’s fault that FRA regulations are dumb.

I have to say, if Indiana was pushing for the Ft. Wayne route, Ohio should have been too: that was the first sign of trouble. The Ft. Wayne route is *better*; it separates express passenger service from freight service *while* serving larger cities *while* having a straighter right-of-way.

Oh, and it becomes straightfoward to run at high speed (220 mph) from Ft. Wayne to Gary because of the removal of freight; the tiny shortline currently running it wouldn’t mind selling the entire thing I’m sure.

Colorado Rail car – USrail car ?

We had called and talked to people in Portland, they did not mention anything negative about it, although they had not had it in operation for that long at that time.

The people in Portland most likely have never seen noncompliant DMUs in their lives. I’m willing to buy that US Rail is the best there can be under current regulations, but Euro-trains like the FLIRT would knock it out of the park without even trying.

To bad you didn’t call Tri-Rail, you might have gotten an earful on their problems with the DMU’s. In fact, they tended to run them in regular traditional diesel hauled trains as extra cars.

And I’m surprised that Portland didn’t tell you about the problems that they had just getting the cars. In fact, they had to take over the company to even get the cars that they ordered. Something that put them way over budget on the original costs for those cars.

We heard of the financial problems Colorado Railcar had, doesn’t mean that the units themselves are bad designs, just a company that did not have the financial resources to accomplish what they set out to do.

Portland claims even with teething problems, they had a 97% on time reliabilty with the units in the first year.

This is all looking back at what could have happened if the idiot Governor had listened to some of the more moderate Republican viewpoints and voices. He refused to and the end result is what it is.

Even if Strickland wins in November is irrelevant, the Republicans will take control of the state senate this November and they have vowed to kill the 3C project. The state senate controls the funding. The 3C is dead in Ohio.

While I acknowledge that you couldn’t possibly have known this at the time you were looking into things, the CRC cars have not proved to be as reliable as hoped. It’s for that very reason that TriMet has purchased either 2 or 3 Budd RDC cars from Alaska RR.

Last I knew the Budd cars were still undergoing refurbishment and are not yet available for service. But after numerous cancellations of rail service necessitating bus backup service, TriMet got an FRA waiver to use the Budd cars and purchased them so as to have backup railcars.

This is not to suggest that the new company that brought out CRC’s patents won’t do a better job. Frankly I rather suspect that they will. CRC’s founder wasn’t exactly known for turning out the best product in the past either based upon reports that I’ve seen. However, the current company to my knowledge also has yet to get any orders for the cars either, which could well be a death knell for the cars.

That IMHO would be a shame, as there are places where these cars could be quite useful. I happen to disagree that they would have been applicable to the service that you’re currently promoting here. That’s a little to long of a run for this type of car IMHO. In fact, these cars would be better suited for the 3C’s service, than a Pittsburgh to Chicago service.

Even more so with the ridership numbers that you’re claiming. Ridership numbers that are too high. Current similar distance services between cities with higher populations than those along the PGH-CHI route don’t have the ridership that you’re claiming.

And I’m a rail advocate, but I still don’t buy those numbers. Sorry! :(

I was disappointed to see Grand Rapids is not included in the plan for Michigan. Grand Rapids is an up and coming Medical and cultural hub in Michigan, and once again is snubbed by those that plan.

Plans for high speed rail can no longer be just about Detroit and Lansing.

Lansing isn’t in it at all, from my reading of the Michigan plan. The main route will be Chicago-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek-Dearborn-Detroit.

The entire Michigan plan is for incremental improvements. At some point in the future, the maps show a link between Grand Rapids and Battle Creek. But at this point, service on the main route is so poor there’s no point in connecting.

Amtrak owns the section from the middle of the Indiana shoreline to Kalamazoo. Working with the State of Michigan it has been gradually upgrading, working on the right of way, installing better signaling, closing grade crossings where possible. By some reports, that section is ready to take trains going 110 mph.

But nobody is going between the Indiana dunes and Kalamazoo. The fast route must be extended to population centers. And work has begun on untangling the messes that slow all trains into Chicago.

