Archive for Sunday, January 1, 2012

Midwest officials explore passenger rail expansion

January 1, 2012


— Expanding passenger rail service through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas would cost the federal and state governments hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a recently released study that looked at several proposals for the region.

One option it examined would provide nighttime passenger train service between Fort Worth, Texas, and Newton, Kansas. Another would establish daytime service between Fort Worth and Kansas City. Both options would use an existing stretch of Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks that pass through Lawrence, Topeka and Wichita in Kansas as well as Oklahoma City.

The analysis released earlier this month had to be completed to apply for federal funding. It follows up on a feasibility study completed by Amtrak in March 2010 and looks at such things as the route schedule and the infrastructure cost.

Passenger rail backer Mark Corriston said Congress could agree to pay up to 80 percent of the cost under the Passenger Rail Investment Act.

“The price tag isn’t much at all,” said Corriston, secretary of the Northern Flyer Alliance, a nonprofit that lobbies for passenger rail development for 65 communities between Kansas City and Fort Worth. “If you take 80 percent of the costs off the total development, which would be split between three states, it’s not a very large burden for the state to support to develop this.”

Dennis Slimmer, chief of transportation planning for the Kansas Department of Transportation, said the agency would present the study to the Kansas Legislature during its upcoming session. The $500,000 passenger rail study was done with a $250,000 federal grant and matching money from the transportation departments in Kansas and Oklahoma. Transportation agencies in Texas and Missouri provided information used to complete the study but no funding.

“The Legislature will determine what happens with this next,” Slimmer said. “I don’t know what the chances are. Realistically, we will have to get federal funding, but there is no guarantee for that.”

The expanded service would require the construction of more stretches of double track and other upgrades, in part to ensure that passenger trains wouldn’t stall freight trains. Those infrastructure improvements would cost $132.5 million for the nighttime service and $368.2 million for the daytime service. To do both projects would cost only $403 million because some of the improvements needed for the daytime service are required for the nighttime service, too.

Night service also would require the $4 million purchase of an additional coach car, and day service would require buying two train sets, a spare locomotive and coach and food service cars at a cost of $68 million.

The participating states would share an annual operating subsidy of $4.4 million for night service and $10 million for day service. That would be on top of the money Texas and Oklahoma already pay to subsidize a train called the Heartland Flyer.

The nighttime option would essentially expand the route of the Heartland Flyer, which travels south from Oklahoma City in the morning hours and returns in the evening, with an afternoon layover in Fort Worth. With the expansion, the route would start and end in Newton in the early morning hours. From Newton, travelers could catch Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which travels back and forth from Chicago to Los Angeles, passing through Kansas City along the way.

The standalone daytime service between Kansas City and Fort Worth would provide a second daily train in each direction on the stretch of track between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. The study said travel time between Kansas City and Fort Worth would be 12 hours and 20 minutes.

Under the daytime plan, stations and stops also could be added in the Kansas cities of Wichita, Shawnee, Emporia, Strong City and Arkansas City, and the Oklahoma communities of Ponca City, Perry, Guthrie and Edmond. The plan also proposes additional stops in Davis, Okla., and in the Krum and Denton area in Texas. The communities would bear the cost of adding the stations, with the possible help of grant money.

“We haven’t heard a lot in the way of pushback from folks but we know that once they start talking about real dollars people will start being more serious in their analysis of whether it is really one of the highest priorities or not,” Slimmer said. “It would be nice if it was because I think a lot of people would like to be able to ride the train.”


budman 6 years, 4 months ago

God Amtrack is such a waste of money, with the price of the tickets being so high you might as well fly. Seriously, how would this make any economical sense in the midwest.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 4 months ago

If they build it they will come.

I travel to the S.W. at least 3 times a year. Have the time to dilly dally, but would love to transport our auto for the major legs of the trip. Kicking back on a train watching a movie, having a meal, and just sleeping would be wonderful.

A dream...........

Load the car on in Lawrence, 36 hours later be in Tucson. Wow what fun and much better than flying.

I priced this type of service through Amtrak. Simply toooooo much money.

My belief is we do need to invest, how about letting the professional train people like Missouri Pac do it.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

Amtrak actually recovers between 75 and 85 percent of its costs through fares, much higher than the recovery rates of other transit agencies. It's main problem is that the government treats it as a business but hasn't allowed it to change routes much since the 70s.

kochmoney 6 years, 4 months ago

When I have the choice, I always take the train. The price isn't a huge savings, no, but I don't have to pay extra to stow my luggage, I could walk on board with an extra big slushie if I wanted, and I can sit in a comfy seat the whole way. Plus the Chicago station is more convenient for getting around downtown than landing in O'Hare is.

kusp8 6 years, 4 months ago

I'm all for alternate means of travel between the KC/OKC/DFW areas, but if the state governments are going to have to subsidize it what's the point?

