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New Task Force will Explore Airport-Downtown Rail Connection

Walker Evans Walker Evans New Task Force will Explore Airport-Downtown Rail Connection
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In addition to the many small-yet-important initiatives announced at tonight’s State of the City address, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman called upon the development of a new task force that is being charged with improving the economic vitality of Port Columbus International Airport. That includes research into the feasibility of passenger rail service connecting Downtown to Port Columbus.

“The airport is located between three major job centers and tourist destinations — Downtown, Easton and the Ohio State University,” said Coleman in tonight’s address. “Yet neither our tourists nor our residents can take public mass transit to any of them from the airport. In fact, you cannot even take a bus directly from Port Columbus to Downtown without a transfer.”

The implementation of a rail-transit  connector could utilize existing freight rail lines that run between the Convention Center and the area located immediately south of Port Columbus. Station placement has not been determined, but the conceptual placement of a rail station was detailed in the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan, which could be revisited. Additionally, an announcement last summer that proposed a high-speed rail line connecting Columbus to Chicago also includes a Port Columbus stop on the preliminary route map.

“The airport is geographically positioned to be a transportation center for rail service, bus service and more efficient car service. We need to explore the possibilities for the future,” said Coleman. “So the question is: Can we connect our Downtown to our airport by passenger rail?”

To answer that question, Coleman is turning to Dan Rosenthal, President of Milestone Aviation Group, who will chair the task force that will study the possibilities for improved transit connectivity in addition to increasing direct flights and expanding the economic development capabilities of the airport.

Currently, Port Columbus generates 33,000 jobs that contribute more than $1.1 billion annual in payroll. Coleman cited studies that indicate a potential to grow an additional 24,000 jobs around the airport.

“Port Columbus is located in the center of the state,” he explained. “It is in the center of the economy for Ohio, the center of government for Ohio, the center for higher education for Ohio, and should be the gateway to Ohio for the rest of the nation. No longer should we view Port Columbus as our local airport. Port Columbus is Ohio’s airport.”

For more discussion about the State of the City address, CLICK HERE to visit our Messageboard.

Visuals are from the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan proposal for a Downtown Rail Station.

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  • cmhcow

    Thank God. However you better believe that this has EVERYTHING to do with the political conventions…

  • Possibly, yeah, but whatever it takes at this point. Great news.

  • @cmhcow – sounds fine to me. SLC built their light rail line for the 2002 Winter Olympics and they’ve been expanding upon it ever since. Time for Columbus to take a first step.

    • rootvg

      SLC is in a growth state with positive demographics and plenty of corporate backing. Ohio is not a forward thinking place. Most of the narrative is about the past especially in the northeastern part of the state.

      You’re not living in SLC. If you want to live in SLC or Seattle or San Francisco, move there! Then again, if you want to live in SLC you’ll need another wife. Or two. Or three. And kids! Plenty of kids!

  • It would be unlikely to have it up and running in time for the 2016 convention, though.

  • mbeaumont

    It’s a perfect “gateway drug” for rail, IMO. That’s how Seattle got started with their LINK service.

  • NEOBuckeye

    Fuck the political conventions. This ought to be simply about helping Columbus cement its place among other relevant cities in the 21st century. I’m glad city leadership wants to roll forward on rail, and this will probably be a lead in to a larger, city and region-wide light rail system, but the truth is that it is long overdue.

  • MHJ

    In the meantime can we get that direct bus route though?

  • TemporaryCoolBeans

    I’m excited to watch this as the pilot project that boasts its rails and become the catalyst that give Columbus its rails back. I also look forward to learning who else is on the task force.

  • cmhcow

    @Walker – preaching to the choir my friend. I actually was a COTA Ambassador in 1999 and went to a million community meetings extolling the virtues of light rail – only to watch it get crushed 45%-55%. That was a long time ago though and if we can figure out a way to pay for it without counting on the State or the ‘burbs while using existing ROW to jam something in 30 months (time until the conventions) – fantastic!

