Full Transcript:

Tim Fulton  00:11

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the confluence cast presented by Columbus underground. We are a weekly Columbus centric podcast focusing on the civics, lifestyle, entertainment, and people of our city. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. This week, Columbus is the largest city in the country without any form of rail service. That might not be changing anytime soon, but plans are coming together for an alternative by way of the link us Columbus initiative, bus rapid transit. In today’s episode, Josh lap of transit Columbus talks about that plan, how to convince people that we need transit, and what Amtrak service in Columbus may look like in the future. You can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast comm. Also, the confluence cast is on Patreon. Find out how to support this podcast on our website, the confluence cast.com Or at patreon.com/confluence. The confluence cast is sponsored this week by the Central Ohio transit authority or coda, car expenses rack up fast, there’s the car payment, insurance, gas, parking and maintenance. Fortunately, there’s a more affordable solution. Never pay more than $62 per month to roll with Kota. Download the transit app and set up your quota account to get started. For more information, visit cota.com. Enjoy the interview. Sitting down here virtually with the Chair of transit Columbus Josh lap Josh, how are you? Sir?

Josh Lapp  01:57

I’m doing great. How are you?

Tim Fulton  01:59

I’m doing well. We are talking about transit today talking about transit in Columbus, the needs that are there? And what initiatives are coming into place in order to fulfill those needs. First of all talk about transit Columbus and its background.

Josh Lapp  02:16

Yeah, that’s that’s a good, good question. I’m glad that you brought that up. Because I feel like a lot of folks hear about us and they’re like, What is this organization? Where did it come from? What’s your backstory? So the organization actually grew out of a group of folks that have been working on these issues for a really long time, they were called 1000 Friends of Columbia’s of Central Ohio. This, this was back, you know, in the early 2000s, and really about smart growth. So that kind of faded away. And a lot of those same folks wanted to really focus more on transit, because that is really the key piece that was missing in Columbus. So around 2010 After, I don’t want to go through all the sad things that happened in terms of transit and trains and a lot of things we’re still trying to address today. There was really this feeling that there was a need for a trans advocacy group. So that group reconstituted into transit Columbus, lots of folks, you know, that are well known around the community in this space is Chris Herman Mark Conte, a bunch of other folks were really involved in, in this kind of advocacy work in that decade. And since then, has really just grown, I think, to grown and flourished more brought in a lot more industry, individuals that are out in the community and really just want to be involved. So we’ve done all kinds of events over the years, we’ve, you know, really advocated for different things over the years. But transit is a really big, a big thing, right? It’s a billions of dollars, it’s a lot of time. So we’ve also focused on doing smaller scale things, because it’s really hard to get those big things happening that takes many years. We do placemaking initiatives we’ve done, you know, some different things like we help out with Ollie islands over in the Discovery District. So we do small scale stuff. But we’ve really been focusing on the last few years in trying to get these big things to happen. That I think we’re now seeing the fruit of which I’m sure we’ll talk about more.

Tim Fulton  04:22

Yeah, absolutely. Sort of the occasion for us talking today is the the Linkous initiative that’s the steering committee has been meeting. Can you talk about the origins of that initiative?

Josh Lapp  04:37

Yeah, so I’ve sat through enough presentations and including some of the things that they’re giving background information on. So there’s been a lot of efforts over the last, you know, five years five or more from Kota and from the city to really figure out how we’re going to address transit holistically. So, coda, did a nextgen plan, Coda did a transit system redesign where they redesigned all their routes, and really focused service? And so I think this link us was a natural outgrowth of that. And a lot of folks that are in those organizations working really, really came together and said, we need to do something much more comprehensive. So we need to figure out how we’re comprehensively going to address address, you know, transit and density and urban design and cycling infrastructure and pedestrian infrastructure and all these things. And that’s really how Linkous came about and and one of the other things is the the MORP. See, studies that were done over the years. And there was a ultimately a corridors concept study that was done. Time escapes me, I think 2018 is when that came out, okay, and really talked about focusing development on corridors, but not the transit piece of it. And now we’re looking at this link us as this large scale initiative that’s going to help us solve our mobility issues and our housing issues. And our you know, lack of walkable neighborhoods issues, and really looking at it comprehensively. So. So that’s that’s what Linkous is. Okay. Without getting into the specifics, which we can do.

