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Archive for Friday, January 8, 2010

Rail realities

A new economic impact study gives a big boost to the proposed Northern Flyer Amtrak route, but many details need to be worked out.

January 8, 2010

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A group of graduate students in the Kansas University School of Business has come up with some pretty encouraging figures about the economic benefit of the proposed Northern Flyer Amtrak route.

The route would go from Kansas City, through Lawrence and Wichita and down to Oklahoma City where it could link to existing rail service to Dallas/Fort Worth. The project would significantly increase Amtrak options in Lawrence, which currently is served only by the Southwest Chief which goes from Chicago, through southwestern states, and to Los Angeles.

After doing some number-crunching, Jayhawk Consulting, which is a group of KU MBA students, has estimated that the new route would generate $3.20 in economic benefit for every $1 that is invested. Overall, the study estimates Kansas would gain almost $57 million in infrastructure, operational spending and tourism dollars from the Northern Flyer.

That includes about $12 million in tourism spending. The study estimated Lawrence would draw about 7,295 visitors a year resulting in an estimated $251,830 tourism dollars. The study suggests that Amtrak should concentrate its marketing efforts for the Northern Flyer on seniors, VIP travelers and Big 12 fans. For seniors and VIPs, the train is a comfortable way to travel for people who no longer drive long distances or want to travel in style.

For Big 12 fans, the route would provide access to seven Big 12 universities — KU, Missouri, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State. The study points out, “Students, fans and alumni can use passenger rail to travel with their team on road games.”

That’s a nice idea, but providing adequate access for Big 12 fans or any other travelers along this route will take more than upgrading a rail line. Traveling across Kansas, the train would stop in Lawrence, Topeka, Emporia, Strong City, Newton, Wichita, and Winfield/Arkansas City. If tourists wanted to stop in any of those towns, except maybe Topeka and Wichita, how would they get from the train station to any place they wanted to go?

Even in Lawrence, tourists would have a difficult time connecting to any other public transportation, a problem that likely exists in some of the other Big 12 cities. K-State fans would have to find their way from Topeka; OSU fans would have a 25-mile trek to Stillwater from the closest stop at Perry, Okla.

The Northern Flyer economic impact figures produced by the KU students certainly are encouraging, but proponents of this plan must realize that expanding rail service is just one piece of the transportation network that would be needed to make rail an attractive option for many travelers.

The proposed new rail route presents some intriguing possibilities for local travelers, but it will take some additional planning — and money — for cities along the route to figure out how to take full advantage of those possibilities.

Comments

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

"The study estimated Lawrence would draw about 7,295 visitors a year resulting in an estimated $251,830 tourism dollars."

Wow. That much. Less than $35 apiece. Yeah, let's chase after all those high rollers.

Hey, let's spend that million-dollars (or more) to fix up the train station to bring in that - what - $2,500/year in sales tax revenue?

I wonder about these students' methodology; for there to be any increase in revenue generated by Big 12 fans, the games they'd be traveling to would have to have unused capacity at the curent time. Whether or not Texas fans could ride the train to Lawrence for a basketball game, would there be any vacant seats in Allen Fieldhouse for them to fill?

anon1958 4 years, 11 months ago

Let us have a link to a pdf of this study and then we can talk about its relative merits or lack there of. Even if it was a good investment the state of Kansas does not have any money to invest in so the point is rather moot.

There is also the fact that it is pretty cheap to just fly from OK City to KCI if you plan ahead at least a week or two.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

Cars would have nowhere to drive without tax dollars subsidizing the roads. It is cars begging for that $250,000,000(million) tax dollar project known as the obsolete plan Trafficway. Cars are truly an expensive load for the taxpayers.

Air travel would not be affordable without tax dollar subsidies.

Train travel is more fun than either car or plane as least for me. The dining car,club car and dome car can make for a fun experience. Plus passengers can take coolers on with yumo snacks inside.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

Invariably, every time there is an article about Amtrak, there is also the outspoken commentary by the ignorant, uninformed and uneducated about Amtrak service and "how it is a waste of money."

These types, who live in the "C.A.V.E." (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) always and I mean always perpetuate what are really myths about Amtrak."

Here's how it normally goes:

NO ONE WILL RIDE Amtrak: 28 million did in 2009, 29 million did in 2008 (that's nearly 10% of American population).

AMTRAK SHOULD BE PROFITABLE: Like the airline subsidy is? Compare Amtrak to Federal Aviation. Amtrak $1.2 Billion vs. FAA $28 BILLION. Air traffic control is $14 BILLION alone, fly's no airplane, moves no baggage, and is not part of the taxpayer supported airport system which runs into a separate outlay of billions to the TAXPAYING Public.

AMTRAK IS ALWAYS LATE: The Southwest Chief just arrived into Kansas City this morning in -4 temperatures and 30 min. early.

SettingTheRecordStraight 4 years, 11 months ago

No way. Not until Amtrak can learn how to make money and not siphon off billions every year from taxpayers in the form of massive federal appropriations.

If the auto and airline industries can operate without overt, line item appropriations, then passenger rail service shouldn't either. (And please don't give me the tired line that autos and airlines are already subsidized. Those subsidies need to end, but only Amtrak receives cash - an actual, literal multi-billion dollar appropriation from the U.S. taxpayer).

Additionally, the study's authors have the gall to admit that the target demographic is well-heeled special interest groups! VIPs, seniors and sports fans? Are they serious?! Talk about catering to special interest groups.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

Every time there is an article about Amtrak, there are also ignorant statements made by people who are really unknowledgeable about Amtrak. They perpetuate myths: like the following:

THERE ISN”T ENOUGH DENSITY FOR AMTRAK IN KANSAS. IT ONLY WORKS WELL IN THE NORTHEAST: On the proposed corridor there are 14 MILLION people. That is certainly enough to support a 1 or 2 train frequency through the most populated part of Kansas.

Cost Comparison: Amtrak's annual budget is barely twice the highway budget of Kansas. The annual subsidy that Kansas should expect for service would not pay for 1 two lane bridge over an interstate. Speaking of Interstates- 1 mile is $23 million dollars.