The next step — and a huge one — is for Michigan to use federal funds to buy the tracks between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. The Norfolk Southern is eager to sell, even offering a discount on the appraised value to get the deal done. When that stretch gets a new owner, federal and state funds will start to upgrade it too. Apparently it would not take much to get an hour out of the schedule, Chicago-Dearborn, some trouble to get two or three hours out of it.

Probably the next step is to upgrade the speeds into the City of Detroit and beyond to Pontiac. That could be complicated by proposals to add commuter service on some of the same tracks. Then at some point, surely, there will be a connection to the main east-west line at Toledo.

Finally Grand Rapids. I understand that no one wants to be told they are the 5th or 6th step down the line. But I don’t think you should expect service until these other things are done.

I have to generally agree with Woody, except to note that Pontiac is not really much of a priority either; Chicago-Detroit really has to be the top priority. And actually, of that, Chicago-Gary should be top priority due to its national importance, but state borders have made those projects infuriatingly slow-tracked. At least Englewood Flyover, the single biggest one, is getting built.


With all due respect, the proposed ridership number on the 3C route are not believable. If their was such a demand for this type of service, one would asume Greyhound would be running two dozen trips daily between both Cleveland and Columbus, Cincy and Columbus they don’t, as the demand is not there.

The administration in the Governors office, claims Ohio State students will ride it. If this is the case, why is the University Newspaper against it ?

Infact, we conducted a paid survey with 200 OSU students attending school in Columbus that called their home in Cuyahoga county. A presentation was made presenting the plans of the 3C proposal, fares, proposed schedules, an open discusion was held on the matter for over two hours.

End result, out of the 200 hundred students, majority thought the 3C was a good idea, but when asked if they would ever use it, less than 5% said yes. The vast majority already use facebook to carpool, have their own vehicles or other easier viable options at their disposal. They want door to door service.

The Pit – Chicago run is longer than the propsed 3C but I don’t see the difference as being a factor for DMU use.

The ridership numbers ?

1. Competing against toll roads the entire way

2. Service to communities that have the most tourist in the state of Ohio ( Cedar Point ) and Cleveland. Toledo already has the most AMTRAK passengers in the state, 50% come from Michigan to venture east on the very early AM trips.

3. Connecting to the AMTRAK hub in Chicago is vital.

4. Chicago is a destination city for many in the midwest, it is our version of NYC. Lack of parking in Chicago, forces people to use mass tansportation.

As I said, the projected ridership was two million, even if only 1 million annual riders actually rode it, it broke even.

Buckeyechucke wrote: “With all due respect, the proposed ridership number on the 3C route are not believable. If their was such a demand for this type of service, one would asume Greyhound would be running two dozen trips daily between both Cleveland and Columbus, Cincy and Columbus they don’t, as the demand is not there.”

First, I was merely commenting on the ridership numbers for PGH-CHI. However, since you brought up 3C’s, I do find those numbers more realistic. They have the city populations to support those numbers, unlike the other plan which does not IMHO.

Second, anyone involved in transportation planning knows that bus ridership is never an accurate indication of potential rail ridership. Yes, some bus riders will move to a train if/when one becomes available. But the trains always end up with far more riders than any bus it replaced.

Buckeyechucke wrote: “The administration in the Governors office, claims Ohio State students will ride it. If this is the case, why is the University Newspaper against it ?”

That’s not the University Newspaper that’s against it; that’s the opinion of a columnist working on the paper. A columnist who is clearly against rail travel in general I might add. Hardly conclusive proof; sorry.

Buckeyechucke wrote: “Infact, we conducted a paid survey with 200 OSU students attending school in Columbus that called their home in Cuyahoga county. A presentation was made presenting the plans of the 3C proposal, fares, proposed schedules, an open discusion was held on the matter for over two hours.

End result, out of the 200 hundred students, majority thought the 3C was a good idea, but when asked if they would ever use it, less than 5% said yes. The vast majority already use facebook to carpool, have their own vehicles or other easier viable options at their disposal. They want door to door service.”

Perhaps useful, but without knowing how the students were selected it does subject it to some question. And then the fact that only one county was studied further skews the results.

