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Archive for Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bill would put passenger rail program on track

February 6, 2010

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— Carey Maynard-Moody is looking forward to the day when rail travel will be so popular in Kansas she won’t need volunteers to clean the Lawrence depot.

She and other passenger train enthusiasts are supporting Senate Bill 409, which they say will promote passenger rail service as a more viable option. “The future of the Kansas economy will depend on taking full advantage of all modes of transportation. Rail, both passenger and freight, are essential, yet undeveloped resources,” Maynard-Moody said.

The bill, before the Senate Transportation Committee, would allow the Kansas Department of Transportation to develop a passenger rail program, and it provides a method for the agency to try to get federal grants. Any state funding for the program would have to be approved by the Legislature.

There has been a lot of talk recently about expanding Amtrak service from Kansas City, through Lawrence and Topeka, to Oklahoma City and then Fort Worth, Texas.

KDOT has contracted with Amtrak to perform a feasibility study of the potential for passenger rail service along that route. The study, due this month, will provide estimates for costs, ridership, revenues and any subsidies that will be needed.

Fifty-five cities, including Lawrence, have signed on to support this proposal.

“This plan is truly a vision for the future,” said Mark Corriston, vice president of the Northern Flyer Alliance Inc., a consortium pushing for daytime passenger rail service.

Currently, Amtrak has one long-distance passenger train that goes through Kansas, called the Southwest Chief. According to Amtrak, nearly 40,000 people boarded the train in 2008 at Kansas locations, including 4,500 in Lawrence.

Maynard-Moody is chairwoman of Depot Redux, a group that wants to restore the Lawrence Amtrak passenger station at Seventh and New Jersey streets.

The depot was built in 1955. Passenger trains come through after midnight and before dawn, headed westbound and eastbound, respectively. Depot Redux staffs the arrivals and departures, and has volunteer cleanup days.

Like many stations across the country, the depot is in need of major repairs, Maynard-Moody said, including a new roof, air conditioning and heating systems, and bathrooms and a platform that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Our station must not get razed by neglect,” she said. The group is working with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to take ownership of the building.

A number of organizations have also gotten aboard SB 409.

The Kansas Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired supports the bill, saying increased passenger train service would give people who cannot drive more options.

And the measure is supported by the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, which says rail travel would reduce air pollution because trains require about one-third as much energy per passenger mile as automobiles and airplanes.

Comments

Axe2Grind 4 years, 2 months ago

KU_Cynic, It sounds like your problem of course is more with KU and their business school. Maybe you should consider requesting that the state legislature to pull its funding? Ooopppps... that is education funding... can't do that now can we?

Any type of transportation infrastructure requires subsidy, although the subsidy is heavily slanted today to Kansas highways. Infrastructure contributes to intra- and inter-state commerce. Commerce is required to develop the kind of tax base required to subsidize education (which by the way is not profitable either). The 3.2 to 1 increase in the tax base considered by KU would actually benefit education. Essentially, you cannot save your way to prosperity. You have to invest or increase user-fees through all transportation modes to be profitable.

Maybe Kansas should have a toll booth installed at the end of every driveway in the state. That way, you could pay as you go for roads and highways. Essentially, this is the Libertarian argument and solution to all endeavors of value. Are you Republican or Libertarian? There is a difference.

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stream47 4 years, 2 months ago

The highways require hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state subsidies per year; you pay 25 cents per gallon to the State of Kansas for highway upkeep and 14 cents per gallon to the Federal Government. People won't be interested in trains until gasoline prices go over $4.00 again, and then don't go down but stay there. From a standpoint of fuel economy, moving freight by rail is 20 times as efficient as by truck, the only thing which makes the difference is subsidies to the trucking industry which come from the taxpayers via state and Federal governments. No more subsidies and the trucking industry goes out of business.

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Liberty_One 4 years, 2 months ago

The fact that this would need subsidies to get going is proof enough that it's a bad idea.

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Mark Kostner 4 years, 2 months ago

This is great news. I can remember when several trains a day called on both the Lawrence and North Lawrence stations. Trains are a great way to travel, where you can socialize with others, see scenery, and get up and move around instead of just sitting there. In the Amtrak era, though, Kansas has been a hard place to get in and out of by train with both the Southwest Chief and the short lived Lone Star traveling in the wee hours of the morning. Kansas must make sure any new trains pass through at a reasonable hour, otherwise keep your money. It would be nice if the BNSF Texas line parallel to I-35 and perhaps even the UP's Kansas Pacific line parallel to I-70 could see passenger service again. I'd ride it, as long as it wasn't an ordeal like it is now.

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none2 4 years, 2 months ago

I think it is great that the government is now rolling in money. Washington DC can send Lawrence money and the state legislature can send money too. Carey Maynard-Moody might want to slip it in their ear that Lawrence wants more public education money while she is getting all this money.

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none2 4 years, 2 months ago

was_freashpowder2 (Alexander Neighbors) says…

If Kansas Had a nice rail system tourism would pick up !

people Traveling through to get from East to West or west to east

========================= What century to you live in? There is a train that goes through Kansas. Amtrak has had that route since the 70's. East to West (from Chicago to LA). West to east (LA to Chicago). The route is called the Southwest Chief. Good luck in finding tourists. Most sleep through Kansas.

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TheStig 4 years, 2 months ago

Kansas progressives march boldly into the last century. Can't wait for the reintroduction of stage coach service! If you want to take three days to get to LA take a train, but if for some reason you don't have three days to waste (ie you are not on vacation or retired) take a plane.

