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I’ve loved trains since I was a kid, as the photo below attests. That’s me and my cousin George at about age 8 and about to get a cab ride in a Canadian National passenger locomotive.

Many of us who call ourselves advocates can’t help but wax nostalgic about the “Golden Years” of passenger rail service. Look at this rough schedule from the 1930’s of the trains serving Columbus, Ohio every day. 57 passenger trains each day from a half-dozen different railroads... and that wasn’t even the peak of that era.

Today in Columbus and Central Ohio: zero trains since 1979 when Amtrak’s National Limited pulled out for the last time. It left from what locals referred to as “the AmShack”, since Columbus Union Station had been illegally demolished several years before.

I refuse to be nostalgic about this. I am angry that I live in the second-largest city without passenger rail as a travel option and even when we last had service it was one train a day. None of us should feel good about that. But anger is a good motivator in this case.

And so is having a vision of a better future for you, me, and every generation who follows us.

That’s why people who meet with me will hear me say that reviving and expanding passenger rail is about much more than riding a train to relive some distant memory. That’s the last thing on my mind.

What reasons that matter more are the following:

  • It will connect more Ohioans and open up more opportunities for jobs, education, health care, and more, and make our transportation system complete and more equitable.

  • In doing so, it will enlarge Ohio’s available workforce to more employers and companies looking to locate and expand in Ohio.

  • It will improve our environment and climate by providing a better travel option to the pollution created by motor vehicles, many of which are single occupancy cars.

  • It will encourage more and better local options for “first-mile”/” last mile” travel like light rail, bus rapid transit, bike and scooter rentals, Uber & Lyft, and walkable neighborhoods around station stops.

  • And.....those station stops will be more than just a place to arrive or depart by train. They will be magnets for mixed-use development of vacant lands and/or the adaptive reuse of existing older buildings in each city where the trains stop.

To that end, All Aboard Ohio has commissioned a detailed economic impact study of the proposed 3C&D (Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati) Corridor, which is one of a half-dozen Ohio corridors now awaiting news on their applications for Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) planning grants and the FRA’s Corridor ID program to expand passenger rail service. The study has been generously funded through a grant from The Columbus Foundation.

We’re hoping to see the results of the study by mid-October. Our plan is to use this information to show there are good, solid, economic reasons for Ohio to restore and expand the kind of passenger rail service that connects us to each other in Ohio and the Buckeye State to the rest of the Great Lakes Region and the nation... and a better future for us all.

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