Archive for Friday, February 15, 2008

Amtrak plan would expand service to south

February 15, 2008


City considers Amtrak expansion

City Commissioners are asked to jump on board a proposal to significantly expand Amtrak passenger train service in the state. Enlarge video

City commissioners Thursday were asked to jump on board a proposal to significantly expand Amtrak passenger train service in the state.

A grassroots organization of Oklahoma and Kansas leaders urged commissioners to pass a resolution encouraging the Kansas Legislature to support plans to establish new, more convenient passenger rail service between Kansas City and the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

"We're not talking about a system that would allow people to just travel through Lawrence," said Mark Corriston, the Kansas City director of the Northern Flyer Alliance. "We're talking about a train that would make it convenient for people to travel from Wichita to Lawrence to attend a sports event, or to come to stay overnight in downtown and do some shopping."

And unlike the current Amtrak train that travels through Lawrence, this new Amtrak service would arrive and depart from Lawrence's Burlington Northern Santa Fe Depot - just a few blocks east of downtown - during daylight hours.

The plan calls for one train to depart Kansas City about 7 a.m. and to arrive in Fort Worth about 10 p.m. Another train would leave Fort Worth at 7 a.m. and arrive in Kansas City about 10 p.m.

Proponents of the plan insist it is not just blue sky.

"It is not possible to do what we want to do today, but by 2010 I think there will be a lot of elements in place," Corriston said, referring to rising gasoline prices and a political environment more open to alternative forms of transportation. "I think the environment will be the best we've had in 30 or 40 years to do this."

City commissioners expressed interest in going along for the ride, as long as the project doesn't require commitment of city funds.

"I think rail travel does have a big future," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said.

The key to its future in Kansas, though, is to get the state to become a funding source. Proponents estimate it will take about $5 million worth of track improvements between Newton and Oklahoma City. The rest of the track is in place and meets passenger rail standards, said Evan Stair, the Oklahoma director of the Northern Flyer Alliance.

Much of that cost could be funded through a federal railway grants program that has been approved by the U.S. Senate but is awaiting approval in the House.

However, state leaders in Oklahoma and Kansas would need to figure out how to fund approximately $6 million in annual operating costs for the train. Amtrak would run the system but would charge the states to do so.

Members of the Northern Flyer Alliance - made up mainly of community and business leaders along the proposed route - have been seeking letters of support from cities throughout eastern and southern Kansas. Thus far, Newton, Strong City, Emporia, Arkansas City and Mulvane all have approved resolutions supporting the project, proponents said.

Mayor Sue Hack said she would plan to put a resolution of support on a future city commission agenda. But commissioners said they did want to learn a little bit more about how a new system would work, particularly about what assurances there would be that the trains would be convenient.

"When it is reliable, there is nothing like a train," City Commissioner Mike Dever said. "The problem is, people have gotten used to reliability. When it is not reliable, it gets overlooked very easily."

Stair said the biggest problem facing passenger trains was that they were often made to wait behind freight trains. But he said if state governments started investing in improvements to railroad tracks - which would still be owned by the rail companies - the states would be in a position to pressure the railroads to give more preference to passenger trains.

The system has worked well in parts of Oklahoma, Stair said. In the late 1990s, a new Amtrak route was established between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. Original projections called for about 25,000 passengers a year. Instead, the service attracts about 70,000 riders. Fares for a round trip between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth are $50. The trip takes about four hours.

Stair said he thought Lawrence was the type of town that could particularly benefit from rail service because the city's Burlington Northern Santa Fe Depot is within walking distance of hotels, shopping and other amenities that would attract weekend visitors.

"What we're really talking about here is economic development," Stair said.


Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 2 months ago

how about a slow boat? come on people lighten up to much to worry about in the world to make this such an issue. Andd marion I am known for my typos so I know you have to be talking about someone else:)

LogicMan 10 years, 2 months ago

Interesting, but don't plan on getting any state or local funds ...

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

""I think rail travel does have a big future," City Commissioner Boog Highberger said."

Let's see:

I can fly from Kansas City to New York for $204 and be there in a few hours. Or I can take the train for $242 and be there in 36 hours.

What to do, what to do...

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 2 months ago

Dumb idea. Stop using Midwestern taxpayers' dollars to transport East and West Coast users of Amtrak.

It's time to de-fund Amtrak.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

average (Anonymous) says:

"I'm doubting 500mph, but close to 200, yes. The mainline Northeast Corridor has no at-grade intersections, at least between DC and New York, and only a couple between NY and Boston."

From Boston to New York there are less than 20 miles where the Acela can reach it's 150 mph speed. It still takes 3-1/2 hours for the trip, barely half an hour less than a conventional train, and more than 2 hours longer than the air shuttle. Saving that half an hour costs about another hundred dollars over the price of a standard train ($212 vs. $114, although the cost of the standard train is even less off-peak, as low as $59), which is also hundred dollars more than the air shuttle ($114.50 on Delta).

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 2 months ago

well not sure i want a train ride but it could be cool not 6 mil. cool but for a person that is not sure all you smart people how much diff. in emmisions would there be in plane vs train vs car? better or worse for env?

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 2 months ago

so better for the env. and if you build like germany, bullet train, madmike my dad loved them also, faster now I see the cost to use being a bit high seems like all good ideas end up costing the very people that use the service. but it would be cool to travel across county on a train

salad 10 years, 2 months ago

If we would just hurry up and run out of oil already, then all these transportation problems would get sorted out by the market fairly quickly. I love the train btw.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"But you do get what you pay for, two hours at the airport and assumed a criminal and any type of search possible so you can sit a few hours in a crammed airplane in a dinkie seat plus all the excess fuel it takes in order to get a plane airborne."

That two hours at the airport (it has never taken us near that long, incidentally, even post-9/11) still gets me to New York more than a full day ahead of the train. And even as train speeds approach airplane speeds, they will never - never - compare to air travel. Airplanes don't have to slow down in populated areas. Or at the thousands of crossings between here and there. They also don't stop in every city along the way. Or have to wait for a slower plane travelling the same route.

