Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Statewide transit group gives Ohio grade of 'lump of coal'

Passenger rail and public transportation advocacy group All Aboard Ohio has surveyed Ohio's transportation landscape, and it doesn't like what it has found.

Last week, the group gave Ohio a holiday grade of "lump of coal" in its 2009 Ohio Transport Report Card (PDF), citing noticeable decreases in bus, train, and air travel options over the past 30 years.

"For too many Ohioans, the basic need of reuniting family during the holidays is not being satisfied," said Bill Hutchison, president of All Aboard Ohio. "If we are still fortunate enough to have bus or train services to our town, it is often sold out or travels on inconvenient schedules. And if we are still fortunate to have a commercial passenger airport nearby, our travel choices from that airport are becoming meager. That doesn't give Ohio travelers and visitors much to be thankful for in this holiday season."

Among the group's findings:

  • Bus companies like Greyhound and Trailways eliminated more than two-thirds of their Ohio departures and dozens of routes between 1979 and 2004. Service has stabilized since, with losses in cities such as Sandusky and Dayton but gains through services such as Megabus.
  • The state has lost 1,000 route miles of Amtrak train service between 1979 and 2005, with service levels declining from 84 trains per week to 34. Amtrak currently offers only middle-of-the-night services on just three routes.
  • Since 2001, Ohio airports have lost seat-mile capacity of between 10 percent and 100 percent, mostly due to cuts in short-distance flights. Losses have accelerated over the past two years due to high fuel prices and the recession, with airports in and within 100 miles of the state losing between 7 percent and 39 percent of their domestic departures.

Population underserved

Hutchison said that a significant segment of Ohio's population is being underserved, with the elderly, disabled, and the low-income hardest hit.

In some of the state's urban areas, between 20 percent and 25 percent of residents do not own a car.

"Given the sorry state of intercity public transportation in Ohio, it's probably better that you travel to grandma's house this holiday season because it's more difficult for her to visit you," Hutchison said. "While one can attribute this decline in transportation options to many factors, I believe it's mostly due to complacency. Too many just blandly plod along and accept their fate without a fight. Well, we don't accept it and this report is an early salvo in our fight."

To address the crisis, Hutchison said that All Aboard Ohio will continue to work with ODOT, planning organizations, municipalities, and transportation carriers.

"Ohio is facing a serious mobility crisis," he said. "Ohio's public officials and transportation company executives need to recognize a problem exists and start working together to address the lack of travel options."

Previous reading on BC:
Report: 3C 'Quick Start' could save Ohioans $36M per year, pay off in five years (9/29/09)
All Aboard Ohio: Cincinnati anti-rail amendment 'sad and disappointing' (8/11/09)
All Aboard Ohio: 3C Corridor 'has only upsides' (3/30/09)
Cincinnati supports 3C passenger rail (3/10/09)
All Aboard Ohio: Stimulus bill may ignore Ohio's train and transit needs (1/21/09)