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Restarting Passenger Rail In Ohio's 3C Corridor

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I agree that Voinovich's motives are probably better than most would assume.  But he has to know that this has absolutely ZERO chance and would be bad policy even if it did have a chance.  The minute Congress passes any such legislation, 49 other states would approach with their hand out for an extra $400 million from the Feds to fix their roads and bridges, including those states that already have been awarded passenger rail funds.

 

This is typical Voinovich: Taking a stand to make a point and not really accomplishing anything. He's notorious for hand-wringing, making statements, sounding moderate and reasonable, then voting with the crazies. Here, he's giving a nod to his party and his state, then pushing something he knows won't -- and shouldn't -- pass.

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As I said, if there is a revenue surplus (big "if"), that money should go towards improving the service, not padding the trust funds of some CEO's children.

 

I can agree with that.  But the rail line appears unlikely to happen on the grounds that it cannot operate at a profit (without a subsidy).  I'm not aware of ANY rail lines that operate at a profit (without a government subsidy), so I also agree that that is a very big "IF."  So big as to be virtually impossible in the current situation.  I guess that's what led me to have trouble understanding what you wrote.

 

 

Since we subsidize highway travel and air travel, why shouldn't we subsidize train travel?  Competition between the different modes of travel would keep overall costs down, right?  Why don't we use our transportation budget, whatever it is, and split the subsidies more equitably?  I don't understand that.

 

If we remove the subsidies for 3C's competitors (highways and airlines), could the 3C be profitable?  The airlines have to pay into a fund to support the air traffic control system, and pay for the terminals and runways.  The highways have to be self-supporting via gas taxes and advertising and tolls.  Also someone has to pay taxes on the land the roads occupy, just like the railroads do.  Removing those subsidies would reduce our taxes (hooray!), but the cost to drive or fly will be much higher.  In that situation, I think the 3C would be profitable.  Another very big IF that probably will not occur.

 

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^There are numerous posts on this forum claiming that highways as they are today do not support themselves. They are subsidized not only with gas tax revenues but with other public funds as well.

 

If we did not subsidize highways, they would deterioate for lack of maintenance and then, yes, passenger railroads could operate at a profit.

 

I am convinced that if we could turn back the clock to 1950 and proceed to upgrade railroads INSTEAD of constructing the interstates, that the United States would have an effective passenger rail system comparable to Europe's by this time, although Europe's geography favors rail a little better than ours does.

 

But of course, we can't turn back the clock. Given that we already have the interstates, are choices are limited. As I see it, our choices are:

 

Abandon the interstates and build rail.

Maintain the interstates and don't build rail.

 

Maintaining the interstates AND building rail is not a real option. We can't afford to maintain two primary systems, and there is no support for it. Plus, highways and rail are not very compatible. Highways require lots of land for parking. Rail requires tight urban environments without parking. For whatever reason, the United States chose to invest in highways instead of rail, and it is very, very hard to reverse that decision.

 

That doesn't mean that rail can't work in some places.

 

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We absolutely can and should have both systems.  Europe has a lot of railroads, but there is no lack of highways either.  What we can't afford to do is build a whole bunch of whiz-bang brand new high-speed bullet lines on brand new alignments.  We have a lot of underutilized and abandoned rail out there that should be put back to good use.  It won't take a bunch of land grabbing, and it uses existing technology.  We also can't afford to keep widening our highways for increasing passenger traffic, and rebuilding them more frequently due to heavier truck traffic.  Having both highway and rail infrastructure in place allows them both to serve their best use while preventing the other from becoming overburdened.  The way to look at 3-C is as an alternative to widening I-71, which I guarantee would cost a lot more than $400 million dollars. 

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^Exactly.  Western European countries have gleaming highway systems that are generally much better by every performance measure than US highways: better condition, higher speeds, less congested and more technologically advanced toll collection.  Any idea that Europe has made a binary choice of rail instead of highway is simply not true.  The flip side is that European highways are often tolled at what we would consider extremely high rates and that's on top of extremely high gas taxes.  The benefit is that when you want to use the highway, it's uncongested, fast and in immaculate shape.