Tim Fulton  06:16

Well, I mean, tell me about the specifics. Like this is an initiative that is a group of people, but it’s the city has a buy in here. Well, the Ohio Regional Planning Commission has a buy in here. And then Kota, that sort of like, the three pillars, correct

Josh Lapp  06:35

me if I’m wrong here. Yeah, no, yeah. You’re You’re right on they are leading it, they are okay. It is an initiative of the city, Kota and MORP. See, so it is actually those entities leading this. They have done so you know, you can go to link us, I think it’s the link us Columbus calm. And it really shows you the information on what they have been doing. So there have been two large scale corridor studies taking place as part of the Linkous initiative. And what that means is they’re looking at the east west corridor. So this includes East Main Street, East Burrard Street and West Broad Street. So looking at how do we implement high capacity transit in those corridors? And how do we look at you know, the zoning and how do we look at bike connectivity and pedestrian connectivity in that corridor? So that is a study that it has already, you know, it’s more than underway. They’ve, they’ve already made their preliminary findings, which you can search on the website there. And that has really decided that we’re going to build a BRT line. Okay, actually, we’re going to build several as part of that initiative or forgives Main Street. Give me the BRT. Yeah, sorry, I’m an urban planner. Yes, no, it’s fine. I love the acronyms. BRT is an acronym for bus rapid transit. Okay, so this is this originated really in South America as a concept where you’re providing, like rail quality infrastructure with buses, okay. So it’s more affordable to implement. It’s quicker to implement, but you’re dedicating right away on the street. So you have separate lanes, okay. Buses, you have stations, so you’re it, it should feel like you’re riding a train. But you’re on a bus, okay. But all the so you’re getting really great service, really frequent. And actually, one of the best examples in the country of BRT is in Cleveland. Okay, so in Cleveland, they have the health line that runs on Euclid Avenue, okay. And it has dedicated right of way you board at stations, it has all the amenities of rail without the rail. Gotcha. And I will say here, because a lot of people will question this, you know, we, we were pushing for light rail, okay, we would love to see it. But I don’t think that this is a the BRT is not, rail would be great, but BRT is also really good and hopefully more affordable and will be allowed will allow Columbus to build a larger system, and more quickly. So BRT has been determined by all these studies, to be the optimal mode to build on East Main Street and West Broad Street first, okay. And then also in the, you know, near future, hopefully, on East Broad Street as well as part of the east west corridor study. There’s also a Northwest corridor study that also is recommending building a BRT line that would run essentially from downtown up Olin tangy river road corridor, okay, and then eventually over to Bridge Street in Dublin. Got it. So we have to make With these studies, and they’re not just like, hey, here’s an idea, these are, what’s it going to look like? Where are the stations going to go? What so all the real details around this have been worked out there and still in the early design phases, but they are designing the system. And that’s really what we’re looking at. So they’ve identified as part of link us, you know, these, these three corridors that we’re talking about, I’ve already mentioned, as ones that we’re doing the research on right now to actually start building and have operational before the end of this decade, which is really great news. Okay. There’s also a number of other corridors that will eventually be built out as part of this program, including to the airport in Easton, potentially improving what we’ve already done with SeaMAX, going north east, to Polaris up the High Street corridor, not sure how that one will work out. And then and then south east towards Rickenbacker. So really looking at a comprehensive system, address that

Tim Fulton  11:07

point of like, I don’t know how that would work out. There’s not enough real estate in terms of the the width of the road to make that easy to implement.

