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Archive for Thursday, March 11, 2010

Amtrak study shows routes through Kansas

Ridership numbers have good potential, but effort will take years, officials say

Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller on Thursday speaks with reporters about a new study that outlines four possible routes for more passenger rail service in Kansas. Miller said the study represents the first step in a long process before Amtrak service is expanded.

Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller on Thursday speaks with reporters about a new study that outlines four possible routes for more passenger rail service in Kansas. Miller said the study represents the first step in a long process before Amtrak service is expanded.

March 11, 2010, 10:07 a.m. Updated March 12, 2010, 9:19 a.m.

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State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, on Thursday looks at information from a study on the feasibility of more railroad passenger service in Kansas. Amtrak said ridership estimates were attractive.

State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, on Thursday looks at information from a study on the feasibility of more railroad passenger service in Kansas. Amtrak said ridership estimates were attractive.

Rail study shows routes through Kansas

Four alternatives were considered, ranging in start-up costs from $156 million to $479 million. Enlarge video

— A study of expanded passenger railroad service in Kansas found “attractive” ridership numbers.

But the effort to pick a specific route and come up with the hefty startup costs — ranging from $156 million to $479 million — will take years, officials said Thursday.

“This is just the beginning,” said Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Deb Miller.

Miller unveiled a study by Amtrak and KDOT that detailed four routes for passenger rail service between Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Fort Worth.

The routes showed estimates of 65,000 to 174,000 riders per year.

“These are attractive ridership levels,” said Michael Franke, Amtrak’s assistant vice president for policy and development. “We didn’t think they would be that high.”

Now with the study in hand, the next step is to engage the public and decide which would be the best route, Miller said. This would also involve Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas. Legislation headed to Gov. Mark Parkinson for consideration would set up a passenger rail program within KDOT.

After a route is chosen, then comes the hard part — producing money for upgrading tracks and new trains. The study didn’t include the costs of improving stations.

Miller said there may be federal funding available, but noted there is a lot of competition for transit funds at this time. In addition, the routes would require operating support from $3.2 million to $6.4 million per year.

Under present economic conditions, “I’m not sure this is a pitch to make this year,” Miller said. But she emphasized expansion of rail service is a long-term project.





















Passenger Rail Feasibility Study

Alternative 1 (Extending Heartland Flyer to Newton)

Route: Newton to Fort Worth (night in Kansas)

Ridership: 92,500 per year

Startup costs: $156 million

Annual operating subsidy: $3.2 million

Potential Kansas stops: Newton, Wichita, Arkansas City

Connections: Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle

Alternative 2 (New service from Kansas City to Fort Worth)

Route: Kansas City, Mo., to Fort Worth (night in Kansas)

Ridership: 118,200 per year

Startup costs: $317 million

Annual operating subsidy: $5.2 million

Potential Kansas stops: Lawrence, Topeka, Emporia, Strong City, Newton, Wichita, Arkansas City

Connections: Southwest Chief, Missouri River Runner and Texas Eagle

Alternative 3 (New service from Kansas City to Fort Worth)

Route: Kansas City, Mo., to Fort Worth (day in Kansas)

Ridership: 174,000

Startup costs: $479 million

Annual operating subsidy: $6.1 million

Potential Kansas stops: Lawrence, Topeka, Emporia, Strong City, Newton, Arkansas City

Connections: Southwest Chief (next day), Missouri River Runner (next day), Texas Eagle (next day)

Alternative 4 (New service between Kansas City and Oklahoma City)

Route: Kansas City, Mo., to Oklahoma City (day in Kansas)

Ridership: 65,900

Startup costs: $309 million

Annual operating subsidy: $6.4 million

Potential Kansas stops: Lawrence, Topeka, Emporia, Strong City, Newton, Wichita and Arkansas City

Connections: Southwest Chief (7 hours later), Missouri River Runner (next day) and Texas Eagle (next day)

Comments

mizzou_jayhawk 4 years, 9 months ago

Why is there no link to the complete report? Seems like you should link to the primary source you are quoting for readers to be able to read the entire primary source instead of just the secondary source (LJWorld). I understand that you can't physically link it in the actual print edition, but on the web there is no reason not to. Anyways here is the link:

http://ksdot.org/PDF_Files/FINAL-Amtrak-Study.pdf

Jeanne Cunningham 4 years, 9 months ago

How about to Junction City? Abilene? Salina? Russell? Hays? Ellis? WaKeeney? Colby? etc...

I know that might be included with the above mentioned Colorado, Denver trip, but with stops possible along the way.

gccs14r 4 years, 9 months ago

"How about to Junction City? Abilene? Salina? Russell? Hays? Ellis? WaKeeney? Colby? etc... "

Regional trains could handle that traffic, leaving the fast trains to run unhindered between major cities. If Amtrak gets high speed rail up and running, it won't stop here. We'll have to take a regional train to KC and board a high-speed train there. +1 on a KC-Denver high speed train. It's dumb to have to backtrack to Illinois to get to Denver from here, or have to take a bus from Albuquerque.