I also don't have to stuff all our luggage into overheads and carry it with me when I switch from one plane to another, as I do on the train. Yes, the seats are a little smaller, and there's less room to get up and walk around. But then, I can usually sit still for a couple of hours - a day and a half, not so much. (I'm guessing you don't travel with small children.) Since I'm paying more for the train to get there a day later with less convenience, I am most certainly not getting what I pay for.

Going back to train travel is moving boldly into the future? Let's be even more bold and go back to stagecoaches. Even less oil fuel used (talk about using bio-fuel!) and both the energy source and the "engine" are renewable resources.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"Not talking about the trains of today, talking about moving to the trains the rest of the world is moving boldly toward. The technology that is being developed is state of the art."

Whereas the technology in air travel is not? No matter how fast you can get a train to go, will it be competitive in a future where you will be able to travel from New York to LA on a sub-orbital flight?

High-speed, affordable train travel in the United States will never be as feasible as it is in other countries. Maybe travelling across Kansas, where there's a whole lot of nothing, but in the more heavily populated areas of the country? There is no way - NO way - you will ever have trains travelling 500 mph from Boston to DC, unless you're planning on digging a tunnel the whole way. And unless you can go where the population centers are, you'll never be economically viable.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"Air travel is subsidized and inefficient and how often to you go to NY and then fly to LA? We don't, we generally travel within this area, Chicago, Dallas, Denver,etc."

And as I said, it will not be economically viable unless you can make a workable nationwide system. Most of the country's population doesn't live here, and travels to more places than Dallas and Denver. And you will never be able to operate super high speed trains in heavily populated areas such as the Northeast corridor from Boston to DC.

"Air has its place but it is time to start pulling their handouts so we can see what the real cost is. The economic issue is tiresome because we are not looking at the picture on a level playing field."

Fine. Stop subsidizing air travel and level the playing field.

As soon as I can take a train to Europe or Australia.

akuna 10 years, 2 months ago

We live in a big country and need multiple modes of transportation. I should not have to get on a plane to travel to Chicago or Denver or Houston or Memphis. These cities are close and should be connected with fast passenger trains. NY and LA are much further. It makes sense to travel via plane to those places.

Unfortunately, our leaders gave up on trains long ago and now we are in a position that will require too much money to create the infrastructure needed to build a railway that is competitive or better than airways for reasonably close travels.

BTW - I love traveling by trains. When I was in Europe I could travel at night and sleep. I would wake up when the train arrived at my destination, find a hostel, shower, and hit the city. Good stuff. Impossible to do here.

Viva la train. (Too bad it is already dead in the US.)

average 10 years, 2 months ago

"There is no way - NO way - you will ever have trains travelling 500 mph from Boston to DC, unless you're planning on digging a tunnel the whole way."

I'm doubting 500mph, but close to 200, yes. The mainline Northeast Corridor has no at-grade intersections, at least between DC and New York, and only a couple between NY and Boston. Upgrading it further will be a pain, but it is possible. No denser population than, say, the Rhine Valley. But, regional groups like Dallas-Houston-San Antonio or Vegas-LA... seems like a natural.

Amtrak fails in quite a few respects, though. They can't seem to take advantage of their #1 asset... low marginal cost. That is, adding the 101st person to a train is relatively easy. Add another coach, eventually. Adding the 101st person to a 100 seat airliner is a major problem.

Also, food service has gone from overpriced and mediocre to unimaginably bad. I'd give up on it and leverage technology. Alert passengers when they are an hour from a certain city. Local restaurants would pay to have their menus onboard. People would call ahead, and expect food delivered trackside at a five-minute stop. Onboard, nothing but an automat.

kansanjayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

The Heartland Flyer in Oklahoma is a demonstration that states can work together for funding as Oklahoma and Texas did. This is a great proposal and should be strongly considered, it will benefit all of the communities involved as well as Kansas as a whole. Maybe some of that elusive gambling revenue could be obtained????

bugmenot 10 years, 2 months ago

No one's mentioned the fact that petroleum-based fuel prices are going up and not going to come back down. Air travel is cheap now, but for how much longer? When it, too, becomes expensive, wouldn't it be nice to have some kind of a travel alternative?

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 2 months ago

ok you two both have things people one gets you there faster but one lets you see where you are going stop fighting over facts and when and if we get germany and china style trains then people will have two choices. I think a family vaction on a train would be cool and iff I wanted to fly to maui I still could this is a win win.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"Like I said air has it place. I'm not saying it would be only local I'm just saying that the argument of a trip from NY to LA is pulled out like that is what most trips are, traveling across the entire country when it isn't at all so rather irrelevant when discussing transportation needs of most people."

You're right. The "transportation needs of most people" do not include travel to Chicago, Dallas, or Denver. And most people drive when they do.

"So air travel should be subsidized because you benefit from it personally? Why not let it be an expense included the price of your ticket instead of subsidized so you aren't under the delusion that it is cheap to fly?"

And the subsidy for train travel?

The cost of Amtrak travel between Kansas City and St. Louis is more than half paid for by subsidy. And altogether the cost is about four times what it costs to drive. And Amtrak in Missouri is late almost half the time. But hey, we should pay more than half the cost because someone chooses to relax on the train?

"They already have a fairly high speed train in the NE used daily by quite a few people actually."

The express train from Boston to DC takes 6-1/2 hours. Not many business travelers are going to spend the entire working day on the train, when they can choose one of 30 flights to fit their schedule, take an hour-and-forty-minute flight, conduct their business, and get home for dinner.


bugmenot (Anonymous) says:

"No one's mentioned the fact that petroleum-based fuel prices are going up and not going to come back down. Air travel is cheap now, but for how much longer? When it, too, becomes expensive, wouldn't it be nice to have some kind of a travel alternative?"

Like a diesel train????

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 2 months ago

notajayhawk (Anonymous) says:

"Let's see:

I can fly from Kansas City to New York for $204 and be there in a few hours. Or I can take the train for $242 and be there in 36 hours."

First, you got to drive 1 hour to KCI from Lawrence, then partk your car at the $5.50 parking lot. Your gas should be going around $25.00 to get there and back. Then, you will need to grab a cab from La Guardia to Manhattan which costs around $38.00 one way.

