The Amtrak station in Cleveland has earned the dubious distinction of joining a list of what CityLab.com described as the worst stations in the country.
CityLab, which covers urban issue for the Atlantic magazine, grouped the station with its “fail station” category.
The ranking attracted some local media attention. Crain’s Cleveland Business cited it on its blog and WKSU wrote a story about it that was posted to the NPR station’s website.
The latter story, though, did have one glaring inaccuracy. It said that Amtrak moved its Cleveland operations to the current Lakefront station after Greater Cleveland RTA moved its operations into Tower City. Actually, what RTA did or didn’t do had nothing to do with it.
Amtrak began using its current location in October 1975 when it launched the Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and New York/Boston.
If CityLab thinks the current station, which opened in 1977, is bad, it should have seen the modular station – read, trailer – that Amtrak initially used in Cleveland.
Actually, the City Lab writer did see it. That trailer was later moved to Elyria, which also made the CityLab list of failing stations.
Noting that fire destroyed the Elyria trailer station in 2013, CityLab described the site as “not-even-a-station-station.”
That might be true, yet the debris from the fire has been removed and a bus shelter-type station constructed in Elyria.
The KSU article did note that Amtrak officials said they have plans to begin using the nearby former New York Central station, which is a hub for Lorain County transit buses.
However, the idea of using the NYC depot for Amtrak has been in the works for years but there is new hope that the idea will finally come to fruition in the short-term future.
In the meantime, the Elyria station is no worse than dozens of other similar type stations across America, including one in Alliance.
Back to Cleveland, though. Amtrak did briefly use Cleveland Union Terminal, now known as Tower City. That was during seven months in 1971 when the first edition of the Lake Shore ran.
But the states on the route reneged on their promise to help fund that train and Amtrak discontinued it in early January 1972.
By then it was stopping at a crossing in the Flats because if Amtrak had used CUT for even one day in 1972, it would have been on the hook for paying a year’s worth of rent.
As for RTA, well it was running rapid transit trains through CUT long before Amtrak began. So it is not clear what it meant by when RTA moved its operations there.
The WKSU story said that Amtrak officials call the Cleveland station “functional” but that they are working with city and county officials to use an intermodal terminal that has been talked about along the lakefront east of the current Amtrak station.
That station would be used by RTA, regional and intercity buses. But it hasn’t been built yet and officials are still looking for a suitable site.
The CityLab article used some colorful descriptions about some Amtrak stations.
For example, it described the Amtrak station in Savannah, Georgia, as having the look of an adult video store that has gone out of business.
The Detroit Amtrak station was described as having the appearance of an unused Sizzler restaurant.
Also making the list were Amtrak stations in Buffalo, New York, and South Bend, Indiana.
The Exchange Street station in Buffalo, which is used by Empire Service trains and the Maple Leaf, but not the Lake Shore Limited, sits beneath a massive interstate highway interchange.
As for South Bend, “What makes the South Bend terminal so truly egregious is the fact that Union Station, a mighty Beaux-Arts building, still stands across town—but it no longer services trains,” wrote CityLab author Kriston Capps.
He had one thing right in his article. “Some of the nation’s train stations don’t make a great impression. That won’t change until Congress truly funds passenger rail,” Capps wrote.
“These are the other train stations—the ones that make you wish you’d left the house a little later so you’d have to spend that much less time waiting at the station.”
Maybe so, but, hey, at least the Cleveland Amtrak station does have heat, air conditioning and indoor plumbing. Try finding those at many stations served by Amtrak.