Amtrak chairman reports Toledo has busiest Amtrak station in OhioWritten by Duane Ramsey | | email@example.com
Toledo continues to have the busiest Amtrak passenger station in the state of Ohio, according to Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper who was the keynote speaker at the Passenger Rail Forum held Oct. 22 in Toledo.
A total of 69,275 passengers traveled to and from Toledo on Amtrak trains in its fiscal year 2012, compared to 50,825 in Cleveland, 16,209 in Cincinnati, 9,155 in Sandusky and 7,664 in Bryan. Chicago remains the largest origin and destination for Amtrak passengers with 10,491 coming to Toledo and 10,132 departing from Toledo.
Washington, D.C. is the second largest origin or destination with 15,045 passengers, and New York, third with 7,486 passengers. Other popular origins and destinations out of Toledo include Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, Boston and Pittsburgh.
“Americans will ride trains if the service is there,” Carper told the audience of about 150 people at Toledo Club.
Amtrak set a new ridership record with more than 31.2 million passengers in its fiscal year 2012 ending Sept. 30, marking the highest annual ridership total since it began operations in 1971 and ninth ridership record during the last ten years.
“Where we can offer competitive service, Amtrak thrives and helps create both macro and micro opportunities for investment. It’s a catalyst for economic development in those communities that have service,” he said.
More than 1.6 million people annually ride trains on the Lake Shore Limited line that runs from Chicago through Toledo and Cleveland with a final destination in New York City, according to the Ohio Passenger Rail News based in Cleveland.
A total of 163,900 passengers rode Amtrak trains in Ohio in fiscal year 2012. Amtrak has 1,500 employees in Ohio with 53 in Toledo that involves $4.1 million in payroll and $10.2 million in procurement, according to Carper.
“We’re also a business and we’ve had great success on the business side doing more on less federal funds,” Carper said.
Amtrak is sorely in need of new equipment, according to Carper. It currently has an order for 20 electric locomotives at a cost of $466 million with some of the parts for them made in Norwood, Ohio. It has another order for 130 long-distance single-level passenger cars with an option for 70 more.
Most of the significant expansion programs for Amtrak are occurring in the Northeast corridor of the U.S. Carper said that Amtrak takes more of a reactive than proactive approach to expansion of passenger rail service.
“It’s hard for Amtrak to go out and expand service because who don’t have the money to do it. Our role is to be there as a partner in any expansion of passenger rail service on state and regional levels,” Carper said.
Congresswoman Macy Kaptur, who introduced Carper at the forum, recognized that he knows the importance of rail as a small businessman and former mayor of Macomb, Ill. She pointed out that rail does not have the dedicated source of federal subsidies that exist for roads and air travel.
“This is a rail community and we know transportation is important to our region,” said Kaptur who reported that she has been riding the rail between Toledo and Cleveland traveling in her congressional district.
According to Amtrak, 40 percent of the rural population in the U.S. has access to Amtrak passenger service in 500 cities and towns in 46 states and three Canadian provinces.
One of those towns is Bryan, located in Williams County in the northwest corner of Ohio bordering both Indiana and Michigan. Two city officials from Bryan attended the Passenger Rail Forum in Toledo.
“It’s very important since it’s the only transportation option after cars without going to airports in Toledo or Fort Wayne for 34-37,000 people in Williams County,” said Richard Wright, president of the Bryan City Council., who has used Amtrak for business travel.
“There’s no need for people to go so far when they can catch trains in Bryan to Chicago, Toledo and beyond in both directions,” said Bryan Mayor Doug Johnson.
“Amtrak service can enrich our communities by attracting investment to help our economy and providing those communities and people with travel choices. Amtrak is for a comprehensive transportation system that includes all modes,” Carper said.
Carper was appointed as a director of Amtrak by former President George W. Busch in 2007. He was elected chairman of the board of directors in 2009.
“Improved business travel and infrastructure for passenger rail service sets up Northwest Ohio for economic development,” said Donald Yerks, chairman of the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association, who spoke at the forum.
Yerks said that they were very pleased to have Carper speak at the forum and his visit is a measure of the importance of Toledo to the Amtrak system and to a vibrant passenger rail system in Ohio.
The Passenger Rail Forum was presented by the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association and the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.