Also, I don't think you can get $204 anymore. Let's say it's $276 (AA only). Your gas $25.00, and let's say you'll be in NYC for 3 weeks, that will give you around $100 bill for your parking, so that will be a total of nearly $400.00 for your air-ticket.

For the train ride, it will get you straight to the Union Station in Downtown Manhattan, and you will be able to park here in Lawrence for free. Latest check: $300.00.

You will have unlimited baggages for your Amtrak, and more spaces. If you're going for a vacation, train ride makes sense. But if you're going for a business trip, plane ride makes more sense. Or have I talked about possible flight cancelation during winter, and that you will sleep at the airport?

average 10 years, 2 months ago

Actually, livingstone, not only are there baggage limits (though more generous than most airlines), you can't check luggage at all in Lawrence, and can't get checked luggage to Lawrence, either. This is a knock on using Amtrak for much travel, despite enjoying the trips I've taken on it.

bugmenot 10 years, 2 months ago

No, not like a diesel train. I'm interesting in replicating the system they have in Europe. We all TOTALLY GET that you don't like trains. Find something better to do than cut-and-pasting things from the internet to this board.

I guarantee you air travel will price a good segment of society out of travelling within a few years. So will travelling by car.

Lisia 10 years, 2 months ago

A stop in Ardmore, OK! That's where my sister lives! It would be so cool to get on a train here and visit my sister. My current car isn't up to handling that long of a drive, and I love riding the train, and haven't seen my sister or nephews in ages- other than via Skype.

I took the train out to Los Angeles about a year and a half ago. A long trip, definitely, but I took a day out of it to visit a friend in Albuquerque, NM, which divided the trip in half. I liked it much better than flying- nicer chairs and you can get up and walk around and go to different cars.

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 2 months ago

plane, train, or automobile get there anyway you can and want.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

bugmenot (Anonymous) says:

"No, not like a diesel train. I'm interesting in replicating the system they have in Europe."

Or maybe in Asia. After all, it only took 74 years to electrify the Trans-Siberian. And just out of curiosity, where are we going to get all the electricity from, when we can't meet our current power needs?

In any event, you can not compare what was accomplished in other countries to the United States. When we were signing the Declaration of Independence, there were already horse-drawn trams being pulled over iron rails in Europe. The United States has the highest per capita car ownership in the world - 50% higher than Europe's. We put over 500 times as many miles on passenger cars as we travel by passenger rail. Gasoline is and has been more expensive in Europe, making mass transit more attractive. In the United States, people use their personal vehicles for 95% of trips up to 500 miles and over 60% of trips up to 750 miles - one way. Nine out of ten long distance (over 50 miles one way) trips in the U.S. are made in personal vehicles; less than 1% are made by train.

Maybe it's because the people of this country want convenience. Train travel will never compare with either passenger cars (for mobility) or air travel (for speed) in that regard. And it doesn't even have the benefit of being more cost effective.

"We all totally get that you don't like trains. Find something better to do than cut-and-pasting things from the internet to this board."

Apparently you don't get anything at all. I never said, or even implied, that I don't like trains. When I lived on the East Coast I used them all the time, for the commute between NYC and the suburbs, even for longer distances on occasion (like from NY to Newport News). It appears it's you that has personalized this. My like or dislike for trains has nothing to do with any of the facts I have presented (none of which, oddly enough, were cut and pasted). Or is it that you just object to facts that don't agree with your own preferences?

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"Continuing to compare locomotives of today with the modern trains we could start considering that other countries are using is like saying the airlines are flying DC-3s today."

Try considering the trains in use today to the planes in use today, not the trains "we could start considering" to planes in use today.

"You might want to check the usage of the train out east, you may be surprised."

As I spent almost 35 years of my life living in almost the center of the Boston-to-DC corridor, I somehow doubt that I'd be surprised.

"Probably in the same way trolleys disappeared because of the automakers playing politics I'd assume the same is true today and there are other agendas involved in this."

Or maybe people prefered driving cars. Let's see ... I can take a train to St. Louis and either 1) rent a car or 2) take cabs everywhere, or I can drive there and have my own car with me. Again, what to do, what to do...

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

livingstone (Anonymous) says:

"For the train ride, it will get you straight to the Union Station in Downtown Manhattan"

That would be a good trick, as there is no Union Station in NYC. Amtrak goes to Penn, the other one is Grand Central.

"First, you got to drive 1 hour to KCI from Lawrence, then partk your car at the $5.50 parking lot. Your gas should be going around $25.00 to get there and back. Then, you will need to grab a cab from La Guardia to Manhattan which costs around $38.00 one way."

First, who said I was starting in Lawrence? I compared the same trip between the same two cities. Believe it or not, not everyone lives in Lawrence. And let's see ... I also believe there are other options than parking your own vehicle at the airport ... even if - especially if - I was going to stay the magical three weeks you came up with. There are also other options than taking a cab into Manhattan ... assuming that was the final destination I had in mind. If I were going to Long Island, for instance, it would cost me that much to travel from Penn Station out there.

"Also, I don't think you can get $204 anymore."

According to the daily price alerts on my computer, yes you can. Look harder.

"Or have I talked about possible flight cancelation during winter, and that you will sleep at the airport?"

Well, let's see ... if I choose Amtrak, I have to spend the night sleeping on a train, since it takes 36 hours. Weighed against the chance of having to sleep in an airport (which has never happened to me). Yet again, what to do, what to do...

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"So the tooth fairy did provide all the roads. Good deal."

The same tooth fairy who's going to provide your new rail lines between KC and St Louis ... you know, the ones without freight traffic that can handle high speed trains (not to mention the generous contribution from the tooth fairy of the high speed trains themselves and the electrification).