Buckeyechucke wrote: “The ridership numbers ?

1. Competing against toll roads the entire way”

Helpful, but certainly not going to fill the trains to capacity.

Buckeyechucke wrote: “2. Service to communities that have the most tourist in the state of Ohio ( Cedar Point ) and Cleveland. Toledo already has the most AMTRAK passengers in the state, 50% come from Michigan to venture east on the very early AM trips.”

Toledo’s numbers are impressive, I won’t deny that. Especially with the hours that Amtrak currently calls at. But you are also running a service to Chicago, not just to the east. Can’t count on help from Michigan for that side of the run. They already have their own trains to Chicago.

Buckeyechucke wrote: “3. Connecting to the AMTRAK hub in Chicago is vital.”

Ohio is already connected. Changes little. Especially since only a train close on the heals of the existing trains will make any meaningful connections in Chicago. All other runs will be too late into Chicago to connect with western long distance trains.

Buckeyechucke wrote: “4. Chicago is a destination city for many in the midwest, it is our version of NYC. Lack of parking in Chicago, forces people to use mass tansportation.”

Very helpful!

Buckeyechucke wrote: “As I said, the projected ridership was two million, even if only 1 million annual riders actually rode it, it broke even.”

Understood and acknowledged. But when I look at services like the Keystone and the Capitol Corridor which serve cities with greater populations than PGH-CLE-TOL, they’re not getting 2 million. If they can’t do it, I don’t see how a PGH-CHI service is going to do better with fewer people in the service area.

Again, I would love for those numbers to be achieved. But one of the worst things associated with rail over the years is numbers that are often way to high and then become fodder for the anti-rail crowd when they’re not achieved. And frankly, I have major concerns about these numbers.

“Buckeyechucke wrote: “3. Connecting to the AMTRAK hub in Chicago is vital.”

Ohio is already connected. Changes little. Especially since only a train close on the heals of the existing trains will make any meaningful connections in Chicago. All other runs will be too late into Chicago to connect with western long distance trains.”

That’s the real problem with train service in Ohio. It’s all oriented toward convenient departure and arrival times at the endpoints of the trains, which means that Ohio cities get service at very inconvenient times.

I was reading the Capitol Limited Service Improvement Plan and was surprised to find that the Toledo-Chicago and Toledo-DC city pairs had higher ridership than Cleveland-Chicago and Cleveland-DC. That’s probably explainable by the fact that the trains call at Toledo at relatively more convenient hours.

The 3C corridor is a worthy project because it adds network connectivity, it serves previously unserved communities and can build a train riding mentality in the state. Improving the routes between Cleveland-Chicago, Cleveland-Pittsburgh and Cleveland-Buffalo are good 2nd stage goals, but until those routes have increased frequency, 3C is the better deal.

All other runs will be too late into Chicago to connect with western long distance trains.

Believe it of not, people travel to Chicago with Chicago as their destination. People in Toledo who want to go to California will probably fly.

and if they get around to building service to Madison it will be running once an hour all day long and then well into the evening. Minneapolis too, very probably. So someone will be able to take one of the trains departing Toledo or Cincinnati every hour to Chicago where they will connect with the train that leaves Chicago for Madison once an hour. The trains to Seattle or San Francisco will never be a big contributor to passenger counts.

Adirondacker12800 wrote: “Believe it of not, people travel to Chicago with Chicago as their destination. People in Toledo who want to go to California will probably fly.”

I fully agree. My comment was in response to the statement about getting to the hub. There is only one reason to go to a hub; to connect.

Yes there are some other connecting trains still left in the late afternoon out of Chicago, but there aren’t all that many. Most are in the morning.

Look at it this way, people go to Chicago to connect with the L. The L runs many times an hour, even in the dead of night on some lines.


Again, no arugment. But the L isn’t part of the Amtrak hub.


With the utmost respect, you seem to be suffering from the idea that I don’t know Amtrak. I’ve been on every major route and many of the short haul/state sponsored trains. In the last 10 years I’ve traveled more than 100,000 miles on Amtrak. I know the system!

