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I have been proud to serve on the Board of Directors of All Aboard Ohio since 2012. Prior to that, I just completed two terms as the first female township trustee in Hardin County. As a township trustee I participated in every training, workshop, and economic development and zoning meeting possible. I learned from Stu Nicholson, then with the ORDC and the 3C Corridor initiative that I was probably one of the only trustees in the state to attend the many local and regional passenger rail support meetings in my region of Ohio they were supporting.

Fast forward to January 2023. I have served as Vice Chair and am now ending my term as Chairperson. I was asked by the board to stay on briefly into 2023 to assist the new officers as they became oriented to their new positions. I have tried to put the strength and needs of the board first and foremost in all I did as well as ensuring the AAO advocacy effort is ongoing and meeting all of the new challenges of our ever-changing state and social media campaigns.

The last years have had many challenges. Like so many groups, we’ve been impacted by the pandemic's effects on our annual meetings. No meeting in 2020. A zoom annual meeting in 2021 and all of the new challenges and technical issues involved with that effort. Then, in 2022, an in person annual meeting while still respecting pandemic concerns and attendees’ health, safety, and wellbeing.

With a very high amount of board turn over due to retirements, health issues, moves, or personal or professional conflicts I made it a priority to assure we recruited new board members who understood the time commitment, dues obligations, and attendance requirements. We needed board members who are fully engaged.

Other accomplishments:

  1. We’ve gone from monthly teleconferences to zoom meetings.

  2. Officers and contracted employees are encouraged to have their written reports on the agenda. (A big help to new secretaries.)

  3. I developed an acronym sheet for new board members and an in-kind form for board members or anyone who donates time, goods, or services to AAO.

  4. We do direct deposit for our Executive Director and Public Affairs Director.

  5. We use a monthly meeting attendance sheet.

  6. We on occasion, utilize email vote for urgent business between meetings and that vote is added to the last meeting minutes.

  7. Continued a paper newsletter twice a year and the Public Affairs Director publishes a monthly e-newsletter supported by the Executive Committee, board, and members.

  8. Strive to do thank yous to large donors.

  9. Assured our two contracted employees have updated contracts annually that are appropriately signed. (Contracts include a statement on professional social media use, bullying and sexual harassment to meet current state and federal laws.)

  10. Reviewed bylaws annually prior to review and approval by members at the annual meeting. (This is an ongoing need to assure the bylaws meet the organizations ever changing needs and challenges)

  11. Assured all bills and invoices receive required board review and approval monthly, per standard business practices.

  12. Supported the purchase of WIX tool to update our website affordably(ourselves) and the addition of a social justice piece to add to our mission statement which was written by two board members.

  13. Supported existing local groups and the establishment of new local groups around the state.

  14. Supported WIX upgrade to business class and the purchase of an AAO dedicated computer, external hard drive backup, and QuickBooks strictly for AAO records and business.

There is still much to do, and I hope to stay on the board to support our Executive Committee, our Executive Director and Public Affairs director, our full board, and the organization as the recognized statewide advocacy group for passenger rail and mass transit in Ohio. Our board has many talented individuals with extensive personal and professional experience to contribute to AAO advocacy and its mission. Several our new officers and board members especially bring extensive professional, IT skills, business backgrounds and passenger rail travel experience to the team as well.

Thank you for working with me to advance our common belief and mission for passenger rail and mass transit in Ohio for everyone, regardless of zip code. I have been honored to help lead this advocacy effort and work with each of you! Together, all things are possible.

All Aboard!

Theresa Allen, AAO Chairperson

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We’ve all read plenty of stories where criticisms of Amtrak’s shortcomings or the politics surrounding passenger rail service are part of the narrative. We are seeing such stories now as Ohio decides whether to advance an historic expansion of passenger rail under the Amtrak Connects US plan for the nation and Ohio.

But this most recent story by Cleveland Magazine editor Annie Nickoloff is different. For certain, her decision to spend 24 hours on Amtrak’s “Lake Shore Limited” from Boston to Chicago could have easily been the clichéd story about a “beleaguered Amtrak, unable to provide reliable, on-time service...dirty on-board bathrooms....less than premium dining in an actual dining car,” etc. And some of those elements are present in this story.

What Annie Nickoloff does differently is to put her first-person story in the perspective of how good train travel could be if we commit to investing significantly in better, more reliable equipment and service. For its part, the Biden Administration has done this in huge fashion through the Bipartisan Jobs and Infrastructure Act. Within it is an historic $66.3-billion-dollar investment in growing and improving the nation’s passenger rail system. In its over-50-year history, Amtrak has never had a budget this large.

Nickoloff’s story recognizes this and also nails the other half of this major infrastructure investment: whether and how Ohio steps up to support it. She accurately reports how the mayors of every city along the Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati Corridor and a half-dozen of Ohio’s important Metro Planning Organizations all filed official “Expressions of Interest” last Fall with the Federal Railroad Administration. Those “expressions” actually nominated almost a dozen potential passenger rail corridors in Ohio, including several not yet on Amtrak’s “visionary” map for Ohio. Bottom line: it makes each of these corridors eligible for future FRA planning and service development grants.

By weaving this into the Cleveland Magazine story, it becomes a story recognizing more than Amtrak’s shortcomings, but how the following can make passenger service in and through Ohio can be better:

  • Multiple train frequencies and daylight service options every day for every station stop in Ohio.

  • Progressively faster train speeds up to 110-MPH, which means running times more than competitive with driving.

  • Better passenger rail equipment and on-board services like wi-fi, improved beverage and food service.

  • Plus, the impacts on station-oriented economic development, jobs and workforce development.

There’s more for sure. But my point is that Annie’s first-person account of her trip caught more highlights than lowlights and it served to help make our case that the State of Ohio and Governor DeWine need to and MUST join with the Mayors and MPO’s in pursuing both planning and service development grants to finally make Ohio a connected state: both within itself and to the Midwest and the nation.

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The Federal Railroad Administrationhas started scheduling its first round of workshops around the country to begin hashing out how best to restore previous long-distance services and possibly how to launch new ones...and I’ve already RSVP’d ‘yes’ to the first three.

Under Section 22214 of the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (now known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) FRA is required to...

Click here for the full story on the RPA website!

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