Or did you have some kind of cost estimate showing that an entirely new rail line would cost less than the expansion of I-70? What? No?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 years, 2 months ago

Note to Marion Lynn: Steam engines went out back in the 1940's. As a life long railroad fan and enthusiast, I can tell you that they were replaced very quickly once the bottom line was presented to railroad management. They required many, many workers to maintain, service, repair, and the very physics of the internal combustion powered diesel-electric locomotive versus the steam powered locomotive doomed the old steam engines very fast. Railroads were required to maintain huge maintenance facilities, fuel facilities, mechanical departments to keep the old pots going. Boiling water into steam and then containing 300 pounds per square inch steam in a steel containment vessel (the boiler) required much work, maintenance, and many safety checks, boiler explosions could cause havoc both to the railroad, it's passengers, and the local communities that just might be adjacent to the railroad's dtracks. Sorry, we all love the old steam locomotives, but they will never return to regular service, there are just too many reasons of safety, economics, and labor-ontensiveness to make this happen. But the day is coming when fuel prices will cause many rail companies to again look seriously at electric locomotives, electricity can be generated from many sources that would be able to move electric powered trains. But they will have to fight with the loons who would not want to look at the overhear catenary wiring system,(ooh, it Looks So Awful and does not fit into the flavor of our community). There are always loons when something new and better is proposed.

simplykristib 10 years, 2 months ago

Traveling by rail is still a viable option. It's too bad that more people don't take the opportunity to travel by rail.

I have taken the train from Omaha to Hastings NE to visit some people. I had to take the bus aka shuttle from the Amtrak station here in KC to Omaha and back.

I have taken the train from the KC area to Jefferson City a couple of times and once to Hermann, MO and back.

I have taken the train from NYC to Spartanburg, SC and back to NYC.

I have flown numerous times. The farthest I have flown is to Hawaii and back. I flew to NYC once. On the flight home, I got to fly first class. :)

I rather take the train than fly. You can see more by rail. You have the freedom to move around on the train. And the seats are much more comfortable on a train than a plane.

I am glad to see that KS and OK are looking at the opportunity to expand service. :)

Richard Heckler 10 years, 2 months ago

Trains,planes and automobiles are all subsidized modes of travel. My guess cars and trucks are by far the most demanding of tax dollars.

Locally some cars and trucks are demanding that $200,000,000 be spent to get them around a very few minutes quicker. Then comes the ongoing maintenance costs known as wear and tear not to mention the millions that cars and trucks will demand to keep the $200,000,000 roadway free of ice and snow.

Recently we returned on train from Philadelphia to KCMO by way of Chicago. The club car was fun,food was good and traveling through towns and cites was interesting. Yep that 5 hour layover in Chicago was fun considering the station was downtown....airports are stuck out in the middle of nowhere.

If rush is the objective sometimes planes are better.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

"Instead, the service attracts about 70,000 riders. Fares for a round trip between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth are $50."

That was the first year ('99). Since then ridership has dropped, averaging - depending on who you listen to - 58-65,000 "riders" per year - or as little as 30,000 round trips (about 82 per day). The price ranges from $50 to $98, just like the airlines based on advanced booking and other factors. And not everyone rides the entire distance - some "rides" may be from Norman to Purcell or from Gainesville to Fort Worth; those fares would bring in less money. The states of Oklahoma and Texas give them $2 million/year - each. Without knowing how many people ride the entire distance or how many pay full or reduced fares, there's no way of knowing the per-ticket subsidy percentage; but it's over $66 per ride ($132 per round trip - like almost all Amtrak trips, subsidies pay more than a passenger does). Four million dollars may not sound like much compared to the cost of road building. But why should the state pay $4,000,000 every year so a little over 80 people per day can make a round trip on the train?

As for convenience, there's one round trip per day - leaving OK City in the morning and returning from Fort Worth at dinner time (arriving back in OK City 13 hours after leaving). Only one of the 7 stations is staffed - Fort Worth. If your trip originates there, you obviously have to stay overnight to return - assuming the purpose of the visit could be accomplished between 9:30 at night and 8:30 the next morning, otherwise it's two nights. Apparently a lot of OU fans like to take the train down for the Texas game, which I guess you could do in a day. Be a little problematic for Texas fans to do the same, though.

By contrast, round trip airfare can be as low as $103 with a two week advance purchase. Figure most of the time under most circumstances it'll run the passenger about twice what the train does. (On the other hand, the cost to taxpayers for each train rider is more than it would have cost to put them on a plane.) But there are several flights per day and they take less than an hour (compared to the 4 hour train). Without making 5 stops in between and with your luggage checked. If you needed luggage - you could fly to a business meeting and be home for lunch.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 2 months ago

the trains we rode from philadelphia to chicago to kcmo had plenty of riders and train stations were plenty busy. if not in a rush i find the train quite enjoyable and sociable.

braden_quinn 10 years, 2 months ago

This would be Great! I'd love to be able to take the train to Wichita and even farther south.

Axe2Grind 10 years, 2 months ago

Several factors are driving passenger rail expansion. First increasing world fossil fuel demand. Second, the need to reconnect the rural USA. Third, economic development possibilities. Fourth, reducing transportation costs. Ex: A mile of suburban interstate widening can cost taxpayers up to $18 million; Urban interstate can cost $100 million/ mile.
The gasoline break point versus an Amtrak ticket is $2.40. When was the last time you purchased gasoline at this price? Do you ever expect to pay that price again? Amtrak serves a niche market, not just "BigCity A" to "BigCity B." Communities such as Lawrence, Topeka, and Arkansas City can be a part of this national transportation system; no need to lug along your car. Amtrak returns to communities, in beyond the fare-box revenue 4:1 public investment. No one would argue about highways and the economic development they afford. Why hold Amtrak to a different standard? Most importantly, US railroads have deteriorated dramatically since the 1930's. Rail is the most efficient ground transportation form. Make no mistake. The interstate trucking industry have had a free ride for the past 50 years paying substantially less in taxes for the road damage they do. A fully loaded semi-truck can do 9,600 times the damage to a road of a common automobile.
Amtrak is also an investment in general rail transportation. Amtrak operates over private freight railroads such as the BNSF. Amtrak's fee keeps the rails in a condition that encourages freight movement. It is interesting to see some of the messages on this board that talk sarcastically about the resistance to upgrading horse and buggy technology. It is sad to think that people actually consider Amtrak the equivalent of choo choo trains from the 1800's. Trains today are clean, comfortable: and you don't have to stop at rest stops or gasoline stations.
Also, the belief that highway and personal transportation are sustainable is a myth. What will you do when gasoline is $6.00 a gallon if you can find it? What will you do when a plane ticket, if you can find one, reflects the cost of actual operation?
The Heartland Flyer is not a demo train. It is fully funded by Oklahoma and Texas. They have recognized the importance. Oklahoma's investment is perpetual: $2.2 million spent annually on the route between Ft Worth and Oklahoma City. If the ODOT was doing its job the train would already be operating between Kansas City and Ft Worth.
I have a friend that says Amtrak is underfunded because it does not waste enough money. In other words, highway construction money fuels the highway and trucking lobbies. Look at the money that is spent perpetuating our personal transportation addiction. Look at the insurance that you pay each year, the upkeep on the car, and the gasoline. Look at the time you spend on the road. Would you like to have a substantial amount of that time and money back each year? Support the effort.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"I wonder where car transportation would be today if during the early days of cars when the roads were bad and muddy if people would have said, dang those cars, they are slow, problem prone contraptions and the roads are so bad you can't get very far in them, let's not spend any money on that. But the government stepped in and built them anyway. So should we continue in the horse and buggy mode?"