  • This sounds good to me, and I agree that small, initial steps can lead to bigger things later, but I had one concern. I hope one wouldn’t have to leave the airport to get to the “existing freight rail lines…immediately south of Port Columbus”. Also, won’t there be problems with the train schedule meshing with the freight train schedule?
    I think it’s time to try the light rail electoral process again. But, I guess they’re afraid that if it loses, it will never come back.

    • rootvg

      This is what I was telling someone else here. In Ohio, the adults are still in charge and they vote. That’s what all these people are afraid of. They know that if it goes back to voters, it’ll fail.

      It’s OHIO, not California. It doesn’t have California’s money and nearly unlimited ability to tax, given that people move here from all over the world to eat our food, drink our wine, watch the sunsets and live out their fantasies. Ohio isn’t that kind of place and it won’t be. It doesn’t want to be.

      Speaking of fantasies, I think there’s a sizable contingent there who wants to transform Columbus into San Francisco. The movers and shakers in central Ohio will NEVER let that happen. Get that through your head.

      • Posole

        Well, then it’s a good thing this is a local/regional proposal and not a state proposal.

        • rootvg

          People in NE Ohio always scream that most of the goodies go to Columbus and Cincinnati. Some things just don’t change.

          The general impression I get after reading these posts is that many if not most of you are stuck there in some chronic state of rebellion, trying to turn the place into something it isn’t. Yes, I know it’s the only place in Ohio where a young professional can get a job. I grew up near Akron, remember? Great – but quit hitting your heads against a wall trying to transform German Village into Noe Valley. It won’t happen. You’re not control – and, you’re not going to be.

          I’ll tell you the same thing I told Angie. Winston Churchill said if you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart and not a conservative at forty you have no brain. Enough said.

          These are important years for you guys. Ten, twenty or thirty years from now you’re going to be looking at fifty and wondering how in the hell you’re going to afford retirement when you wasted so many years trying to save the world. I had the benefit of mentoring by many older people growing up and that’s the one thing I always heard from them. It turned out to be damn good advice and I heeded it for the most part.

          So, now you’ve been told. What comes next is up to you.

          Oh, and for God’s sake don’t marry the wrong one. Sheesh!

          • None of this has anything to do with this topic. Last warning. Keep it on topic or take it elsewhere. Thanks.

  • I’d love a rail link, but it’s crazy that it’s come to this instead of a just adding a bus to downtown every 30 minutes.

  • cmhcow

    If the issue was as simple as “how do I get to the airport faster”, adding a bus line would be a great idea, we would do it and all would be grand. However, he talked about linking the CBD, OSU, CMH and Easton – that is a way to connect job and tourism centers. I think the story about the bus was just anecdotal.

  • CalebR

    A great second step in the continuation of Columbus talking about rail transit (1st was Columbus-Chicago rail line).

  • Great, another waste of taxpayers dollars. Every study, dealing with transportation, is a red herring in central Ohio..

    • rootvg

      These are all nice ideas but Ohio doesn’t have the money. Forty percent of the state’s budget goes to programs for the elderly. That’s the reality. Demographics in the northeastern part of the state are awful. Skill sets aren’t what they should be.

      You need to fix what you have. Either that, or relocate to the sunbelt like the rest of us.

  • bferriot

    Let’s add a bike trail along side as well and get a CoGo Bike Share station at the airport!

  • urbanenthusiast

    As a commuter into CMH from NYC, I was shocked to learn that Port Columbus had no convenient and reliable public transit to the city center/Short North. My only option was an hourly bus to the East side and then a transfer to a downtown bus. REALLY!?
    I reside near the Convention Center when in Ohio and was excited about the CoGo bike share and Car2Go options I would have to live car free. Unfortunately, I had a purchase a because of the lack of rail service from the airport to the city.
    While I continue to rave about the assets in the Columbus region, the lack of surface RAIL frustrates me.
    Come on Columbus. Get on board!

  • I second the comment by bferriot! It is partially done, but we need the final section to the airport. Also I wish this trail had a good name, calling it the I-670 trail shows our car-centricism. That name is meaningless to a trail user.

