Archive for Friday, March 21, 2008

Amtrak probes area route extensions

Southwest, Midwest services come under scrutiny

March 21, 2008

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New proposal could connect rail services

Passengers could board a train in Lawrence and go to Fort Worth under a new proposal. Enlarge video

— Passengers could board a train in Lawrence and go to Fort Worth under a proposal that officials said Thursday will be studied.

The $150,000 to $200,000 study will be done by Amtrak and funded by the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The study will see whether a state-sponsored connection is feasible between Amtrak's Southwest Chief, which stops daily in Lawrence and Topeka and provides rail service between Chicago and Los Angeles, and the Heartland Flyer, which runs daily between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City.

The study will include a connection between the Southwest Chief and an extended Heartland Flyer at Newton; a further extension of the Heartland Flyer to Kansas City; or some other new service.

"State-supported routes are the fastest-growing part of our business," said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Alex Kummant. The Heartland Flyer is supported by the Oklahoma and Texas state transportation departments.

KDOT Secretary Deb Miller said it makes sense to study the possible connections.

"Linking the Southwest Chief route to the Heartland Flyer route at Newton and Kansas City seems to be a logical connection within Amtrak's national system and is worthy of further study and analysis," Miller said.

She said the study will examine cost, schedule, and the likelihood of travel delays because of freight traffic on the lines.

The study is expected to start this summer and be completed in 2009, officials said.

Several Kansas cities, including Lawrence, have expressed support for expanded passenger rail service.

An organization of Kansas and Oklahoma officials, called the Northern Flyer Alliance, has formed to lobby Amtrak for increased passenger service. In February, the Lawrence City Commission approved a resolution supporting the service extension.

A route between Oklahoma City and Newton would likely include Wichita, which has not had Amtrak service since 1979. And Emporia has not had Amtrak service since 1997, when that stop of the Southwest Chief was discontinued.

Amtrak's Kummant said studies done elsewhere in the Midwest have led to increased state rail programs.

Comments

grimpeur 7 years, 3 months ago

Good news.

The future will demand that passenger rail have dedicated track, in order to give passengers the priority they deserve. And that track will have to allow regional trains to reach modern speeds of 150+ mph in order to compete with air (although air has set the customer service bar pretty low). Trains will have to be comfy and bluetooth/airport/wireless/caffeinated.

And by "modern," I mean, of course, "using technology perfected over 30 years ago." Why, just think--if we reduce our subsidies for personal autos, we might even begin to consider and afford a

**21st-century solution**

to our transportation challenges.

It can be done.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 3 months ago

Defund the Amtrak rip off.

Amtrak is a taxpayer subsidized waste of collosal proportions. It funnels Kansans' tax dollars to rail passengers on the East Coast.

hipper_than_hip 7 years, 3 months ago

The highly praised european and japanese rail systems are all subsidized by their respective governments; why should the US be any different? US airlines are all subsidized as well. We need to level the playing field for passenger rail travel.

Myself, I'd like to see a high speed rail line between KC and Denver.

Nate Poell 7 years, 3 months ago

This would be great, especially if it the train going east from Lawrence were to make it to KC in time to catch the KC Mule to St. Louis.

canyon_wren 7 years, 3 months ago

Living in Utah, I ride Amtrak a lot and mourn the fact that I can no longer get to Lawrence that way. I guess most riders of Amtrak realize (they are often reminded en route) that the reason Amtrak is so tardy and unpredictable is that the tracks are owned by the freight lines and not by Amtrak. Consequently, if and when the train departs the least bit behind schedule, it has to pull over onto sidings frequently to allow freight trains to pass. That surely does slow things down, but Amtrak still is a wonderful way to travel, and the funding of it less of a waste than many other government subsidies!

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 3 months ago

And I'd like a magical fairey to whisk me away to Perfect Land. That or have tax payers fund everyone's special interests and pet projects such as Amtrak.

Either way, it's unrealistic and stupid.

And why would anyone - anyone - want the US to be more like Europe?

salad 7 years, 3 months ago

"And why would anyone - anyone - want the US to be more like Europe?"

Because Europe is WAY cooler in many ways. I know you're pretty attached to your giant ugly SUV/Pick-up truck, sky high health-care cost, lack of a second language, giant beer gut, and your corn-dog eatin' light beer drinkin' looks like 80 lb. of lard stuffed into a 10 lb. package wife STRS, but there ARE other countries that have it better than we do.

Oh...and before you go on your predictable right-wing rant about "Well then why don't you just MOVE there!!!", let me just pre-empt that and inform you that you CAN'T just move to another country. It's easy to visit for a while, but almost impossible to move. How the right-wing seems to have this notion that people who hold opposing view points can just get up and leave...or should get up and leave is beyond me. It's like their stuck in 5th grade logic.

PS: If I had the coin and opportunity to move to Italy, France, or Sweden, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

beadew 7 years, 3 months ago

Passenger rail is not only more comfortable and less stressful than air travel, it is also comparably priced and sometimes cheaper, doesn't need to booked way in advance, and generates less pollution than driving or flying. It's a great option for those of us who hate driving long distances, and a great way to meet all kinds of people.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 3 months ago

Consider Canada then, salad. It's slowly moving toward communisim - as is Italy, France, Sweden and you.

