Posts Tagged ‘Columbus’

Amtrak Says 3C+D Could Start in 2 Years

May 20, 2021

Amtrak service between Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton could be up and running in as little as two years, company executives said this week.

Amtrak Chairman William Flynn and President Steven Gardner joined several Ohio elected and civic officials in an online roundtable designed to build support for the proposed service.

However, getting the service out of the station hinges on Congress appropriating the billions the passenger carrier is seeking to develop a series of new corridors across the country.

Gardner also noted that Amtrak needs to negotiate agreements with the host railroads whose tracks it will use on the 250-mile route.

“We believe we could start initial service, maybe one round-trip or a few, without much initial investment, using current track speeds,” Gardner said. “We believe we could get started here in hopefully what would be a relatively short period of a couple of years.”

In the meantime, what was once called the 3C corridor is now being branded as the 3C+D route to include Dayton in the nomenclature.

Garnder said the length of the route is is the sweet spot for successful intercity passenger rail service.

“This service is the type of service we should have for major cities, and for an important state like Ohio,” he said. “Frankly, it should have happened a long time ago.”

The 3C+D corridor is part of an ambitious plan by Amtrak to expand intercity service.

Aside from the Cleveland-Cincinnati route, Amtrak has proposed creating additional service on existing routes through Cleveland to Detroit and Buffalo.

The passenger carrier would front the money to be used for capital costs to develop the routes and initially pay the operating costs of the trains.

But state and local governments would be expected to assume operating costs on a sliding scale with Amtrak’s share declining until states would pay all of the operating costs.

Although the proposed 3C+D service received endorsements from various mayors who joined the call, Ohio Gov. Michael DeWine has been noncommittal about it.

Last month DeWine said he was reserving judgment on the plan until he could learn more about it, including its potential cost to the state.

Although neither DeWine nor a representative of the Ohio Department of Transportation participated in this week’s online roundtable, Gardner said Amtrak is “anxious to work with the state to look at what that partnership could be and put together a model that makes sense for Ohio.”

During the roundtable, Amtrak said the3C+D route would have stations in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati as well as at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Crestline, Delaware, Springfield and Sharonville.

Service is expected to be three round-trips per day with additional trips being added as ridership grows.

The route is expected to draw as many as 500,000 passengers annually and provide an economic impact of $130 million.

The Cleveland-Cincinnati travel time would be about 5.5 hours, but track improvements could cut that to 4 hours and 55 minutes.

Gardner said that a train does not need to be faster than car travel, but does need to be competitive. “The time on the train is productive time, which is not the same as driving time,” he said. “You can work, you can have access to wi-fi, you can socialize, you can walk around. It’s a much more comfortable and productive method,” he said.

Cleveland has the most current Amtrak service of the cities in the 3C+D corridor being served by the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited.

Trains on both of those routes, though are scheduled to pass through Cleveland between midnight and 6 a.m.

Cincinnati has a similar situation with the Chicago-New York Cardinal. Dayton and Columbus have lacked Amtrak service since the Oct. 1, 1979, discontinuance of the New York-Kansas City National Limited.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson was one of the participants in the roundtable and gave the 3C+D a hearty endorsement.

“We simply don’t have the luxury of choosing not to do this,” he said. “It is about positioning Ohio for the future. It’s not a question of rural or urban or suburban or Democrat or Republican. It’s about do we as Ohioans want to be competitive in the world, in this nation?”

Also participating in the roundtable were Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley; Crestline Mayor Linda Horning-Pitt, and William Murdock, the executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

Columbus is the second-largest metro area in the country without Amtrak service. Phoenix is the largest. 

“Not being in that network puts us at a disadvantage,” Murdock said. 

“Businesses and residents are clamoring for this,” he said. “We know the community is behind it. Investing in Ohio, it makes a lot of sense. It’s grounded not just in major cities, it’s really important to rural areas and smaller metros.”

