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Q1. How many miles of additional railroad track will be needed to accommodate expanded passenger rail service in Ohio?

Not many.  Ohio is fortunate to have nearly 6,000 miles of railroad track. Other than replacing small sections of abandon track, upgrading small portions of other tracks and crossings to increase safety for passenger rail, very little additional track or right-of-way needs to be added or acquired to accommodate the expansion of passenger rail in the state.

Q2. What kind of train set will be used by OHERN, and what do they look like?

OHERN will rely on self-propelled, diesel-electric trains (DMU) built right here in Ohio. DMUs are perfect commuter trains.  Each car is self-propelled, providing excellent overall reliability for the train set.  DMUs accelerate and decelerate quickly.  A two car train set can accelerate from a standing stop to 50 mph in 75 seconds and reach 79 mph in 240 seconds. (SMART Specifications for DMUs, 2010: 2-9)

They are fuel efficient and therefore low polluters.  The train set shown below is used in Ottawa, Ontario and is similar to the train sets envisioned for use by OHERN. DMUs have been in use throughout the world for decades and are increasingly being adopted for commuter service in the United States as more states and metropolitan areas, like Austin, TX, add intercity commuter rail service. DMU train sets are attractive, quiet, safe and, compared to the larger Class-1 passenger trains used by Amtrak, relatively inexpensive to purchase, operate and maintain.

Here are three short videos.  The first two show new DMU trains leaving the station.  Notice the size of the trains - they are not Class 1 trains like those used by Amtrak, nor are they light rail.  Notice, too, their quiet, clean operation and quick acceleration.  The third YouTube video is a TV news story reviewing the interior of a double-decker DMU being put into service.  The story highlights seating, bathrooms, lounge areas and handicap restrooms.  All three videos are worth watching.  They will give you a good sense of the train sets that would be put into service in Ohio.

Exterior, <1min.:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ckKSeofTZA&feature=endscreen

Exterior, <1min.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaDLYEB_h6U

Interior, <3min.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M-ByBAmw3o

Q3. Will OHERN trains stop at only the bigger cities like Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo and Dayton?

If the majority of colleges and universities in Ohio participate in the OHERN effort then trains will be carrying passengers to nearly every corner of the state, including smaller cities like Athens, Bowling Green, Canton, Kent, Massillon, Oxford, Portsmouth, Steubenville, Warren, Wooster, Youngstown and many of the towns and cities in between.

Because station stops are planned for most small towns and cities along the main rail corridors, OHERN trains will bring much needed transportation services to Ohio’s elderly and disabled living in rural and farm communities.

Q4. How much will students pay for an annual OHERN pass?

It’s impossible to say for certain what the final user fee will be - there are still a number of unknowns.  Nonetheless, if the majority of colleges and universities participate, and the assumptions used in the OHERN Cost and Revenue Model are met, then it is reasonable to assume the user fee will cost no more than what buying an additional text book a semester would cost.  In other words, $100 a semester during the academic year and $50 during the summer term.

Q5. How often will my student pass permit me to ride the train, and will I be limited in how far I can travel?

As currently envisioned, OHERN pass holders will be able to board and alight OHERN trains as often as they like, wherever OHERN trains travel in the stateOf course, all passengers will be required to book their seat online ahead of time.  Passengers who are not in the OHERN system will be able to book and pay for their seat by phone, online or at the station.  Seat assignments will be handled much the same way seating is booked by the airlines. Some allowances will be made for standing, permitting flexibility on short hops.

Q6. Don’t diesel engines put off a lot of pollution?  And what kind of fuel will OHERN trains run on?

Older diesel engines use to emit a lot of pollutants.  Newer generation engines made by Detroit Diesel, for example, are much cleaner, especially now that the federal government has clamped down on exhaust emissions and biofuels are increasingly used to power those engines. 

OHERN train sets will use Detroit Diesel engines running exclusively on biofuel B100 for clean, earth-friendly power generation.  Biofuels designated B100 meet the requirements of American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D-6751 and are made from domestic, renewable resources, like soy beans, corn, algae and vegetable and cooking oil.  Biofuel B100 contains no petroleum, is biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics. 