Funny you should chastise others for continuing "in the horse and buggy mode" while advocating returning to a mode of travel that's been around since the beginning of the 19th century.

Yes, I am aware that the technology has advanced. It's still train travel. It still has the major limitations of limited access and scheduling. I can fly to almost any city in this country (or very near it) and drive to all of them. Can you say that about trains? If I travel to the NYC metro area, I have my choice of at least four airports, each of which has advantages depending on what part of the metro my final destination is in. With a train I get one choice, which is great if I'm going to midtown, otherwise not so much. With a plane I can get to almost any part of this country in a matter of a few hours, with a train it's more like a day and a half for long trips. For shorter trips I can drive, and have my own transportation with me when I get there, instead of needing the cabs, buses, or whatever else I have to use to get around once I get off a train.

In other parts of the world they're going great guns with trains. They need them, and for the same reason the Acela is doing okay in Boston: because they're needed in addition to planes, the air routes are saturated. Even at that, train travel is hardly the dominant mode of transportaion in Europe, is it? What is it, like 7%, and dropping further as individual car ownership continues to increase?

Train travel will always have a niche, for those who want to relax and see the sights. It will always be a useful alternative in areas of high density where reliable short-to-mid range point-to-point transportaion is feasible. It will always be an adjunct in areas where air traffic systems are overloaded. But it will never replace travel by personal car or airplane. Those two will continue to be the primary means of travel in this country, and to think otherwise is naive. And as government coffers continue to be in higher and higher demand, if you can't fund everything, it makes absolutely no sense to fund a niche or adjunctive mode of transportation at the expense of the primary modes.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"Oh geez, so again we will only look at conditions in America as they are now and close our eyes to the fact that first off, we are eventually talking about an entirely different type of train entirely that has no relationship to the trains we use today."

I presume the trains of tomorrow you keep referring to will still require rails? One in four of our major cities have no passenger rail service. (Even more have limited service, a couple or few days per week.) Train tracks don't go everywhere. Then, when you get to your destination, you still need another form of transportation to get to your final destination. That's the same for planes - which is why the vast majority of long distance trips are still made by personal vehicle. And trains will never give you the option of getting off at the next exit because you're hungry (for something besides what they have in the snack bar), or because you want to make that side trip to see the world's biggest frying pan, or because one of the kids has motion sickness. Yes, there are places you can get off the train to see the sights (at least those next to the train station) - if you want to wait overnight to get back on the next train.

And the speed of trains will never approach that of airplanes. Nor will the capacity. Look at the Acela - there is almost no place along its route where it can travel at its full speed (which is only 150 mph). The physical limitations of the area keep it from being even an hour faster from Boston to NYC than a regular train, and 2 hours slower than air shuttles. And the Acela can only carry about 2700 people each way daily. There many more air routes than train tracks (you don't have to tear down buildings and clear out an area to add new ones), and you don't get slowed down by a slower plane in front of you.

Right now train ridership in areas of massive air congestion is up because people don't like the crowds and long waits at the airport. Well, duh - when less than 1% of the travelers are going to the train station, you tend to have smaller crowds and shorter lines. (Again, less than 3000 people board the Acela at Boston South Station daily ... how many flow through Logan?) Suppose you increased train ridership by a factor of ten (still only 10% of the traveling market)? Still think you'll have a place to park at the train station? Still think you'll be able to arrive a few minutes beforehand and get right on and find a seat? Why do you think that private car ownership in Europe, while still well behind that of the United States, is skyrocketing?

Your vision of the future, no matter how glitzy you make it, is still a retrun to horse and buggy days. You can make the trains faster, you can make them safer, you can make them cleaner and more comfortable. But you will still be limiting travel to destinations attached to that steel ribbon, you will still have the capacity and scheduling constraints dictated by that steel ribbon.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

notajayhawk (Anonymous) says:

"That is all fine and dandy but it also demands that everybody has to pitch in to a one sided view of how they get somewhere and keep those car companies in business."

And then, getting back to reality...

How many cars travel along I-70 between KC and St Louis every day? Do you really think - really - that even your trains of the future will ever make a dent in that, let alone replace it? So we should take the billions of dollars away from the I-70 improvements and sink it into an extremely limited train system that won't begin to replace cars, meaning we still need the road system we're not fixing? Brilliant.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

Oops, obviously I was quoting JackRipper, not myself.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

Average daily traffic on I-35 between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth: 8,000 to 20,000 vehicles - over 100,000 vehicles per day as you approach urban areas. (And over 11,000 vehicles per day between Wichita and Oklahoma City.)

Average number of daily passengers on the Heartland Flyer: Less than 200.

Hmmm, where should we spend the money...

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 2 months ago

oh shucks but ya know typos and me go hand and hand.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"Not fixing? I'm talking about further expanding and widening projects."