Murdock said when young people arrive in Columbus one of the first questions they ask is, “Where’s the train stop?”

MORPC released 30 letters of support from community leaders who want expanded Amtrak service in Ohio.

Some of the funding Amtrak hopes to land to develop the 3C+D route would come from the $80 billion earmarked for Amtrak by President Joseph Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.

However, other funding would be contained in a surface transportation bill Congress is expected to take up later this year.

That bill, though, would merely authorize spending. Other legislation would need to be adopted to appropriate federal funding for Amtrak expansion.

The 3C corridor has been the subject of numerous studies and failed attempts to launch service.

The most recent occurred 11 years ago when the state received a $400 million grant to start the route.

However, John Kasich campaigned for governor on a pledge to refuse the funding, which he made good on after being elected in 2010.

Before that ODOT proposed a Cleveland-Columbus service during a rebuilding of Interstate 71. That also failed to launch.

During the roundtable, Amtrak CEO Flynn said the carrier has spent the past three years developing a strategy to expand service.

Known as Connect US, the expansion would touch up to 160 communities in 25 states on more than 30 routes It would be developed over the next 15 years.

Also included in the proposal is additional service between Cincinnati and Chicago via Indianapolis. That route would have an extension from Indianapolis to Louisville, Kentucky.

Although not part of the Amtrak Connect US network, studies are underway of a route between Chicago and Pittsburgh via Columbus.

Although no ODOT officials joined this week’s roundtable, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the passenger carrier has spoken with ODOT and Ohio Rail Development Commission members.

Gardner acknowledged said that much work needs to be done to bring the 3C+D service to fruition.

“These are not insurmountable challenges,” he said.

Track to be Removed at Buckeye Yard

October 30, 2020

An online report said Norfolk Southern is soliciting bids from contractors to remove about 64 miles of track from Buckeye Yard in Columbus.

Bids are due on Nov. 11 and a pre-bidding meeting and inspection of the site will be conducted on Nov. 4.

The bidders will also have to cleanup the site after tracks are removed.

NS largely idled Buckeye, located on the west side of Columbus, in May 2009. However, the Camp Chase Industrial Railroad had been interchanging with NS in the yard and CSX had intermodal operations there. However, the Camp Chase-NS interchange has reportedly been moved in recent months to a point closer to NS’s Watkins Yard in Columbus.

The yard was built by Penn Central in 1969.

Spirit Airlines to Resume Serving Cleveland

April 25, 2020

A Spirit Airbus 319 lands at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in March 2018 after a flight from Atlanta.

Spirit Airlines will be hearkening back to how airlines operated in the 1960s and early 1970s when it resumes service to Cleveland Hopkins Airport on May 3.

It will resume flying between Cleveland and Orlando with an intermediate stop in Columbus.

Since the late 1970s airline route networks have been largely oriented to point-to-point service or built on a hub-and-spoke model of routing passengers through connecting hubs.

But at one time some airline routes featured one or more intermediate stops.

Spirit dropped all service to Hopkins and Akron-Canton Airport earlier this month amid falling traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it is resuming service to Cleveland after the U.S. Department of Transportation denied Spirit’s request to indefinitely suspend service to Cleveland and 25 other cities during the pandemic.

DOT turned that request down by saying the law that provides emergency aid to airlines requires them to provide a minimum amount of service to all the markets it served before the pandemic struck.

However, the law specifies markets rather than airports so Spirit has been able to argue that its service to Akron-Canton is picked up by flights from Cleveland because the two cities are so close together.

Spirit said this week that service from Cleveland to Orlando will operate on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, departing at 1:30 p.m.

This arrangement will last through May 19. Starting two days later Spirit will resume flying nonstop from Cleveland to Orlando.

Return flights will operate nonstop from Orlando to Cleveland and arrive at Hopkins at 12:27 p.m.

Spirit said it expects to resume flying in July from Cleveland to several other destinations, including Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas and Myrtle Beach.

