Transit Briefs: MIPRC, LA Metro

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
LA Metro

LA Metro

Ohio plans to rejoin the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC). Also, LA Metro sees its highest ridership levels since COVID-19 and celebrates 12 months of continued ridership growth in 2023.


Ohio lawmakers from both parties and chambers are planning to introduce concurrent bills later this year to rejoin MIPRC, according to a WOUB report.

According to the report, the state relinquished its MIPRC member status in 2013 under former Republican Gov. John Kasich, and according to a news release from the Democratic caucus at the time, “didn’t settle member fee debt for some time after.” The decision, WOUB reports, came after Kasich turned down $400 million in federal grants for an Amtrak line running from Cleveland to Cincinnati.

Earlier this month, Railway Age reported that Kasich, along with Sameh Fahmy, a former executive at Kansas City Southern (KCS), CSX and CN, could be Board nominations, as part of activist Ancora Holdings Group’s intent to replace Norfolk Southern (NS) President and CEO Alan Shaw and take control of the Class I’s Board to enact management and operational changes.

“John Kasich, when he became governor, rejected those dollars and turned his back on passenger rail while other states around us took advantage of those dollars,” Rep. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood) said in an interview Friday, according to the WOUB report.

According to the report, Skindell and other stakeholders who are part of a revitalized passenger rail push, say that since Ohio’s withdrawal, “the state has been left out of a decade of regional planning and potential funding discussions regarding Amtrak and other passenger transit.”

“Ohio has claimed that without being part of the commission, they get the same information,” Skindell said. “However, they’re not part of the discussions when the Midwestern states are discussing, planning passenger rail development, going after federal rail dollars. Ohio is just not part of that. We are not at the table.”

In December, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced it would “bankroll the first phase of studies for four proposed Amtrak lines in Ohio, both new and extended,” according to the report.

“That stage will take anywhere from one to three years, so there is little action for the Ohio Legislature to take on the issue until the next budget cycle,” said John Esterly, a board member of rail advocacy organization All Aboard Ohio.

“In terms of getting the process started, the legislature has already done its job,” Esterly said in an interview Thursday, according to the WOUB report.

But as the state prepares for the potential of this long-haul project, he believes it would be “well-served to reclaim its seat among the interstate commission,” according to the report.

According to the WOUB report, “the Ohio House’s version of a bill to do that will be introduced in the next month or so, Skindell said, and several of his GOP colleagues have signed on to it. He has brought the idea forward before, but not in the form of a bill.”

The Senate’s proposal also has bipartisan backing, but according to Esterly, “it’s not as far along.”

The annual fee to be in the MIPRC is $25,000, Skindell said. Ohio’s eligible midwestern neighbors, Indiana and Michigan, are already members—as are Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin, according to the WOUB report.

LA Metro

LA Metro on Feb. 12 announced that the agency saw a total of 284,905,030 million boardings on its trains and buses in 2023, an 11.6% increase over 2022 ridership numbers, and the highest numbers since the pandemic, with some weekend days exceeding pre-pandemic numbers.

“Metro is making the system safer, more welcoming and accessible. The ridership numbers reflect that,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Karen Bass. “I want to recognize our Board of Directors and the Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins for leading the agency to this point and putting our riders first.”

According to LA Metro, factors influencing ridership include increased safety, improved cleanliness and service, and increased leisure ridership, as well as the introduction of several programs that support making the agency more affordable for its riders.

“We’ve been working hard over the last couple of years to put people first and make our system cleaner, safer, more reliable and easier to use than ever before,” said LA Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins. “Because of all our improvements, Angelenos are increasingly making Metro their mode of choice to get to their favorite destinations, especially on weekends. We look forward to building on the success of 2023 and making 2024 an even better year for Angelenos and our agency.”

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