Again some will say NO ONE WILL RIDE THIS TRAIN: So 200,000 don't ride the train in Missouri annually, and 80,000 don't ride the train annually in Oklahoma. And what would happen if those trains connected?

jmadison 4 years, 11 months ago

Any references in this study to the profit-loss figures for the rail service started in New Mexico in recent years? This service was initially subsidized by the federal government.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

Setting the Record Straight:

Where do you come up with "BILLIONS". The budget for Amtrak was $1.2 Billion 2008. Now that is over a billion, but certainly not "billions." BTW do you have any idea what the Kansas Highway budget was in 2008? - $577 Million. That's about half Amtrak's entire budget for their entire system. And you have the gall to complain about Amtrak getting about a millionth of the national budget? Geez!

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

At least for a layover or unexpected delay trains may well be more fun. Train depots are so often in downtowns such as Philadelphia, LA, KCMO and Chicago.

During a 5 hour layover in Chicago we were able to take our daughter the the American Doll Museum via public transportation/bus which is customarily available as it was at a Pennsylvania commuter train depot.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

Unfortunately KU's cost is from a 10 year old KDOT study, and KU didn't research comparable cost from feasibility studies recently released by Amtrak which include capital estimates. The Iowa study shows a $32 milion cost for that proposed expansion. Although more than Kansas, the majority of the cost involves rehabilitating 40 MPH track up to a 79 MPH Amtrak standard, which is almost an entire rebuild. The BNSF track over the entire proposed route in Kansas is at least 59 MPH (official freight speed), and, the route doesn't have any real deficiency that would preclude Amtrak from operating at 69 MPH or 79 MPH right now. The estimate by independent consultants for the capital costs for this development is $14m, and includes 2 train sets. Missouri's contract is $8m annually for FOUR trains per day. Same amount of rail miles as in Kansas.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

Trucks cause 9,600 times the damage to our roads compared to a car. The Kansas transportation budget, $577,000 MILLION in 2008 was over half Amtrak's entire nationwide budget.

Is this taxpayer outlay for highways sustainable? Perhaps, but we're going to pay dearly to keep it going.

Wake up: connecting to the rest of the country by rail is the best economic development bargain the state will see for a long time. And this development is eligible for 100% Federal funding. Missouri and Iowa and Ohio are quickly making arrangements for expansion. Shouldn't Kansas be seeking this, considering the once in a 40 years opportunity?

Kansas once had Amtrak service over this route. Look what happened to the downtowns of every city that lost the service-decay and development decline.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

I make a once a month trip between Wichita dn Kansas City. An Amtrak ticket would be about $34 dollars round trip, based on comparable mileage on comparable state routes. When I drive to Wichita, the cost to me (and it is an economy car) is at minimum $42 gas and turnpike. Of course if I were to calculate the allowable mileage rate at 52 cents per mile times 368 miles my cost is $191. Under that scenario I could travel to Kansas City, stay over night at the nearby Fairfield, have dinner and breakfast and still be money ahead.

Wouldn't have to pay for parking either.

Axe2Grind 4 years, 11 months ago

I know that change is difficult for some. I have read the study. KU did a marvelous job capturing the trickle down public investment in the infrastructure (a new Amtrak route) to the final economic output in direct, indirect, and induced employment.

The “doubt” that most uninformed will experience is due to the fact transportation taxdollar spending is rarely if ever studied to such degree. Have you ever seen an economic study performed prior to highway widening? Have you ever seen an economic study performed with regard to the fair fares subsidy program for Wichita's Mid-Continent airport?

Those who have a problem with this study could be categorized as those who have closed their ears after hearing the initial sound byte. It is probably one of the best economic impact studies I have seen for a proposed transportation source. Most planners just lick their finger and stick it in the air while proclaiming that the “new project” is necessary.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

One of the best outcomes of this and Kansas highways would a commuter train between Topeka, Lawrence and KCMO/JOCO.

Pulling a few thousand drivers off the road during rush hours would be a blessing not only for the highways but also drivers.

Local bus and cab service would be part of the plan.... of course.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

Whenever there is news about proposed Amtrak service in this state there are always silly and uniformed and negative criticisms about Amtrak. Unfortunately many people believe this crap.

This one is typical:

THE FREIGHT RAILROADS WON’T ALLOW AMTRAK ON THEIR TRACKS: The freight railroad that CAVERS say won't allow Amtrak on the tracks allow the Southwest Chief service over this route to Los Angeles. The same railroad hosts the Heartland Flyer service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. Another railroad hosts service across Missouri. And this is just for starts. The reason for this is these railroads signed the covenant establishing Amtrak and are therefore bound under law and regulation to permit passenger rail operations on their system. It is mandatory.

Interesting Fact-HOW SAFE IS AMTRAK AS TRANSPORTATION?: Annually 450 people die on Kansas roads and highways. Amtrak averages about 6 passenger deaths nationwide per year.

Axe2Grind 4 years, 11 months ago

Thing - "Gee! Sounds like you should move to Larryville, to you can join the elite snobs too!"

Now there is some intelligent commentary. I am glad that "Thing" was not involved with the study. It would have no facts, figures, or visionary insight. It would just be his/her knee jerk opinionated reaction.

As for the fact that "noone will ride the train..." The Heartland Flyer carried 82,000 passengers a year just between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. The Missouri River Runners carry 150,000 between Kansas City and St. Louis. The study claims that about 150,000 would also travel between Kansas City and Oklahoma City. That is not including the Kansas City - Fort Worth amount.

Just the facts please. Open your mind to real realities and not just what is fed to you in sound bytes and at T-Parties.

Axe2Grind 4 years, 11 months ago

Oklahoma State University and the City of Stillwater sponsor a bus transit system known simply as the "Big Orange Bus." This bus service already operates to Tulsa. There are rumors that if the train were established, a feeder route would stop at the Perry, OK depot.

