Cincinnati Still Pushing to Save Ticket Office

Cincinnati officials continue to push to prod Amtrak into delaying closing its ticket office at Union Terminal.

Board of Hamilton County Commissioners President Todd Portune was to introduce a resolution opposing the move.

The resolution asks Amtrak to delay staffing cuts until after renovations are complete and a better assessment of passenger traffic can be made.

“We can’t let Amtrak eliminate servicing passenger rail at Union Terminal without objecting to it, “ Portune said.

The resolution follows a letter sent to Amtrak by City of Cincinnati transit manager John Brazina urging the carrier to at least keep the staff at a temporary ticket office until the Cincinnati Museum Center renovations are complete.

“It is our understanding many people thought Amtrak discontinued service during the CMC renovation,” Brazina wrote.

Amtrak plans to close the ticket office on June 5 as part of a cost-cutting move that will shutter ticket offices at 15 stations nationwide.

The ticket offices targeted for closing reportedly serve 40 or fewer passengers per day.

Cincinnati with 2 million people in its metropolitan area is the largest city among the 15 losing a ticket office.

The next largest city to lose a ticket office is Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the number of passengers who board in Cincinnati has been steady over the past 10 years.

In 2007, 13,032 people boarded the Cardinal at Union Terminal, a number that fell slightly after the Union Terminal renovations began in 2016.

Amtrak trains served 12,481 passengers in Cincinnati in 2016 and 11,382 in 2017. Because Union Terminal is under construction, the Amtrak ticket office and waiting room has been housed in a temporary facility adjacent to the station.

Cincinnati lies on the route of the Chicago-Washington Cardinal, which stops in the Queen City in the dead of night in both directions three times a week.

Local officials and rail passenger advocates fear the closing of the ticket office will depress ridership and that could hurt Cincinnati’s chances at better passenger rail service in the future.

“In so far as the national discussion of train service, we’re starting to fall off the map,” Portune said. “I want to preserve passenger rail service as a transit option, especially for Hamilton County.”

Hamilton County wants Amtrak to share the costs with Cincinnati and other local governments to promote train service at Union Terminal and help push for daily train service here.

Magliari said that fewer than one in 10 passengers buy tickets in person at a ticket window, instead choosing to use an app, the Internet or the phone.

“Maintaining a full-time staff and a hardly used ticket counter was not a good use of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Magliari declined to comment on whether Amtrak would reconsider keeping the ticket window open due to pressure from local leaders.

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