Sierra Club submits comments on Oasis Rail


The Oasis Rail Line has too few riders to be cost effective. Even future projections (2030) are very low.

The Oasis Rail Line has very limited development potential because too much of the area near stations is already developed or undevelopable because of steep slopes, floodplains, or is in the Ohio River, is landslide prone, is a golf course or park, or an airport ! 

The cost is high – somewhere between $230 million and OKI’s cost of $1 billion. 

The estimated $60 for a round trip is too expensive and saves too little time, if any

 There are more cost effective mass transit options and routes that will get more people to jobs, schools, etc.

  • Oasis Rail will cost over a billion dollars according to OKI[1]’s 2040 Long Range Plan.
  • The much lower (yet incomplete[2]) costs in the OASIS Rail Conceptual Alternatives Solutions are very high.  Capital costs (trains, track, etc.) are estimated to be between $230,288,791 and $322,530,539. [3]  The Conceptual Alternatives Report identifies numerous issues that have not been evaluated yet and the costs are unknown.

Annual operating costs are estimated to be $3,500,000.[4]

  • The number boarding the train in the “Six Station Scenario”[5] is 3,060.  This figure represents 1,530 people boarding the train in the morning, between Milford and Columbia-Tusculum and 1,530 people boarding the train in the evening at the Riverfront Transit Center and getting off between there and Milford.
  • The cost per trip, assuming the low capital cost of $230,288,791 is $29.18 in 2019 and $36.94 in 2019 if the higher capital cost is used.   Remember, not all the costs are yet included in the capital costs.[6]

Also, the low cost per trip $29.18 is just one-way. It will be another $29.18 to return home.

  • OKI and the Oasis Rail Conceptual Alternative Solution focus on Environmental Justice as part of the rationale for the project.  However, anyone who is economically disadvantaged surely will not be able to afford $60 to get to work and back.  Secondly, this rail line is intended to run from Milford in the morning to downtown, returning workers in the evening.  The census data used shows that the most affected low-income population isn’t in the Milford area, but downtown and East Walnut Hills.  If “no-car” households have no car because of economic necessity, they won’t benefit from a $60 cost to go to work each day.  This project attempts to use Environmental Justice as a justification for a project that does nothing for the disadvantaged or for those disproportionally affected by environmental impacts.
  • Much is made of the development potential of the Oasis Line.  The extremely limited development potential of the station locations is well illustrated by the maps in the Draft Final Station Area Analysis. Most of the area in the ¼ to ½ mile radius of the stations is in the Ohio River, and up steep, landslide prone hillsides along Columbia Parkway, or is in the floodway or floodplain, or is a Park or Golf Course, or on a landfill, lakes and wetlands or industrial and unsuited to transit-oriented development.  The development potential is almost non-existent. Even future ridership projects expect a minimal numbers of riders.
  • The feeder bus system is largely impractical due to geography, better bus routes, and low numbers of expected riders.  The cost of such buses is not included and given the challenges SORTA and METRO have getting money to increase service, and the fact that this project offers no source for revenue for SORTA/METRO it is highly unlikely the feeder bus system is worthwhile.
  • The cost of a METRO/SORTA trip, on the other hand, is about $4.39, coming from fare boxes, local taxes and other revenue. This is incredibly cost effective compared to the OASIS. In fact, METRO/SORTA were just ranked as one of the most cost-effective transit systems in the country by University of Cincinnati Economics Center. Even with the same subsidy ratio (fare box to other funding sources) the Oasis is still extremely expensive.
  • There is a lot to be said for fixed rail systems, but they don’t work without riders and development potential.  The Wasson Line from the East to the Universities (Xavier, UC), Hospitals (UC Health, Children’s, etc.) to downtown. Wasson connects people and job centers.  Oasis doesn’t.

Submitted by:

Marilyn Wall                                                  Chris Curran

Conservation Chair                                       Transportation Chair

Sierra Club Miami Group                             Sierra Club Ohio Chapter

[email protected]                       [email protected]

[1] Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments, the local governmental planning agency. 2040 Long Range Plan Figure 10-11: Public Transportation Fiscally Constrained Plan Recommendations.  OKI also says ”Being in the financially constrained portion of the plan means that there is evidence of sufficient funds to cover the cost of the included projects by the year 2040. The remaining rail transit recommendations serve as a vision plan for potential future projects and are not included as part of the fiscally constrained portion of this plan.”

[2] Railroad agreement costs are not included, right-of-way costs are not included; many costs have yet to be analyzed. Costs may well be higher.

[3] Oasis Rail Conceptual Alternative Solutions page 55

[4] Oasis Rail Conceptual Alternative Solutions page 28

[5] Oasis Rail Conceptual Alternative Solutions page 100

[6] .  OKI estimated much higher costs probably representing life cycle costs (repair and maintenance over a few decades, more stations, increased costs of fuel, etc.) One of the alternatives is to put the Oasis Rail Line on the relocated SR 32 highway.  That cost is not included.