BTW, your mean-sprited sarcasm about my wife is uber-typical the intolerant left. Thanks for reinforcing the sterotype.

devieh 7 years, 3 months ago

very funny stuff.

i ride the amtrak all the time to newton where my mother picks me up and we drive to wichita. I wish the amtrak service ran to wichita and so does my mother who awakes @ 3 am to greet me.

salad 7 years, 3 months ago

Sorry, STRS, Canada is just as difficult to move to as anywhere else, plus your comment was about EUROPE, which is not part of CANADA. You are also fundamentally incorrect in your assertion that liberalism or even socialism is equated with communism. Perhaps you need to go back to high school and pay attention this time. I had no idea that I'd be on the money with your whale of a wife and your beer gut, but considering the percentage of americans who are obese, it was a pretty good bet. As for the train? I LOVE the train!!! Amtrak is not my favorite train, since it takes forever to get there and stops about a gazillion times. If we could do it like europe, it'd be awesome!

notajayhawk 7 years, 3 months ago

kubacker (Anonymous) says:

"If done right a modern and efficient rail travel system is a good thing - if it wasn't no one on the East Coast would use it!"

The East Coast has the population density to make it work. They also have overly saturated roads and air routes.

Look at the ridership levels for the current line between Fort Worth and Ok. City (the one they're talking about expanding) - for the amount that every single fare is subsidized by your tax dollars, we could buy every single one of them a plane ticket cheaper.

And by the way, in Europe, that everyone keeps pointing to as such a wonderland, private car ownership is skyrocketing.

Bottom line: No matter what you come up with for a rail system, you will never be able to do without cars and airplanes. But with cars and airplanes, you can get along quite nicely without passenger trains.

kansas_o_kansas 7 years, 3 months ago

But what if I don't want to go to Fort Worth?

deskboy04 7 years, 3 months ago

I don't go anywhere unless it is on my bicycle. I am worried about my footprint on the environment. Planes, trains, and automobiles are bad. I grow my own food in the garden and use wind powered electricity.

bretherite 7 years, 3 months ago

My son uses Amtrak to visit us all the time in Albuquerque. He gets on in Topeka at one in the AM and gets here about 4 PM. A little longer than driving but easier and cheaper. This past time I paid 212.00 for a round trip ticket 3 weeks before he got here. if I had booked earlier it would have been less than 175.00 using his student discount. the cheapest I could find for an airline was 385.00 - and that was booking 3 months in advance. And the airlines don't give discounts. Plus the latest the train has run is 45 minutes late - can't say that about most flights. I also used to take the train between LAwrence and St. Louis. i loved the time to myself to read/knit/think/sleep. I would use it more if it went to more places.

notajayhawk 7 years, 3 months ago

bretherite (Anonymous) says:

"Plus the latest the train has run is 45 minutes late - can't say that about most flights."

Uh huh. The train leaves at 1:00 am and gets there at 4:00 pm. United can get him there at 11:00 am leaving Kansas City at 8:00 am (even with a stop in Denver). The plane would have to be pretty darn late (heck, it would have to get lost) to take half as long as the train. Plus there's dozens of flights leaving KC at various times from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening, while you only have the one choice on Amtrak.

"I would use it more if it went to more places."

But it doesn't, and won't, which is one of the reasons passenger rail will never be able to seriously compete with private passenger vehicles or air travel.


Pogo (Anonymous) says:

"More rail service into and out of Lawrence can be nothing but a good thing."

Several million dollars worth of subsidies paid for by your taxes for a few handfuls of people to ride the rails is a good thing?

KCKANSAN 7 years, 3 months ago

Notajayhawk(understatement).

Can I get from Lawrence on United Airways to Wichita or Guthrie quicker than by train? What if I can't drive or fly, you know the bottled oxygen thing. Oh, I would like to take the Scout troop to hike Tall Grass Prairie on a Saturday morning sometime in the future when elk, antelope and buffalo are reintroduced into the historic range. Nope, Notajayhawk thinks this is stupid. They of course should fly United. The international students who arrive from Thailand into Kansas City International can't continue their journey to Emporia State; unserved by bus, or airline (United of course) and because they are "international" and under 25 cannot rent a car. Emporia State cannot transport the students in State vehicles (it's a law) and they rely on student government types to assist in this, (and of course "Notajayhawk" who is right there when needed to provide volunteer transportation services, thus avoiding the need for intercity passenger rail service and helping to bail United out of the funk.)

The U.S. is a better place because we rely on highways, State and federal, which cost upwards of 9 million per lane mile, require an inordinate amount of employees to run the sand trucks, replace the high intensity lights, put orange cones down, fix the culverts, patrol the rest stops, scrape the carnage off the roads, and be paid health benefits and KPERS pensions. Amtrak is simple fee-for-service, requiring no expansion of State government. Notajayhawk wants the alternative because of a mistaken belief that the other transportation rackets do not operate at the public expense. What wisdom and irrefutable logic this person possesses.

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