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Abandon the interstates and build rail.

Maintain the interstates and don't build rail.

 

Maintaining the interstates AND building rail is not a real option. We can't afford to maintain two primary systems, and there is no support for it. Plus, highways and rail are not very compatible. Highways require lots of land for parking. Rail requires tight urban environments without parking. For whatever reason, the United States chose to invest in highways instead of rail, and it is very, very hard to reverse that decision.

 

^There is no there right there.  You've made a bunch of assertions.

 

With the exception of barreling highways directly into downtown areas, U.S. highway building was probably better than that in Europe.  Most post-war European systems nationalized their railways- this naturally led to using rail as the primary means to move people around.  Since the U.S. didn't nationalize their railways, our rail is being used for freight far more efficiently than in Europe.  That's one of the reasons 3C is such a good investment- because it is both a freight system investment and a passenger rail investment in an area dense enough to take advantage of the investment, even though there is plenty of underutilized property within that area.

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I looked up a comparison between the United States and Germany from the CIA world factbook.

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

 

United States

Population 310,232,863

Airports with paved runways  5194 (0.000017 per person)

Railways 226,427 km (0.0007 per person)

Total Paved Roadways 4,374,784 km (0.014 per person)

Expressways 75,238 km (0.0002 per person)

 

Germany

Population 82,282,988

Airports with paved runways 330 (0.0000040 per person)

Railways 41,896 km (0.00051 per person)

Total Paved roadways 644,480 km (0.0078 per person)

Expressways 12,645 km (0.00015 per person)

 

On a per-capita basis, the U.S. exceeds Germany on all counts: the U.S. has about 4 times the number of airports with paved runways, a little bit more length of railroads, about twice the length of total paved roads, and about 30% more length of expressways than Germany.

 

In the U.S., the ratio of roads to railroads is 19.3 to 1.

In Germany, the ratio of roads to railroads is 15.4 to 1.

That's a significant difference, but much closer than expected.

 

 

 

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We are veering into the realm of transportation policy here folks and there are threads for that.  Let's not get too far afield from the topic of the 3C.  Just sayin'.

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Eighth and State, have you driven through Europe? It's not that different from the US; there are highways everywhere. The idea that Europeans have chosen rail over highways is pretty silly. They simply have both. And they use both.

 

StrapHanger, SW Europe has lots of the toll roads of which you speak. NW Europe hardly has any, if there are any. I've never seen a toll road in Denmark, Germany, or Benelux. Not sure about UK/Ireland (or Norway for that matter). Austria (and I think Switzerland) has stickers which you purchase for your windshield (like parks might have here) instead of the toll booths found in, e.g. France and Spain. Speed cameras also serve the purpose of checking if you have the proper sticker.

 

jjacucyk's assertion that 3C is a cheaper alternative to expanding 71 is pretty spot-on. The services are very much complementary.

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^Ah, thanks.  I was indeed extrapolating from my experiences in Italy, France and Spain. I appreciate the correction re. northern Europe.  In any case, they all have very high quality expressway systems, even if VMT per capita is lower.

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Though it has to do with high-speed rail, an interesting take on private investment that could have implications for passenger rail development in the U.S....including the 3C...

 

British Deal Shows Private Investment Demand for High-Speed Rail

December 1, 2010

 

by Mark Reutter

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PPI Fellow Mark Reutter is the former editor of Railroad History and author of Making Steel: Sparrows Point and the Rise and Ruin of American Industrial Might (2005, rev. ed.).

 

 

This week, the British government will formalize an agreement with two Canadian pension funds with enormous implications for passenger train development in the United States. In return for the right to operate a high-speed rail line linking London with the Channel Tunnel for 30 years, the Ontario teachers and municipal employee pension funds have agreed to pay the UK government $3.4 billion.

 

The sale not only represents a big vote of market confidence in the future of high-speed rail, but points to a route for building and operating new train lines in the U.S.

 

Full story at: http://www.progressivefix.com/british-deal-shows-private-investment-demand-for-high-speed-rail

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A great article about reation to Governor-Elect Kasich's characterization of passenger rail advocates as a "cult"...