How about installing high speed rail with stops in KC, Wichita, OKC, and DFW? I'd like to see some numbers on if this would be revenue neutral to revenue generating within a reasonable time.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

Every transportation system relies on significant government subsidies of one sort or another. So rail travel shouldn't be singled out as undeserving of such subsidies unless all subsidies to all forms of transportation are going to be eliminated or reduced.

budman 6 years, 4 months ago

"Every transportation system relies on significant government subsidies of one sort or another"

Really? Lets take a look at the clown's claim.

Well lets see, for car travel the goverment builds the roads and provides traffic cops to police them, but they don't buy you the car to drive on it.

in air travel the government may subsidize the airport and facilities and provide air traffic controllers and security, but they don't operate the airlines.

But in passenger trains the government must fund and operate the service entirely.

So yes rail travel should be singled out as undeserving because it gets to much subsidy money in comparison to how many people actually use it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

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budman 6 years, 4 months ago

Yeah you're link is a bit misleading.

Millions more people use highways and airports than passenger trains, hence the larger investment in those areas.

You really shouldn't consider yourself an expert just because you know how to google random articles on the internet.

kochmoney 6 years, 4 months ago

If it were profitable, it would have already been systematically squeezed out by the auto industry and a vast taxpayer funded highway system. Doh!

jhawkinsf 6 years, 4 months ago

Rail transportation sounds like a good idea. I like the notion. But a few words of caution.
Obviously, we are living through tough economic times. And while we do indeed subsidize other forms of transportation, now may be a time when we need to be selective. Today we can subsidize air travel, when the economy improves significantly, we can subsidize rail. The second word of caution is how we tend to compare rail here to rail in countries like Japan or European countries. A trip across Japan or Germany as an example, would take much less time than a trip across the U.S. Any rail service here would have to exclude business trips other than those that could include significant leisure time as well.
The only rail service that would make sense would be for those short stops, the K.C. to St. Louis or Dallas to Houston. Those could compete with air. But only if the rail stations are located near where the business is to be conducted. A San Francisco to L.A. service would not work if once the passenger arrives in downtown L.A. they would then have to get on the "105" to the "405" to the "605" and exit at Huntington Beach, turn left at the second light go 1.5 miles, well, you get the point.

kochmoney 6 years, 4 months ago

I've taken more than one business rail trip to Chicago. It doesn't take that much longer when you consider all the time you have to spend going through security and waiting around at the gate when you fly. Add some WiFi and outlets, and there's significantly less "leisure time" than you find when flying.

That wouldn't work from here to California, no, but it would from here to Dallas. On top of that, the argument that we could invest in infrastructure when the economy improves is precisely the wrong one. Infrastructure investments now.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 4 months ago

Those super high speed trains are working out so well for China, except when they go off the rails.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

But in Japan they've only had one non-suicide death since they started high speed rail. How high speed rail is managed makes a big difference.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 4 months ago

Amen!It just doesn't happen that often. A lot less than regular trains and waaaaay less than airplane accidents.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 4 months ago

BTW....We in the Midwest are getting hosed and actually supporting the East and West coast passenger train services.

Isn't it time for some true rail service here in flyover country?

budman 6 years, 4 months ago

no, for the same price i'd rather fly

jayhawkinsf 6 years, 4 months ago

Funny. But just so someone doesn't get all upset, it must be noted that phoenixman's response plays off a ridiculous comment budman made on another thread.

littlexav 6 years, 4 months ago

Well, their highway funds disproportionately help subsidize the wide open high-quality interstates that criss-cross "flyover" country, so I'd say we're about even.

imastinker 6 years, 4 months ago

Last summer we vacationed in California. I priced a train ticket for our family and her brother that came with us (three adults, three kids, one lap baby). I was thinking about what fun it would be to go through the mountians, and how we would save money by not needing a hotel if we drive.

It came to $2500 for the six tickets - and $4000 if we got a bedroom. Plane tickets were $300 apiece, or $1800 (the baby is free), and we drove it for about $1000 including hotels.

How is rail a viable option if it costs as much or more than flying and takes three times as long?

budman 6 years, 4 months ago

Passenger trains like amtrack only exist because its funded by the government. It really should only operate in the east coast where major cities are close enough that it makes sense to take a train.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

Would you be in favor of removing all the subsidies that your cheap airline tickets required to make them so artificially cheap?

budman 6 years, 4 months ago

what subsidies bozo, when you buy an airline ticket I see a bunch of extra taxes that make them more expensive.