    I-670 TRAIL
    The bike trail travels from Fort Hayes, east along I-670, following Leonard Ave., crossing Nelson and Fifth Avenues, terminating at Airport Drive, near Ohio Dominican College. It connects to the Alum Creek trail at Nelson Road.
    Length: 4.0 miles

  • UrbanPlanner2112

    They had a fast shuttle bus called the airport flyer that took you from the airport to downtown for about $7, but it didn’t do well. People just took cabs. Research shows that people from out-of-town are uncomfortable getting onto buses they aren’t familiar with but they will ride rails where the route is fixed and easily understandable. In fact one study showed that more than 2/3 of traveling rail riders do not ride buses at all. I believe I posted links to some of this research in one of the many mass transit threads here on CU.

  • paul.szuter


  • Geno99

    I don’t think there is enough traffic from Columbus airport to downtown to make this practical, but I think it is a good start. They need to put the rail where all the traffic is, like, oh, I dunno up High St. from German Village to OSU. Or for daily commuters from Worthington and Dublin to downtown and OSU (forget Westerville, they hate everything public) I know, I know, call me crazy, but it just might work!

    • rootvg

      Ohio doesn’t have the money! It’s not California and it won’t be.

      Yes, Columbus could use a rail system like MARTA or DART or BART. I would put most of it underground. Kindly tell us how you’re gonna pay for it when forty percent of Ohio’s budget goes to programs for the elderly. They aren’t just the elephant in the room, they’re the herd of elephants in the room!

      Yes, Westerville hates everything public but from what I understand that’s where most of the high earners in the region live. About ten percent of my high school class from the eighties lives there. Your governor lives there. It’s nice and they want to keep it that way. In Ohio, that will happen because adults run the show there. It’s not San Francisco.

  • paul.szuter


    Agreed that it is much needed in other places. Personally, I would benefit from a train going from downtown to Dublin as I have the pleasure of sitting in west side 270 traffic every day… BUT something is better than nothing. If this happens maybe Columbus would start considering expanding off of it.

    • rootvg

      What I think you would benefit from is to get trained in a skill that’s actually in demand and relocate to a growth market like Dallas or Atlanta for a few years, later on moving somewhere nice like California or Washington state. My wife and I came from working class backgrounds in NE Ohio during the eighties and nineties, taking a transfer to Texas in 1995 and never looking back. Dallas built our resumes, Los Angeles loosened us up and San Francisco made us financially. You’re certainly young enough and bright enough to do the same thing if not better.

  • Port Columbus served 6.3 million passengers in 2012.

    But this isn’t just about servicing existing customers, it’s about creating a system that can drive additional transit-oriented development. It sounds like Coleman wants to see nearly double the number of jobs created around the Airport. A rail line would service them as well.

  • Geno99

    Like I said it’s a start. A train from the airport to downtown could connect to a train from downtown to Dublin. It’s like six of one half-dozen of the other.

    But, can we at least agree that we need a much higher capacity system between OSU and German Village?

  • Jeffery

    Yet another study? I would be very interested in hearing how much has been spent in the past 30 years of studies conducted regarding light rail transit.
    I do feel it would be utilized however it seems there is not enough interest or “studies” to support it.

  • stephentszuter

    I can’t stop thinking about this. I hope that the benefits are clear to most of Columbus. This will help put us on the map.

    • rootvg

      What would put you on the map is a Right To Work law. Kasich already signed some badly needed tax reform so now all you need is to get rid of the goombas and you’ll be on your way to attracting real investment.

      If I were ten years younger and hadn’t bought a house out here I would consider coming back.

  • gmcsoccer

    airport to downtown wouldn’t run full all day and night, but really that doesn’t happen anywhere…but if you start to think about extending shortly to gahanna and easton then you have a huge potential ridership into the airport and into downtown…may not happen for a 2016 convention bid, but columbus needs this whether we bring in a convention or not

    • rootvg

      Even BART doesn’t run around the clock.

  • Yeah, I flew into San Fran a few short years ago and arrived at 11:30pm, after the final BART train had departed from there. Had to take a cab to get to my hotel Downtown.