Josh Lapp  11:17

You’re right on decisions were made, and not necessarily bad decisions, just decisions as part of the build out of the High Street streetscape a few months ago, as we all might have remembered. So that took away in a good it took away some of the pavement and Gateway pedestrians. So that’s really great. High Street is a fantastic pedestrian street, my husband owns a business at second. And hi, I love walking around and biking around and taking the bus in the short north. But that stretch of high street is is now at a size that it really can’t accommodate a dedicated right of way for transit. Right. So High Street is a difficult thing. How are we going to address that corridor? That may mean may mean running up third and fourth? It might mean I don’t know what it might mean, right? That because of the width of that it is harder to accommodate for sure.

Tim Fulton  12:17

Gotcha. And so the work, I’m just translating back sort of what we’ve placed talked about up to this point, the work of Linkous is hearing those studies that have been commissioned, and sort of saying, Yes, this is this sounds like a reasoned approach to how to solve the transit issues that we have. And then we were talking right before the recording, you guys actually have a steering committee meeting that will look into or hear recommendations based on funding of like, how does this get paid for?

Josh Lapp  12:51

Yeah, so we’ve been talking about funding because this stuff is not cheap, even BRT, right is not as expensive as light rail is still not cheap. So we got to find out find a way to pay for it. Now, the federal government will pay for a lot of it, but we still have to have a local match. Okay. So the link us Leadership Coalition, which again, is being led by by the city and Kota and MORP, see, has been studying this and presenting this to the committee that I’m serving on. Part of the link us Leadership Coalition. Gotcha. And, you know, ultimately, this has not been presented to us, but transit, Columbus has been talking about the fact that we will need a ballot measure to pay for a high capacity transit, that is more than likely an outcome of this process. I don’t know, because the meeting is tonight, we have to find a way to pay for it. The way that we currently pay for transit is that we’ve had ballot measures in the past that are really code of ballot measures, and they are, are passed by the public to in order to pay for so we currently have half a cent sales tax that pays for this and that was through two different ballot measures. Okay, so we’re gonna need more money. I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s the end all be all. I know that there. Also, if you look at the link us plans, you know, it’s not just about building the BRT lines. So like the Northwest corridor is a great example. You can look through the plans on the website. This is really about a system right, okay, the transit system, but also a system to connect to the BRT lines. So you have a whole network of protected bike lanes or shared use paths, okay, so that, you know, I have a friend that I talked to you regularly that lives in North Clintonville and this would be near a BRT stop at like Henderson and olan Tangier River Road, which right now is sort of a no man’s land, right? Yeah, but if you build If you build that BRT line, you can build shared use paths so that he can bike there. And you know, he has a five minute bike ride to the BRT that he can take, then, you know, in 10 minutes to OSU, or in like, 15 minutes to a crew game, or to downtown or to work, whatever. So that’s really what it is, it’s about building a network, it’s not just about building that. So some of the some of the funding, you know, may go to pay for improvements, like, like shared use paths, and protected bike lanes and sidewalks, which are really, you know, a huge piece and important to this overall new system that we’re looking at. And so

Tim Fulton  15:42

that’s the pitch, right? The pitch, because you got to get a majority of voters to approve it. The pitch is, it’s not just, we’re gonna implement this BRT system, but that it’s a holistic approach to transit in Columbus. Because if you say to somebody, like, hey, I want to increase your sales taxes, and it’s for drastic improvements to the bus system, oh, yeah, it takes away a lane of traffic for you. And then you get the pushback that it’s like, well, I don’t use the bus. Because I don’t need to, but the argument should be, but now you can, it is so much more convenient than your current system. And as we, I mean, I got stuck in traffic yesterday. And I was like, okay, the world is back to normal now, that, you know, we have to go places. And we’re not all just on Zoom calls constantly. And I do think Columbus does a good job of identifying that equity is important. But the pushback that comes from people a lot of times is that doesn’t help me, why should I care about that?

