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The Sound of Ideas

Next Stop, Columbus

Posted Tuesday, February 2, 2010

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Next Stop, Columbus With $400 million in federal funds, state transportation leaders say they can bring inter-city passenger trains back to the Buckeye state and connect Cleveland to Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. Criticism of the project has been swift and the questions are many: Just who will ride this train, especially when driving is faster? Who will operate the system? And how much will the state have to subsidize its ongoing operation? Tuesday morning at 9, join host Dan Moulthrop to find answers to the real questions about the state's railroad dream. We'll also hear about some architectural dreams for what might be Cleveland's new front door: the rail station on Cleveland's lakefront.


Economy, Government/Politics, Other, Transportation


Stu Nicholson Public Information Officer, Ohio Rail Development Commission
Ken Prendergast Executive Director, All Aboard Ohio
State Senator Tom Patton (R-24)
Michael Christoff Forum Architectural Services
Bradley Fink Westlake Reed Leskosky

Additional Information

Check out the winning entries from the 2009 Cleveland Design Competition: Lakefront Station.

Leave a Comment

Please follow our community discussion rules when composing your comments.

Christine Ashby 9:04 AM 2/2/10

what would really improve railroad service in Ohio is the rebuilding of services, for instance between Canton-Akron-Cleveland. I am sure there are other towns needed such shorter connections for working people. Once we invested in those lines, we could extend to longer rail services.
Why do we always come up with grand ideas that do not make one bit of difference to the masses?

Todd 9:04 AM 2/2/10

Not until gas prices are unaffordable will Ohioans take trains. Maybe a gas tax to help pay for costs.
Also, did the designers consider the size of Americans? Can the trains reach high speeds with a full train of Ohioans? Once they reach destination how will riders get around in Cleveland, Columbus, or Cincinnati without their car?

Brian B 9:15 AM 2/2/10

To answer some of the questions: I will ride the trains, even if driving is faster, which I doubt. I sat still this morning on I-77 because of traffic, and a car stalled in the middle of the lane. I could have been reading, checking email, or napping. Instead, the entire drive was wasted time. Even if the train is slower, I would regain a couple of hours each day. Speaking of state subsidies, how much does the state subsidize the highways? What are we going to be doing as petroleum sources continue to decline, India and China continue to consume more of the available petroleum capacity, and the cost of fuel craters our economy? Waiting until the writing is on the wall (well, it already is) will be too late to start building our rail capacity. It is to late to think ahead - we are already playing catch-up. Let’s get on with it. We shouldn’t be debating “if” - we should be debating how much more and how much faster we can implement passenger rail throughout the country.

Jeno 9:24 AM 2/2/10

Fantastic idea!
Cars don’t work well in the digital and information age.  On metro rail and statewide rail people can use their laptops, cell-phones, or anything else.

Second, if it’s electric rail it dovetails well with Ohio’s budding green energy industry.

Brian B 9:31 AM 2/2/10

Sen Patton, of course the ridership for Amtrak is down - there isn’t enough service currently to make it convenient to use. WE NEED MORE RAIL capacity!

You quote RTA cuts as if within Cleveland is the only commute. How about you go sit in the parking lot on I-77 and I-71 in the morning and afternoon.

If you don’t make improvements in this state, you won’t have to worry about commutes - we will continue to lose jobs, and we will continue to lose talent to other states. Then you can campaign on that accomplishment.

Richard 9:35 AM 2/2/10

The speed is gonna have to be more than 40 mph if anyone would ride the railway going from Cleveland to Columbus.  That speed is slower than a car. Dream big, now.