So you want to do both? Great. And the money is coming from where, again? You think that, say, the state of Missouri is going to be able to come up with both the $3.5 billion for fixing I-70 and the billions it would cost to build an entirely new train infrastructure?

"Also again you are saying the world is now how it has been and always will be. I believe the future could be vastly different either because of technology improvements or because of something called peak oil which might change the game completely."

How completely? I can see a world without internal combustion powered personal vehicles - but not without personal vehicles at all. Be just a little bit realistic. Do you really think that you will ever have an entire system of rails, intercity linked to short haul linked to subways or trams or whatever, that will take us everywhere our cars do now? Even if people would give up their personal conveyances (and they won't, and there's no reason they should have to), it's impossible.

You could link Lawrence to Baldwin and Eudora with trains - and then what? Do you think Baldwin and Eudora are going to build subway systems or trams everywhere?

This is really simple math. No matter what your vision of future trains consists of, we will always need some form of personal vehicles. That means we will always need roads. Resources are limited, and you can't pay for both making the needed repairs and expansions to the road system and an entirely new rail system. Given those constraints, it only makes sense to put the money into the primary - and irreplaceable - mode of transportation. The fact of the matter is that while personal cars can replace passenger rail, rail can not and never will be able to replace personal cars. Which, again, is why European car ownership is growing, and much faster than rail.

"maybe we should find out what all the traffic is for in the first place and then see if it isn't just a lot of waste" "The whole commuting thing is just insane, that it could possibly make sense that we think we should have all the fuel and highways we want so we can live cities away from our work." "the government is already living on the brink with our massive debt and that's before factoring in the very near future of social security and medicare expenses that will start coming due with the boomers retiring" "And it is rather bizarre with NAFTA and trade with China and all how unsustainable this all is. Practically everything we get now comes from miles if not oceans away. A lot of that traffic you talk about is traffic that comes from shipping things instead making and growing locally."

Well, I'm beginning to see the problem here - it sounds just a little like there may be some agenda here beyond funding a train to Oklahoma City.

SpeedRacer 10 years, 2 months ago

When I moved here from LA almost 30 years ago, I told my real estate agent I was picking Lawrence to live because it had an amtrak station and I could commute to my job in KC like I did in the LA area. When he finished laughing, I learned that the train traveled through one in each direction in the middle of the night. So much for my flirtation with rail travel in Lawrence.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"well notajayhawk sounds like you are content thinking the world will stay the same"

You're the one arguing for staying with an outdated mode of transportation, not me. Did you even try to dispute - can you even try to dispute - that your trains of the future will still have the major limitations of lack of mobility/flexibility, scheduling constraints, and capacity constraints of today's trains?

"support for improved passenger trains is not saying the end of highways, never said that"

And you never said how we're supposed to afford both. Really, try to put a coherent argument together. Yes, we subsidize airfares. How much fiscal sense does it make to subsidize a mode of transportation designed to draw business away from a mode we're already subsidizing? I pointed out numerous examples of how the subsidized airfares cost less than the amount we contribute to each Amtrak ticket. How is it logical in any way, shape, or form, to subsidize airlines so they can offer a $100 fair only to contribute $150 towards the cost of a train ticket so someone doesn't fly? Can you please try to explain that? Can you please try to explain anything?

As I stated before, resources are limited, despite the fact that you think they're not. With cars and airplanes we can live without passenger rail. No matter how much you expand or improve passenger rail it will never allow us to do without cars or airplanes. Did you even try to dispute that? Can you?

Were you even aware of how much personal car ownership has been increasing in all these parts of the world you keep referring to that are building these trains of the future, let alone aware of what that signifies? Have you even tried to dispute - or can you - that the areas where train ridership has increased are primarily areas where air traffic and roadways were overly saturated, and that the rail systems people are using as an outlet for that pressure have already become saturated too?

"Guess there is nothing to say to even get you to think about a change"

And I thought you were claiming that this wasn't about "change," that you were saying trains should be funded in addition to expanding/improving roadways.

You've said we should build more trains. You haven't given any kind of argument as to why, or how, or even what it would accomplish. You have, however, dragged in everything from government debt, NAFTA, China trade, and social security/medicare. I have presented a lot of specific numbers, concrete examples, and elementary logic as to why trains will continue to be a useful adjunct to our dominant modes of transportation but will never seriously challenge them. Did you have anything else?

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"You seem content saying your way is the only way because you answered a few questions but missed most of the other ones."

Let's see how many you've answered:

How much will these new trains cost? Nope, haven't answered that one.

Where will the money come from? Nope.

Will these new trains address any of the limitations of current trains (e.g. mobility/flexibility, capacity, scheduling, etc.)? Nope again.

Is train travel increasing in areas other than where the road and air traffic systems are too congested? Um, nope again.

Isn't car ownership increasing at a gigantic rate even in these places that you talk about that are developing all these new train systems? Hmmm, you missed that one, too.

Oh, yeah, my black-and-white world where we have to choose between cars and trains - have you answered how we're supposed to afford roadway expansion/repair and a whole new rail system? Nope, although you keep insisting that somehow we should.

You keep talking about how trains of the future will be totally different. Here's a clue for you: So will cars. But whether those cars are powered by biofuel, propane, batteries, or solar collectors, we will still need roads. There is no need for trains.

"I know this is not admirable since we aren't in debt and so edgy trying to make those payments but at least we can be content not polluting as much or burning up more fuel then makes sense..."

Except that's not true. If you're operating a train like the Flyer to carry a handful of passengers that could have travelled by alternate means, then you are indeed burning up more fuel and polluting more than makes sense.

"There must be reasons why you are twisting everything around. ... Or are you one of those who thinks people who use mass transit are beneath you?"

Speaking of twisting things around, Jack, I believe I plainly stated that I used the trains in and out of NYC quite a bit when I lived out there. Reliable routes with flexible scheduling between two points convenient to the traveler's departure and destination points makes eminent sense. Once per day trips between Wichita and Fort Worth carrying a handful of riders who just don't want to be rushed does not.

It really sounds like it's your way of life that's being threatened here - do you think we should still have elevator operators and milkmen, too?