Josh Lapp  16:55

So there’s, there’s so many different ways to look at it. I mean, I think transit has, like so many positive benefits. But as you’re saying, the various ways you can approach selling transit, our Yes, not everybody’s going to take it, but we want to give you the option to Yeah, we want to give as people as we can give the option to make it a real option. You know, I see people a I see people on Reddit all the time, or whatever, on other line online forums, talking about, well, if the bus was quicker, or whatever, or more convenient than I would do it. And yeah, well, we need to make it more convenient, there’s, there’s no other way to get around that. But that doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to ride the bus, you know, it’s also about just creating the opportunity to ride the bus if you want to. But also, you know, making sure that we’re not adding additional people to the roads, you know, our region is growing by, you know, another million people, by 2050, you know, that is, hopefully within our lifetimes. And so we have to address how those people and we have to address how they’re going to get around. And part of building out link us is creating the opportunities to build up more dense, walkable neighborhoods, so that we can accommodate those people and so that those, those folks don’t have to go, you know, build a new house, on a greenfield out in the middle of nowhere, because that’s the only place that is available to them, you know, we really have to accommodate more of those people, for environmental reasons, and for, you know, lifestyle reasons within the urban core, but we can’t do that if we don’t have good transit. So that’s part of it. But there is a huge equity piece to this too. That is part of the factors in looking at what, you know, the routes that Kota and the city we’re looking at. So they like equity was at the top of the list of the things that they were using to evaluate where the transit should go, and you know, how it how it should be implemented. And so I think that it was that that is just totally core, if you read all the documents like that was the thing that they were looking at. And so you know, that’s part of why the east west corridor was chosen. But we have to remember to, you know, when we’re talking about equity, people are traveling all over the city. So you’re not just going you know, just because it serves a neighborhood and is providing that that equity piece still needs to connect to the places where people go to work. So that’s why the Northwest corridor is so much more so important. Because if you really think about Ohio State, Riverside Hospital, all the things and downtown, all these these jobs up and down that corridor, that’s a really key piece that we need to connect to is, you know, hundreds of 1000s of people are going to Ohio State whether it’s the hospital or students or employees, that’s a huge job center downtown, is still a huge job center even, you know, with, with everything that’s happened during COVID, it’s still the key, the key Jobs Center in the region. So we need to connect to these places.

Tim Fulton  20:14

Absolutely. Is there any contention in this? Is it I mean, everybody that’s sort of there is an advocate and wants to see these things happen. I don’t imagine that people are coming to you with these commission studies. And you’re saying like, Well, that won’t

Josh Lapp  20:32

work. The only pushback I’ve heard about link us is that folks would like to see light rail, right. And I would, too. But I am also aware enough to know that we need to do this and we need to do it now. We cannot wait. This is really, and I’m not saying that to be dire. I’m saying that because our region is adding, you know, we added like over 100,000 people in the last 10 years, we’re going to add a million more, especially with things like Intel, and I really think, you know, with, with everything going on in the world, Columbus is really well positioned, we’re going to grow, and we’re going to grow rapidly. And we’re going to have the problems of cities like Atlanta, and Austin, and some of these other places in Nashville that have absolutely not planned for their growth at all. And they’re having to go back in and spend all this money and hear all the complaints and all the traffic and, and just having affordability issues, like we have to do it now. So I’m not hearing any pushback, except for we should be more aggressive. Right. And I think the public’s there Do I think the public was there 10 years ago, because I’ve been involved in this in transit Columbus, basically, since it started. I’m not sure that the public was there 10 years ago, I think they you know, but I think now I just it seems like everybody gets it, you know, yeah, I’m not gonna say that, you know, we’re gonna pass a ballot measure with 100% support. But I feel very confident. Because almost anybody that I talked to understands it, even if you don’t take transit, you understand the need for it. And you understand that our region is not going to be world class until we have a high quality transit system. And so And it’s funny, because so many people, you know, are moving to Columbus, and I’m sure you talk just like me, you run into people, you talk to them, they move from Chicago, or New York or wherever. And it’s like, oh, well, you know, I love Columbus, but the transit, though, right? Yeah, yeah. And yes, yeah, I’m not saying Coda doesn’t do a good job they do. But we have to, as a region support them, and help them grow into a really world class transit system, not just not just buses, but buses that have their own, you know, buses that are trains is what we’re really talking about here. And that that’s what we need.