A check of the Spirit website found that flights from Akron-Canton to Orlando will resume on July 1, and begin operating daily on July 5.

Columbus Public Transit Ridership Rose in 2019

February 22, 2020

Ridership of public transportation provided by the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus posted a 1.2 percent increase to more than 19 million last year.

It was the highest ridership numbers recorded by COTA since 1988.

Ridership began growing after COTA revamped its bus network in 2017. A year later the agency launched the CMAX Line and the C-Pass program that provides free bus passes to some downtown workers.

COTA also launched a pay by phone option last fall.

In a news release, COTA said it was one of just six transit agencies serving the top 30 markets to see ridership growth in 2018.

The agency’s board of trustees recently approved increasing the frequency of service on several popular routes.

The board also approved a plan to built 150 additional bus stop shelters over the next few years.

JobsOhio To Fund Quest for New Airline Service

February 15, 2020

An Ohio economic develop agency is earmarking $4 million to help the state’s larger airports attract more airline service.

JobsOhio said the money can be used to attract new flights to unserved or underserved markets, including, transatlantic service from Cleveland and Columbus.

Officials said the funds could also benefit the Akron-Canton Airport, which has seen a decline in service in recent years and the Youngstown-Warren Airport, which lost commercial airline service in early 2018.

Ohio airports have been lobbying the Ohio legislature without success in recent years to create a fund to help attract new air service.

They have said Cleveland and Columbus are at a disadvantage compared with Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, which have used public funding to attract service to Europe.

Pittsburgh used $4 million in public funding to lure British Airways into creating a route to London while Indianapolis landed a Delta Air Lines route to Paris with the help of $5.5 million.

Cleveland Hopkins Airport officials say they believe they have lost out on some service opportunities because they lack funding to entice a carrier to launch new service.

Federal law prohibits direct funding of air service, but airports can waive certain fees, provide revenue guarantees and use public money to help airlines pay marketing costs.

Speaking to the City Club of Cleveland, J.P. Nauseef, president and chief investment officer of JobsOhio, said buying airline service is an economic development issue.

Nauseef said he’s heard business leaders throughout the state say, “If we had better air service, we could attract more people. If we had better air service, we could bring another division here. If we had better air service, Ohio would stay on the list with Texas and Florida for business growth.”

Nauseef said details about how the air service fund will operate are still being written, but there is likely to be some local matching funds requirement, including support from the business community.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership offered an undisclosed amount of financial assistance to Wow Air, which flew for six months in 2018 between Cleveland and Reykjavik, Iceland.

That same year Icelandair also provided service on the same route.

Wow Air is now out of business and Icelandair decided not to continue its service to Cleveland into 2019.

Cleveland and Columbus were said by JobsOhio to be two of the largest air travel markets to be without non-stop airline service to Europe.

JobsOhio is a private, nonprofit economic development group that is funded primarily through revenue from liquor sales in the state.

UP Resuming Intermodal Service to Ohio Points

February 1, 2020

Union Pacific plans to reinstate several intermodal service lanes that it dropped last year, including lanes linking three Ohio cities.

The service lanes involve shipments that will be delivered in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati by CSX and Norfolk Southern.

In dropping the service lanes earlier, UP had said they were low volume and the traffic generated by them could not efficiently be handled through steel wheel interchange in Chicago and other gateways.

The service lanes will be reinstated starting today (Feb. 1)

“As a result of Union Pacific’s Unified Plan 2020, and our objective of providing safe and reliable service products, we are pleased to inform you that Union Pacific will be opening a number of domestic interline lanes originating on Union Pacific and destined to various points in the Eastern United States,” UP said in a statement on its website.

The lanes to be served by CSX include: Brooklyn-Cleveland, City of Industry-Cleveland, City of Industry-Columbus, Lathrop-Cincinnati, Lathrop-Cleveland, Lathrop-Columbus, and Oakland-Cleveland.