 

 

Kasich: Passenger rail proponents a ‘train cult’Business First - by Jeff Bell

Date: Thursday, December 2, 2010, 11:24am EST ...

Jeff Bell

Reporter

Email: jabell@bizjournals.com

 

Like him or not, you have to admit John Kasich is quick with a quip.

 

A prime example came Tuesday when the governor-elect said proponents of passenger rail service in Ohio are part of a “train cult” – a term he made up on the spot according to one of his press aides.

 

It was one of the off-the-cuff comments made during a press conference to announce the decision to make Newark resident Jerry Wray the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation when Kasich takes office in January.

..

 

Read more: http://www.bizjournals.com/columbus/blog/2010/12/kasich-passenger-rail-proponents-a.html

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On a per-capita basis, the U.S. exceeds Germany on all counts: the U.S. has about 4 times the number of airports with paved runways, a little bit more length of railroads, about twice the length of total paved roads, and about 30% more length of expressways than Germany.

 

In the U.S., the ratio of roads to railroads is 19.3 to 1.

In Germany, the ratio of roads to railroads is 15.4 to 1.

That's a significant difference, but much closer than expected.

 

While we have a comparable amount of track, we don't have a comparable amount of passenger trains.  We also have a lot more open space per capita between the Mississippi and the Rockies.

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the governor-elect said proponents of passenger rail service in Ohio are part of a “train cult” –

 

So what "cult" is Kasich a part of? Is he resorting to labeling that sets this "us versus them" tone again?

 

Kasich's mouth is going to come back to haunt him.

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Kasich 'not optimistic' Ohio will get to repurpose 3-C rail money

By Malia Rulon • Enquirer Washington Bureau • December 2, 2010

 

http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20101202/NEWS0108/12030345/Kasich-not-optimistic-Ohio-will-get-to-repurpose-3-C-rail-money

 

On the plus side, Kasich said he was confident that the state would get the $400 million Race to the Top grant that the state won under outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland. Kasich has said he wants to make changes to the state's education system, and some have voiced concern that his changes would jeopardize the money.

 

 

Race to the Top Grant???????  For education? Did we get another 400 or is this what he wants to spend it on this week?

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^ Don't you remember when we won the school money because NJ screwed up? It was in the news cycle for a good week or two, largely due to the Christie administration's blunder.

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Gov.-elect John Kasich concedes defeat to President Obama

03 December 2010

 

Ohio Governor John Kasich seems to have conceded defeat in his bid to have the Obama administration grant his state the ability to appropriate billions in federal funding to different projects.

 

Following a meeting with President Obama, Mr. Kasich Kasich acknowledged that he does not expect the administration to allow Ohio to divert $400 million in passenger rail money to rebuild freight rail lines in the state.

 

The Republican, who is slated to replace outgoing Democratic Governor Ted Strickland later this year, said he did not anticipate an agreement. Mr. Kasich said the president made it clear that his administration wanted the money used for rail.

 

Read More...

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Forget about that fast track to Ohio

Sunday, December 05, 2010

By Brian O'Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

This was a good year to run against trains.

 

New Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio both vowed to kill the high-speed rail projects in their states.

 

The rail advocacy group, All Aboard Ohio, may have to change its name to Everybody Off Ohio. The state will have to give back its $400 million federal rail grant if Gov.-elect John Kasich (a McKees Rocks native) is true to his word in running the Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland train off its still-hypothetical rails.

 

 

Read more: http://postgazette.com/pg/10339/1108086-155.stm?cmpid=bcpanel2#ixzz17FWt1em0

 

Kasich over the top with rail opposition

Sunday, December 5, 2010  02:59 AM

Letter to the Editor (Columbus Dispatch)

 

As someone who has grown up riding sleek Acela and Metroliner trains from Boston to Washington and used clean and energy-efficient mass-transit commuter-rail lines in and around East Coast cities to visit family, I am shocked to be identified by Gov.-elect John Kasich as one of those people who have a “train-cult mentality” ( Dispatch article, Nov. 21).