Tim Fulton  22:58

And has any has there have been any sort of public opinion research done on where this is gonna go? I mean, what happened? The last time we tried to get light rail, that it was a ballot initiative, and it’s spectacularly failed with the with this of our of all of our city leaders, and it was just like, Nope, there’s been several initiatives. Okay. Well, history, Leslie’s given the history Oh, why?

Josh Lapp  23:23

Why we’re here. I am from plain city. So I was here for this, but not to give away my age. But I was, I guess, probably 10 years old when this happens. So I don’t really I was not as much as I love transit. Now, I was not paying that close attention to it then. So in 99, there was actually two ballot measures, it had been broken in into two ballot measures, one of which was paying was a sales tax paying for coders operations, and one of which was a sales tax, that would have helped build out a light rail system. Okay. Well, the operations one passed, and the other one didn’t. And it wasn’t, it wasn’t like, by a large measure, it was, you know, we were really close, unfortunately. So then fast forward a few years later, and Kota is really in somewhat of a financial crisis. You know, the, the beginning of the 2000s were not a great time for anyone for for recession, and you know, 911 and all that. So they were in dire financial straits, and I believe in oh six, they passed a permanent sales tax measure that like really solidified their finances. They got their house in order. Yes, Mayor Coleman. Pushed in Oh, eight. Perhaps the worst timing possible. The streetcar? The streetcar. Yes. Had we not been again in the midst of a global recession? We might have, you know, a train running up and down High Street today. But it was not To be, we also had the three C rail, which was so we had $400 million in funding from the federal government that was rejected by the Kasich administration in 2010. So, so there was like this series of failures. And we could have been much further than we are now, but I don’t think any of them were, except for her, you know, the actual ballot measure that failed in 99. Yeah. We’re real rejections. And so your question was actually about polling. And what the

Tim Fulton  25:36

history in the context is important here, right?

Josh Lapp  25:38

Yeah. But there, there has not been polling. That’s something my organization has been wanting to do. At least none that has been public. But I would say the best public polling that we have is in 2016, you know, a year that Donald Trump won the White House, that code about ballot measure that was up for a vote that year, it was a renewal, it passed with 71% of the vote 71% That is, if you know, and that’s like actual votes, that isn’t just a poll. Right. So I think their support for Kota, I think, you know, that, I think that kind of says it to me, even though I don’t have the actual polling on what it would look like, you know,

Tim Fulton  26:26

today, right? I will say, you know, you you look back at the history of what’s happened. And I wonder if now is the appropriate time, given that we’re sorry, you make an excellent argument for why now is the right time. But from a can we get it done standpoint, we’re experiencing a lot of growing pains at the moment as a country, Columbus seems to not have experienced as much of it, but with, you know, the housing prices going up the cost of gas? Is this the right like, do you do? What’s the timeline for trying to implement this? Would this be something on the ballot in 2023? Can you do it faster than that?