Many stops on the Heartland Flyer route today provide Enterprise Rental Car options to "get around." This has resulted in a gain of some 20,000 passengers using the Heartland Flyer annually over the past several years. These services then become available to locals. Start the train and the planning will begin. Even McDonnalds started with its first store and 1st Hamburger.

Necessity is the mother of invention. A quote from the movie Kelly's Heros comes to mind, "Stop with the negative waves."

salad 4 years, 11 months ago

Score: KCKANSAN-4 STRS/CAVE-PEOPLE-0

Start the clock, continue play.

Kirk Larson 4 years, 11 months ago

I want high speed service to Denver! Years ago there was talk about an express line along I-70 KC to Denver. 100 mph straight into downtown. I would be on that at least four times a year. The tourist traffic would be a big. How come we can't have nice things? It's the horse and buggy (read: car) thinkers, that's why.

SettingTheRecordStraight 4 years, 11 months ago

To those realists among us, please find a map of America's roadways and compare it to a map of America's passenger rail lines.

Rail travel will never get you where you really want to go. Ever.

Rail travel worked in the 1880's, but it is total and utter nonsense to believe it will be a viable means of transporting any more than a tiny fraction of our population.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

STRS: AMTRAK got me and my family (8 of us) to Grand Canyon last year. Got me to Indianapolis this year. And I really wanted to get there.

Midwest Air barely got me to Washington DC and back last month. President of KC Federal Reserve had to sit with me for two hours on the runway in Baltimore, and was not allowed to get off. He missed the FRB meeting to set interest rates, AND a meeting with the President.

I'm sure he's right there with ya' about rail travel, since I heard his assistant say to him "we need trains."

Axe2Grind 4 years, 11 months ago

SettingTheRecordStraight is using a reactive approach to this debate. He asks us to "Hey, look back at what happened..." to claim that passenger rail cannot work in Kansas in 2010. He looks only at the results, not the reasons behind why rail fell out of favor to seemingly prove his position.

True, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. However; maybe the real history lesson here is that the rail lines should not have been abandoned in the first place. Maybe the services offered on the abandoned lines should have never been discontinued. Look at the reasons for the downgrades and determine if they were valid, a result of bad politics, or even a generational preference for fuel wasting and taxpayer investment in superhighways and aviation.

It always amazes me that fiscal conservatives, those who think we are turning into a socialist nation, refuse to accept the fact that rail is indeed a conservative mode of transportation for both passenger and freight. Just because the operational model was broken between the 1950's and the 1990's does not mean that the technology is flawed. I tend to believe that current US Transportation Policy is flawed and what we are seeing today is a correction; a fiscally conservative correction to a more fuel efficient, clean, and yes, economically friendly mode of transportation.

Ask yourself why roads receive more funding than rails. As a friend of mine said, "There is more money to waste in road construction." The highway lobby, supporting road construction contractors, is seeking to get their cut of a $550 million KDOT budget. Federal matching highway dollars bring that $550 million KDOT amount upwards of $1 billion. A suburban lane mile of interstate costs $9 million.

The rail lobby is seeking to get a small fraction, just $6 million annually. Simply put, the amount of taxpayer dollars required to operate this route is so insignificant as to not attract any real lobbying attention. Taxpayers should revel in that fact and ask KDOT why there is not more balance in state transportation policies. The KU economic development study shows a direct/indrect/induced employment/taxable revenue GAIN if the state implements supplemental passenger rail.

This GAIN is all about spurring economic recovery while reinstating a sorely needed transportation option for regional, and yes even national travelers. Win Win Win...

SettingTheRecordStraight 4 years, 11 months ago

I can't believe Kansans are even having this conversation. I don't anyone who rides the emp-T, and Dagwood Bumstead is the only (ficticious) character I can think of that carpools. What makes you think an expensive and inefficient train will catch on with Heartlanders?

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/report_98_percent_of_u_s_commuters

Axe2Grind 4 years, 11 months ago

Healthcare_Moocher (Anonymous) says…

Good for you, the taxpayer gets a warm and fuzzy knowing they helped pay for your trip.


... and we certainly expect that people from Arizona will come to see what Kansas has to offer and spend our businesses.

The tired old T-Party slant, when taken to its extreme, would require that everyone place a toll booth and a weigh station at the end of their driveway so that user transportation fees could be collected reflecting the true usage and damage created by everyone's personal mode of transportation. Good on paper, bad in practice.

User fees are paid in some cases through various but their balance is always debatable. Cost allocation studies are rarely performed. The KU analysis comes close to such in this case.

Axe2Grind 4 years, 11 months ago

SettingTheRecordStraight (Anonymous) says…

I can't believe Kansans are even having this conversation. I don't anyone who rides the emp-T, and Dagwood Bumstead is the only (ficticious) character I can think of that carpools. What makes you think an expensive and inefficient train will catch on with Heartlanders?

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/

The Onion is truly a funny parody on mass media silliness. Again, it looks at where we are today and not where we will be tomorrow. Again, your opinion is based upon observation, not vision. There can be several reasons why people do not use the "T". It could be simply a factor that the routes and operation need to be revised. Further, this discussion is about passenger rail, not carpools and bus transit.

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

KCKANSAN (Anonymous) says…

"These types, who live in the “C.A.V.E.” (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) always and I mean always perpetuate what are really myths about Amtrak.”

I'd rather have myths than made-up numbers, KCK.

"28 million did in 2009, 29 million did in 2008 (that's nearly 10% of American population)"

10% of the population did not ride Amtrak last year. There were 28 million trips, but that does not mean 28 million people made those trips any more than you could say over 2 billion separate Americans made long distance trips by personal vehicles. The FACT is that Americans choose Amtrak for their long distance travel on barely more than 1% of those trips.

"Amtrak $1.2 Billion vs. faa $28 billion. Air traffic control is $14 billion alone, fly's no airplane, moves no baggage, and is not part of the taxpayer supported airport system which runs into a separate outlay of billions to the taxpaying Public."

Well, let's see - first, almost ten times as many people fly than ride the train, and second, that air traffic control system is not exclusively for the use of commercial passenger aircraft, is it? If you break down the subsidy that's directly attributable to passenger travel into per-trip costs, what's the comparison then, KCK?