UnbiasedLionsfan 4 years, 9 months ago

I really hope this happens--but it won't happen soon enough. Although trains may seem old-school, it gives people more options.

Alexander Neighbors 4 years, 9 months ago

YES MAKE THE TRAIN BUT PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE MAKE it go to Every large city in Kansas !!! I would love to be on a tourist trip in Kansas !

ewa2010 4 years, 9 months ago

Good for Kansas for at least thinking about this! The guy who thinks train travel is dead obviously isn't allowed to leave the state very often. The west coast is undergoing improvements in intercity surface public transportation with state supported rail service and connecting buses. Within the next couple of years, travel times between between Seattle and Portland can be reduced to about three hours. In 2009 the Seattle-Portland trains carried over 750,000 passengers with only minor improvements having been made in existing infrastructure. Further improvements and faster travel times will allow improved financial performance by generating more ridership and improving equipment utilization. No transportation system has ever been created or operated in this country without the financial support of government. The airline and highway lobby all receive subsidies, just in a bit less publicized way.

gccs14r 4 years, 9 months ago

Use the German model. You can get just about anywhere by rail there.

I can't believe that the rail proposals involve multi-day trips to get from St. Louis to Fort Worth. They're just not that far apart. It's almost like they're trying to make a bad system.

Alexander Neighbors 4 years, 9 months ago

if more people take the Train it means less people for law enforcement to pull over and write tickets to. I would not be shocked to see local law enforcement getting angry and protesting the train. Especially if there was a light Rail option in lawrence.......

Alexander Neighbors 4 years, 9 months ago

Other cities Have light rail or Train service and they are Great ! http://trimet.org/streetcar/index.htm

Amtrak High speed Train ! Acela Kansas Needs one of these http://www.trainweb.com/acela/

Alexander Neighbors 4 years, 9 months ago

This will create JOBS JOBS JOBS !!!! (THAT STAY HERE)

Bladerunner 4 years, 9 months ago

Amtrak will be the new T. I foresee empty trains in our future. Going places no one wants to go. I priced a trip to Chicago from KC. It was more expensive than flying and takes 10 times longer. The only people who benefit from studies like these are those cashing the checks the government is paying them to do the study.

ewa2010 4 years, 9 months ago

High speed rail only works on high traffic, high density city pairs of distances less than 350-400 miles. It will not replace the airplane for long distance travel. A lot of demographic change has happened in the United States in the last fifty years. The United States has invested almost nothing in any type of transport mode other than air and road during this period. The rest of the first world is passing us by on the ground at speeds of 180-200 mph. That's not fantasy, that's operating on over 25,000 miles of high speed track around the world today in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, Korea, and soon in China, India, Russia, Great Britain, Norway, and and The Netherlands. Other than Acela (a pretty weak effort), the United States has no modern passenger rail service in operation today. Like the wind mill that now generates electric power rather than grinding corn, the rail can do much more than haul coal. I would suggest you take a look at www.siemens.com and take a look at the mobility tab.

Shane Garrett 4 years, 9 months ago

I took the train from Lawrence to Galesburg, Ill. about four times. I enjoyed it each and every time. The best place to hang was the smoking car, second best place was the observation car. Take your own food. $6.00 cold sandwiches can be better made at home. And fill you flask.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 9 months ago

I used to ride the train a lot before Amtrak took over. We used to go to Oklahoma to visit back when Amtrak used to serve this very same route (Chicago to Housten, formerly the "Texas Chief", then the "Lone Star".

The rest lo the civilized world enjoys very good train service, particularly Europe and Japan. But we in the U.S. have this fatal attachment to personal vehicles and are willing to spend thousands of dollars more just to have our own personal set of 4 (very expernsive) wheels. Some posters above have blasted train travel showing their incredible ignorance of the usefulness and economy of travel, but when dealing with massive American disdain of most of the rest of the world, it is not very likely that any of these suggestions will ever work. There was much interest in the route from Kansas City to Denver back in 1971 when Amtrak absorbed all the private rail passenger service in the U.S., but since you could go to Chicago and then to Denver, this was not arranged. (There is a direct rail route, the Union Pacific tracks have been in place for over a centrury, directly to Denver from Lawrenceand Kansas City) The Republicans have opposed spending a dime on rail passenger service, and I fear that any logical and sensible rail plan such as the rest of the world enjoy will never happen due to the political stance of the "party of "NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

KCKANSAN 4 years, 9 months ago

The published report of the study reveals a very high level of capital costs; the type of capital costs that Federal funds will pay for at 100% to a state that stands up and does what's necessary to prepare and apply. Ohio got $400 million, Illionois $1.1 billion and Missouri $31,000. Much of the capital cost for this corridor involves addiing sidings and double tracking the route over 15% of the corridor.