In less than a week I’ll be passing through Ohio on the LSL on my way to St. Louis; with a side trip to Kansas City.

Yes, there are still some afternoon/evening trains out of Chicago, beyond those that leave for the East Coast. But what’s left isn’t going to fill your trains. It will help; no argument. But it’s not as significant as what you seem to be giving it credit for.

The attraction of Chicago in general will be a much bigger draw than will transfers to other Amtrak runs.

But the L isn’t part of the Amtrak hub.

Then neither is the subway in NYC, the subway in Philadelphia, the subway in Boston, the subway in Washington DC. Or even the subway in Newark. And it doesn’t matter that the Amtrak stations have great bus service and commuter rail service…. People go to Chicago for the pure joy of going to Chicago without any thought of connecting any place else on any mode.

As for the L connecting to Chicago Union Station, the Clinton St. stop on the Blue Line is within easy walking distance of Union Station (1 block)… and is even pretty much safe to walk to in the middle of the night, the area is that busy.

It could be better, but it doesn’t suck.

As for the L connecting to Chicago Union Station, the Clinton St. stop on the Blue Line is within easy walking distance of Union Station (1 block)… and is even pretty much safe to walk to in the middle of the night, the area is that busy.

No, it’s not. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to walk from Union Station to Clinton, but I did, and the area is desolate at night and unwalkable at all times. Clinton is underneath an Interstate, and the route to Union Station involves crossing some oversized arterials feeding the Interstate.

Maybe it was a busy night. *shrug*. Yes, I’ve walked it. The Interstate is one ugly monster, though, isn’t it?

AW wrote: “I was reading the Capitol Limited Service Improvement Plan and was surprised to find that the Toledo-Chicago and Toledo-DC city pairs had higher ridership than Cleveland-Chicago and Cleveland-DC. That’s probably explainable by the fact that the trains call at Toledo at relatively more convenient hours.”

I can certainly believe that! The one time that I took the train from NY to Cleveland to visit a friend and ride the local rails in CLE, I rode the LSL to Toledo and got off there so that I could sleep later. A few hours later I boarded the now missing from Ohio Pennsylvanian to return to Cleveland at a more reasonable hour.

I did the reverse to leave Cleveland, only this time catching the Capitol to DC out of Toledo.

The 3C is dead. The state senate Republicans in OHIO will never, ever appropriate funds for it.

The other alternative PIT – CHI had support from moderate Republicans.


Case closed.

Buckeyechucke wrote: “The other alternative PIT – CHI had support from moderate Republicans.”

I wouldn’t have bet on that run either. Again, let me remind you that the Republicans approved Seney’s 3C plan just 4 years ago.

I for one don’t believe for a minute that they’re opposed for any reasons other than it will be a Democratic Governor cashing the check and right now it seems to be popular to be opposing trains for Republican candidates. And for the record, I’m not a Dem.

4 years ago, Ohio wasn’t looking down the barrel of a 16 billion dollar budget deficit either.

The situation has changed.

Unfortunately, current Republican Party elected official behavior indicates that they’d geerally be hostile to Pittsburgh-Chicago even if they backed it a few years ago. The ones who wouldn’t fall into line with knee-jerk anti-rail hostility? Are likely to leave the Republican Party and become independents or Democrats.


There is some truth to your belief, but there is also traffic coming across the border in Michigan and dedicated feeder service from Ann Arbor 45 minutes to the North looking to go east.

Please note that *increased speed* from Chicago to Cleveland would make the hours of arrival and departure in Cleveland more convenient!


There seems to be a lack of understanding on your part.

You appear to want to leave out the dedicated bus services which would feed passengers onto the route from Southern Michigan to points east. The Akron dedicated service and the Ft. Wayne dedicated service to both East and West points. Add up all these helpful things, adds to the passenger count.

Like the initial studies have shown 2 million potential riders, which we were skeptical of as well, causing us to cut that figure by half and use that a baseline to work with.