"amtrak is always late:"

I thought you were trying to dispel myths, not prove them.

Maybe if you looked at the real numbers instead of AmTrak's claims:

http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/feb/02/business/chi-getting-around-02feb02

And AmTrak is only on time about 76% of the time, compared to over 88% for air travel.

"Cost Comparison: Amtrak's annual budget is barely twice the highway budget of Kansas."

And, um, how many trips are there on those highways every year, KCK?

"I make a once a month trip between Wichita dn Kansas City. An Amtrak ticket would be about $34 dollars round trip, based on comparable mileage on comparable state routes. When I drive to Wichita, the cost to me (and it is an economy car) is at minimum $42 gas and turnpike."

Were you traveling to the train station in Newton, KCK? If not, how did you get from Newton to Wichita? Not to mention from KCK to the AmTrak station in KCMO? Why don't you include the entire cost of the trip? And I guess your time isn't worth anything, is it? Let's see, it takes you 4-1/2 hours on the train, and how long to get from the KCK to KCMO and from Newton to Wichita? Or you could drive it in a little over 3 hours ...

By the way, KCK - do you take I-135 from Newton to Wichita? I-70 from KCK to KCMO?

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

Seamus (Anonymous) says…

"STRS— nice dishonest debate tactic there. Why not compare a rail map from the 1880s with our current road map?"

Oh, yeah, that would be honest. 'Cause the population in 1880 was just about what it is now. And we had almost the same number - 250,000,000 - cars on the road as we do today.

"The fact is the airlines and our car-centric infrastructure (and the car manufacturers themselves) are the beneficiaries of massive governmental subsidies."

Hmmm. Maybe that's because people choose to take ten times as many long-distance trips by plane and over 100 times as many by car as they do by train? 'To not see this is to either be massively ignorant or simply dishonest.' And, um, in your case those two might not be mutually exclusive.


Axe2Grind (Anonymous) says…

"As for the fact that “noone will ride the train…” The Heartland Flyer carried 82,000 passengers a year just between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth."

How many cars - per DAY make that same trip along I-35, axe?

Just the facts please.

Axe2Grind 4 years, 11 months ago

notajayhawk (Anonymous) says…

How many cars - per DAY make that same trip along I-35, axe?

Just the facts please.


Again, using that method of logic you could claim that aviation is worthless, and therefore FAA subsidies should be stopped and the entire national aviation industry shut down, because there are more cars on I-35 than airline passengers flying between Kansas City and Oklahoma City.

Amtrak serves a niche market and in this case the KU study does provide an example of niche economic benefit that does not exist today. You entirely miss the point of taxpayer funded infrastructure and the study. It is a classic example of those who prefer the status quo and all of its inefficiencies to investigating the possibility of newfound efficiencies using adapted and progressive business models.

The basic point is that this study shows benefits to the economy. You can accept or reject the study. It was non-partisan and impartial. If you don't like it I guess you can complain to the KU chancellor and claim that their business school does not measure up to your conservative economic standards.

puddleglum 4 years, 11 months ago

thing : Gee! Sounds like you should move to Larryville, to you can join the elite snobs too!

or you could just spew ignorance.

oh-I see you just did.

and again: thing sez: What I object to kckansan, it the I am better than everyone else attitude I see here in Lawrence. Believe me, no one else finds you that interesting or enlightened. It only makes people from other areas dislike you even more. people from where?

somalia? who cares? it is the LAWRENCE Journal newspaper- NOT fox newsdigest or cnn.

oh, and at least our basketball team IS better than everyone else. even the ap says so. go cry your purple tears back in aggieville. or if you are from missouri, no one really cares. thank you. Now tell me again how much you enjoy the use of rail? I need another laugh.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

Notajayhawk asked a question about my travel between Wichita and KC: Answer: These trips are by car, and they are god-awful. Using the standard mileage rate, it amounts to $199 per round trip (368 miles x.55 cents, + $8 turnpike).

Next statement by Notajayhawk: About the 28 million Amtrak passengers. The point is 28 million is not insignificant (except to you) and overall there are less than 100 Amtrak movements daily in this country, the majority in the Northeast. What if there were more in this region?

There are about 561 million domestic airline passengers annually. Of course that doesn't mean 561 million Americans flew, or does it?

puddleglum 4 years, 11 months ago

the majority of airline passengers fly in the air. (that's where the planes are)

the majority of Amtrak passengers are in the Northeast (that's where the majority of the population is)

the majority of Television shows are viewed on Television.

the majority of football games are played with footballs.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

To Notajayhawk who says "Well, let's see - first, almost ten times as many people fly than ride the train, and second, that air traffic control system is not exclusively for the use of commercial passenger aircraft, is it? If you break down the subsidy that's directly attributable to passenger travel into per-trip costs, what's the comparison then, KCK?"

I guess to those nutcases who obsess/absess about public subsidy, they ought not to be hypocrites. I don't give a $#!+ about how many people fly or drive each year, it is of course NECESSARY, but only lunatics go ape$#!+ over $7 million a year in a state budget. That's less than a bridge, and $3 million less than a mile of US 59.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

To Notajayhawk who said: "Maybe if you looked at the real numbers instead of AmTrak's claims:

http://archives.chicagotribune.com/20

And AmTrak is only on time about 76% of the time, compared to over 88% for air travel."

I think I'll forward your remarks to Tom Hoenig President of Kansas City Federal Reserve Board. He was diverted on December 14 into Baltimore and sat for 2 hours on the runway, not pemitted to exit the aircraft and missed the Board meeting to set interest rates and a meeting with the President. I know he will agree with you because you of course are right and speak for the best interests of the country, mankind and the planet.

pace 4 years, 11 months ago

Boy I hope this happens, I am sorry the do nothings are against rail travel for others. I subsidize roads, tobacco and corn syrup for them but they want everyone to fly? I wonder if they have taken a shuttle lately to MCI?

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

Axe2Grind (Anonymous) says…

"Again, using that method of logic you could claim that aviation is worthless..."

