DePaul University Study Finds that Akron, Columbus, Dayton are Among Transportation ‘Pockets of Pain’

Columbus has been identified in a study as one of the nation’s most prominent “pockets of pain” when it comes to intercity public ground transportation.

The capital of Ohio ranks toward the top of the list because of its lack of Amtrak service and express bus service.

It was joined by another state capital, Phoenix, which also lacks Amtrak service. Also on the list are Akron and Dayton.

Amtrak’s New York-Kansas City National Limited halted in Columbus and Dayton for the last time on Oct. 1, 1979. Megabus pulled out of Columbus this past January.

The study was released by Chicago-based DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

It focused on large cities that lack rail and express bus connections to other major cities. Cities outside Ohio that also made the list included Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fort Myers, Florida.

“Columbus has been cursed in terms of ground transportation, largely because of geography,” said Joseph Schwieterman, co-author of the study and director of the Chaddick Institute. “It’s a little far from cities such as Chicago and Washington to make bus service a good success.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • Cleveland-to-Columbus is the fourth-busiest route (ones with the most point-to-point travel) in the country that lacks both intercity express bus service and rail service.
  • Chicago-to-Columbus is the seventh-busiest such route.

“The study validates what we already knew: The central Ohio region does have gaps in ground transportation options for passengers connecting to other regions,” said William Murdock, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. “That is why we are working hard with our community partners across four states, including Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

“These efforts include a Columbus-to-Chicago passenger rail connection and the Midwest Connect Hyperloop Corridor (Pittsburgh to Chicago via Columbus), as well as (other) regional efforts.”

Last year, Columbus won the national Smart City Challenge and was awarded $40 million by the U.S. Department of Transportation and $10 million by Vulcan Inc. Another $90 million has been pledged by a Columbus public-private partnership, bringing the total to $140 million.

That funding was not intended to go toward development of conventional rail or bus intercity service. However, Schwieterman said the Smart City projects can only help.

“Innovation in urban areas could morph into providing true intercity service,” Schwieterman said. “It’s only a matter of time before services like Uber and Lyft start offering van service between cities, for example.”

He also believes the federal government should track ridership of private express bus services the way it does with airline passengers in order to better understand the demand on various routes.

Schwieterman would like to see local governments encourage bus service by helping companies establish convenient curbside stops and providing incentives to renovate bus stations.

“Some people will consider an express bus, but are resistant to taking Greyhound,” Schwieterman said. “It’s a culture change.”

To see the study, go to http://bit.ly/2xd2LEb

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