Steve from Shaker Heights 10:37 AM 2/2/10

I was on the telephone this morning for your program but you didn’t take my call, likely because I told the woman who answered the phone that I wanted to talk about the rank incompetence demonstrated by the fact that your guests—state officials who, presumably, should have answers—did not have an idea of what this train would cost the taxpayers of Ohio annually to support.
I can’t believe that you did not hold their feet to the fire and ask detailed questions about that and about why, if as they said they get hundreds of emails daily, they have not changed the proposed schedule for the train to make it convenient for business travelers to use as a commuter line. Or why they have not developed some idea of the operating costs for this project.
In addition, their examples regarding similar start-up trains in Maine and Delaware were, as the senator said, poor analogies because those trains do, indeed, constitute commuter lines and were built and designed as such.
At the very least, you should have allowed us in the listening audience to pose such questions.
As the one of the last callers said, I too have travelled in Europe and Asia and have been delighted at the service that high-speed rail transportation offers. And, living in Shaker Heights, I use the rapid transit daily. I drove to my office downtown fewer than 5 times in all of 2009.
In support of what the senator had to say, I also am appalled that our existing public transportation systems that support our economies are being drained of state and federal support while these excursion trains are being funded.
Further, I am appalled that you provide a forum for the promotion of such wasteful projects without demanding that your guests provide details, then compound your feckless discussion by not giving your listeners the opportunity to ask difficult questions.

Marc, Pepper Pike 1:02 PM 2/2/10

I just listened to part of your show, and the efforts to justify this ridiculous expenditure of public funds at all levels to build and maintain a fixed route means of transportation that won’t go when people want and need it and will travel at an average 40 mph boggle the mind.  When will the Government learn that we aren’t all just interested in having pork (which is our own tax dollars) doled out regardless of how ridiculous the idea or its execution.  Thanks for your show.

Mark, Northfield 1:05 PM 2/2/10

Begin with the end in mind.
Using 50 year old technology and hoping the future will adapt to it is mostly like the definition of insanity.
Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result?
Seize this moment!
Bring in private investment, (including foreign investment) and run a mag-lev line that will compete with air service from day one!
Move into the future now.

John, Seville 1:06 PM 2/2/10

Just wondering ... would I be able to throw my bicycle on the train for free or for a nominal cost? It would make traveling around the destination cities a lot easier—and “greener”— if I could just hop on my bike instead of calling a cab.

Brian, Cleveland 1:06 PM 2/2/10

Unless you live directly on the freeway and work directly off a freeway; in addition to owning a turbercharged sports car, your average drive speed to and from Columbus from Cleveland via automobile is not going to be 60-65 MPH. It will be around the 30 MPH the rail line is expected to go.

Seth, Cleveland Heights 1:08 PM 2/2/10

Why on earth would I want to travel to Columbus or Cincinnati at a slower speed and greater cost than I can drive? We need to stop spending dribbles of money on little projects that do nothing other than create a short-term windfall for a few contractors.

What we need in the US is *real* high speed rail, competitive with flying and easily displacing cars as the preferred travel mode. Look at the rest of the world. China, Japan and Europe are well down the road and we are eating their dust.
A real high speed network would give us trip times to Columbus of about an hour, to Dayton of 90 minutes and to Cincinnati of less than 2 hours.. Chicago and Washington DC could be an easy 2.5 hour train ride away and New York 3 hours.

We need a NATIONAL commitment to a transportation network for the 21st century that will create millions of jobs, make us competitive with other countries, and reduce our dependence on increasingly expensive and insecure imported oil.
Spain, not the wealthiest country in Europe, let alone the world, will invest $100 BILLION on expanding its high speed rail network over the next ten years. We are 30 years behind the rest of the world. High speed rail is tomorrow’s Interstate highway system. This $400 million boondoggle does not move us in the right direction. (Forgive the pun...)

Tom, Bay Village 1:08 PM 2/2/10

Wheels up to wheels down, it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to fly from Hopkins to JFK.

With driving to and from the airports, and the strip search at the airport, the entire ordeal takes more like 4 or 5 hours.

I can drive door to door in 7 or 8 and I have convenient transportation when I get there....

Accordingly I drive.

If you factor in the time for ground transportaiont and security ....what is the REAL predicted travel time, Cleveland to Columbus for this project....if there are 2 $20 cab rides invovled...the fare wont be 25 bucks ..will it?

Alex, Lakewood 1:09 PM 2/2/10

Trailways may have left, but the MegaBus started up Cleveland - Dayton
- Chicago and is always full and has added busses since they started up a few years ago.

Barb, Lakewood 1:16 PM 2/2/10

I occasionally have to travel to Columbus for business.  I have often wished that I could take a train instead of driving.  I think there is a market there. 

