Amtrak Study shows High Demand
for Ohio’s 3C “Quick Start” Passenger Rail Plan
Estimated half-a-million riders each year projected in Ohio
COLUMBUS (Tuesday, September 15, 2009) - Supported by a pent-up demand for passenger rail in Ohio and the unique opportunity to connect with more than 60 percent of the state’s population, an Amtrak study of Ohio’s 3C “Quick Start” Passenger Rail Plan shows nearly half-a-million people each year would ride a train connecting Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati.
The draft ridership and revenue study prepared by Amtrak was delivered to the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) today, following more than nine months of study by the nation’s largest passenger rail service provider. ORDC and ODOT will have the opportunity to provide additional information and data to Amtrak for the final report to be issued later this year.
Today’s draft study by Amtrak will be used as part of Ohio’s application for federal stimulus funding to be filed October 2 with the Federal Railroad Administration. With funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Ohio’s “Quick Start” plan would have initial service running as early as 2011.
“This long-awaited report from Amtrak proves that Ohioans want true travel choice and will use passenger rail service,” said Matt Dietrich, ORDC Executive Director. “The report shows that 478,000 passengers would board the train each year in Ohio, if it were running today. Other studies estimate that the ridership rate would jump to nearly 600,000 riders by 2014 using the same schedule and stops.”
Based on the ridership projections from Amtrak, the 3C “Quick Start” service would rank as the nation’s 12th largest generator of passenger rail traffic, comparable to other successful state-supported passenger rail programs in Michigan, Maine, and Illinois.
In addition to the annual ridership rate, the draft report estimates that the state will need to invest as much as $342.6 million in infrastructure improvements, track and signal upgrades, and maintenance facilities before the service could be operational. The estimate includes more than $79 million in construction contingencies, as recommended by Amtrak.
The study examined an initial route with six station stops, which will provide for the shortest, safest, and most-direct route. The stops would include downtown locations in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati, as well as stops in west Cleveland and northern Hamilton County.
Running at speeds of up to 79 miles-per-hour, the 3C “Quick Start” would offer same-day service, with multiple departure and arrival times throughout the day.
The Amtrak study estimates that annual revenue - including ticket sales - from the initial 3C “Quick Start” service would be more than $12 million each year, based on the 2009 ridership estimates, with the potential for growth as ridership increases in future years.
The study then estimates that Ohio would need to identify as much as $17 million in additional annual investment to keep the 3C “Quick Start” service operational. ODOT intends to use non-gas-tax dollars for these operating funds, including revenues from advertising on the train, franchise fees and existing grant dollars.
Still to be determined is the need for equipment. While ORDC’s initial estimates suggested that Ohio would need smaller train sets to meet rider demands, the Amtrak study points to the large population density along the 3C Corridor, which the study calls, “the most important characteristic for a successful corridor operation.”
To meet the needs of pent-up demand for passenger rail, Amtrak is now recommending that Ohio invest in five train sets (four active, one in reserve), each made up of a locomotive and control car, 5 coach cars and a food service car with business class seating.
The need for additional rider capacity combined with a limited supply of refurbished passenger cars led Amtrak to recommend that Ohio plan for purchasing new passenger equipment. This could require an investment of up to $175 million for the purchase of equipment, according to the report.
Public input will also be a key part of Ohio’s application for ARRA resources over the next few weeks. A series of public meetings are scheduled this week at the following locations:
- Columbus – 4-7 p.m. Sept. 15, King Arts Complex, 867 Mt. Vernon Ave., Columbus
- Cleveland – 4-7 p.m. Sept. 16, Cleveland Airport Holiday Inn, 4181 W. 150th St., Cleveland
- Cincinnati – 4-7 p.m. Sept. 17, City Hall Council Chambers, 801 Plum St., Cincinnati
Significant and very positive public input is also coming in through the state’s online portal for passenger rail information: 3CisMe.ohio.gov. An online survey shows 94% support behind the state’s efforts.
Not all decision and technical issues need to be addressed prior to the October 2 deadline. ODOT and ORDC will have additional time to further analyze the data from Amtrak. Amtrak is open to any additional suggested changes and will issue a final report later this year.
For more information, contact Scott Varner, ODOT Central Office Communications, at (614) 644-8640
or Stu Nicholson, ORDC Communications, at (614) 644-0513.
Additional information can be found at: http://3CisME.ohio.gov