Trains For America

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Oklahoma transportation forum

At least the Heartland Flyer is getting some lip service from public officials. It is remarkable that this train does so well considering

  • there are no other train connections at Oklahoma City
  • track conditions have not always been the best
  • it is a mere daily service on an important corridor

Forbes carried the Associated Press report.

“We’re settling into strong ridership,” Joe Kyle, head of the rail division at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said during a break in the forum, sponsored by the Oklahoma Good Roads Association.

Kyle said ridership on the Heartland Rider is higher than at any time since Amtrak inaugurated the route in 1999. The cost of the train’s operation is $4 million a year and is now shared by Oklahoma and Texas.

Angela Williams of Pauls Valley, representing the Heartland Flyer Coalition, said the train is having a strong economic impact, not only in Oklahoma City where it originates, but in small Oklahoma towns on the way to major destinations such as Gainesville and Fort Worth in Texas.

She said the train recently passed the half-million mark in ridership. Riders who stay overnight at stops spend an average of $422 per tip and daytime travelers spend close to $122.

“I see the Heartland Flyer as the economic engine for our business and commuter development,” she said. She said it could only be good economic news for the state if passenger travel is expanded north to Kansas and Missouri, a goal of various groups.

She said the Heartland Flyer has contributed to revitalization of downtown Pauls Valley, with over 50,000 train visitors to the town 35 miles south of Oklahoma City. “If they buy just a soda pop, look at what the economic value is,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins played host to the forum.

Askins said she was glad to see all modes of transportation represented at the meeting, from highways, to railways, to airports and other areas.

“There continues to be challenges (in funding) as we put more cars on our highways,” she said. “It increases the stress on our existing roadways.”

Filed under: Amtrak, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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