High-Speed Rail off-track in Ohio
November 11, 2010 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Depending on who you ask, Ohio's C3 Railroad project is either a) a conventional railroad project that's going to restore slow rail service between Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati or; b) it's a visionary initiative of President Obama and Transportation secretary, Roy LaHood, that has the intention of rebooting Ohio's entire infrastructure.

Obama has gotten Congress to give Ohio $400M to get this project started, but the Tea Party-friendly Governor-Elect, John Kasich (R) feels that passenger-rail in Ohio is a waste of money and would rather use that money for his own projects.

Details about the 3C project are fleeting. Some Ohio news sites report that the project is going to consist of new High-Speed Rail cars, while others allow Kasich to stick to his slow-train allegations..

It's clear that Obama is looking to the future and to the State's viability for heavy industry and services, but Kasich feels as though he could spend that money better and he told them so. Here's what LaHood wrote him back

In the meantime, Kasich is willing to lose the funding, just to make a point.
posted by vhsiv (49 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Who is John Galt?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 3:11 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


~ begins sawing off his own nose ~
Where's my Governor's mansion?
posted by boo_radley at 3:14 PM on November 11, 2010




Highspeed trains are among the coolest things ever. Why isn't our country covered with them?

In addition, there'd be lines of people stretching for blocks, waiting to apply for the jobs that these would create.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:16 PM on November 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sometimes I hate my State, but sadly we're no worse than 49 other ones.
posted by Mick at 3:20 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, this sounds familiar.
posted by thanotopsis at 3:21 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wisconsin has already halted it's plans for high speed rail from Milwaukee to Madison.

On the bright side, Illinois is trying to get approval to take the money for it's own rail projects.
posted by kakarott999 at 3:31 PM on November 11, 2010


GODDAMMIT I VOTED AS HARD AS I COULD
posted by charred husk at 3:32 PM on November 11, 2010 [10 favorites]


As thanotopsis points out, the same thing is happening in Wisconsin, where the state could end up spending 100 million dollars to "save" 7 million a year. Now the governor-elect wants the money to go to roads, but, hopefully, it won't happen.
posted by drezdn at 3:32 PM on November 11, 2010



On the bright side, Illinois is trying to get approval to take the money for it's own rail projects.


I hope Illinois gets the money, because, ideally, one day they would extend a high speed line to Milwaukee.
posted by drezdn at 3:33 PM on November 11, 2010


A pal sent me this link late last night and I started Googling "3C, Kasich, rail" only to find that there were many sites and articles that had no idea what the 3G project was, much less what kinds of trains were going to be running on it.

A little more Googling, and I found articles like this one that seemed to err on the side of disinformation. I'm not an Ohio resident, but the pal who sent me the link later said that that the Plain Dealer was Fox News for greater Ohio.
posted by vhsiv at 3:37 PM on November 11, 2010


American says, "We don't need your damn 1st world infrastructure!"

Not every transit project works like the Monorail episode of the Simpsons...
posted by yeloson at 3:41 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know there's a dollar amount at which even the biggest teabagger governor is going to start bobbing-for-federal-dollars. Unless you are serious about either investment in crucial infrastructure or fiscal stimulus, this kind of rank teabaggery is possible. Like all dishonest politics there is a kernel of truth to the "white elephant" complaint, I mean, it's not as if a transportation project started with federal dollars can't go horribly wrong...
posted by ennui.bz at 3:45 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who is John Galt?

A question of importance on par with that other timeless quandry:

Dude, where's my car?
posted by banal evil at 3:52 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't characterize Kasich as "Tea-Party friendly". He's more of a traditional big-business Republican.

I'm not so sure the proposed rail would really be "High-Speed" -- it wouldn't be too much faster than car travel. But it might bring benefits for people without cars and spur development along the route. It's certainly a well-traveled corridor.
posted by demiurge at 3:59 PM on November 11, 2010


Nah we dont need trains, who wants to ride the train when I can just drive, plus they bring undesirables out of the cities who bring drugs and rap music and that lowers property values. Why can't I spend my money however I want, I'm sick of people who won't even work hard enough to buy a car, my granparents came over on a boat too, why can't they just take responsibility and stop having kids.We need to take the country back cuz the founders are spinning in their graves.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:59 PM on November 11, 2010 [10 favorites]


Damn I felt dirty typing that. But thats what anti-train arguments boil down to. Maybe throw in a few cracks about environazis and spotted owls
posted by Ad hominem at 4:02 PM on November 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


it wouldn't be too much faster than car travel.