What is amazing is the low operational contract that is proposed; something just over $8 million annually to be apportioned among three states. If a mileage pro-rata apportionment is calculated for the Kansas segment, the cost per over 18 Kansas resident resident is less than $1.25 a year.

Ridership at start-up is estimated at 174,000 a year. This may be actually be a low estimate based on other new services which have seen ridership exceed projections.

The potential life and limb savings to the state are even more impressive. KDOT publishes tables on the cost to the state of each accident; it averages $187,000 per incident. National tables show that each fatality costs in the neighborhood of $4-5 million. If even a few accidents are avoided (and the odds are that moving 174,000 annually by rail will undoubtedly save a few lives), passenger rail service will be of great economic benefit to the state; why wait?

lounger 4 years, 9 months ago

Any improvement to the rail system is great. I love to travel by rail. Seeing the country in real time is very cool. I took a trip about a decade ago and saw some really far out sand dunes outside of Hutch that I didnt even know were in existance! You cant see too much of america going 700 mph.

KCKANSAN 4 years, 9 months ago

none2 (anonymous) says… "Until they have proof of interest in ridership, they need to start with the cheapest expansion. They can always change to the more expensive options if it turns out to be popular."

Amtrak officials present at the meeting after the press conference were asked their opinion on this very question. Their recommendation was that the corridor states should seek the operational scenario which offered the easiest, not cheapest expansion. Their reasoning is, the development costs are nearly the same, regardless. The night train operation attracts far fewer riders, thus the cost per passenger is relatively higher. Daytime service and additional frequencies cost little more, but the increase in ridership is dramatic. They cited Sacramento-Okland service as an example. It started as a limited operation and has grown 6 fold; ridership has grown by quantum levels.

Alexander Neighbors 4 years, 9 months ago

airplane travel is highly subsidized by the gov't I can tell you right now if the gov't was not giving as much money as they did to the airlines the price of the ticket would be way beyond your reach anyways if you take a train you dont have to be subjected to ridiculous searches and xray body scanners its just stupid some terriost takes over a plane on an international flight so now I have to get X-ray-ed each time I get on a plane to fly between states ?

gccs14r 4 years, 9 months ago

Once gas costs $12 and jet fuel costs $18, you'll wish you had an inexpensive electric train to ride.

There should be a local train that runs from Nortonville to Billtown and back (picking up Winchester and Oskaloosa along the way) and a regional train that runs from Manhattan to KC. People commuting to KC, Lawrence, or Topeka from Jeff county could drive just a few miles to town and hop a train the rest of the way.

Mark Kostner 4 years, 9 months ago

Look it, you can chuck the first two out unless it's a second or third train in operation as a connection from the Southwest Chief to Wichita, Oklahoma City, and Texas. I love trains and would ride them if I could, but I live in Las Vegas and a Kansas visit for me requires embarking at Kingman, AZ in the wee hours of the night or going to L.A. or Victorville, then getting off at the crack of dawn in Lawrence or KC. You really have to go out of your way to ride the train. It's a real exercise in discipline and will. Amtrak and the governments who back it have got to get several trains operating on its routes so people can ride in a practical fashion. Expecting people to ride trains to and fro on the graveyard shift is a waste of time and money. For a Kansas-Texas segment to really work you need daytime connections, then maybe a night train. Adding at least a daytime Southwest Chief schedule and preferably an evening one as well would also be in order if Amtrak is really serious about being a transportation provider.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 9 months ago

I like the idea of improving rail service. We need to develop alternative forms of travel other than automobiles.

But like any business, you have to be able to provide the kind of services and affordability that will attract customers and keep them.

As a concept, it is a great idea and I would love to hop on a train and go to Wichita or even Fort Worth for a mini-vacation.

classclown 4 years, 9 months ago

Forget wasting all that money on trains. Invest it all in developing and building Star Trek like transporter systems.

boothillbilly 4 years, 9 months ago

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that being said, I prefer train travel to air travel. Airport security is onerous, the service and accommodations on airplanes seems vindictive at best, and is all around unpleasant. Amtrak's problem has been that it rents the rails from private railroad companies (e.g. BNSF), resulting in freight trains getting priority while Amtrak is shunted to a siding. Train travel would at least be comfortable, cheaper, and (dare I say it) greener (in terms of mpg/passenger) than other forms of travel.

