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Business First Poll: Riding the Rails

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Business First recently took a poll to test the confidence of Columbusites on whether a high-speed rail that would benefit travelers will be developed in the next 10 years. Do you think it will be?

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  • pez

    I’m all for a city to city train, provided there’s infrastructure to get around at the other end. Using the getting off foreign oil rationale is disingenuous, oil is the universal worldwide commodity and it would be nearly impossible (and irresponsible) to limit ourselves domestic oil only. Plus,what sense would it make to use up your own supply of a limited resource when you can buy somebody else’s then tap your own when they run out or the price gets high?

  • Why is it disingenuous? As you said, the world’s oil supply is finite. Eventually we’re going to be “off it” all together when the last of it gets too expensive (compared to the alternatives) to use.

    Setting up these rail networks (along with investing in other alternative energies for power plants and automobiles) just moves us one step closer to having those alternatives ready to go in the future.

    And I understand what you’re trying to say with using up their supply first, instead of our own, but that leaves us lacking a lot of stability with all of our eggs in their one basket… as seen last year when foreign oil prices spiked, gas prices spiked, causing transportation prices, shipping prices, and the price of nearly every other commodity in our economy to spike. Granted, it was only temporary then, but who’s to say next time how long it could last or how high the prices could go?

  • matzerrose

    Trains work very well between cities in the Eastern U.S. such as Boston, NYC and Washington. Once you are within those cities, you can also get around pretty easily without a car. This mirrors the situation throughout much of Europe.
    Most of the U.S. is not like Europe, though, in terms of proximity between cities and density patterns. I am doubtful that a train between, say, Columbus and Cincinnati would work. Why would I trek to a central place I have to catch a possibly infrequent train, to another city that’s also tough to navigate outside of downtown without a car when I could drive there conviently and on my own schedule in 2 hours or less? I kind of like the idea of a train to places like Chicago or Philadelphia, but it would need to be direct and inexpensive. That means it would proably have to be heavily subsidized to begin to compete with air travel.
    These plans as far as I’ve seen also don’t appear to address the increasing isolation of smaller towns that used to be connected to the rest of the world by trains and canals. The decline of many of those types of second-tier towns in Ohio and elsewhere is sad. They need rail connections as much or more than a city such as Columbus, but they probably don’t have enough demand and density to support it. So they’ll continue to rot.

  • I agree that having easy mass transit access in your destination cities is very important, which is why it’s critical to continue to move forward with the plans to develop light rail in Columbus and the streetcar in Cincinnati. Cleveland has some rail transit as well as their new BRT system. And all three cities have functional bus service. If a train were to drop you off at the proposed stop at High & Nationwide Downtown, it wouldn’t be too hard to use COTA (for now) to get to a final destination.

    As for the rotting “second-tier towns”, I assume you’re referring to cities like Akron and Youngstown and Canton who aren’t along the 3C Corridor? If you look at the overall plan for the Ohio Hub, those cities and more are included in the larger plan with other lines.

    I agree that it would be great to have a vast network of rail set up and operational all at once, but that’s an unrealistic expectation. You have to start somewhere, and you have to start with one line. And to that point, the 3C corridor makes a lot of sense as what we should get up and running first and foremost.

    Rail does work well in the states to the East, but those rail lines did not all pop out of the ground over night. Their vast network of rail transit has been slowly built and changed and upgraded over the past 150 years. It all started with one line. If we want to look to them as a place to emulate then we’ve also got to start with step 1 and not unrealistically expect that we should be starting with steps 1 through 100 simultaneously.

  • matzerrose

    Walker, I agree with your sentiment and appreciate your passion for rail. No doubt Columbus would be the better for it if we could wave a wand and have light rail today. A very wise, seasoned fellow I know who spent his career in the airline industry thinks it was a terrible mistake for the U.S. to let its infrastructure decay. I agree, but I’m doubtful o the practicality of rebuilding passenger rail now. This poll asked how likely the rail plan is to happen, not how noble an idea it is. I would have to come down on “probably not,” though there’s no such category…part of me hopes I’m wrong.

  • matzerrose Says: I’m doubtful o the practicality of rebuilding passenger rail now.

    Can I ask why? I mean… a lot of the practicality of it just boils down to money. It’s already been stated that it’s going to take around $250M to restore rail service between Cincy, Cols, and The Cleve at $10M per year to operate it. $250M in terms of highway funding nets you two interchange revamps. That’s nothing. And I know you’re well aware that ODOT’s budget is $1.9B in 2009 alone, and mostly constitutes highway repaving, repairs, and widening projects. Heaven forbid that our state transportation department spend a single dime on anything other that automobile transit development. ;)

    I mean… I know it’s not quite as simple as shifting ODOT’s budget around… but I’m confident that anything that can be slowly undone can be slowly redone. It’s not going to happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean we should just shrug our shoulders and assume it’s impossible.

  • May I ask how about the “practicality” of continuing with the status quo?  I think most would say no.  But when you look around for alternatives for intercity travel in most of Ohio, the options to driving just are not there: a painfully evident fact made only more so by the cost of driving in recent years.

    I would say an interconnected system of intercity passenger trains and local rail-based transit are entirely practicable…and critical… if we are to change the status quo. 

  • BTW: The final Business First poll shows:

    How confident are you that a high-speed rail line that benefits travelers in Columbus will be developed in the next 10 years?


      Very confident.



      Somewhat confident.



      It’ll never be built.



    So, over 70% of those polled have at least some degree of confidence that high-speed rail will happen.

  • New Ohio rail line would bypass historic station
    Posted 5/4/2009
    By Matt Leingang, Associated Press Writer

    Amtrak recommends restoring passenger rail service among Ohio’s major cities by bypassing the grandest train station left in the state.

    Getting new passenger trains into Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, a 76-year-old landmark known for its bold Art Deco style and enormous rotunda, would require extensive capital improvements and add to freight congestion already in the area, according to Amtrak’s preliminary study, which recommends building a new train station on the city’s riverfront instead.


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