See, the point of trains is to eliminate the need for a car.

I live in NYC now, after we left Ohio. We have the MTA here, and I can operate without having a car. Also, because of our "SLOW RAIL," I can go from here up to Boston and down to Washington DC pretty quickly. I've gone to both within the last month. I DRANK BEER ON THE WAY THERE TO BOTH PLACES, LEGALLY.

It is pretty awesome, and you guys should really think about putting in rail lines that would work well. If only for the Cleveland people going to Ohio State games. You all can start getting wasted on the way down. We're not taking away your cars. You'll always have them. We're giving you the opportunity to not use them at times. Who wants to sit in traffic going to Columbus?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:09 PM on November 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


the pal who sent me the link later said that that the Plain Dealer was Fox News for greater Ohio.

They may be semi-incompetent on occasion and prone to printing fluff, but I don't think that the PD has the money or the will to be too political any more. No more than any other big-city midwest newspaper, at least.
posted by anthropophagous at 4:13 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile in New Jersey, where there is undisputably demand for additional rail service, with existing lines running well beyond their design capacities...

(And, really, $400M is chump change for a long-distance infrastructure project. That said, I'm actually a bit surprised that Amtrak's hugely-ambitious (and hugely-expensive) plan to revamp the Northeast Corridor is actually being taken seriously. Might as well put the rails where the people are!)
posted by schmod at 4:14 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plus trains are the shit. you end up with stuff like this not just endless highways.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:22 PM on November 11, 2010


The trouble with trains is, they only work when they're part of a cohesive transit strategy, and special interest groups tend to interfere with such a strategy. I say this as a huge train fan, mind you.

For instance, Las Vegas, on two fronts:

First, the monorail -- if they'd built it to run from the airport, down the strip, then to downtown Vegas, it would see significantly more use. However, the cab companies fought running it to the airport, so that didn't happen, and the casinos pushed to put the stations at the backs of the casinos, so hopping on and off from the strip in some places requires walking through two long casinos that -- added up -- are likely longer than the distance along the strip you want to travel. And it doesn't go to downtown Vegas, for reasons I am not privy to.

Second, high-speed rail -- they're trying to built it from southern California, and if I could board the train from downtown LA and end up connected to the monorail, I'd be set. However, it's looking like the southern California end will be in a town that you can only get to by car, and the odds of the terminus meeting up with the monorail are slim to none.

That's just an example where a cohesive transit plan is obvious and attainable (were it not for the special interests.) In other places, there's also the possibility of a well-intentioned miss, where the plan relies on future growth and industry development driven by the rail itself, for instance.

So as much as I want -- nay, crave -- rail that works as well as the "El" trains back in Chicago, or the subway in New York or London, but on an interstate level, I'm not holding my breath.

also, any subway or train where bikes are not accommodated is, as far as I'm concerned, instant fail.
posted by davejay at 4:34 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


So let us learn nothing from Las Vegas and assume everywhere else will make the same mistakes.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 4:47 PM on November 11, 2010


We're not taking away your cars. You'll always have them. We're giving you the opportunity to not use them at times.

As a die-hard driver, I totally agree. I support rail for many reasons, but one of them is that the more people who don't drive, the more room on the road for me. :)

Plus yeah, sometimes I might want to sleep or drink or something else that my car can't do until it becomes a Google-enabled self-aware machine bent on destroying humanity.... er I mean self-driving car.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:57 PM on November 11, 2010


It helped that I had a dad who was an enormous train nerd, but one of the great parts of growing up in Michigan, and having relatives in Chicago was that my mom could just drop me off at the train station in Kalamazoo and I could get out to the suburbs of Chicago on my own from pretty much the age of fourteen onwards. Later, when I got to know people in and around Detroit and Ann Arbor, I could take the train the other way. When I ended up going to school in Rock Island, I was excited, because I thought I might be able to take the train to school, but the RIL was long dead and gone.

It's a damn shame people don't see the value in reliable, comfortable travel. It's one of the things I like best about Japan. My wife and I are discussing getting a car, but mostly because having one would make life a little easier, not because we need it in any way. Trains, and the savings from not needing a car are some of the bigger things keeping me here, and the lack of trains in most places back home are what keeps me away.