This seems like a great idea (although I agree with previous posters; who wants to go to F. Worth?). It is about time for the U.S. to catch up to the rest of the world.

walkthehawk 4 years, 9 months ago

we have taken amtrak to Chicago--the time was comparable to driving, and when we got there we didn't have to figure out where to park a car downtown. The base fares aren't extremely cheap (especially when compared to sale fares on airlines), but they have sales very frequently that discount the tickets to a level that's almost ridiculous. Three of us went to St. Louis and back for $55 last spring.

The train is a wonderful option for families with young children--kiddos aren't confined to a carseat and mom and dad aren't occupied with driving; all are free to just enjoy the trip together. We have really enjoyed traveling this way, and expect that it will only get better with more federal attention paid to improving the system (rather than repeated congressional attempts to dismantle it.)

Amtrak has been treated like the stepchild of our transportation grid--while our highway system costs--and receives--billions a year, the question with Amtrak is always "WHEN is it going to PAY FOR ITSELF!?!" Right, like the highways pay for themselves, in continuous infusions of funds from the feds to the states.

Moderateguy 4 years, 9 months ago

We have family in Ft. Worth, and I would be thrilled to ride the train in lieu of driving. BUT, it has to be substantially cheaper than flying. The few times I have looked up taking the train somewhere, the costs were fairly close to airfare and in some cases even more. I really hate flying due to ridiculous security procedures, but spending more time on the train than driving and ending up paying as much as a plane ticket just doesn't work for me.

Comparing Europe to America is just plain silly. All it shows is you can't read the scale on a map.

gccs14r 4 years, 9 months ago

No need for diesel trains. String wire while we're installing high-speed track and use pure electric trains.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 9 months ago

Relax and have a popsicle, paulette. It's a cool and fruity treat on a winter day.

Tricky Gnosis 4 years, 9 months ago

I can not believe in this day and age, when the government is so completely out of money that they've essentially started forging it, that we are even having this conversation.

Look at Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The money is GONE, kids. The Treasury is so bare it's full of cobwebs. We need to be thinking about how to keep America from financial collapse, not about what neat new services we want to add.

Jeff Goodrick 4 years, 9 months ago

I take the train to Garden City and Dodge all the time, 5 hrs. by car 5 hrs. by train, you can sleep on the train. The seats in coach are good to set in, but if your over 6 ft their hard to sleep in. The other nice thing about the train is if I find out I need to be in Dodge tomorrow the ticket cost the same as if I bought it a month ago.

monkeyspunk 4 years, 9 months ago

We would go from KC to Denver, 2 or 3 times a year if there were a sub 12 hour route that didn't cost as much as a plane ticket. Current travel times are well over 15 hours, each route with a stop in either Illinois or New Mexico.

Bladerunner 4 years, 9 months ago

Ive got an idea! As long as we are reversing technology...lets bring back the stage coach too! What a waste of money. If we lived in a densely populated area like New York or California they may have merit....Waste of cash here. it doesnt help to "save" me a few dollars on travel when it costs me ten times as much in lost income taking extra time getting there and back. The Government does not owe us healthcare or cheap travel. Frwent...please dont blame the republicans or the democrats for voting down train travel. If it were a viable option...the public sector would have jumped on the idea years ago. Were in debt enough now. No new programs that dont pay for themselves....No new taxes!

AlanB 4 years, 9 months ago

Bladerunner says: "Ive got an idea! As long as we are reversing technology...lets bring back the stage coach too!"

If you don't mind giving up your car, since that's what replaced the stage coach, go for it. Maybe we could then save the $69.116 Billion went spent last year at the Federal level on our roads, half of which the users did not pay for. Talk about cheap travel, just imagine how much more it would have cost you to help foot that $34.5 billion that came out of the general budget instead of from the gas tax.

By the way, the automobile is just as old as the train, both were invented in the same century only a few years apart. And both have evolved considerably since then.

Finally, while the train may not help you, there are many people who can be productive while on the train. Doing work on their laptops with cell cards, returning calls, and other things. And those people won't now be in front of you on the highway, so you'll still benefit from the train because of that.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 9 months ago

"gccs14r (anonymous) says… No need for diesel trains. String wire while we're installing high-speed track and use pure electric trains." Where's the electricity coming from, bub? Somebody'll have to be cranking out the megawatts for that & we know that coal and nuclear plants are the bane of the greenie weenies who want us all on the train.

gccs14r 4 years, 9 months ago

Wind turbines, for one. It's a lot easier to power a train with wind than it is a car.

gblatham 4 years, 6 months ago

I recently posted a column on Progressive Railroading's blog site entitled "KDOT versus reality." I would appreciate it if anyone who's interested would read the piece:

http://myprogressiverailroading.com/blogs/gblatham/archive/2010/03/28/kdot-versus-reality.aspx

Thanks! Garl B. Latham Dallas, Texas

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