I was responding to a specific point you were trying to make, attempting to dispute the claim that nobody would ride the train. You pointed to the fact that 82,000 people per year ride the train between Ft Worth & OK City. Since you wanted 'just the facts', and apparently don't know them, nearly three times that many vehicles travel on I-35 in the Ft Worth area every DAY. Even on the rural stretches along that route, that annual ridership number is exceeded in less than ten days by personal passenger vehicles.

"Amtrak serves a niche market"

Maybe you haven't been keeping up with current events, but the state can't afford to fund the schools. And you want to throw millions of dollars at a 'niche market'? That fact alone illustrates exactly why an academic exercise undertaken by students has no relevance in the real world.

"You can accept or reject the study. It was non-partisan and impartial. If you don't like it I guess you can complain to the KU chancellor and claim that their business school does not measure up to your conservative economic standards."

A might defensive there, aren't we, axe?

You wouldn't happen to be an MBA student at KU, would you?

So the study - prepared, apparently, for the Northern Flyer Alliance - was "impartial"? Well, I'm sure an objective opinion such as your own proves that. Let's see, you've made a total of 16 posts to this newspaper since joining and every single one of them is urging increased funding related to trains. I guess that makes YOU impartial, too.

I've read the study, axe. The 'four point plan' is pure conjecture. The conclusions of the study are dependent on number two, "projected increased rider ship due to improved marketing programs". It is assumed ridership will increase by 5% due to this marketing - based on what, again?

And that was in addition to a 10% increase based on 2008 gas prices of $3.19/gal. Those prices are falling, and using the formula in the study, that increase would be 6%, not 10%, as of today.

The tourism dollars are based on the assumption that people will be traveling TO, and not through, these destinations. The increased employment figures appear to be for building the infrastructure, which is a one-time benefit and by definition not sustainable. The ROI is based on operating losses remaining constant.

And, um, BTW, where was the cost of this aggressive new advertising campaign included? Or (as the story points out) the additional investment needed to transport people from the nearest train station to the destinations such as Big 12 schools?

In other words, the study is a nice little classroom exercise, but at the business school I attended, the students would have been lucky to scrape out a C-.

Kash_Encarri 4 years, 11 months ago

"KCKANSAN (Anonymous) says… amtrak is always late: The Southwest Chief just arrived into Kansas City this morning in -4 temperatures and 30 min. early."

I cannot take serious any statement made by you after this one posted at 8:06. I find it awfully hard to believe that the Chief arrived in Kansas City a half an hour early when it left Lawrence more than an hour late. I know that because I stood around that lovely depot the city of Lawrence is acquiring and froze my @ss off for better than an hour and a half waiting to send off some company that we had in town who felt rail travel would be nostalgic.

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

KCKANSAN (Anonymous) says…

"Using the standard mileage rate, it amounts to $199 per round trip (368 miles x.55 cents, + $8 turnpike). "

What the IRS allows you to deduct from your taxes has very little, if anything at all, with the actual expense.

Seriously - you can't do better than that?

And I asked what your total expenses are from KC to Wichita, including travel from KCK to KCMO and from Newton to Wichita. You also ducked the question as to whether you used the interstate highway system for those segments of your trip.

"The point is 28 million is not insignificant (except to you)"

Compared to 2.3 billion?

Yes, it is.

"there are less than 100 Amtrak movements daily in this country, the majority in the Northeast. What if there were more in this region?"

You are seriously comparing the NEC to this area? Seriously? You are really deluded enough to believe there would ever be anything more than an insignificant fraction of the ridership that Boston-DC has in the KC-OK City run?

"There are about 561 million domestic airline passengers annually."

Very good! You can use Google!

Now, figure the amount of the air travel subsidies that applies directly to passenger travel, and what does the per-trip subsidy look like compared to AmTrak?

"I don't give a $#!+ about how many people fly or drive each year, it is of course necessary, but only lunatics go ape$#!+ over $7 million a year in a state budget."

In other words, you don't care if WE have to cough up $7 million so YOU can save yourself the drive to Wichita. Hey, KCK, if $7 million is such chump change, why don't you write a check?

"I think I'll forward your remarks to Tom Hoenig President of Kansas City Federal Reserve Board. He was diverted on December 14 into Baltimore and sat for 2 hours on the runway, not pemitted to exit the aircraft and missed the Board meeting to set interest rates and a meeting with the President. I know he will agree with you because you of course are right and speak for the best interests of the country, mankind and the planet."

How many times do you think Mr. Hoenig flies to DC in any given year?

How many times has this happened to him?

And how did that delay compare to the 7-1/2 hours it takes to travel by train - on a good day?

By the way, KCK, could you possibly be more of an elitist snob?

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

Seamus (Anonymous) says…

"nota, people “choose” to use cars because there isn't another way to get around. The government decided to build highways after WW2 which killed the finest passenger rail system in the world."

We had roads long before WWII, seamus. We build more roads because the demand for them is growing, not the other way around. Only sheeple believe in the 'if we build it they will come' business model.

"In 1880 people could get anywhere using the train; why is it so difficult to imagine that we might do the same again today?"

Hmmm, let's see.

Because this is 2010, not 1880?

"Nota— and what happens if the price of gasoline goes up to $5/gallon?"

I'll still be making my 112 mile (round trip) daily commute. As a matter of fact that's what I budgeted for two years ago when I took the job. And if it stays below $8 I can still absorb it. Above that I may consider moving a little closer - but that would only be if my income hasn't also increased.

And I'll still fly to Florida for vacations, seamus. It wouldn't matter if the cost of the train was one-third of the cost of air travel - I'm not going to give up two days (each way) of my vacation just getting there and back.

"You regularly make assumptions that Happy Motoring will continue forever and ever."

An equally valid assumption compared to yours, that it won't.

"These assumptions are based on the notion that the oil supply will continue to expand or that the alternatives will magically fill the gap, both of which are just flat wrong."

The alternatives are already here, seamus. Perhaps you should read more.