And train beer is tasty beer.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:00 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do that many people really travel between Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati? And not need a car when they reach their destination? The main things I remember about visiting Ohio are driving, driving ... driving.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:03 PM on November 11, 2010


This rail project has been on-and-off for twenty plus years. It was only after the federal government gave $400 mil towards it has it gotten anywhere. It's not free money; the state has to put up the rest to make it available.
So giving it back actually makes good sense, since otherwise we'd have to find around 2-3x the money to build the damn thing. And given how lousy public transit already here is, nobody expects this to be useful and be run properly.
One idea I've seen tossed about for the Columbus-only area is to build an "El" system next to or on top of the I270 outerbelt, but for that to work (provided you wave a magic wand and get it zoned and etc) it would have to run the trains at 90+mph and have them be scheduled at insanely narrow timeframes. Hell, they're cutting down on COTA.
Putting in a commuter rail between Columbus and Cleveland is just plain wasteful; the major traffic on I71 during business hours is trucks or people on vacation.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 5:41 PM on November 11, 2010


Do that many people really travel between Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati? And not need a car when they reach their destination?

Living in Cleveland, traveling to Cincinatti and Columbus for work and recreation is not an uncommon activity. They are the other medical/research/education hubs for the state, and Columbus is also the state capital. They all have major universities that are frequently attended by people living in other cities, as well as being places people travel for professional and college sporting events. Entertainment events, like concerts, often only come to one of these three cities if they make an Ohio stop.
Cleveland has a fairly substantial public transit system, and you can use to to get most places within the city and a lot of the inner ring suburbs (it gets more hairy as you get further out). There are plans for developing it further, and they just got a federal grant to make some improvements. You can take it to the airport (which as of now is an internatonal airport.. the columbus airport is not) as well as the amtrak. Cleveland is a stop on the amtrak lines to chicago as well as to the northeast.
Columbus and Cincinnati also have public transportation systems, but I haven't taken them so I can't really speak to that. The C3 rail system would probably provide an impetus to improve all of them.
posted by anthropophagous at 5:42 PM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


So let us learn nothing from Las Vegas and assume everywhere else will make the same mistakes.

It's not the mistakes that bother me the most; it's the groups that actively thwart transit.

Another example, I've mentioned before: the group that sued to keep MTA in Los Angeles from doing a light rail system on top of the right-of-way that existed from a past railroad, after the subway that was going to tunnel underneath it was squashed. After thwarting the light rail, they sued to stop the bus line, and after that court challenge managed to get the bus line delayed while they appeased the court challenge, the same group sued to get the entire project scrapped because the construction deadlines were being missed due to the court delays they'd caused!

Until everyone's on board with transit, it's a huge uphill battle. I want to see it succeed, I do. I just don't see it happening on a useful scale without major political/business/social change. Which, again, I'm not holding my breath for.
posted by davejay at 5:58 PM on November 11, 2010


anthropophagous: one of the problems with Columbus is that it's very spread out; in some places, it's outside of the I270 belt, and COTA just keeps cutting buses and routes. Unless you're in the downtown/OSU area, you're pretty much screwed and need a car.
Not many people expect this to get better, ever. Mostly because Columbus continually annex's outlying areas, mostly by withholding water and sewer service. At some point I expect West Jefferson and Patakala to be part of Columbus, probably within the next 15 years or so.
A daily commute to Columbus from Cleveland/Dayton is done by a small group of people, but it's not something that should be grown or encouraged.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:22 PM on November 11, 2010


I drove from Cincinnati to Canton several times a month for a year or two for work. It is a painful driving journey. I would have loved to have rapid transit that came close to eliminating that time hole.

As for the rail plans I never understood why they wanted to route the Columbus-Cincinnati part through Dayton. No desire to lengthen a voyage by visiting that place. The plans also didn't terminate the Cincinnati connection near downtown, or the perfectly good train terminal on the west side of town.
posted by Exad at 6:28 PM on November 11, 2010


A few points:

1. Comparing The Plain Dealer to Fox News is dead wrong. Comparing The Plain Dealer to Mad Magazine is more like it. No, strike that. I could probably get more useful information from Mad Magazine (circa 1972) than The Plain Dealer. At least Fox News has hotties for anchors.