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Healthcare_Moocher 4 years, 2 months ago

If trains were the answer, the trucking industry would not have taken over. Yes, trains are the answer for long haul, mixed in with some passenger cars, but until you get rid of the teamsters there will never be a place for long passenger rail, as the money is made on the freight, not the passengers. Feels good all you want greenies, address the real problem, the truck drivers if you want to know why the rails failed.

We cant do that as the teamsters are in the hip pocket of the politicians. I am not so sure that if you got rid of the trucking industry, the economy would totally fail. Not a good answer, but the answer has very little with re establishing the rails for passenger travel.

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barrypenders 4 years, 2 months ago

Is this another venerated study by a government entity like the venerated study by Scientists concerning Global Warming? Is this a venerated study by a government agency on how to enhance the economy? In Kansas? By the Turnpike authority? The ones that have all the economic growth at every Turnpike enterance and exit?

Stimulus, Venerated Studies, and Posercare lie unprecedented

Darwin bless us all

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oneeye_wilbur 4 years, 2 months ago

The train through Lawrence won't provide much stimulus to the local economy, in fact none at all. Now if the train station had a fine diner in it, and the diner would contract to load up the snack car when it came through Lawrence , that would be a start.

If the local travel agenices, hardly any, anymore, would create trips with Lawrence as a Departure city instead of the Chamber thinking it is a Destination city, then that's a possibility. Train in Lawrence can take one straight to the Grand Canyon. No one smart enough to figure that out within the community and book trips, even have a separate rail car for the trip/excursion. Get off in historic Winslow, stay at the La Posada and continue on by train or bus to the Grand Canyon.

This would be a great opportunity for the many retirees coming to town. Elderhostels at the Grand Canyon led by KU profs and retired school teachers, who will need to supplement their income to continue living here as the city continues to feed the Sacred Cow aka school district which is about to embark on a Sacred Journey into budget cutting.

How to butcher the cow? Lots of hamburger and not many steaks.

All aboard!

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jimincountry 4 years, 2 months ago

All we need is 1% more efficiency ....etc,etc etc! That's an old consultant fall back phraseology for the real truth: we're guessing.

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KU_cynic 4 years, 2 months ago

Of course I've seen the KU study that I have characterized as garbage. It's available at http://www.northflyer.org/ .

Check it out.

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George Lippencott 4 years, 2 months ago

was_freashpowder2 (Alexander Neighbors) says…

Why? All states ( at least trhe ones around us) would have to upgrade if we want tourists to come here on the rails.

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Alexander Neighbors 4 years, 2 months ago

If Kansas Had a nice rail system tourism would pick up !

people Traveling through to get from East to West or west to east

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George Lippencott 4 years, 2 months ago

  1. Moderate (George Lippencott) says… Let me try that again!

Axe2Grind (Anonymous) says…

OK. we pay now for development that many of us do not want that might happen in thirty years. Kind of like our lawgivers “investing” in a West Lawrence building that will not pay off for twenty years.

Priorities, Priorities, Pirorities. School money or subsidized rail transportation? I am not sure we can afford both!

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George Lippencott 4 years, 2 months ago

Axe2Grind (Anonymous) says…

OK. we pay now for deveoppment we don't want that might happen in thrirty years. Kind of like our law givers "investing" in a West Lawrence building that will not pay off for twenty years.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 2 months ago

Have you actually reviewed that study, KU_cynic? If so, can you please be more specific about its shortcomings?

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KU_cynic 4 years, 2 months ago

That KU study -- by a group of inexperienced students pressured by interests groups to deliver the message they wanted to hear -- that found "a 3.2 to 1 economic development return" is a piece of garbage not worth the paper it's printed on.

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George Lippencott 4 years, 2 months ago

I love the notion of moving toward more transportation independence. The notion of converting to wind energy is also great. The idea of energy efficiency is neat. More money for schools is a necessity. One can go on.

The problem with all these initiatives is that they cost money. Now! Perhaps there should be more focus on priorities before we destroy those paying the taxes by increasing them exponentially.

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Axe2Grind 4 years, 2 months ago

This is great news as Kansas faces monumental transportation need/challenges. Despite the state of the state's economy the University of Kansas has said that a 3.2 to 1 economic development return could come to the Lawrence area and all communities along the Kansas City - Wichita - Oklahoma City corridor. SB409 sounds like the kind of program the state of Kansas needs. Only those 20th Century fiscally stagnant Citizens Against Virtually Everything (C.A.V.ERS) will object to this bill.

Passenger rail represents progress again for this nation and region. Lawrence has been defined as a benefactor of a 90MPH to 110MPH High Speed Rail route on the USDOT High Speed Rail map. Does anyone doubt that we will be fighting high energy costs again once our economy returns? In fact, as the KU study showed, passenger rail can help bring back the economy. It is tax money well spent.

Look at our highways. We are at a point where the law of diminishing returns applies. Adding turn lanes on major highways can cost millions. Kansas likely spends more picking up trash on the sides of our highways than it does for passenger rail.

Go for it KDOT. It is time we had alternative forms of transportation.

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Reality_Check 4 years, 2 months ago

"expanding Amtrak service from Kansas City, through Lawrence and Topeka, to Oklahoma City and then Fort Worth, Texas"

Well, Lawrence and Topeka don't happen to be on the way to Wichita and Okla. City. The "fast" double-track route goes direct from KC to Wichita. Lawrence and Topeka are on a slower single-track route that goes to Hutchison, not WIchita.

If you want TRUE interCITY rail service, then you have a 100mph train that goes from KC Union Station to Olathe (to pick up JoCo riders) to Wichita to Okla City. With NO STOPS in between. Get it? Then, you have to provide the riders with easy connections to their final destinations when they get to the city centers. Such as express buses that meet the trains.

All been done before. Nothing more to study. We know what works, but the pols don't care about facts.

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