Gas prices show why Ohio needs Amtrak, more buses and electric vehicles
- Leaders should be serious about an Amtrak plan that connects Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton.
- Columbus is the second largest city in the nation without an extensive train or bus system connecting it to other cities
- The city’s metropolitan area is the second largest in the country without some form of intercity passenger rail service.
- Linkus offers reason for optimism.
Long before President Joe Biden announced a nationwide ban on Russian oil and warned of soaring prices, there were plenty of reasons to hasten the end of Ohio’s toxic romance with fossil fuels for something much more sustainable.
But prices approaching — and in some places exceeding — $4 gallons at the pump amplify the urgency for Columbus and the rest of Buckeye State to become more EV-friendly and invest in public transportation systems. accessible, affordable, functional and equitable.
Driving a car should not be the right option to get from point A to point B.
This state, region, and city desperately needs more efficient public ground transportation, including passenger trains, rail transit systems, and buses.
For what it’s worth, the price of gas is up for debate at the Statehouse.
Senate Bill 277sponsored by Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, would reduce Ohio’s fuel tax to 28 cents per gallon, from 47 cents per gallon for diesel fuel and 38.5 cents for gasoline.
It would also eliminate special registration fees of $100 and $200 for those who own the state’s 123,000 hybrid and 31,000 electric vehicles for the next five years. Huffman argues that the state should get $11.3 billion from the federal government and Ohioans should keep more of their money.
There seems to be a good chance his gas bill will go anywhere fast.
Gov. Mike DeWine fought for increased gas taxes in 2019. The Ohio Department of Transportation said the money was needed to fix highways, bridges and other projects. The state would lose $4 billion in revenue over the next five years if he disappeared.
Both arguments have merit, but at the end of the day, the fuel tax is a band-aid that hides the fact that Ohio needs better ways to get around.
We want solutions
There are economic, environmental, lifestyle, and health reasons why the state needs to take this seriously as cities like Columbus grow and others shrink.
“Any community that wants to maintain equitable access to public transit, improve community health, attract new residents and/or reduce emissions will need to make careful plans to respond appropriately to these changing conditions,” said one. The Ohio Department of Health’s 2019 report reads as follows.
Ohioans need light rail, improved buses, and train service that connects our major cities.
We need our legislators to get it too.
It’s high time they joined Amtrak’s plan to build passengers rail lines between Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. The $100 million needed to build the line would come of the infrastructure package that Biden signed last year.
Amtrak would cover the cost of construction, track upgrades, and operating costs for at least five years. Ohio would then share estimated annual operating costs of between $17 million and $20 million with Amtrak.
It’s not a drastic change, but it seems like a price we should be willing to pay for the benefits of mobility, economy and the environment.
Seventy-seven percent of Ohio’s 800 residents who took part in a July poll by the Nature Conservancy in Ohio said they favor “investments to modernize and improve public transportation systems across the country.”
That included 67% of Republicans and 73% of those living in Ohio’s coal-producing counties.
Even more interestingly, when told that clean energy, broadband access, public transportation and modernizing the electrical grid were part of a comprehensive bipartisan infrastructure package then in Congress, 64% of voters surveyed were in favour.
This included 53% voters in Ohio’s coal and natural gas counties.
What’s stopping us in Columbus?
With the announcement of Intel’s $20 billion plan to build two new semiconductor factories just east of Columbus, Ohio’s most financially secure area has even more pressing reasons to find solutions to transport problems here.
Simply put, how are all these new Intel employees going to work safely and efficiently?
Having them all drive individual cars will only exacerbate the problem.
The transport problem is complicated and there is a lot of ground to be made up.
Located in the heart of Ohio, Columbus is the nation’s second-largest city without an extensive train or bus system connecting it to other cities, according to a 2017 report. Study by the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University.
The city’s metropolitan area is the second largest in the country without some form of intercity passenger rail service.
Light rail, a subway system and other transport issues have been at the forefront of the minds of those offering suggestions for Downtown Columbus Development Corporation for his one new downtown strategic planaccording to information from the Dispatch.
“We really need quality public transport with the city center as a major hub. Preferably some sort of tram or surface train. This would increase the number of people spending time in the city center and make it more accessible to all. one person commented.
A step forward in Columbus
There’s good reason to be optimistic here thanks to LinkUS, a multi-faceted initiative spearheaded by the City of Columbus, Central Ohio Transit Authority, Franklin County, and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.
It works with neighborhoods and businesses to develop high-capacity and rapid transit corridors, as well as improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.
“There’s no silver bullet. It’s about looking at a public transit system as a whole,” said Randy Borntrager, deputy city manager of the Department of Public Service.
Three rapid transit corridors are in the early stages of engineering and several more are under consideration. Federal funding will be sought.
The initiative builds on MORPC’s Insight 2050 Corridor Concepts study and includes a bus rapid transit line to connect downtown Columbus to the Northwest Side.
Goals include economic development, workplace advancement, affordability, sustainability, innovation and equality.
“What we’re really dealing with is a burgeoning population in the area. Ultimately, we don’t think transportation should ever be a barrier to opportunity,” Borntrager said. “To be a world-class city, we need to have a world-class public transit system.”
Change won’t happen overnight, but Ohio can’t afford to live on it. fossil made from the remains of animals and plants that died millions of years ago.
Columbus and the rest of the state must move forward with new ways to connect with each other and the nation.
Editorials are The Dispatch’s editorial board’s factual assessment of issues important to the communities we serve. These are not the opinions of our reporting staff, who strive to be neutral in their reporting.