Cincinnati Meeting to Discuss a Daily Cardinal

Map of Amtrak's Cardinal showing its station stops. It more stations in West Virginia than in any other state.

Map of Amtrak’s Cardinal showing its station stops. It more stations in West Virginia than in any other state.

Amtrak supporters met in Cincinnati on Friday to push for making the Chicago-New York Cardinal a daily train rather than the tri-weekly operation that it has been since the early 1980s.

Amtrak CardinalRail passenger advocates and public officials met to hear Amtrak officials outline the challenges facing daily service as well as how to overcome those.

“We’ve been building toward an event like this for a very long time. If you truly want to make this train better, you’ve got to run it seven days a week,” said Amtrak senior government affairs specialist Charlie Monte Verde. “We’re pitching this as a modern economic engine. We’re not trying to trade on the ghosts of the past.”

A Cincinnati chamber of commerce official echoed those sentiments.

“This is a piece of the puzzle for the chamber’s transportation strategy of connecting people to jobs,” said Jason Kershner, the chamber’s vice president for government relations. “We’ve really put our stake in the ground that transportation is important to business.”

The Cincinnati meeting was billed as a step toward building a coalition of communities along the route of the Cardinal that want better service.

Amtrak officials have said the cost of a daily Cardinal remains unknown. Much of the route uses tracks owned by CSX, which might demand capital improvements before agreeing to host a daily Cardinal.

Monte Verde said once the capital needs are known Amtrak could ask for an appropriation from Congress or attempt to build seven-day-a-week service into its budget somehow. He would not discuss potential costs.

“We think there is the space out there to make this train daily, but the first real step is to work with the railroads to see what their traffic is like,” Monte Verde said.

Amtrak officials said ridership would likely increase with more service because trains become more reliable the more they run.

“A daily Cardinal is a starting point,” Monte Verde said. “From there, you build the kind of awareness you need to have a discussion [about] a Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago short corridor service.”

“It’s a step forward, and it’s going to be a step we build upon,” said Derek Bauman, the southwest Ohio chair of rail advocacy group All Aboard Ohio.


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4 Responses to “Cincinnati Meeting to Discuss a Daily Cardinal”

  1. Philly Amtrak Fan Says:

    Could it be possible to reroute the Cardinal east of Cincinnati via Columbus, Pittsburgh, and the Pennsylvanian route to Philadelphia/New York? It should be a shorter, faster ride to the East Coast and Pennsylvania and would serve bigger markets.

    • csanders429 Says:

      It might be possible but it would not be practical without significant capital spending to upgrade the tracks. The train could travel between Cincinnati and Columbus on the proposed 3C corridor, parts of which had not had passenger service since 1971. East of Columbus the route once used by Amtrak’s National Limited is still there, but top speeds would be rather slow, maybe 40 mph tops. It would serve larger markets, but would not necessarily be faster than the present route of the Cardinal.

  2. Philly Amtrak Fan Says:

    A lot of the Cardinal route has daily service. The Hoosier State complements the Cardinal schedule providing daily service from Chicago-Indy. There is also Northeast Regional service from Charlottesville to New York. So the only major city that doesn’t have daily service is Cincinnati. Ideally Cincinnati would be better served by a train serving Chicago-Cincinnati only (possibly extend the Hoosier State and/or add a separate train which serves Cincinnati outside the graveyard shift). You serve Cincinnati, you add another Northeast Regional from Charlottesville to New York, and then you replace the Cardinal with a train from Chicago to Philly via Pittsburgh and Harrisburg so most of PA can have a direct train to Chicago and Philly can have a faster one.

  3. Tyrell Swint Says:

    Every time someone tries to start a movement to get Amtrak to start a service or increase the frequency of a long distance service, no one is willing to put up cash to get new locomotives, new passenger cars, to hire crews, to get significant station improvements, to unclog bottlenecks, etc.

    Its the same thing with the Sunset Limited East (and making the whole Sunset Limited daily)! No one talks about the specifics of operating these long distance passenger lines. They just want Amtrak to magically make these trains appear.

    When the UP gave the price tag of what the cost would be to make the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle daily, all talk about daily service on that route disappeared.

    The Cardinal will be treated the same way! Amtrak doesn’t even have enough cars to operate the service that it has comfortably. How are they going to increase service on established routes? Let’s not even talk about system expansion!

    Amtrak can’t even repair the Northeast Corridor, how are they capable of operating the whole long distance network.

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