Archive for Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Study presents 4 options for expansion of rail service

The company revealed the options and prices in a video presentation. A decision is expected to be made by summer.

May 19, 2010


The Kansas Department of Transportation and Amtrak officials held an open house Tuesday to discuss four options for expanding passenger rail service.

The plans come as a result of their joint Feasibility Study of Expanded Passenger Service in Kansas. The plans would increase the number of destinations in and around Kansas, including stops in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. The proposed expansion would mean more frequent Amtrak stops in Lawrence.

Options ahead

The Kansas Department of Transportation is considering four options for extending Amtrak passenger-rail service in Kansas. Details of each:

  1. Extend the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Newton, Kan., with a nighttime connection to the Southwest Chief that already runs through Lawrence. Ridership: 92,500 per year. Costs: $155.8 million to establish, $3.2 million annual subsidy.
  2. Extend the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Kansas City, Mo., to run at night through Lawrence. Ridership: 118,200 per year. Costs: $317 million to establish, $5.2 million annual subsidy.
  3. Establish new service from Forth Worth, Texas, to Kansas City, Mo., including daytime service through Lawrence. Ridership: 174,000 per year. Costs: $479.1 million to establish, $8.1 million annual subsidy.
  4. Establish new service from Oklahoma City to Kansas City, Mo., including daytime service through Lawrence. Ridership: 65,900 per year. Costs: $309.1 million to establish, $6.4 million annual subsidy.

“The ideal would be to have two trains running,” said Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, “one that connects with the Southwest Chief and one that was a daylight train between Kansas City and Fort Worth (Texas).” The Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, with daily stops in Lawrence.

The meeting was held at the Union Pacific Depot and those in attendance watched a video presentation outlining the logistics of each plan and, more importantly, the cost.

“There’s a lot of benefits and a lot of drawbacks that you have to look at,” said Chris Herrick, director of planning and development for KDOT.

The plans range in cost from $100 million to

$400 million. While Kansas would split the costs with Texas and Oklahoma, it would be asked to pay for a majority of the funding.

“Kansas would pay for a majority of the cost of the service because we’re the ones that initiated the study,” Herrick said.

Amtrak media relations manager Marc Magliari understands that the cost to the taxpayer is a major issue. “We want these trains to run well,” he said. “We want these trains to run on time. And there’s a price tag that comes with that.”

But some residents think the service is worth paying for with the potential for higher fuel costs on the horizon. “Fuel is going to be increasingly difficult to come by,” said Dennis Domer, a member of Depot Redux, a local group that advocates for rail travel.

Domer said he thinks expanding rail service is good preparation for the future. “We need alternate sources for lots of people who can’t afford gasoline, and we need to be ready for that,” he said.

KDOT is working with departments of transportation in Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri and hopes to make a decision on a final plan by the end of the summer. Each state’s legislature would then decide whether to fund the proposed expansion. If approved, the final plan would go to the Kansas Legislature in 2012.

Until then, Herrick and other proponents of the plans will travel throughout the proposed “destination corridor” to receive input from the communities that will be affected by the expansion.

“When it’s all said and done,” Herrick said, “we’ll have to ask, ‘is it a good expenditure of taxpayer dollars?’”


Mark Kostner 8 years ago

If Kansas is footing the bill they should have the daylight trains which more Kansans are apt to ride. If Kansans pay for another late night train, they'll be taken for a ride alright!

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years ago

$400 million? Absolutely not.

My prediction is that passenger train service in Lawrence would get as much use as the emp-T.

Hwy50 8 years ago

After seeing how many additional miles of double track BNSF will have if this goes through, I hope their $4 million dollars per mile of double track estimate is below cost. The passenger trains will be on the tracks only twice a day then they get to cram a bunch more freight trains on during the other hours out of the day on the passenger train's dime. Proposal #2 puts double track all the way from Newton to Strong City (which is already double tracked to at least Emporia) will be great for the intermodal freight terminal they're wanting to put in south of Olathe.

Tony Kisner 8 years ago

Round trip to Chicago on Amtrak is $208 with one week advance notice you can fly direct round trip for $265.00 Amtrak takes 9 hours a flight is 2 hours gate to gate.

For a low density population area like the great plains I don't know that the train is the right answer.

Stage Coach is romantic also but it's time has come and gone as well.

Also how much did the study cost? I took all of 10 minutes to determine this was a bad idea.

Frank A Janzen 8 years ago

Easy_Does_It is not considering the hassel of driving from Lawrence to MCI, getting in line, baggage check, etc., and then the same thing on the other end at O'Hare airport, and then getting to where you want to go. This may well add up to 9 hours altogether.

Amtrak takes you from Lawrence to downtown Chicago, and you ride in style.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Easy also is not considering the fact that as oil prices rise, and they will do so dramatically over the next decade, air travel is going to become considerably more expensive than rail travel. And as people fly less, subsidies to the air industry (which make the $400 million price tag here seem paltry) will begin to dry up, driving fares even higher.

Like it or not, rail travel will ascend, and air travel will head the opposite direction.

C_hertling 8 years ago

Easy Does it > Since many of the trains to Chicago have been sold our or nearing sold out recently (and Amtrak's pricing goes up with the number of seats sold, rather than proximity to departure) it may be more accurate to pick a date further out in the future. Do so, and you will see that the round trip cost would be closer to $120.

Also, when comparing travel times, you have to compare apples to apples. There are a number of factors you left out of your two hour estimate.

The following assumes a trip from Lawrence to Downtown Chicago... Drive from Lawrence to KCI, park car and take shuttle to terminal: 1 hour Reccomended time to allow for checkin and to clear security: 1 hour Flight time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes (non stop to O'hare) Time at O'Hare to collect bags and get out of airport: 30 minutes, at LEAST Time to get to downtown Chicago: 47 minutes via subway, or 30-40 minutes by car

So, the total time to travel by plane from Lawrence (via KCI) to downtown Chicago (via O'Hare) would be closer to four hours and fourty five minutes.