2. The Ohio rail program was a joke from the start and support for it was tepid at best. Support dropped even further once it was discovered that the average speed of the rail line would be something around 37 mph. Support dropped even further when the freight rail owners said that it would seriously cramp their style - and Ohio moves a *lot* of freight by rail.

3. I love trains. Always have, always will. But to make them interesting to Midwesterners you'd need to give them the ability to load up their car on a rail car and take it with them so they could actually move around once they got to Columbus, Cincinnati, Lexington, Dayton or wherever else they were going.

I always thought that a rail system in the Midwest would work best with that concept of being able to move you and your car a significant distance for a reasonable price, but giving you the freedom of actually being able to move around once you got there.

Strickland's plan for Ohio, though, was a joke.
posted by tgrundke at 6:29 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


But to make them interesting to Midwesterners you'd need to give them the ability to load up their car on a rail car and take it with them so they could actually move around once they got to Columbus

These already exist, and yes, I don't get why we don't try using them in the US.
posted by drezdn at 6:36 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Either way, I want more trains.
posted by box at 6:45 PM on November 11, 2010


Comparing The Plain Dealer to Fox News is dead wrong. Comparing The Plain Dealer to Mad Magazine is more like it. No, strike that. I could probably get more useful information from Mad Magazine (circa 1972) than The Plain Dealer. At least Fox News has hotties for anchors.

CPD is (sadly) Ohio’s largest news-gathering organization.
posted by vkxmai at 7:09 PM on November 11, 2010


Highspeed trains are among the coolest things ever. Why isn't our country covered with them?

Because trains spread communist socialism. Look at Europe and China.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:02 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


So! They're building standard-gauge rail infrastructure, are they?

Accella Express.

This is a 150mph train that runs between Boston, Providence, NYC and DC. On standard-gauge track, the very same track the MBTA commuter rail and freight rail runs on. They need to use concrete ties, and more of them per yard, than regular rail service... but from anecdotal evidence from a daily PVD-BOS rail commuter, those super-trains are =packed=, and everyone who rides one loves it, and will do anything to take it over a commercial jet. 39mph is a number wedged from a butt-crack with a crowbar.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:03 PM on November 11, 2010


I ride a "slow" train from my place on the peninsula in the Bay Area about 25 miles north into downtown SF, and then take a bike the remaining 2 miles to my office parking garage. I cannot imagine why thousands of people in any major metro area wouldn't want to do the exact same thing. I've lost weight and gotten fit, I spend time outdoors going to and from work, and I go 4 or 5 days at a time without driving my car at all. Oh, and I don't pay $20 / day to park at my office.

Yup, commuter trains are a terrible idea. Sounds right.

(Also, the funny thing here is that this asshat in Ohio flat out shouldn't take the money. You can't rail against (see what I did there?) big government but then want to spend it's money on your own projects. You have to fucking opt out entirely.)
posted by pkingdesign at 9:56 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


These already exist, and yes, I don't get why we don't try using them in the US.

We have them here too.
posted by av123 at 10:09 PM on November 11, 2010


I think the car-train concept works best for vacation destinations, such as the existing Auto-Train. Multi-day stays make the expense of the haul worth while. Cincinnati-Cleveland? Not so much.

Really, the very construction of a hub will encourage the capitalistic or quasi-public-private partnerships that will actually build infrastructure around it. If you doubt this just look at the cab stand at any airport. In a lot of places you need a special medallion or seniority or something to even be there.

Today, we not only have light rail options, in addition to typically existing bus and taxi service, but things like ZipCars. An inter-city ZipCar membership scheme would be much more convenient than rental, and even work well in cities that have too much sprawl or just plain too little transit.

39mph is a number wedged from a butt-crack with a crowbar.