Josh Lapp  27:09

My personal opinion is and I think will happen, it will be on the ballot in 2022. Well, we’ll be on the ballot, this November Coda has the ability to put a levy on the ballot, anytime their board just has to vote on it, it’s it’s like state law that they are allowed to do this. I think that they can put it on the ballot as late as August. So there is time. You know, if you look at link, like, there’s actually a chart if you go into the the final link US east west corridor study, you know, this is if we get the money, you know, if we get the money from the federal government, and if we have additional funds from local funding, this will be operational by 2027. Okay, I mean, that’s a long time. But also, that’s not that long. Well, in terms of infrastructure, that’s fast, right? Unfortunately, yeah, infrastructure takes a long time to plan for and build, and these, this is something that’s really gonna like, positively impact, but it’s really going to impact our neighborhoods, it’s going to impact the street, it’s going to impact the way things look. So yeah, it takes time. But it’s something that we can have in place relatively quickly. That will, you know, I like the Intel thing makes me excited, and it scares me, because we just don’t really have the infrastructure to support a rapid growth. I mean, you look at what has happened, and again, in Nashville, or Austin, or some of these other places, and they just have so many issues, you know, that we have the opportunity, we’re sort of at that inflection point where we can address it. And we’re going to have to one way or the other, but it’s much easier to do it ahead of time than it is to retrofit. And so yeah, I think we’re at the appropriate point to do that. And I will tell you, it’s not going to be a secret after I tell you, but I went to a conference a couple years ago, it’s through an organization called transit center. Okay. And they they showed an image or a, you know, a slide of the rate at which ballot measures pass for transit. And it’s really it has to do with turnout, if turnout is above 45%. The transit ballot measures almost always pass. Okay. And, and, and the best time to put them on the ballot is when a lot of people are going to go vote, because people generally support these things. Now, if you make it just about that, if you have an election, and it’s only a transit ballot measure, then you get, you know, folks that are against additional taxes or don’t like something about the plan. But you know, ultimately, if more people are going to go out and vote, it’s going to pass because people generally support this and I stopped somebody on the street and say, Do you want a better transit system? You know, and you’re gonna pay a little bit for it? Of course, I say yes. Right, yeah, exactly. Even if you’re not going to use it, you know, that’s the thing. You want it for the region, not just for me.

Tim Fulton  30:06

And so you wouldn’t want to wait until 23. To put it on the ballot is what you’re saying. I don’t think

Josh Lapp  30:11

we have the time. Well, yeah, I don’t think it’s an appropriate election strategy. But I also think that we just don’t have the time to wait, like, we need to do this stuff now. And again, we only have a certain, you know, there’s only a certain opportunity to capture that what Intel is going to be open. And in 2024, I think or 2025, they said, you know, if we wait until then, we will already have missed the boat. And again, it’s not just about Intel, but I think that’s a harbinger of the growth that is that is going to come that’s already happening. I mean, housing prices are just absolutely outrageous, even though we’re not bad compared to other places, right? We’re starting from a lower place. But you know, I own a home and I see, like, I get calls every single day of people trying to buy it, I get, you know, you look at Zillow, or whatever. And it’s like, this is just outrageous prices. And if we don’t address it with it with transit, and, you know, affordable housing and more density, we’re not there’s we’re just going to have more problems and and then you take away the things that make our region great, which is that it’s an affordable place that’s easy to get around. You know what happens when that goes away, then that’s, that’s not something I think any of us want, you know, we want to address this Oh, and by the way, we want a better lifestyle opportunities to bike and walk and take the bus. And we also want, you know, we want better neighborhoods that are that have more businesses, and we want to help the environment and, you know, help prevent climate change and all these things. Yeah, like, Yay, they’re all answered. I solved the issue. Right. But it’s never that easy.

Tim Fulton  31:46

Exactly. So, setting, Linkous aside, we can’t do the omnibus of transit. But there is movement on us being a getting Amtrak, basically getting what was promised, during the case that could registration.

Josh Lapp  32:05

Yes, I already mentioned it. So now I have to remember it, even though it makes me angry. So it is definitely in the cards that we have the possibility of getting Amtrak service. We don’t fully know what that looks like. There’s a lot of talk about three C, plus D. So this is a train line that would run from Cleveland to Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, along with some others stops in smaller cities in between. This is the same more or less the same proposal that was that was almost built in 2010. Amtrak really wants to do it, they keep talking about it. We don’t know exactly what that looks like our state legislature is not exceedingly supportive of transit in general, and certainly not have three C. D, although there are some folks that do support it, particularly the communities, the rural communities along the path that could see the benefit for them. So it’s a possibility, it’s also possible that if the state doesn’t support it, that there are other ways to pay for and, you know, receive the grants from the federal government that can can build it. So there’s a possibility of local governments and or regional governments like MORP See, or others that could help receive that funding and actually build out the service? You know, I’m not a full policy expert. So I don’t have all the answers. But I think it’s certainly possible. And I think that we have to voice as people that live in Columbus, we are the second largest city without Amtrak service in the country, second to Phoenix. We’re the largest service with the largest city without any type of rail. Because Phoenix has light rail, right? So I think that we are you know, we’re primed for it and think about like, how I don’t know about you, but I end up traveling to Cleveland or Cincinnati, whether it’s for pleasure or for work or whatever it is, frequently I know that many other folks do as well. And even if the train is not as fast as driving, which it very well may be, but even if it’s not that’s productive time that I have that’s a much more happy scenario. Yeah. Then driving on 71 which is never a happy scenario. I never like get out of my car in Cleveland and think that was great. What a