If anything these supposed subsidies come straight from these extra taxes

jayhawkinsf 6 years, 4 months ago

Subsidies like: costs to build and maintain airports, costs of the FAA, cost of the TSA, costs of air traffic controllers. And a biggie, costs of maintaining a large military that then guarantees lower petroleum costs. Those are off the top of my head, there are probably more.

budman 6 years, 4 months ago

Yeah airlines have to pay to use the airports and air traffic controllers, we pay surcharges to fund the TSA and the last time I checked oil isn't anywhere near cheap

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 4 months ago

imastinker, I agree, can't ever remember the price of traveling west on a train with car. We got a quote and never thought about it again. There is something to having a car packed for a couple week road trip and starting 1000 miles away. Sit back, when the destination arrives drive off in your own car.

back in the day 1970s I used to take the train from Chicago to KC for pennies of the cost of an airline ticket. Thinking something like 15 bucks a ticket.

Anybody know the cost of taking the train from DC to NY, or NY to Miami. Lots of service on these lines.

imastinker 6 years, 4 months ago

As far as I know the car train option is only on the east coast - mainly for snowbirds. It's a pretty cool idea for a way to travel.

I frankly don't understand why Amtrak is so expensive. I really would love to travel Amtrak. Their costs are all fixed costs - after the first passenger all the rest are nearly free. It can't take much if any extra fuel to throw another car on the back. So why is it so expensive? You'd think they would want to maximize riders, so would be competitive with other sources of travel.

kochmoney 6 years, 4 months ago

They have to pay to use the rails, which are privately owned. They actually are competitive with other sources of travel. Ridership has been growing. It's just that they're not competitive on the really long routes.

Jeremiah Jefferson 6 years, 4 months ago

I frankly don't understand why there isnt a direct line from Kansas City to Denver... Those tickets would sell like hot cakes..

Mike Ford 6 years, 4 months ago

to dispel the nonsense repeated by the senseless....My wife and I rode from Union Station to Chicago and back on October 2-5 2010. We purchased two tickets for $240 round trip for both of us in June 2010. We rode up took the L trains and the Metras back and forth from downtown to our motel out on N Milwaukee Avenue. We did the museums, the Navy Pier, Lincoln Park excedera. All of this cost $700 with motels, food, site seeing and travel in Chicago, which I saved up for at the time and paid cash. We go to OKC Thunder games which make the Southwest Chief to Heartland Flyer trip appealing. The Heartland Flyer Station is a couple blocks east of the OKC Thunder arena. We walk under the AMTRAK bridge to the game. It is a shame that the most uninformed people speak against rail on here. After all their ancestors stole Indian lands for the rail lines that are now mostly abandoned. Anyone watched the AMC show "Hell on Wheels" recently??? Americans learn their history from tv shows right??? My father rode from Kenora Ontario to Toronto to Montreal and Quebec City then to Ottawa to Toronto and Windsor on VIA rail which is Canada's AMTRAK. He rode from Detroit to KC on AMTRAK. The Kenora to Windsor Trip ran $475 and the Detroit to KC run cost $85. My father is 66 years old so senior discounts kicked in. You can pretty much go anywhere on the train in Canada which is why they think of us as a bunch of fox watching hillbillies. Ignorance is bliss I guess. I've rode out west down south and to the east on AMTRAK but dimwits speak the loudest these days I guess.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 4 months ago

I agree you can find some deals sometimes on Amtrak. It is difficult, and expensive most of the time. It is not on the coasts.

Check out a train trip from Minnesota to say,,,,,,,,,um Nashville. You will end up riding a bus between stops, and it is long and very expensive.

If you are lucky and living in the Midwest I feel is lucky and wish to take a train you better live on the lines Amtrak serves.

Chicago, KC, Memphis, New Orleans is easy to travel. Plug in Nashville, and things get complicated. Plug in Richmond, or Cleveland and you end up driving or flying.

Jeff Goodrick 6 years, 4 months ago

Where trains make sense is not going to major aircenters but to small towns. I run amtrak from lawrence to garden city for $ 50. To fly there its $ 230 by way of denver. You can drive it for $50 but you sleep on the train. What Amtrak needs to do is forget about the major cities and just service the small towns. Fly to Wichita is $ 200 through KCI. Lawrence to Wichita would be about $30 and sleep while you travel.

Mike Ford 6 years, 4 months ago

not used to hearing intelligent comments are you phoenixman????

Flap Doodle 6 years, 4 months ago

In other choo-choo news: "When the California legislature undertook the most expensive public-works project in American history, they also created an independent review board to ensure that the LA-to-San Francisco high-speed rail project would have solid financial footing. Perhaps they intended this panel to be a public-relations rubber stamp, but if so, it just proves that their miscalculations weren’t limited to cost projections. Yesterday, the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group sent a “scathing” letter to the political leadership in Sacramento, calling the project’s finances and costs “fundamentally flaw[ed]” (via Andrew Malcolm)..."

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