    • rootvg

      BART doesn’t run 7/24 because the cars and the infrastructure are so old that it requires taking most of the system offline for six or seven hours every night just to keep everything running.



      Improvements are coming. There’s a proposal on the boards to start round the clock service but that’s away. AirBART (connection to Oakland airport) and service to Silicon Valley/Livermore/Brentwood are under construction as we speak, completion for those is about five years away.

      I don’t know about CalTrain or VTA.

      I still say your challenge will be funding all this. The folks in Ohio who end up making all the important decisions will just say you’re all a bunch of crazy kids and that’ll be the end of it.

      • No 24/7 service with Caltrain or VTA’s light rail, but both have links to airports. VTA runs a free bus shuttle with luggage racks between Caltrain’s Santa Clara station, SJC and a VTA light rail station. Most Caltrains stop at BART’s Millbrae stations which can get you to SFO (although during peak hours it’s a convoluted connection).

  • Mack741

    This is a no-brainer. It will undoubtedly drive more economic growth in the Arena District, Short North, Convention Center area, and will put Columbus firmly on a path to becoming more relevant as a “major” US city.

    In that Ohio has played such a critical role in the election of Presidents in recent history, it’s almost a slam dunk certainty that political conventions will become part of the permanent landscape in Columbus if we had this kind of link from Port Columbus to the city, and a few more hotels downtown. (Actually, Nationwide’s expansion into the Grandview Yard is close enough to the city center to count.)

    Columbus is on the cusp of some great things.

    • rootvg

      Yeah, that’s why the 2016 RNC is going to be in Vegas. Why? Sheldon Adelson says so.

  • Mack741

    Addendum: Not that this is an argument for the rail system, but Columbus’ cabs have to be some of the most expensive, delivering the worst bang for the buck in the country. I’ve taken a cab from LaGuardia (LGA) to Midtown and paid the same fare (about $35 including tip) as a cab from Port Columbus to the Brewery District. Ridiculous! It’s actually about the same distance, but there are no tolls to pay for expressways, bridges, or tunnels in CBUS.

  • toledo

    Don’t you think if the Mayor was really proposing rapid mass transit from downtown to the airport, that it’d make use of a dedicated bus route and the 12 minute trip on interstate 670 (a.k.a. rapid bus) ? There’s already a bus shelter at the ground floor via the elevator which is clearly marked in the main lobby. Suggesting a helicopter rental company look into a rail connection is better than burying the idea. It’s the best joke I’ve heard in weeks.

    • JK43123

      That is a good point, Cleveland has light rail between the airport and downtown but it is almost a half hour trip. If it only is 12 minutes here, perhaps one bus going back and forth on I670 is best. I do like the light rail idea however.

      And you can ride to Easton via the #92.


  • toledo

    For the record, Pittsburgh (Port Authority) charges 3.75 to ride to their airport, Cleveland 2.25, Cincinnati 2.00, Indianapolis 1.75, Milwaukee 2.25, and Louisville 1.75 U S dollars. All except the first are standard one way free.

  • toledo

    From a previous CU blog post, 12/09, Columbus ranks 32nd among metropolitan population centers. Nine of ten larger metros had both Amtrak and Greyhound services with direct routes by local transit bus, as did seven of the ten smaller. Three of the lesser had even invested in intermodal transit facilities. Of five metros without Amtrak, only Columbus OH had no direct route to CBDs. (#35 Hampton Roads, Norfolk VA, Virginia Beach, and Portsmouth had two international airports as well as multiple CBDs.) COTA has simply not persevered in this goal. Local civic leaders prefer to whine for an extremely unlikely perfect solution, rail transit, indicating if nothing else, a great disdain for practical solutions (perhaps ultimately an interim?) which similar cities have already implemented: direct fixed transit bus service to airports.

  • tonloc620

    Not sure why I never noticed this but there are rail lines that pass right by the airport and travel along 670 all the way to the convention center, how convenient is this. Even if it doesn’t move that fast being able to hop a train from the airport for a convention and not needing to rent a car would be awesome.

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