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

Well, Jack, at least now we know why you didn't answer the questions earlier.

"How much did the Denver airport cost?" Denver International cost $4.8 billion. It is the third largest international airport in the world and largest (and fourth biggest) in the country - large because it's designed for future expansion as the need arises. A good estimate is that over a quarter of a billion passengers have already used it. A proposed high speed rail system to connect major cities on Florida is expected to cost as much as $22 billion. Hard to predict ridership, but the Acela Express between Boston and DC is running at capacity, which is less than 2 million passengers per year.

I'd say Denver was quite a bargain.

"Where does it come from for roads and airports?" Oh, good idea. Try being a little more specific here, Jack - are you saying take money from roads and airports to pay for trains or to just magically spend more? You haven't been too clear on that. In your little world, Jack, it makes sense to spend billions and billions of dollars to fund a mode of travel that is intended to compete for passengers with other modes of travel you're already spending billions of dollars on?

"run more trains for flexibility and for mobility use cars and buses from the train stations" The number of trains is constrained by the number of tracks. You do know that you can't have two trains running in the opposite direction over the same rails during the same time period, don't you? I hope? And you're acknowledging that even with more trains, we still need cars, and therefore roads. Funny thing is, with more cars and roads we have no need for passenger trains.

"well yes, ridership has gone up across the country. Add more trains and it will go up more." "Up," Jack? "Up?" Uh huh. It has been fairly consistently less than 1% of passenger travel in this country. Still is. That's "up?" 160 passengers per day on the Heartland Flyer? That's what you consider "up?" (Incidentally, that's down from the first year the service returned, not up.) Yeah, I guess if you go from nothing to next-to-nothing, it's "up." How much has it increased in relation to passenger-miles in cars and aircraft? More trains will mean more riders? Come on, Jack, you could at least try being serious. The reason only an average of 80 people take the Flyer in each direction each day isn't because of lack of seats.


notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago


"Beijing is a perfect example of what happens when you go from transportation that works to what doesn't." And Beijing is such an excellent comparison to, say, Wichita. Why, the two places are nearly identical! And have you ever been to Rome, Jack? Not to easy trying to introduce a modern day means of conveyance into a city that's been around for literally thousands of years before that means of conveyance was dreamed of.

"that's the point, don't need to do more expansion until we figure out what combinations would work best" You don't get out much, do you? Can you honestly say that building a new train system between Kansas City and St Louis will make a significant dent in the 36,000 vehicles per day that travel along I-70, let alone the nearly 100,000 that use that road near those two cities, or the 70,000 that use it near Columbia? Honestly?

"let's hope they are smaller so they don't abuse the already expensive roads more then they need to" Yada yada yada, yeah, we already know you don't like big cars using up a lot of gas and polluting the air yada yada yada. Get over it.

"make sure the system is never on even footing and you can make those claims. Take away all the subsidizes for air and let's see what is more affordable to the individual" Your parroting of those rather spurious claims is getting really tired, Jack. So the government spent $5 billion to build Denver's airport. Over its lifetime, that will amount to what - one or two dollars per passenger? Less? Subsidies pay more than half of every fare Amtrak carries. And by the way, several local governments paid the cost of re-opening the train stations along the Flyer's route, for the what, less than 25 people per day that each averages? You're right - take the subsidies away from trains and see if they can compete. Oh, wait - before the governments of Oklahoma and Texas caved in and picked up the tab, they couldn't, and service was to be discontinued. Real competitive.


notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago


"run more trains, you'll have more then a daily one way option" Uh, yeah. Double - or triple - the operating costs. Good plan. Without government subsidies, the Flyer operates at a $4 million per year loss. Let's run five trains and lose $20 million. Heck, let's run ten trains and lose $40 million.

"what, do you despise jobs we can do here in America?" I'm just not so stuck in the past that I think we need to keep living in the 19th century.

But what the heck, Jack, maybe you've convinced me. As a matter of fact, let's not stop at trains - what about trans-oceanic passenger travel by ship? Why isn't the government putting billions of dollars into subsidies so people who don't want to rush across the ocean can take their nice leisurely time? Heck, it only costs about 5 times as much, and takes a week instead of a few hours, sounds just as good as trains! And every single one of your arguments in favor of more trains - every one of them - can be used to argue for more trans-oceanic passenger ship travel (I mean, cruise ships of today are nothing like the old ones)! Let's do it!

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

its_getting_warmer (Anonymous) says:

"Jack keeps digging on federal subsidies for air travel, but are not most of these subsidies from a fee/tax structure imposed upon flights and airlines, and hence are a user fee:and really not as much of a federal subsidy as Jack infers? Like even the Denver Airport? Or are there appropriations to these funds from general revenue sources?"

First of all, the airport in Denver was not financed through general revenue funds, it was paid for through bonds, to be paid back from airport receipts. On top of that, the PFC - passenger facility charge - at Denver is, I believe, $4.50, which, over the life of the airport, will probably pay most if not all of the cost of building it.

Jack also seems to forget that fuel taxes collected, toll receipts, etc., make up a lot of what the government spends on roadways.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"There would be no user fees if the roads and airports weren't built to begin with..."

Get a grip, Jack. You're really starting to embarass yourself. You have already acknowledged that even with passenger rail, you still need roads.

"and where did most of that money come from?"

From the people using the airports and roads. You're having a hard time with that one, aren't you? When I buy gas and pay tolls I'm paying towards the roads I drive on. When I pay for an airline ticket, I'm paying for the airport, both directly through the PFCs and indirectly because the bonds are being paid off through fees charged to the airlines, which in turn are paid for by my ticket purchase. On the other hand we have trains, where 60% of the fare is being paid by taxpayers who never use the trains. If you can't see the difference there, I can't help you.

"Well why did we take the free market system out of it in the first place so that trains and interurbans were ran out of business?"

Uh, right.

I suppose it's escaped your notice that if the trains lost their subsidies and were left at the mercy of the free market, the Flyer would have stopped running three years ago (as would most passenger service in the country)? And that even if it was still running, a round trip ticket between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth would be closer to $200? Yep, let's leave it up to the free market - oh, by the way, passenger train travel accounts for less than 1% of that market.

