Ohio should pay attention to the expansion of high-speed rail in South Florida’s coastal areas for lessons that could be adopted here in the future.
The Florida East Coast Railway has started running 40-minute trains nonstop between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, a 46-mile distance.
Eventually, rail service will expand to link Miami and Orlando.
Expanding passenger rail? How can this be? It’s happening because real estate developers made room in their plans for rail transportation, Florida has an expanding population, and there is a lot of tourism.
Ohio has stagnant population, moderate tourism demands, and real estate that was cut up and parceled off a century ago or more.
Furthermore, Ohio is a car state, with abundant dedicated infrastructure — highways and bridges.
That doesn’t mean Ohio couldn’t incorporate rail in its transportation portfolio. Toledo already has considerable passenger rail activity at its Amtrak stop.
And very close to Toledo, Amtrak operates three round trips per day between Chicago and Pontiac, Mich., via Detroit, with daily round trips to Grand Rapids and Port Huron.
Why couldn’t there be daily round trips between Toledo and Detroit? At least two daily trips - morning and night - would be necessary to encourage use. Detroit’s train station is conveniently located near the new street car line on Woodward Avenue. A link between Toledo and Detroit would also provide a more dependable option for getting to Chicago by rail (since the Amtrak trip between Toledo and Chicago is often delayed by freight trains).
There is also no reason that the daily round trip couldn’t include a stop at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
In 2011, Gov. John Kasich dealt Ohio a setback in the creation of a rail hub plan for Ohio by returning $400 million in federal funds that would have been spent to link Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott also rejected a federal grant for intercity trains in his state. Both governors said their states could not afford to keep subsidizing the trains’ operating costs once they started.
The Florida East Coast Railroad came about despite that decision, and Ohio can find ways to encourage intercity passenger train traffic as well.
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