 

Full letter at: http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/editorials/stories/2010/12/05/kasich-over-the-top-with-rail-opposition.html?sid=101

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Kasich paraphrases Bible in his oft-repeated quote

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2010  06:26 AM

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

When Gov.-elect John Kasich was in Washington last week, he pressed the Obama administration to provide states with more flexibility to tailor federal programs to the needs of their own states. "Let our people go," the Ohio Republican kept saying to reporters and in TV interviews.

 

-----------

MORE: http://www.dispatchpolitics.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2010/12/05/copy/dc2.html?adsec=politics&sid=101

 

What he really meant was:

"Let my people go -- as long as they can go only by car."

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Editorial: Can 3C be saved?

By the Dayton Daily News | Sunday, December 5, 2010, 12:50 AM

 

A year ago, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, signed a letter to the federal government supporting Ohio’s application for $400 million in federal money to build the 3C passenger rail line. The line would link Cleveland and Cincinnati via Columbus and Dayton. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, also signed, as did 10 other legislators, mostly Democrats. “There is clearly a pent-up demand for passenger rail in Ohio,” the letter said. It noted that the 3C route is the “densest corridor in the country without passenger rail service.” It also noted that economic development springs up around rail stations. And it said “passenger rail will succeed in Ohio.”

 

Now, however, Sen. Voinovich has submitted a bill that would allow Ohio’s money to be taken out of the rail program and used for other transportation projects. He says he has now concluded that Ohio can’t afford 3C.

 

Full editorial at: http://www.daytondailynews.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/dayton/opinion/entries/2010/12/05/editorial_can_3c_be_saved.html?cxtype=feedbot

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Is there any purpose in writing tot eh Feds to encourage them to NOT allow this to be used in any other way and to deny any requests to do so? If this could be the case, wouldn't that cause Kasich to be very cautious in giving the money away?...Because essentially he would look very foolish in doing so, even to his own party, no?

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^He'd just spin it to say that the big bad federal government won't let Ohio what it wants with it's money and that he had no choice but to give the money back or risk sending Ohio's deficit through the stratosphere.

 

In this political climate people might actually buy it too.

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My Train Of Thought This Morning!

 

 

 

I looked out the window this morning at the arrival of glorious winter and just shook my head and thought.. "Wow....we sooooo need to expand rail options in this state as there are so many reasons WHY it needs to happen"

 

 

Indeed, this is the kind of day I would definitely choose to leave a car at home and hop on a train and not have to worry about all the expenses associated with car ownership, as well as the dangers of driving in this kind of weather....all because of the dogmatic auto-driven ideology of a few people with the charge of this local yocal agenda now running our state!  So many people, so few transportation alternatives makes Ohio look like a joke!

 

Sorry, but it pisses me off that so many of us are forced to be a part of something (driving)  we'd like to greatly reduce. And Kasich wants to bring jobs and keep people in Ohio? The dude needs to get a clue. More statewide fight seems to go up for getting casinos going that are arguably party to contributing to social dysfunction.... than all of the OBVIOUS socially, environmentally, and economic redeeming fruits that can blossom from rail! 

 

Absolutely, pathetically, and utterly ridiculous!

 

Off I go into the white blue yonder. Thanks a lot Kasich and any others who are too blind, arrogant, vindictive, or self righteous to see the light!

 

 

P.S. I love winter, but just not driving when it gets severe and I don't think a transportation mono-culture should cease the day because of it.

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For Immediate Release:                                            Contact: Amanda Wurst

Tuesday, December 7, 2010                                        614 644-0957/614 832-7512

                                                                                    Amanda.Wurst@governor.ohio.gov

 

 

Governor Responds to the Governor-Elect’s Request to Halt Study of Passenger Rail Restoration

 

Columbus, OH – Ohio Governor Ted Strickland today responded to Governor-Elect John Kasich’s letter regarding the 3C&D project that would restore passenger rail connections between Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland. 

 

“Developing passenger rail will lead to the creation of thousands of jobs for Ohioans, revitalize our cities, and help keep talented young people from leaving our state,” Strickland said.  "Our nation and our state are slowly recovering from a dark economic chapter.  Many Ohioans are still out of work – we badly need new jobs in Ohio and cannot afford to squander significant job creation opportunities.  I urge you not to begin your administration by foregoing significant near- and long-term employment opportunities for struggling Ohioans."

