Archive for Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bill would put passenger rail program on track

February 6, 2010


— 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.


Axe2Grind 8 years, 1 month 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.

George Lippencott 8 years, 1 month 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.

KU_cynic 8 years, 1 month 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.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

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

George Lippencott 8 years, 1 month 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.

George Lippencott 8 years, 1 month 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!

Alexander Neighbors 8 years, 1 month 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

George Lippencott 8 years, 1 month 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.

KU_cynic 8 years, 1 month ago

Of course I've seen the KU study that I have characterized as garbage. It's available at .

Check it out.

james bush 8 years, 1 month 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.

TheStig 8 years, 1 month 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.

Mark Kostner 8 years, 1 month 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.

Axe2Grind 8 years, 1 month 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.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.