The students were chosen from Cuyahoga County, as that is where the end terminus, Cleveland is. Students from Cleveland, Mentor, North Olmstead, Parma etc… if this the market that is going to ride it. Let’s see what they really think before investing 20 years worth of subsisidies that could be a nightmare for the taxpayers of Ohio. After that meeting it was clear the 3C was not going to work.

What other counties would you suggest have been added other than the end terminus point ? I don’t understand that logic. Conduct surveys on ridership interest for people it doesn’t serve.

The survey itself was conducted by a highly reputable research firm in Columbus, names and student ” BUCK ID’S ” were checked and crossed check to verify these were the people we wanted to hear from. Only Freshmen and Sophomores were invited as Junior and Senior students for the most part wil be gone from OSU by the time the 3C is up and running. Skewing the results, I don’t see it or how it’s possible.

The Chicago hub and transfer passengers. You seem to forget that there also shorter distance runs to Milwaukee multiple times a day, St. Louis and various other destination in Illinois as well.

As far as the OSU paper THE LANTERN, yes this was a columnist voicing his opinion. Not a single voice in the Lantern from any other columnist dissenting the other way.

The moderate Republicans, yes there are some, don’t like the idea of saying no to 400 million in federal funding, but the 3C wont work without heavy state subsidies for 20 years.

The other route had the best chance to break even, this we would have supported. These are the facts like it or not.


I’m not minunderstanding and I’m not leaving out the bus riderhip. What I said was that Michigan bus ridership will not help numbers west of Toledo. Maybe I didn’t say it quite as clearly the first time, but the fact remains that your proposing a service between PGH & CHI. Gotta fill the train up on both sides of TOL to make it able to cover its costs.

Regarding the counties discussion, you should have selected students from every county along the entire 3C run. One county does not make for a fair sampling of potential riders.

And I wasn’t doubting that a reputable firm was chosen nor that they were students. I was questioning how they were selected and was any attempt made to ensure that there was an even mix of Dem leaning students and Rep leaning students.

Finally, call me skeptical if you like, but I’ve been following trains for years. I advocate for them when ever I have spare time. The internet is littered with my supportive posts of rail projects. But in the last 10 years there has been 1 project that has actually managed to cover its costs.

And that was actually a total surprise to Virginia, which set aside funding to subsidize the train to Lynchburg that will celebrate its first birthday next month. This trains performance has been nothing but stunning. In 6 months it had passed the estimated first year ridership. It will finish the year having doubled that number and then some.

Plus again, so far the State of Virginia has not had to cut a single check to Amtrak to help keep this train running. I hope that it’s success can continue.

But still, this is the first time that it’s ever happened. It would be a nice surprise to find that a PGH-CHI service could do the same. But I’m still skeptical about those numbers. They don’t track with anything else currently running. Sorry!

Why would you survey students from Morrow County, Ashland County North of Columbus ? The train doesn’t stop there, it stops in Cleveland. This makes no sense.

A persons political persuasion ? I’ve never heard of any such thing regarding travel service. This was a blind study, the students interviewed did not know the state senate Republicans were behind it and funding it. That would skew the results and lead to faulty conclusions.

We sat in the back and just observed and did not say a single word to any of them. This is how it’s done.

While not being an expert on Ohio’s geography, you ask students in other counties because they might consider going home via train on weekends here and there and for holidays. If you only ask students who live in Cleveland, then of course they have no need for a 3C train. The cities of Chicago and Pittsburgh would be far more attractive to them.

And if I am reading the map correctly, I can’t believe that there isn’t one stop in between CLE & Columbus. In fact, I’m quite sure that there is.

As for the political persuasion, I was more curious to make sure that you weren’t cherry picking them, but I was trying to be polite.

Your attempt to spin away from the truth is fruitless.

OSU students from the communities of ” CUYAHOGA COUNTY” were invited. The proportion invited were based on their proportion represented at OSU. We didn’t invite more from Strongsville versus Cleveland.

Here is the 3C map, with the proposed stations. Where is a stop between downtown Columbus and Cuyahoga county ? There is none.

So asking students from Ashland County, which would lie adjacent to the tracks if they would ride the 3C even if there was no stop for 60 miles in order to get home for the holidays or whatever is preposterous.