"Oh yeah, that should also include removing ourselves from using the military to obtain oil. Let's let the oil companies bargain with the people who own the oil instead of using force"

Once again it appears pointless to argue with you, Jack. I had wondered why your earlier tirade included NAFTA, China trade, social security, medicare, government debt, etc., and you'd somehow missed the war. Your agenda really seems to be more anti-goverment than pro-trains, which is most likely what's coloring your judgment and making you incapable of facing the facts.

Those facts are simple, and you still have not even tried to dispute them: We need planes and cars, we do not need passenger trains. They're nice to have, as a leisure travel alternative, as an adjunct when the other systems are overloaded, as a backup when disasters like 9/11 hit. But there are too many limitations to rail, not the least of which is cost, for trains to ever seriously compete with passenger cars and planes.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"the roads and airports didn't exist at one point"

Neither did the railroad. Maybe we should go back to stagecoaches. After all, with steel wheels and axles, ball bearings, rubber tires, metal bodywork, stagecoaches of today would be nothing like the old ones.

"Ok, now since there weren't always roads and airports there weren't obviously passengers who you could attach a fee onto a ticket that didn't exist because there were no airlines or airports so the magic government fairy stepped in and helped build those things at the same time making it more difficult for the free market choo choo's to make money."

And once again you're wrong (go figure). There were roads, they may not have been paved or limited access highways, but their were roads. The magic government fairy you refer to doesn't have any money to spend, in case you forgot how government works. They spend our money, on things that we use. And as pointed out, airports (and major road projects) are built with bonds, to be paid for after they're built from the revenues they generate.

Yeah, I suppose we could do the same with railroads. Let's see ... let's sell billions of dollars worth of bonds to finance a rail system between Wichita and Fort Worth that currently carries about 160 people per day and loses several million dollars per year. Wow, that's an attractive bond offering.

"On top of all that how much money comes out of the general budget for all the other expenses that you refuse to discuss, like the death and disabilities, the police and EMT's, the plowing and salting, etc. etc. And what about the cost of the stupidest purchase people make- a new car?"

And what about the cost of maintaining trains stations, road crossings, and all the other things you refuse to consider? And you think the costs of security are not applicable to trains? You're wrong. It's not as big a deal because nobody travels by train anymore. If as many people started using trains as planes, you'd see billions of dollars in government money spent there, too. Oh, not to mention the costs involved in airport-sized parking garages at train stations (I'm sure the land adjacent to Penn Station isn't very expensive). And for all the hassles fighting the traffic to get to the airport, what do you think it would be like doing the same to get to the train station with that kind of volume, especially as train stations tend to be in city centers rather than on the outskirts? And other costs? You do know that per passenger mile, the fatality rate for train travel is about 8 times that of air travel?


notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago


"The facts are really simple, very simple and if they are as great as you say then they should be able to compete in the free market."

They are. It's only you that can't see that.

Stagecoaches went away because of the free market. The overwhelming majority of travelers preferred their personal conveyances - their horses, and maybe a wagon - to stagecoach travel, for the freedom of being able to go wherever they wanted whenever they wanted, and because even if they took a stagecoach to another city, they still had to have some way of getting beyond there to their final destination. Then trains came along and people could get where they were going much faster than by stagecoach. It is those very same dynamics which doomed passenger rail service to its current ancillary role.

"And yes I'm completely aware of the possibility that the trains losing their assistance might end it all together but sounds like you are afraid that it might do the same to your high dollar traveling options."

Hardly. There will always be air travel, if nothing else business travel will maintain the demand. The costs do not matter, they'll be passed on to consumers anyway. And you have said yourself that rail service is not capable of eliminating the need for personal vehicles, and therefore roads, regardless of the costs;. in my lifetime alone the price of the family car has gone from $1500 to over $20K, and gas from pennies to $3/gallon. Of the three modes of transportation, passenger rail service is the only one we can do without. And there's really nothing that's going to change that. Take away the government paying their operating costs, and for the most part it would already be gone.

notajayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says:

"Ah yes, as expected you bring up the other issues and then come back to the way it is today and refuse to acknowledge how air and vehicle growth gained the advantage. As long as we can never find out we won't know will we. Funny how your way can't survive any better than rail or probably your bigger fear, it won't be as cheap. Pull all subsidizes! Privatize the airports and infrastructure, let the airline companies provide it just like the train companies do."

As much fun as this has been, Jack, your desperation now has you blatantly lying.

"just like the train companies do?" Who paid to refurbish the train stations along the Heartland Flyer route, Jack? And we're not talking about things like traffic control (which would be needed whether or not we had passenger air travel, because of air freight, military flights, and private planes), we're talking about daily operating costs. Trains can't even leave the station without the government using our tax dollars to run them. You're right about the unfair competition - you're completely wrong about which direction that unfairness runs.

Privatize the airports - to accomplish what? Do you think Denver is paying off $5 billion in bonds without charging the airlines fees, just as a private corporation would? Hey, here's an idea - let's privatize the train stations. See what happens to the price of every train fare passing through the NorthEast if Penn Station and Grand Central have to start paying taxes on their properties in midtown Manhattan.

"Let the maintenance and growth be determined by its use."

I completely agree.

Let the Heartland Flyer survive (or not) on the less than $4,000 per day they take in from ticket sales.

This is really getting to be a joke, Jack. You sound like a bitter old ex-railroad employee whose job went the way of the dinosaur along with elevator operators and milkmen. You have the gall to talk about how unfair it is trying to compete with the airlines because the government owns the airports, when the government owns all the stock in Amtrak, and pays all their operating expenses! You point out the difficulty the government is having paying for needed road repairs and somehow in your la-la land you think we can find billions for trains. Then you throw in rants about everything wrong with the government and the military and people wasting gas by commuting to work and social security and NAFTA and expect to be taken seriously arguing that trains are the way to go. Get over it, Jack. Baldwin has a nice little antique choo-choo you can ride on when you get nostalgic. The rest of the world has moved on and left train travel where it belongs - in the past.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.