147,000 Rail Riders in Entire Year in Ohio Seen as 'Demand for Transportation Choice'

October 28th, 2010 11:57 PM

Buckeye State residents are supposed to be impressed with media reports like this one from WXIX in Cincinnati telling us that passenger rail ridership increased 14% last year to almost 147,000.

That's just over 400 people a day. In the whole state. Spread over seven station stops in multiple cities. You've got to be kidding me.

Context, people.

But first, here a few paragraphs from the WXIX report:

Based on new passenger rail ridership figures from Amtrak, a review by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Rail Development Commission shows that the demand for transportation choice is on the rise, with 14 percent more Ohioans riding passenger trains over the past year.


Nearly 147,000 passengers got on or off trains in Ohio in fiscal year 2010, according to data released earlier this month by Amtrak – the nation's leading passenger rail operator. That's up from 128,174 passengers in 2009.


The increase of more than 18,500 in Ohio helped Amtrak set a new annual ridership record of 28.7 million passengers for the fiscal year ending September 30. Since 2000, Amtrak says national ridership is up nearly 37 percent. Currently, Amtrak provides limited long-distance service in Ohio, with seven station stops.

At this link, there's a map showing how much traffic there is on stretches of Interstate 71 between Columubus and Cleveland. It's related to a Cleveland Plain Dealer story about how the government isn't coming up with $86 million dollars needed to widen the only 25 miles of road not yet widened to three lanes each way.

The map indicates that the 25-mile stretch involved has 40,600 vehicles a day. This one stretch of road moves more people in four days that Ohio's passenger rail services do in a whole year -- even before considering the fact that many of the cars have more than one occupant. Annual traffic on this one stretch of road is over 14.8 million vehicles, more than 100 times all of the passenger rail traffic in the state.

The Obama administration has granted Ohio $400 million of stimulus money to build a "high-speed" rail route from Cincinnati to Dayton to Columbus to Cleveland. That's about five times the cost of widening the 25-mile stretch of I-71 just discussed. That widening would benefit the state far more. But you wouldn't know it from media reports like the one cited from WXIX.

Incumbent Ohio Governor Ted Strickland wants the money. GOP challenger John Kasich doesn't. It would be much smarter for whoever wins to just ask that $86 million be diverted to finishing I-71's Cleveland-Columbus widening and that the rest be given back, or to just say "never mind" to all of it.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.