I will remind you, ODOT has made the claim that OSU students will be major users of the 3C, actual market studies now refute that claim. If this ODOT claim is false, it puts the other claims the make in question as well.

The “Quick Start” plan does not include any stations between the southwest Cleveland station at Puritas and the downtown Columbus station, but it does allow for a future North Central Ohio station in Richland or Crawford county, maybe around Galion. So it would make sense to poll students in Ashland or Mansfield about their support.

From your earlier example of polling Cuyahoga County OSU students, students from Parma or North Olmstead would find their local station a lot more convenient than someone from Mentor. In fact, someone from East Cleveland would find it more convenient because they could just hop on the Red Line to get to the Puritas station.


I’m not attempting to spin away from anything and I don’t appreciate the accusation. I freely admitted that I don’t know Ohio’s geography. I’m attempting to understand why you guys did what you did because it doesn’t make sense to me.

And I find it interesting that a train that runs from northern Ohio to southern Ohio only has stops in 3 counties during its entire journey. Just taking a quick look I count at least 6 counties that the train would have to pass through between Cleveland and Columbus. I didn’t bother to count from Columbus down to Cinci.

Please remember, I’m not anti-rail. I’m just worried that the ridership numbers that you’re touting for PGH-CHI are overly optimistic and if this service ever does get off the ground, will come back to bite us in our rear’s.

Ahblid, the preferred route between Cleveland and Columbus misses all the intermediate population centers. To serve the only real city in between, Mansfield, it would have to take a large detour and follow curvy railroads, whereas the preferred route is mostly straight.

You can’t conduct a market survey on maybes and ifs. It has be conducted on what is proposed. As it is according to ODOT there will be NO stop from Columbus to Cuyahoga county. Granted the situation could change in the future, but as it stands today,there is NO stop.

In a perverse sense, of the students closest to the stations only one said they might use it. Go figure.

Surely there should be at least one or two stops between Cuyahoga County and Downtown Columbus. I don’t think it makes the service look good without it. I do know that stops have been proposed at Galion and at one, maybe two suburban Columbus locations. If I’m not misaken, the City of Delaware is on the line and and been proposed as a stop and certainly should be because, from what I can gather, it’s growing a lot.I would certainly hope that that situation would be rectified ASAP, assuming that I’m wrong about it being good as dead, which I honestly hope I am.

I believe that the alignment passes near Delaware but not through it. I’m not sure, though.

I do remember they proposed one rural station in between, called North Central Ohio. It wasn’t near anything and had all the drawbacks and none of the benefits of the TGV’s beet field stations.

Well there’s the town of Galion which has been on the maps as a 3C train stop. The old station is still there. Somehow I think the 3C route goes rityh through Delaware but I may well be wrong on this but even if it’s only NEAR the town it seems to me that it might still make sense to have a stop serving that area. There very definitely should be a stop somewher in the northern suburbs and/or exurbs of Columbus. How that could ever possibly not make sense is WAY beyond me.

Galion is a very small town, at 11,000. I’m not sure it even justifies a stop on an intercity railroad. Maybe one that’s electrified and has level boarding (=lower stop time) and runs frequently enough to offer local and express options, but that’s about it.

A stop near Delaware might work, I’m not sure. The problem is that unlike the TGV’s exurban stations, it would have a harder time attracting people, what with the low average speed. Even without the extra stop, the train travel time between Cleveland and Columbus would be barely highway-competitive, at 2:21 versus 2:27 on I-71.

I was looking at one of my late dad’s old Official guides to see whether the old NYC route that the 3C trains would use actually goes through Delaware and it appears to be the case. There does need to be some stops between Columbus and Cuyahoga County anyway you look at it. The places proposed as stops on that segment, while not exactly humongus metropolises by any stretch of the imagination, are definitely not hamlets either. At the absolute least, there really should be a stop at State Route 161 as has been proposed before.

These political grandstanders seem to conveniently forget what Ford Motor Company, IBM and various other companies from the states in Germany during the 1930’s and up to World War II.

At some point in time, things have to be let go of.

Leave a Reply to Buckeyeman Cancel reply