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When Major Cities Get Disconnected

Continuing with the "observations from my home for the holidays travel" theme, I was recently thinking about another aspect of transportation that living on the east coast can lead you to take for granted: moving about nearby major cities.

(from kitby on Flickr)

From DC, I have options when it comes to travel between Baltimore, Philly, New York, Boston and the places in between. I can fly, I can drive, or I can ride a train or take a bus. Generally, all of these modes offer decent service and good enough frequencies. The mode I choose will depend on the situation, but the point is that I have options available.

To get around between a lot of the Great Lakes cities... Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Akron, Toledo, Erie, there is essentially a single option: drive.

Aside from Greyhound (which is hardly the way anyone wants to travel), there is no rail line connecting Pittsburgh to Detroit, or Cleveland to Columbus, nor will there be thanks to Ohio's new governor. Pittsburgh does connect to Cleveland via Amtrak's Capitol Limited, once per day, and in the middle of the night.

The implication is more than just my inability to take day-trips during my visits home. The real problem is that, for all the talk of megaregions and cooperative metro areas, how can it be truly successful if cities that are so close to each other are so disconnected?

Imagine if there were no long distance transportation options between Washington and Philadelphia, or New York and Boston. These cities are roughly the same distance from each other as Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but the transportation options are at opposite ends of the spectrum.


Stu Nicholson said…
You raise an interesting concept with "Disconnected cities>" It is an issue that tried to emerge here in Ohio as an argument in favor of re-establishing passenger rail service between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati (the 3C Corridor). But it got buried in the barrage of sometimes deliberate false statements coming from rail critics and the so-called "think tanks" that always seem to slam passenger rail as a "waste of taxpayer dollars" while ignoring the fact that far greater dollars are spent on construction and maintaining of highways.

I'm not anit-highway, but I am "pro-choice" when it comes to transportation and you are right on the money (no pun intended) when you point out the lack of options for intercity travel in the Great Lakes region. My agency (Ironically, the Ohio Rail Development Commission) almost had to cancel a meeting of our Commissioners because several could not make the drive due to the severe winter storm we just had. If there had been the option of passenger rail, that might not have been a concern.

I myself travel on state business frequently and have no choice but toe drive and burn up not only fuel, but precious time that I could otherwise use for actual work. I would love to be able to step on a train and start my work day at that moment, instead of killing sometimes as much as 5 or 6 hours out of a work day behind the wheel of a car and getting nothing productive accomplished.

Yours is a very valid point. keep pushing it. It is all about having choices.

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