Lanes to be served by NS include: Brooklyn-Cincinnati, City of Industry-Columbus, and Lathrop-Cincinnati.

FlixBus to Make Columbus First Midwest Stop

November 13, 2019

A German company will begin intercity bus service to Columbus on Nov. 14.

FlixBus, which began operating in the United States in 2018, will launch service from Columbus to Pittsburgh and Washington.

The service will use Central Ohio Transit Authority’s downtown Spring Street Terminal.

The Columbus route is the first into the Midwest for FlixBus, which operates in similar fashion  to Megabus, which ended service to Columbus nearly three years ago.

Most FlixBus service is to points in the Northeast, South and West.

In a news release, FlixBus described its purpose as seeking to change the way people travel.

“We want to show people how inefficient it is to use your car for long-distance trips in the age of high gas and parking prices, traffic and low mileage leases,” said managing director Pierre Gourdain in a statement.

He said riding the bus is a convenient and comfortable alternative allowing passengers to work, relax or sleep while they travel and save money.

FlixBus plans to operate a daily early morning trip to Pittsburgh with fares between $9.99 and $14.99.

Fares to Washington range from $24.99 to $29.99.

Connections could be made in those cities to such destinations as Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Richmond, Virginia.

Cleveland RTA Ridership Fell by 4M in 2017

April 20, 2018

Total ridership of Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority buses and trains reached a record low 39.6 million last year, a decline of more than 4 million riders from 2016 when it carried 43.8 million.

The 9.5 percent drop in ridership was the largest single-year falloff since 2010.

RTA officials said the falling ridership was a result in part of a fare increase and route cuts imposed last August.

It was the second consecutive year that RTA saw record low ridership and the third straight year of ridership declines.

RTA’s record ridership was 125.9 million in 1979. In 2016, some 43.8 million riders took RTA trains and buses.

Fear of further falling ridership was behind an RTA decision earlier this year to delay a planned fare increase for late summer.

Officials said that transit ridership is affected by various factors, including the service offered, the concentration of jobs downtown at the core of the system, increasing numbers of people working at home, traffic delays, gasoline prices, parking rates, employment and public funding.

Last month RTA cut service frequencies on 15 bus and rail routes.

Stephen Bitto, executive director of marketing and communications for RTA, said the agency is seeking to boost ridership by working with employers and college students.

About 50,000 college students receive fare cards as part of their fees at Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, Cuyhoaga Community College and the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Cleveland RTA is Ohio’s largest transit agency, carrying more than double the number of riders than the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus area. COTA ridership was 18.7 million last year.

Cleveland to Chicago in 28 Minutes?

February 21, 2018

A California company has proposed building a hyperloop between Cleveland and Chicago that would cover the distance in 28 minutes.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, the Northeast Ohio Regional Coordinating Agency, and the Illinois Department of Transportation plan to study potential hyperloop routes between Chicago and Cleveland.

“We came here because places like Cleveland, Chicago and Pittsburgh have the manufacturing, the raw materials and the talented, hard working people in order to make it happen,” said Andrea La Mendola, chief global operations officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

Funding for the Chicago-Cleveland study has not yet been funded but was touted in an agreement between between the developer and the government agencies.

If undertaken, the study could take up to a year and will include a look at right-of-ways along northern Ohio interstates and rail lines. The study will also examine costs and potential ridership.

Another company, Virgin Hyperloop One, has proposed routes linking Columbus with Chicago and Pittsburgh.

That plan is being organized in part by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and is one of 10 finalists in the Hyperloop One Global Challenge.

The Columbus-Chicago route would cover the distance in 29 minutes while the Columbus-Pittsburgh route would do it in 18 minutes.

A hyperloop uses a vacuum-sealed tunnel and magnets to propel passenger cars. In theory, people could travel inside a hyperloop at 700 miles an hour.

The Ohio Senate passed a non-binding resolution last September supporting the Columbus hyperloop efforts, but did not agree to fund it.

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

August 25, 2017

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