For that reason, I was appalled to see the proposed schedule for the proposed rail service.  If the train won’t get me to Columbus in time for a morning appointment - by 10 a.m. at the latest - and won’t take me home near the end of the work day - somewhere around 5 and 6 p.m. - it will be useless to me for business and I won’t use it.

John, Cleveland 1:19 PM 2/2/10

I don’t get it.  If you can get to both Cincinnati and Columbus faster by car, then what’s so “High Speed” about this rail?  Also why is AmTrak handed the reins?  Why can’t this be operated independently so that there are better schedules?  Let’s face it, AmTrak does not have a good track record (no pun) when it comes to efficiency and serving the public.  Also why aren’t the tracks run along the highway as it is on rail system in Chicago?  Here we go again, another great idea gone bad.

Brian Cummins 1:20 PM 2/2/10

Projects like the 3-C and WestShore Rail Corridors are important to our state’s future.  But, I am concerned about the current state of funding from the Federal and State government for overall public transportation, i.e. relative share of funding that goes to roads and NOT bus, rail and pedestrian and bike improvements.  I want to see these projects succeed but there needs to be a long term funding strategy.

John, Willoughby 1:22 PM 2/2/10

I travel downtown Cleveland from Willoughby, 20 miles east.

There is rail service that runs parallel well past Willoughby.

Why are we shooting for the moon, when a great predictor of success is on a smaller scale in our backyard.

Buckeye games are great, but it’s a one day event.

Doug, Solon 1:29 PM 2/2/10

Perhaps this is a bit of a chicken/egg syndrome, but to me, improving inter-city rail seems significantly less productive than improving regional rail. Why not invest the initial dollars to improve GCRTA or rail/transit projects in Columbus or Cincinnati? Cleveland appears somewhat prepared to receive inter-city rail riders due to its public transit system, but if I were to ride 4 hours to Columbus, then have to navigate the city’s bus system to arrive at my ultimate destination, how is this an attractive option?

If I were to take a train to New York or Washington, I know that when I get there, I will have navigable, efficient rail to take me within that destination. I don’t see a realistic parallel in any of the Ohio cities. I am ALL in favor of expanding rail in Ohio, but don’t we need to focus on the local lines first, which would be supported by commuters as well as visitors?

Follow up question: If Megabus, the low cost intra-city bus line which runs a line between Cleveland and Chicago, does not see economic benefit in investing a relatively minuscule amount of infrastructure in creating a Cleveland/Columbus line, how will rail be economically viable?

Jeremiah 2:37 PM 2/2/10

Why don’t the trains include Akron, with the second largest university in the state (university of akron) and Kent very nearby. Also with the new approved bio-med corridor between Akron and Cleveland it seems to make sense to plan for the future and not for the current use.  Finally, I am a big fan of high speed trains but I don’t want to see my tax money be wasted upgrading an 80 yr old rail system with 20 yr old tech.

Erik 1:26 PM 2/7/10

No one mentions that this addition of passenger trains introduced would add to and help build a more robust transportation system.  Look at a field of corn that gets hit hard by a disease or bug, that field and neighboring corn fields can be heavily damaged.  A farmer needs to have diverse system and not rely on just one crop type. Now think about our transportation system across a long term time frame.  If we ran out of petroleum or if we had shortages and it limited the function of the automobile, or if our roadways simply become too congested from population growth you need to have alternatives. 

Another idea, which was certainly discussed in the planning and should still be a possibility is the use of the interstate median for a new passenger line.  The state of Florida recently dusted off the plans they had on the shelf, yes they plan to use the median.  The median on the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago runs a train line right along the same artery.  Introducing this line would certainly run even more expensive but would eliminate the freight train slow down.  It would also increase visibility to Ohioans traveling by car along that corridor -advertisement in its own regard.

Yes we need to ask tough questions.  We need to know that this isn’t just an injection of dollars to make a few people rich.  We need to know that they have done the studies and research to make sure this project is prepared to hit the ground running, it has to be competitive, it has to be informed of past failures and adaptive to future technological shifts.  We need to ask tough questions not to stifle this project but to verify that it becomes the best that it can for the money we have been granted.


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