In any event, the infrastructure for this wonderful, magical system of passenger trains is going to just appear out of thin air? What makes your assumptions, based on the same sort of magic you accuse me of believing in, any different?

Oh, wait, I remember - mine is based on history, and yours is a pipe dream.

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

Oops, sorry, KCK, I meant to say "And how did that delay compare to the twenty-five hours it takes to travel by train (plus the 3-hour wait in Chcago) - on a good day?"

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

Kash_Encarri,

I was in error. The delay you cite is correct, and Amtrak was late leaving Lawrence and getting into Kansas City this morning January 8th.

Yesterday it was 20 minutes early getting into Kansas City.

On most days it arrives in KC at 6:50 am, about 35 minutes ahead of its scheduled 7:25 arrive time.

C_hertling 4 years, 11 months ago

"Rail travel will never get you where you really want to go. Ever. "

Oh Really??? How then was I able to take a Amtrak based vacation to see hockey games in five cities over eight days this past spring? Between Amtrak, subways, Commuter Rail, light rail, etc, I was able to get everywhere I needed to go. In several of the cities, I even stayed WAY out in the suburbs, and still didn't need a taxi or rental car.

I own a reliable car... I can afford to fly... I'd just rather take the train. There is no way of traveling that is as relaxing as the train.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

To Nota:

So, you think $7 million is a lot of money in the grand scheme of a $577 million dollar transportation budget?

When I travel to Wichita (on Interstate-35) and do not become one of the 451 people who die each year on roads in Kansas, I spend $8 dollars in turnpike fees and a minumum $34 in gasoline.

Now the adult population in Kansas is just about 2,100,000.

A state contract with Amtrak is estimated to be about $7 million based on what neighboring states have in place with Amtrak. So this would calculate to be about $4 per person per year for the train service. Would I pay $4 a year as a taxpayer to travel by rail to Wichita if Amtrak service was reinstated? Yes.

As I said earlier, I would gladly pay about $35 for a round trip ticket and enjoy the comfort and safety and opportunity to work, read, or enjoy the scenery.

Mark Kostner 4 years, 11 months ago

I'm a train lover, but the way Amtrak is currently set up, you really have to go our of your way and really will yourself to ride the train. I live in Las Vegas, which lost its sole passenger train in the 1990's. Back in November a friend who was visiting from Scotland wanted to go to Kansas City. You couldn't book a ticket online like the airlines and Greyhound bus. I thought it was just me, and I didn't know how to do it properly. There is an Amtrak bus to Kingman, AZ, which leaves from my neighborhood to a graveyard shift departure and which arrives in Lawrence or K.C. at the crack of dawn. That alone takes determination to ride the train. If I had wanted to visit South Central Kansas, that would have meant a graveyard shift arrival. We visited a travel agency, and no one knew how to book a train. Booking a space flight would have been easier. They called Amtrak, and their customer service rep was equally dumbfounded as how to book a train ride from Las Vegas, NV to Kansas City. The best they could come up with was to have us go to L.A. on our own, buy the ticket there, and then board the train. Think how much business the railroad loses by not offering service to one of America's main tourist attractions! Anyway, we threw in the towel and rented a car and eventually had a great time seeing some great spots like Santa Fe, Taos, Dodge City, Lawrence, Weston, Sedona, Jerome, the Rockies, Monument Valley, and the Painted Desert, in addition to KC and the Plaza Lighting and my first road trip in years. All thanks to Amtrak. I don't know if frustrated train travelers renting cars and spending money along the way goes into the official calculations on the benefits. But if Amtrak and the communities along the railroad are serious, they can start by making it easier to board the train and offering decent times to arrive at your destination.

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

KCKANSAN (Anonymous) says…

"So, you think $7 million is a lot of money in the grand scheme of a $577 million dollar transportation budget?"

[sigh]

It's so discouraging trying to educate children who think they understand things like numbers.

Every one of the 2 million+ people in Kansas benefits from that $577 transportation budget. (And I'll ask you for a third time - fully expecting you to duck the question a third time - do you use the interstate highways as part of your train trip to Wichita?) Only a handful would benefit from the train. What part of per-trip costs are you having such a difficult time understanding?

"So this would calculate to be about $4 per person per year for the train service. Would I pay $4 a year as a taxpayer to travel by rail to Wichita if Amtrak service was reinstated? Yes."

The problem - really, KCK, why are you having such a difficult time grasping this, or is it deliberate ignorance? - the problem is that 99% of those 2 million people are NOT going to ride the train - we would all be paying $4 for YOU to ride the train.

"As I said earlier, I would gladly pay about $35 for a round trip ticket and enjoy the comfort and safety and opportunity to work, read, or enjoy the scenery."

Would you pay $75-80? Because that's what it costs.

And before you start whining again that highway travel is subsidized, no, it's not, at least not in the way that train travel is. The subsidy for AmTrak is for operating expenses; the infrastructure isn't part of the equation. I pay ALL my own operating expenses (and virtually all of the infrastructure costs) associated with driving my car on the highway.

Here's an idea - let's double the price of your AmTrak ticket. I'm sure you'll still jump at the opportunity to "work, read, or enjoy the scenery", as will thousands of others (hey, the MBA students' study says so). After AmTrak has demonstrated people will ride the trains and they can pay their own operating expenses from ticket revenue, they'll have no problem getting loans - like any other business - to expand service. Hey, I'm feeling generous - what the heck, let's pay the one-time expense to fix the rails out of tax revenue. Then AmTrak riders will only have to pay for their operating expenses, the same way car owners pay for theirs. Sound fair? I mean, this is a great deal - you'll only have to shell out about $80 for a trip taking you from a point ten miles from your home to a point ten miles from your destination.

"When I travel to Wichita (on Interstate-35) and do not become one of the 451 people who die each year on roads in Kansas"

Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize the critical factor for you was safety. Well, that decides it, then.