Tim Fulton  34:40

pleasant drive that was today ball.

Josh Lapp  34:43

Yeah. Yeah. Oh, great. The Lodi outlet mall. This is wonderful, you know, like no. And and I take actually I frequently take the bus to Cleveland to greyhound. I think that that service should be improved. Whether we get a train or not. We need to have better connections all over the state. But, but Amtrak is a possibility. And if you look at so the Franklin County Convention, facility authority, has already done a study on what the station would look like in Columbus. Yeah. And it’s beautiful. Sorry, I wouldn’t take away a Starbucks in the the high hit.

Tim Fulton  35:25

It’s a small price to pay Josh.

Josh Lapp  35:27

I, you know, I love coffee. But I would say goodbye to Starbucks for Amtrak, and oh, by the way, build a one line in the train station, I would be much happier with that. So, anyway, it would be beautiful, it’d be right on High Street, you know, right next to transit service that would connect people within Columbus. Yep. So you know, it’s, it’s, it has the possibility of happening, you’re going to see more advocacy on from our organization, and I think from others around the state, because it’s not just that they’re, you know, there’s, this is a, this is the most money that Amtrak has ever been given. I mean, actually, it’s like, not even comparable to anything that they have ever had the opportunity to do in the past. They have been on life support, since they were started in the 70s, since they started up in 71. So this is really like, we’re on the precipice of actually building out. Maybe not a, a French or Spanish or Japanese style train system, but certainly improving Amtrak to like an acceptable level around the country. And so I think, you know, Ohio is actually like, a really awesome place for Amtrak service, we have a bunch of cities, they’re all relatively close. Um, Amtrak sees it because they keep talking about it. I was actually in a Washington Post article last year being interviewed about this, and, and Amtrak is like we want to be in, we want to be in Ohio. We want you and Ohio Amtrak police come Yeah. Even Even if our state legislature says no, like, please come. Yeah, make it happen for us, because the people here want it. Our legislature isn’t necessarily reflective of our state, as we’ve seen. Things that have been happening over the past couple of months. But, you know, it’s it’s a real possibility. And I will be like, the first person, I will absolutely do whatever I can to be on that first train when it leaves us since first train since I think 1977.

Tim Fulton  37:42

Yeah, there’s I mean, there certainly is a lot. The good thing is, is that there’s an opportunity, as you said, for to take a different. There’s so many travel metaphors take a different route, to make it happen. Even if the state legislature doesn’t want it to happen, that you get a coalition of semi governmental entities to say we will accept this, this grant money in order to build up the infrastructure for this thing to happen.