Biodiesel refers to the pure biofuel before blending with diesel fuel. Biodiesel blends are denoted as, "BXX" with "XX" representing the percentage of biodiesel contained in the blend (ie: B20 is 20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel).  B100 is pure biofuel, no petroleum is added.  B100 is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act.  It is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as sugar.

The use of B100 in diesel engines results in a substantial reduction in unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulates compared to emissions from diesel fuel.  Emissions of sulfur oxides and sulfates (component of acid rain) are essentially eliminated compared to diesel fuel.

Biofuel B100 is the best greenhouse gas mitigation strategy.  US Dept of Energy and US Dept. of Agriculture concluded biofuel B100 reduces net carbon dioxide emissions by 78 percent compared to diesel fuel.  And biofuel B100 does not take more energy to make than it gives back. For every unit of fossil energy it takes making biofuel B100, 5.5 units of energy are gained, taking into account the planting, harvesting, fuel production and fuel transportation to the end user.

Q7.  Have any transportation planning agencies or passenger rail organizations reviewed this plan and signaled their support?

The Passenger Rail Committee of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Government (TMACOG), Northwest Ohio’s federally designated metropolitan planning organization (MPO), reviewed and unanimously approved the establishment of the OHERN Institute in 2008.  In November, 2009, OHERN officially merged with All Aboard Ohio, Ohio’s oldest and largest rail advocacy group.  The Ohio Faculty Council, recognized by the chancellor and the Ohio Board of Regents as the official representing committee of the faculty at all four-year public colleges and universities in the state of Ohio voted its support in May, 2009 in the form of this OFC Resolution - OHERN 5-8-09.pdf.  On April 10, 2010, the Graduate Student Senate at Bowling Green State University unanimously passed this resolution supporting OHERN.

Q8.  With all of the talk about high speed rail, light rail and “this-and-that” rail, how would you categorize the service OHERN will provide?  Is it High speed rail, light rail, commuter rail, or what?

Light Rail is designed for short, intracity commutes.  This type of rail links areas of a downtown and offers service every few minutes, stopping frequently, often every few blocks.  Light rail usually travels no faster than 35 mph.

Light Rail Example:  Downtown Phoenix, Arizona’s light rail system

High Speed Rail means the train travels above 100 mph.  Since OHERN trains will share the tracks with freight traffic and lease the use of those lines from their owners (e.g., CSX and Norfolk Southern), the owners establish a safe maximum speed at which passenger trains may operate.  That speed has been set at 79 mph.  In other words, OHERN is not high speed rail.    Although the train sets OHERN will use can travel well above 100 mph, the 79 mph speed limit is ideal for its intended service of metro areas and the small towns and cities in between.

High Speed Rail Example:  Amtrak Acela Express high speed train

Very High Speed Rail usually refers to speeds above 160 mph.  High speed and very high speed trains are best suited for travel between large cities separated by long distances.  These trains often require dedicated tracks reserved for their use.

Very High Speed Rail:  French Alstom TVG sets world record 357 mph

Commuter Rail uses existing railroad tracks, often shared with freight traffic, connecting outlying regions, 30-60 miles away, to a centralized city, and generally operate during morning, afternoon and evening peak transit times.  These trains usually travel no faster than 79 mph.

Regional Rail, while very similar to commuter rail in that it often shares the track with freight trains and usually travels no faster than 79 mph, it services more communities with frequent stops at small towns and cities. 

Commuter Rail Animation:  Alstom regional train concept

Intercity Rail, is a British-named train service for long-haul express services.  Intercity covers longer distances than commuter and regional trains, but generally is not considered a high speed train.

Intercity Rail (also commuter & regional):  Australian Regional-Intercity Rail

In the end, OHERN’s planned service is most accurately characterized as a cross between Regional Rail and Intercity Rail.  In operation, OHERN will travel long distances (100+ miles) between major cities, like Toledo and Columbus, with daily non-stop express service between those cities, similar to Intercity rail.  At the same time and in the same corridor, other OHERN trains will operate as regional rail carriers by servicing the smaller towns between the major metropolitan cities. 


             OHERN Institute  •  Bowling Green, Ohio 43402  •  A Research Division of All Aboard Ohio