I'm not sure it's a poor guesstimate for a passenger system piggybacked on top of a busy freight corridor. But even dedicated commuter lines, such as the Chicagoland Metra's Union Pacific-North line, which is 52 miles between Kenosha and the West Loop, take about 100 minutes to travel the distance (stops included). That's 30mph. The speed limit between stations is the standard 79mph for the class, and I understand it is frequently achieved, but obviously only for brief moments before braking for the next stop. This is a heavily-traveled heavy-rail line. It's not directly comparable to intercity service, really, but the speed estimate thing is really misleading.
posted by dhartung at 10:36 PM on November 11, 2010


Want to have a viable passenger railroad system in the United States? Then stop funding the Interstate Highway System. Otherwise, all the talks about setting up passenger railroad will be just talks.
posted by Carius at 6:06 AM on November 12, 2010


Shorter John Kasich :

"We're calling it ....a freeway."
posted by The Whelk at 6:37 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm in the process of purchasing a car this month. I don't live in Ohio, but I live in a similar type of American state with cities spread around and pitiful public transportation options, save roads.

It has crossed my mind several times that I'm about to shell out a princely sum for a modern, yet modest, car for my private use but I'm taxed a small fraction of its value to support infrastructure. If I and my cohorts were to pay in even half toward public transportation what we pay for in private transportation (personal cars, American dream, blah blah) we would have a most enviable fine public transit system.
posted by dgran at 6:39 AM on November 12, 2010


If I and my cohorts were to pay in even half toward public transportation what we pay for in private transportation [...] we would have a most enviable fine public transit system.

But this here is America, dgran, Society of the Spectacle and all that. If you don't have the bling to front your status, you really don't have anything at all.

Those socialized programs are for people who have to live together. In America, successful people live off by themselves off in the suburbs.
posted by vhsiv at 8:11 AM on November 12, 2010


Cleveland has a fairly substantial public transit system

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

I say this as someone who lives within WALKING DISTANCE of a RTA ("rapid transit authority" -- was there ever a funnier, less correct description of a subway-like train?) station. It sucks. My boyfriend takes it to work every day, and they've continually cut service and raised prices -- seriously, it's about the stupidest, least efficient public transit system ever, and we actually live in the city itself! I miss living a block away from a train stop in Boston -- now that was a good system, and well worth paying for.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2010


But this here is America, dgran, Society of the Spectacle and all that. If you don't have the bling to front your status, you really don't have anything at all.

Those socialized programs are for people who have to live together. In America, successful people live off by themselves off in the suburbs.


Now here's what's interesting about this.. from a different perspective. Just yesterday I was faciliating a workshop for a bunch of exchange students from various EU countries as well as from India and China (so we have a nice spread of perspective). The topic? "Design of a transportation system for a growing city"

The above is what one of them brought up as an example of what was held to be "good design" when first conceived and implemented (suburbia and spread) but how it was now shown to be not such a great concept after all and only getting worse as we go into a resource constrained future. Their future since they've yet to graduate.

Since the focus was on the emerging economies and developing world, ideas ranged from co-opting the informal service providers into the system to considering ways to create an organic system that would be flexible, efficient, give a good experience yet be able to adapt itself to the needs of a growing city.

Status and the need for bling or rather the aspiration to own one's own transportation was also a factor but the trend was towards incentivizing against it rather than for it (which reminds me, Singapore has a great system, you pay higher premiums for 7 days a week use cars than you do for just used on the weekend cars).
posted by The Lady is a designer at 10:59 AM on November 12, 2010


PLEASE. Even if no one but people traveling to/from Ohio State used it, it would still be worth it. God I am not looking forward to the day between Thanksgiving and the Michigan game.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:39 AM on November 12, 2010


I think the administration failed to think strategically about the PR value of rail grants. They should have picked one prototype system and given it the entire $8 billion.

We just need one amazing, glitzy high speed rail line going between two big cities, preferably two cities that are fairly close together and get lots of out of town visitors. LA to Vegas is perfect, and so is the proposed system in Florida. Make it as fast as the European trains (over 200 mph) and as comfortable as possible, with rock-bottom ticket prices. Then the rest of the country will be much more amenable to building lines of their own.

Instead we spent the same amount of money spread out over the entire country, maybe bringing up the average speed of lines from 30 to 40 mph. That's not even going to make the nightly news in most towns.
posted by miyabo at 2:46 PM on November 12, 2010


Highspeed trains are among the coolest things ever. Why isn't our country covered with them?

Because they're un-American. Real red-blooded Americans drive (ideally in proud, palatial SUVs or pickups with gun racks), and where it's too far to drive, they let the private, free-market airlines compete for their passenger dollar. High-speed trains are the sort of thing you'd have in socialist Kenya or somewhere.
posted by acb at 4:30 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


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