Josh Lapp  38:12

And one thing that I’ll add about it, Governor Kasich rejected the money. Governor dewine has said nothing. And I call that a victory. Because I don’t need full fledged support. But I just need not full fledged opposition. Just let it happen. Right. Yeah, yeah, you’re not gonna kill it. Great. That’s all I need, you know, because there are plenty of people that support it. But if we can just, and this, unfortunately, it tends to be like, a, you know, political thing, Republican versus Democrat thing. But it doesn’t have to be and it’s not everywhere. So like, Michigan has been really good about investing in Amtrak. They took part of our money, and they had a Republican governor when they did that. So they, you know it because it’s not about like, it’s, it’s not about a political thing. It’s just about connecting our communities better. And really, again, with Intel, I think this is the kinds of ecosystem that will grow up with that tech cluster. You know, it would be great if people in Mansfield where this train will run or in Springfield, or Dayton, for that matter, have an opportunity to connect better to a place that is really growing and has a lot of jobs. We don’t I don’t need everybody that is going to work at all these places to live in Columbus, like happily live in Dayton and take the train to work every day, you know, for a 45 minute ride or whatever. And and come to work and isn’t that great for our state that we’re giving people more accessibility? Because driving is expensive. I mean, I don’t have I have an electric car. So there’s been a meme going around from arrested, developed That’s like, how much was gas before $10, I have no idea. I have an electric car and I take the bus and I have an E bike. So I don’t I don’t ever use the use gas. But I know it’s expensive. And it really sucks. And I did have a, an ice as we call them in the Eevee world, an internal combustion engine car before. And so even if like, it’s not like you’re going to people are going to get rid of their cars, necessarily, but they will have an option to do something else. when gas prices are $4 a gallon. You can, you know, ride your bike, take the bus, take Amtrak from Mansfield, or whatever to your job. Like that’s the kind of system that we want. Yeah, it’s the kind of system that exists elsewhere, even elsewhere in the US. So I think people just need to buy into the vision and understand that we’re not trying to change everything. We’re just trying to add more opportunity and options.

Tim Fulton  40:58

Absolutely. I wrap up these interviews by asking two questions. One is, what do you think Columbus is doing? Well, and I’m gonna assume the answer to the second one. What do you think Columbus is not doing so well? And maybe if you want to take it outside of transit, because we’ve talked so much about here, the things that we’re trying to do, and but maybe from a higher level approach?

Josh Lapp  41:23

Yes. So what Columbus does well, is when Columbus sets its mind, on doing something like that leadership, people, it gets done, and it gets done quickly. And well. So I think about like, the Scioto mile and CYO Greenway that was a horrible area before I mean, like the river was gross. And, and when, like, whoever the, the decision makers and the planners and everyone, like decided, hey, we’re gonna do this, they wouldn’t found the money. And they were like, we’re doing it right. And look at it today, if you go down there, I live, you know, in old County, so I go down there often, absolutely full of people lot in diverse, like one of the best places in Columbus to just be like, with amongst people that actually interact with each other are like in their own bubble. You know, so I absolutely love that you’ll hear all languages, you see all types of people. And it’s really one of the few places in Columbus that I think is a really big gathering spot. So I love that, in particular, but I think that’s a reflection of when we as a community decide we’re going to do something, we are like, we’re doing it and we’re going to do it well. So yeah, we should do that for transit. Of course, that’s my plug there. Um, what don’t we do? Well, I think sometimes we have a tendency in Columbus to like, think we’re special, but in almost a bad way. I’m like, Well, I used to hear this about transit, like, well, you know, we’re different. We’re like, we’re not like all those other cities. Actually. We are. We were we’re like every other city. Just do, do it. Well, you know, look at what’s working in other places, and we don’t have to replicate it, we can put our own spin on it. But like, don’t think we’re that different because we’re not we’re in American city. We’re probably one of the most American cities. So let’s not let’s not let us thinking that we’re special. Like detract from doing doing the things that sometimes are hard but that other people were doing because I see things happening. Like I travel for work i i see great pipelines other places, and I think we need to do that. And then I hear oh, well we can do this for this and this and know if they can do it elsewhere. We can do it here. We’re not special.

Tim Fulton  43:53

Yeah. Josh, thank you for your time. Yeah,

Josh Lapp  43:56

well, thank you so much, Tim. This is great.

Tim Fulton  44:04

Thank you for listening to the confidence cast presented by Columbus underground. Again, you can get more information on what we discussed today in the show notes for this episode at the confluence cast comm please rate subscribe, share this episode of The confluence cast with your friends, family, contacts, enemies, your favorite transit advocate. If you’re interested in sponsoring the confluence cast, get in touch with us. We can be reached by email at info at the confluence cast calm. Our theme music was composed by Benji Robinson. Our producer is Philip Cogley. I’m your host, Tim Fulton. Have a great week.