Yes, it is still faster to fly.... but not by as large of a margin as you claim.

I would say that the train seems to be a good answer to transportation in the "low density" plains states. I am taking the train to Chicago on June 15th and returning on June 19th. When I checked yesterday, both trains were VERY close to being sold out, with only lower level seats remaining.

MyName 8 years ago

it isn't that weird in that you can't just add passenger cars in the middle of the trip, so they need enough cars on the train to hold the maximum number of people who will be on the train. Granted you wouldn't be inconveniencing anyone to sit in that seat at that time, but the don't want to have to deal with moving seats around anymore than an airliner does.

C_hertling 8 years ago

While it may have been explained poorly to you on the train, what they were doing is making sure all passengers getting off at Lawrence were in the same car. At the smaller stops, it is much faster to open a single door for rather than opening a door in each car. Also, some stations have shorter platforms than others... to open multiple doors would require the train stopping, opening the first few doors for several minutes, closing them... then moving forward a few hundred feet to open the doors of cars further back in the train. This practice also makes it much easier for the crew to ensure that everyone due to get off at a specific stop does in fact get off the train.

Additionally, your assertion that if a seat is sold for one leg then Amtrak considers it sold for the entire route is incorrect. I have been on many trains that were 100% full leaving Chicago.. if your assertion was true, there would have been no passengers boarding between Chicago and Lawrence, when in fact, I saw passengers boarding at nearly every stop.

ralphralph 8 years ago

Isn't this an "Illegal Alien Shuttle"? It's quicker to go by rail than to go by air if they won't let you on the plane.

This is a ridiculous proposal, in any of its options.

Note to Government: Start doing your REAL job and quit wasting our tax dollars on crap like this.

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

Considering the price tag for the trafficway will be over $300 million this addition of more miles of rails is a no brainer. We're looking at several hundred miles of rails which I say get on with it.

Obviously laying rails provides a wayyyyyyy better bang per mile for the buck and moves people far more efficiently.

Commuter trains between Topeka,Lawrence and Kansas City should be on the table.

Green is right. Better bang for the buck is very very very green. Spending tax dollars in a fiscally responsible manner and creating new jobs is smart growth and oh sooooooo green. The kind of green that spends.

Taking more cars off the roads = more life for way more expensive road surfaces.

Not only that cyclists and trains make great traveling partners.

Again... obviously laying rails provides a wayyyyyyy better bang per mile for the buck and moves people far more efficiently.

ralphralph 8 years ago

... or we could all hold hands and skip down the Prairie Spirit Trail.

Q- What's the only thing emptier than The T? A- The Prairie Spirit Trail.

ralphralph 8 years ago

PS ... seems like the train used to go through Welda ... wonder what happened to it?

notajayhawk 8 years ago

merrill (anonymous) says…

"Considering the price tag for the trafficway will be over $300 million this addition of more miles of rails is a no brainer."

For once merrill is absolutely correct. It's a great idea, to people with no brains.

"Taking more cars off the roads = more life for way more expensive road surfaces."

Oh yeah, I bet those 30 or 40 people who take the train to Fort Worth made such a significant impact on the surface wear from hundreds of thousands of cars traveling along I-35.

"Again... obviously laying rails provides a wayyyyyyy better bang per mile for the buck and moves people far more efficiently. "

If your idea of "efficiency" is going where someone else is willing to take you when they're willing to take you there, of course.

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

All of the trains we've traveled on were close to full.

Commuter trains were standing room only.

Yes the club car can be a real charming can the dome car cocktails or not.

Truly cars and roads are among the most demanding of big government tax dollars consistently. Neither pay for themselves. Notice how often local repairs are scheduled.....close to 24/7.

prorail 8 years ago

I am first of all pro rail and when the situation is right I will support a rail alternative over spending more money on expanding highways in general. There are exceptions to highway work and many projects are needed, as a travelling member of the public especially in central and western Kansas highway improvements are scarce. Having said this the state proposal to enter into an agreement with Amtrak is very foollish. $100 to $400M are ridiculous amounts to spend to add two trains to an existing railroad system. I am in the business of railroad consulting and I am floored by the costs being thrown around to establish additional passenger service over some of the route and to restablish passenger service over the balance of the route to the Okla. State Line. The BNSF must be salivating over getting their hands on whatever monies that would be availiable and to use that money to supposedly increasee capacity on these routes. They now can redirect their own funds to other routes within their system to increase capacity for their important freight trains.

We can go back a number of years and find hat we had a good passenger system between Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Fort Worth that ran on good track and signal infrastructure. Now we need to spend more public money to run over the same system that is in better shape today than it was when the last passenger trains quit running . Why is that?

I think a bunch of fools are taking over from common sense folks and trying to push something down the publics throat that is not needed at this time. My gosh, if there is a need to provide public transportation on that route then let the motor coach folks take that highly touted business and put on fast and frequent over the road bus service between those cities and the intermediate towns and cities. In addition over the road bus service would be able to serve more than one route during a days time. This would be a far more efficient use of the roadway infrastructure that is now in place.

It's a known fact that one passenger service a day in each direction has limited draw, when you add a second pair of services on the same route ridership increases over 160% and a third service goes even further. One train a day in each direction will not prove to be efficient nor cost effective. Very few if any rail passenger services in the world make any money hauling passengers, almost all passenger rail services need continual subsidation to maintain service. This will turn out to be a constant draw yearly on the limited resources of the people of Kansas.

ralphralph 8 years ago

Illegal Alien Express to Jo Co Community College

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