New numbers show more Ohioans riding Passenger Rail

By Mark Shuller - Email

COLUMBUS, OH (FOX 19) - 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.

The biggest Ohio ridership gains were in Toledo, where 65,667 people got on or off at the historic Toledo Union Station - up 21 percent from the prior year - and in Elyria, where ridership jumped nearly 30 percent. In Cleveland, ridership increased 12 percent, with 44,075 000 boardings and alightings at the Amtrak station downtown.

These increases come despite the late-night and early-morning schedules currently offered. Ridership in Cincinnati slipped 3 percent, due in part to the limited thrice-weekly service on the Cardinal line.

To boost ridership even more, Amtrak is considering service upgrades to the Capitol Limited service (Chicago-Washington DC), which has stops in Bryan, Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria, Cleveland and Alliance. The improvements would include a new connection to Harrisburg, Philadelphia and New York City for through-service without changing trains at Pittsburgh. Amtrak is also considering an upgrade to daily service on the Cardinal in Cincinnati.

The Lake Shore Limited service (Chicago-New York City/Boston) stops in Bryan, Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria and Cleveland and has been upgraded with refurbished dining cars within the past year.