Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

More Oklahoma happenings

You won’t like the punch line on this one, but the man has a point. The heartland Flyer meeting happened down in OKC last week and it got some coverage, even down in Texas. One serious-minded Kansas lawmaker showed up, which is very good.

“If we’re going to spend money, we’re going to have to see that it’s going to benefit our state,” said Kansas Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield. “It can’t be anecdotal, it needs to be hard facts.”
He attended the meeting so he can see if Oklahoma legislators are serious about the project before he pursues it further in Kansas.

Three Oklahoma legislators attended the meeting, which included Collins, Rep. Al Lindley, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City. Trimmer said he wants to look at funding a survey of the project before considering appropriating money to support the rail service.

Stair believes the project can create economic development in the areas served by the train.

Maybe (the train) would bring more (people) into the area, rested and ready to spend money,” he said. He also sees the project as a way to relieve some congestion on the roads and help the environment by producing fewer emissions.

James said it is also important to add more departure times for the trains in order to get more ridership or else it just becomes a tourist train. He said making sure there are ways to get from the train stations to a final destination, such as by bus or rental car, is essential to growing interest.

Community interest is what Collins believes is essential in order to put pressure on Legislatures to keep the trains running through funding. He said that will mean educating people and changing their views of trains.

“Right now, my personal view of the Heartland Flyer is an excursion train, like the train around Six Flags, it just happens to be 200 miles long,” he said. If the route is expanded, “then it truly becomes an interstate viable method of transportation.”

He is talking about a true “corridor” and more fequent departures. That is real transportation and it makes sense.


Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Californian looking ahead

Michael Fitzgerald’s, a columnist featured in has some insight into the California movement, halting as it is, for HSR. It’s a great opinion piece, and here is a highlight.

To sum up opponents’ arguments: $40 billion, doubts about ridership, no private money forthcoming. Higher priorities, like water for Southern California.

The call for private investment is puzzling. This is not a dam primarily benefiting special interests. This is public transportation, serving Sacramento, the Bay Area, the Central Valley and Southern California. Do leaders require private capital to build freeways?

Also puzzling, considering California’s projected growth, is the notion that high-speed rail is a luxury.

Statewide, the cost of upgrading the highways and airports will be two or three times greater than high-speed rail, said Carrie Pourvahidi, the Rail Authority’s deputy director.

“How can you not afford to do it?” Pourvahidi asked.

Besides whooshing from Stockton to San Francisco over the Altamont in 45 minutes, restoring sanity to 50,000 road-weary commuters, the line’s construction will bring jobs.

But the biggest economic benefit of a line projected to carry 117 million people is the number of riders via Stockton – the equivalent of having a freeway come through.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, United States High Speed Rail

This is old news, but railroads have big infrastructure requirements

There was a major study released, and I was involved in other projects at the time. That happens a lot these days. This version of the report is in the Herald Dispatch in Huntington, West Virginia.

First things first, they are not “freight railroads.” The operating rail lines of America are exactly that. They were built by way of public-private partnerships in the form of land grants and outright subsidies. There is a substantial public interest in the operation and service provided by rail lines.

I note with interest that so-called “freight railroads” are anxious to include Amtrak and commuter rail when it’s time to get back to another public-private partnership. My  point is for everybody not to be all blown away when rail corporations (with multi-billion dollar profits, collectively) show up cap in hand for a bit of corporate welfare.

The study says that the nation’s major freight railroads anticipate they can foot most of the bill for these infrastructure improvements themselves, or about $96 billion.

However, it states that a gap would remain of about $1.4 billion per year, an amount it says could be funded through railroad infrastructure tax incentives, public-private partnerships and other sources.

“This legislation would provide a 25 percent tax credit to any company — not just railroads — that invests in projects to increase the rail network’s capacity,” Hamberger said.

It’s a great idea, so long as improvements for rail passenger service are required.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

Heartland Flyer milestone

This is great news.

What they story does not say is that the Flyer shares congested BNSF mainline with freight trains and suffers continuing and seriousj delays. When it runs on time, it is only moderately convenient and does have a connection with the Eagle in Fort Worth. There are no trains from Oklahoma City.

Here is the report from Pauls Valley Daily Democrat.

Heartland Flyer set to mark major milestone

CHICAGO – Little more than seven years after its inaugural run, the Amtrak Heartland Flyer has racked up some impressive numbers in its daily round-trips between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth – including high ridership growth and strong customer satisfaction – but the biggest number is expected later this month when the cumulative passenger count will pass a half-million.

The 500,000th passenger will receive surprise recognition, with a prize package and an opportunity to appear in local news coverage, at both the Paul Adams Memorial Platform at the station in Oklahoma City and the Intermodal Transportation Center in Fort Worth. Details of the event are being kept hush-hush for now, but it’s no secret the Heartland Flyer has set the stage for more passenger rail service in both states.

Amtrak is carrying out a study for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), looking into extending the Heartland Flyer to Tulsa and other options, while Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) leaders and Amtrak officials have also been discussing additional passenger rail service.

“The success of the Heartland Flyer has been impressive,” said Joe Kyle, ODOT’s Rail Programs Division Manager. “We hope to grow that success so more Oklahomans can benefit from it. Rail travel can be economical for Oklahomans concerned about fuel prices, or just a relaxing way to move around the state, taking in the scenery, while someone else does the work.”

“In a growing state like Texas, it is important that people have transportation options to avoid traffic congestion,” said Steve Simmons, interim executive director for TxDOT. “The Heartland Flyer’s success demonstrates how rail can help us reduce congestion, enhance safety, expand economic opportunity, improve air quality and increase the value of our transportation assets.”

After a strong start on June 15, 1999, the Amtrak Heartland Flyer has done well, with ridership up by 5.8 percent for the current Amtrak fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30th. From last October through August, 63,535 passengers have ridden the train.

“We strive to treat every passenger as if it’s their first trip, with the hospitality they deserve and a smile they might not expect when traveling nowadays,” said Joy Smith, the Texas-based Amtrak Assistant Superintendent in charge of passenger service on the Heartland Flyer.

Amtrak operates the Heartland Flyer under contracts with ODOT and TxDOT, with the support of the Heartland Flyer Coalition, a grass-roots group representing communities and leaders along the 206-mile route. Much of the reason the train has done well is the hard work of the volunteers of the Coalition.

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

Pennsylvania corridors

The Lebanon Daily News is running an even-handed report on “Corridor One” and “Corridor Two.” These projects propose inter-city rail service among several cities, including Harrisburg, Lancaster, York and Lebanon. To an outsider, it is a puzzle.

Of course, it doesn’t really matter. No reason to get on this any time soon. 2020 or even 2030 should work just fine.The price of gas won’t be going up and there won’t be any more population or highway congestion. Besides, who needs convenient transportation anyway?

But, if you still want to read the story, be my guest.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

South Dakota steals transport funds

This ain’t over yet. It’s just brazen.

A Pierre TV station carries the news based on an AP story. You can get it all on the link.

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) Despite a call for an investigation into how South Dakota spent some federal transportation money, an official from the state Legislative Audit office says the state did nothing wrong.

U.S. Representative James Oberstar of Minnesota says South Dakota did not have authority to spend $1.5 million on a state plane in 2005. The plane is used by Gov. Mike Rounds.

The money was supposed to be used for Amtrak, intercity bus lines or airline services.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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September 2007