 

The complete letter can be downloaded at: http://www.governor.ohio.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=wzqMm3Q3CwU%3d&tabid=1820

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^ That's how those cult leaders get you. They make sensible arguments and provide information. Try to make you feel stupid for disagreeing with them.  :-)

 

It's a good letter, I wonder what the chances are that anyone at Kasich's offices even reads half of it.

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Nice commentary, EC.  I'm planning on a Columbus run for a day trip this weekend but this snow is really a pain. 

 

It's one of those things where I don't really have to go out there (was planning on stopping by and seeing a few clients for informal pleasantries, maybe hit up Easton and High St afterwards), but not if it's snowing.

 

Now if there were a train, then me and my kindle would be on it in a heartbeat. 

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"Without strong cities, we cannot have strong suburbs"

 

Preach, Ted!

 

^ That's how those cult leaders get you. They make sensible arguments and provide information. Try to make you feel stupid for disagreeing with them.  :-)

 

It's a good letter, I wonder what the chances are that anyone at Kasich's offices even reads half of it.

 

He won't read it.  But he will likely send Strickland an email inviting him to submit his resume and join Team Kasich.

 

Noozer, I don't see anything wrong with you posting the entire letter.  It is not on an ad-supported website and is a public document.  It would not violate UO's fair use policy.

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"Without strong cities, we cannot have strong suburbs"

 

Preach, Ted!

 

I wish the property values in Cleveland compared to the suburbs would support that!

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"Without strong cities, we cannot have strong suburbs"

 

Preach, Ted!

 

I wish the property values in Cleveland compared to the suburbs would support that!

 

On a comparitive scale, they do!  The closer the suburb is to the core, the lower the home values (at least per square foot).  Strong cities typically have the opposite effect.

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"Without strong cities, we cannot have strong suburbs"

 

Preach, Ted!

 

I wish the property values in Cleveland compared to the suburbs would support that!

 

A fair criticism, but there are more sources of strength than real estate values, and I don't just mean intangible buzzwords like "sense of community."  In fact, lower real estate value on the commercial side, within reason, can actually be an asset when a city looks to attract businesses that require a larger footprint.  Likewise, it is actually quite possible to have a business that generates substantial net income and cash flow on land that is not itself particularly valuable--and that can even spread beyond such a business itself if the business is of a type that is unpleasant to live near.

 

That said, I will concede that Cleveland (and Cincinnati and Dayton, and even Columbus) have a lot of such low-value land (commercial and residential alike), and quite a lot of it is not used for high-cash flow but low-land value businesses.  Nevertheless, there is still a great deal of economic activity in the cities that ultimately involves paychecks being taken home to the suburbs.

 

The question is what effect the 3C would have on that dynamic.  Supporters hope that it would bring both (a) more businesses downtown that are both high-cash flow *and* high-land value, and (b) more high-value residential into the cities.  To get more suburbs on board, one would also have to add a case that the business development would continue to filter cash out into the bedroom communities, hopefully at least equal, in the aggregate, to the $17 million per year that would come from taxpayer pockets.  I'm somewhat skeptical because the greatest "bang for the buck" in terms of economic development tends to come from the short lines--not even commuter light rail, but local streetcars that are primarily people circulators and that might have some commuter potential as last mile transportation as part of a future metro-area and then regional rail network.  However, $17 million per year is a fairly low bar to clear, so I'm open to the argument that 3C would be economically beneficial even without connections to last-mile transportation (other than taxis and buses).

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Don't forget in your calculations that a large portion of the improvements from the 3-C project will also benefit freight railroad.  That won't show up as an economic benefit under (a) or (b), but it should be considered.

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I was under the impression that many freight rail companies had actually expressed lukewarm (at best) sentiments about 3C due to concerns about the disruption of current freight train schedules due to the need to share tracks.

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^I had not heard that.  My understanding is that a significant amount of 3C money would go towards improving/upgrading the freight lines so that the schedules could be maintained or even improved.

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