City officials pledge to help keep Union Terminal's Amtrak station staffed

CINCINNATI -- City officials are willing to assist Amtrak in keeping its station at Union Terminal staffed, following the passenger rail service's announcement last month that they would eliminate the stop's full-time employee positions.

In a May 3 memo, acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney said, "The city administration is glad to assist in these efforts should that be the desire of the mayor and City Council."

Any commitment of resources from the city would require approval from City Council.

Amtrak's Cardinal Line serves the Union Terminal stop, connecting Cincinnati to Chicago to the west and New York to the east, with several other major stops along the route, including Indianapolis, Charlottesville and Washington, D.C. The train serves Union Terminal every other day.

The temporary Amtrak station on Kenner Street, adjacent to Union Terminal, photographed May 2, 2018. (Eric Clajus/WCPO)

The city's response to the de-staffing came after rail advocacy groups Friends of the Cardinal and All Aboard Ohio began asking officials and elected leaders -- including the city administration -- for support in keeping the station staffed.

"While there are other stations on the Cardinal route that are unstaffed, Cincinnati is a popular, multi-level station which makes assistance by Amtrak staff for handicapped and elderly passengers very important," Duhaney said in his memo.

"Any loss of service will degrade ridership and jeopardize continued service," he said.

There is a growing movement among rail advocates to boost the Cardinal Line up to daily service, including the creation of a coalition in September 2016 at a summit hosted by the Greater Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce.

Amtrak currently staffs the station with two ticket agents, who also assist with boarding and checked baggage. Starting next month, Amtrak will contract a "caretaker" who will attend the station during the overnight hours when the trains arrive and depart, but they will not be an official Amtrak employee.

Further complicating Union Terminal's capacity to accommodate Amtrak service has been the terminal's ongoing renovations, expected to conclude this fall. The renovations have displaced the Amtrak boarding area to a temporary facility on Kenner Street behind the terminal.

Last year, Amtrak approved a joint proposal by the city of Oxford and Miami University to build a new Cardinal stop near the university's campus.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) and on Facebook.

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