And here are a few thoughts from Evan Stair.
As many of you are aware, US Senator Tom Coburn released two studies on federal spending yesterday, one of these focused upon Oklahoma’s wasted federal dollars. The Heartland Flyer was one of many subjects covered in this report. Thanks to Chris Casteel for his report.
You can learn just as much from your critics as you do your proponents. Thanks to Senator Coburn we have learned that Amtrak is covering $2.65 million of the annual Heartland Flyer cost. Oklahoma is contributing $1.64 million and Texas $1.69 million.
When Amtrak began paying what I consider their-fair-share for the Heartland Flyer is unknown. Their financial practices have been labeled by some as “Creating Accounting.” This has been a frustration for many years in Congress.
Still, Senator Coburn is only looking at the cost of operation, and not at the entire pie. What Passenger Rail Oklahoma had considered a 3.5:1 return on taxpayer investment through traveler spending is now still an impressive 2:1. This is considering the $18 million in annual traveler spending associated with the Heartland Flyer in 2009 through the Texas Transportation Institute Study. Also, with Heartland Flyer ridership increasing, the train is creeping back up to the $3.00-per mark. Four coaches seem to be on the train daily this summer for the first time since 2008.
We encourage Senator Coburn and his staff to consider the economic advantage beyond-the-farebox. What effect would a discontinuance have on Oklahoma small business, especially in smaller towns like Purcell, Pauls Valley, and Ardmore? Maybe he would find that we do not have enough passenger rail in the state as some state legislators have suggested. That is what Passenger Rail Oklahoma considers the mission of the Eastern Flyer Passenger Rail Development Task Force.
We need a comprehensive national cost allocation study across all modes of transportation to measure the true cost/benefit. Efficiency is important in the rapidly expanding global economy. One hopes if a national study is performed, we will be looking at the entire picture and not just the pick-and-choose-parts.
Passenger Rail Oklahoma