Unfortunately for you, it decides it in favor of air travel, which in case you didn't know, was safer than train travel.

pace 4 years, 11 months ago

nonsense, To compare current amtrak use with service, once a day with a lay over of at least 4o minutes between here and Kc to how many cars are commuting. Now that is not apple and oranges that is a plain stupid comparison.

job4mike6 4 years, 11 months ago

Worthwhile editorial! Confronts societal problem-check; provokes debate-check; proposes solution-check; no gratuitous celebrity references-check. This item makes me want to read the Jayhawk Consulting paper. To fellow readers, I would suggest that we consider the federal transportation subsidy per passenger-mile as a useful metric to determine the relative support already provided to various passenger transportation modes. In the support to aviation don't forget the fact that many military-trained pilots form the core cadre of civil passenger aviation pilots. That's a form of labor training subsidy from defense spending not applicable to rail or auto. Finally, I do believe that rail is the most efficient mode (of auto, air, or rail) based upon the operational metric of fuel used per passenger-mile.

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says…

"Nota, the majority of roads built are providing significiently less then what we had before. Diminishing returns, concept in economics."

You keep saying stuff like that, jack. On another recent thread you said it more plainly, that we had all the roads we need. But this simply is not true. In looking into the numbers comparing car traffic on I-35 along the root of the Ft Worth-OK City train, one thing I found out is that only 35% of that route has enough lanes to meet demand for the next 10-15 years, almost two-thirds of it needs expansion. The population continues to grow, the number of cars grows with it, and still barely more than 1% of the population chooses trains over cars as their method of travel.

I'm glad you're getting by fine with the roads we have, jack. It's not all about you. There are about 300 million other people in this country, and far and away the majority of them have demonstrated, over and over again for decades, that they don't want to ride your trains.


job4mike6 (Anonymous) says…

"Finally, I do believe that rail is the most efficient mode (of auto, air, or rail) based upon the operational metric of fuel used per passenger-mile."

The flaw in that logic is that it's based on full capacity. Yes, a train carrying hundreds of people uses less fuel per passenger-mile than a bus with 40 people or a car with 2. But a train carrying 5 people uses one he of a lot more fuel per passenger-mail than a car carrying those same 5 people - and that's even before figuring in the fuel used when people switch over to one of those other modes to and from the train station. The train has more capacity, but decades of history demonstrate that capacity is going unused.

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

Wow, jack, pause and take a breath once in a while. Was there any punctuation in that tirade?

Yes, jack, we need more transportation capacity. Just not trains. The various modes of transportation are not interchangeable. It's true that trains don't go everywhere they used to go - but they NEVER went everywhere we need them to go. You could never bundle up the kids for inclement weather, take them out through the kitchen door to the garage, and load them into a train.

Tell me something, jack - all these 80 year-olds you're advocating for, the ones who can't drive any more - how do the 99.999% of them who don't live within a block of the train station get to the train? And, BTW, back in the heyday of train travel, how many 80 year-olds were traveling between Lawrence and Fort Worth on a regular basis?

"why isn't rail simply the most intelligent option?"

Because trains will never - get this part through your head, jack - NEVER be able to take a person everywhere they want to go when they want to go. Train travel is dependent on other modes of transportation - you still have to get to and from the train, as most people don't live across the street from a train station, and most of the destinations they travel to aren't across the street from a train station. We will always need cars, we will always need airplanes. We don't need passenger trains. How intelligent is it to use limited resources adding capacity in a mode of transportation that is superfluous and nobody uses anyway?

Liberty275 4 years, 11 months ago

"Roads are redundant."

Not the one that is right in front of my driveway.

Anyway, roads are like the internet, they offer redundancy so you route around parts that are broken. That is a definite plus.

Crowning achievement... being able to walk 10 feet from my front door, get in my car and be at work, the grocery store or anywhere else in Lawrence in 15 minutes. Try that with public transportation.

As for rail, I think using the existing infrastructure for passenger trains is a good idea if it doesnt require too much government subsidation through taxes. Railroads built our nation and it would be a shame to lose them. They also do a great job at moving cargo, especially coal to our powerplant which I hear is one of the dirtiest in the nation.

I think maybe if I were a leftwinger, and environmentalist pseudo-intellectual I'd use less of that dirty coal electricity by turning off my computer. LOL.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 11 months ago

"Crowning achievement… being able to walk 10 feet from my front door, get in my car and be at work, the grocery store or anywhere else in Lawrence in 15 minutes. Try that with public transportation.

As for rail, I think using the existing infrastructure for passenger trains is a good idea if it doesnt require too much government subsidation through taxes. "

Funny, you're OK with all those convenient roads getting massive government subsidies, but it's not OK for railroads to be subsidized.

Liberty275 4 years, 11 months ago

convenient roads getting massive government subsidies

I pay to use the roads with every gallon of gas I buy. 40 cent per gallon. Interstates are constitutionally mandated for purposes of national security.

Also, I said "if it doesn't require too much government subsidation through taxes" that doesn't refer to the tracks, but to passenger trains that use the rails (ie amtrak). Some subsidy is OK, but not like that stupid T bus that uses 5 gallons ($15 dollars worth) of diesel to move 3 people two miles, paid for mainly by property taxes.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 11 months ago

"I pay to use the roads with every gallon of gas I buy. 40 cent per gallon. "

You're very misinformed if you think that's the only way you pay for your beloved SOV cult. That's but a fraction of the true (mostly hidden) costs that are involved-- the Dept. of Defense being one of the largest, and little things like global climate changing being incalculably large.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 11 months ago

"that stupid T bus that uses 5 gallons ($15 dollars worth) of diesel to move 3 people two miles"

I'm sure glad you're sticking to just the facts.

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says…

"Funny, you're OK with all those convenient roads getting massive government subsidies, but it's not OK for railroads to be subsidized."

Is there any other topic you'd like to demonstrate your ignorance on today, boohoohoozo? 'Cause I can always use another laugh.

First, clownie, the highways are paid for entirely by the people that use them. Vehicle owners pay almost all of it, mostly through motor fuels taxes, vehicle registration and license fees, etc. The amount that comes from GR funds is also almost entirely paid for by vehicle owners, since the owners of the 250,000,000 registered passenger vehicles in this country pay almost all of the property, income, and sales taxes, too. The miniscule number of people who never travel on the highways still benefit from them as virtually every product they own or consume travels on those highways.

All of which has nothing to do with AmTrak subsidies anyway, as those subsidies are for operating costs, not infrastructure. I pay all my own operating expenses for highway travel - I bought my car, I pay for my gas, I pay for insurance, I pay for maintenance and repairs. Ticket revenues pay less than HALF the operating expenses of AmTrak.

And even if the car owners didn't pay for the infrastructure, neither do train riders. The tracks were built by and are owned and maintained by the freight rail companies. I'm sure AmTrak pays something towards the use of those tracks, but nowhere near as much as car owners pay to use the roads.

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says…

"Just think people could take their bike with them and ride it from the train station."

With their kids, jack?

In 15-below weather with a foot of snow on the ground, jack?

When the train station is 15 miles from your destination, jack?

When is the last time you saw one of your imaginary octogenarians wrestling a bicycle on to the train, let alone pedaling merrily off from the train station, jack?

When is the last time YOUR lazy rear end saw the seat of a bicycle, jack?

Um, jackie, while I really enjoy your doddering 'We had to walk 100 miles to school, in the snow (in June), uphill in both directions, yada yada yada' tirades, how do you explain the fact that life expectancy of Americans has increased by about 15 years since your good old days of the choo-choo, what with unhealthiness of our car-centric society and all? (Maybe less people are dying from pneumonia from walking to the train station and standing in the snow waiting for a train to arrive - late.)

"Trains did go where most people wanted to go"

No, jack, they never did. I know your delusions tend towards the nostalgia side, but they never, ever did.

"they were quite profitable in the past"

Yeah. When the alternative was a stagecoach, the train was an acceptable option. When there was NO alternative to get from one city to another, except maybe walking for a couple of weeks, they were an acceptable option. When air travel was something only millionaires could afford, it was an acceptable option.

It's not any more, jackie. And thankfully, the nostalgic old geezers who think it's the way things should be today will all be gone soon enough.

Really, jack, while you sounded almost lucid (for once) on most of this thread, you're ranting again.

notajayhawk 4 years, 11 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says…

"nota it is a bogus argument"

When you have to way to respond, jack, it usually is. The FACT is that the roads are paid for by everybody because everyone benefits from them, while everyone pays for AmTrak with only about 1% of those actually using it.

"it really is because if the government had decided rather than run privately owned and operated passenger trains out of business ..."

Yeah, jackie, the men in black came out of the sky in their black helicopters and decreed 'there shalt be no more trains ...'

"It is a structure set up by the government, very much like if they take over insurance, a structure would be establish that takes in money and pays it out. You are ok with one but not the other, curious."

jackie, I know Aricept is getting more difficult for you to obtain, but in between your doddering could you find one example - just ONE example - of anything I have ever said that would lead your feeble old mind to believe I am "ok" with the government taking over insurance?

"Not to mention if we leave all all the snow removal and maintenance expenses, the expense of all the medical care from automobile accidents."

Who pays for the snow removal on the train tracks, jackie? Who pays for track maintenance, jackie? Who pays for the traffic signals that stop cars so your choo-choos can go by? Who pays for the police and emergency services personnel that show up for an accident involving a train, jackie? AmTrak? Um, no.

At least you managed to not bring up Social Security tonight. It's really amusing watching you bring up everything from conspiracy theories to the Chinese to the military to whatever you can pull out of your diaper the more desperate you become. It just galls you so much that 99% of the people in this country just don't want to ride your choo-choos!

"About thirty minutes ago."

Wow, I'm impressed. Was that one of the ones with the really big front wheels, or did you get that futuristic three-speed?

And, um, jackie, that's one out of the four questions. Actually five, since you don't seem to have an answer as to why life expectancy has increased, unhealthy car-centric lifestyle and all, since the heyday of the trains.

"In the past the trains and interurbans did indeed go pretty much where people needed them too."

Hmmm - we seem to have gone from "Trains did go where most people wanted to go" to "did indeed go pretty much where people needed them too." And I suppose you, jackie, are the supreme arbiter of where people 'needed' to go? What with commuting and urban sprawl being immoral, and refusing to stand outside in frostbite weather to wait for a train being unhealthy, etc., etc.?

So keep telling us all about the good old days, jackie, when the 'great generation' had to do so much and wha wha wha. You admit you use the highways, but if they're good enough for YOU then we don't need more for anyone else, right, jackie?

KCKANSAN 4 years, 11 months ago

To None:

I was using a demographic statistic of "over 18 population" as an example for relative cost comparison. I started with the 2.8 million figure, but since children (or those under 18) generally do not pay taxes or turnpike tolls I used the "over 18" statistic for calculation purposes, and that number is about 2.1 million.

The estimated corridor population of the proposed route between Kansas City and Fort Worth is about 14 million (w/in 40 miles either side.)

The reason Tulsa is left out is because a route to that City runs 120 miles NE, away from Oklahoma City. There are no "passenger grade" tracks to Tulsa or beyond. Upgrading the 120 miles to Tulsa from OKC looked like it was going to require at least $120 million (dead on arrival in Oklahoma politically). The Amtrak-ODOT Tulsa study was supposed to be released in early Fall 2008 and has yet to see light of day; according to one source, "officials thought that priority should be given planning and studies that are viable proposals."

A conservative cost projection for KC to OKC is provided in the KU study. Their projections, however, were derived in part from baseline information in KDOT's 2000 Burrail study. In comparison, everywhere else (Illinios, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, etc.) the costs are much much less.

Liberty275 4 years, 11 months ago

"global climate changing"

The global climate has and always will change. You can buy into algore's hoax, but I don't. It's a lie.

Left_handed 4 years, 11 months ago

Everything the federal government has its hand in loses money.

Amtrak, Medicare, Social Security, United States Postal Service, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, yadda yadda yadda.

Let's print more money so we can throw it down the Amtrak rathole.

This ignorant comment was provided by a mentally deficient LJ World poster.

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