Archive for Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Proposal to expand rail passenger service in Kansas gets off track

January 25, 2012


— The state transportation department on Wednesday put the brakes on plans to expand passenger rail service in Kansas until funding is identified.

The announcement was made by Dennis Slimmer, chief of planning for the Kansas Department of Transportation, during a meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee.

KDOT has been studying extending Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer that runs between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City.

One option would be extending the route from Oklahoma City to Newton, and another option would be between Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo., which would include a potential stop in Lawrence.

Officials said the Newton route would probably have 200,000 passengers per year and the extension to Kansas City would have 270,000. The proposal has gained many advocates in towns along the proposed routes.

According to a passenger rail service development plan released by KDOT, the cost of the infrastructure improvements for the Newton route would be $87.5 million and the Kansas City service to be $245.5 million. The annual operating subsidy to be shared by participating states for the Newton route is estimated at $4.4 million and the Kansas City route is $10 million, KDOT said.

Slimmer said that before KDOT commits to any further review or embarks on engineering work it would want the Legislature to identify funding for the project and service.

Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, who said he frequently travels on Amtrak, said he understood the concern about the expense but was disappointed.

“Rail has its place. The other countries of the world have found it to be worthwhile,” he said.


gccs14r 5 years, 10 months ago

Neither expense sounds particularly high. It seems shortsighted to not do it.

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 10 months ago

A quarter billion dollars for the re-hab and $40 subsidy for every passenger ticket?

gccs14r 5 years, 10 months ago

And what's the per-ticket subsidy for air passengers at Mid-Continent? Or the per-vehicle mile subsidy for highway maintenance? All transportation is subsidized in this country--it's only rail subsidies that get some folks' panties in a twist.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 10 months ago

There has got to be a line through Wichita for it to succeed.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 10 months ago

There has got to be a line through Wichita for it to succeed.

fabian_zimbabwe 5 years, 10 months ago

We frequently travel to OKC and would make great use of this service. Hopefully the funding details can be hammered out.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 10 months ago

I've always thought of it this way ... I live in Lawrence and my parents live in Wichita ... if there was a train that went from Lawrence to Wichita for like $20/$25 (one-way) I would totally do that instead of taking the turnpike.

John Hamm 5 years, 10 months ago

Need to send KDOT and some legislators to Seattle to see how effective their transportation is. Monorail, Light Rail and Rapid Ride between the three of these transportation is a joy!

Flap Doodle 5 years, 10 months ago

Look at how well California is doing with their mega-bucks high speed rail project! Oh, wait, it's turning into a money pit before the first tie is spiked down.

Mike Ford 5 years, 10 months ago

snappy, my father just rode from Reddit, Ontario, to Montreal, back to Ottawa and on to Toronto and Windsor for less than $500 on VIA rail. He rode from Detroit to KC for $75. No wonder the Canadians he spoke to think this country is full of dimwits. They all must sound like....wait wait don't tell me....

Kirk Larson 5 years, 10 months ago

We need to start phasing out air travel and build up our rail/bus/taxi system. You combine high-speed rail with other modes to get you from stations to your final destination.

Kirk Larson 5 years, 10 months ago

Flying uses a lot more energy than other modes of transport. High speed rail in Japan, France, and other places show that it is actually faster metro to metro than air because you can debark right in the city center rather than a half hour outside of town. Rail travel is generally safer than air and can combine freight and passenger travel. The train doesn't have to stop everywhere so long as there are other modes (bus, taxi, light rail, shuttles, etc.) to get you to your final destination. I don't think the government has to get into these businesses, but it would also be nice if they did not subsidize the airlines as much as they do.

gccs14r 5 years, 10 months ago

HSR from KC to Denver would be great. Take a local or regional train (or bus, or have someone drop you off, etc.) to KC , then transfer to the HSR to Denver. Then take local transportation up to the ski resorts. No car required, so no parking hassles, either. Sleep on the way back and arrive back at work from a week(end)'s vacation relaxed and refreshed, instead of worn out from the long drive. No worries about TSA confiscating your sunscreen or the sixer of Ad Astra you were planning to take to your buddy's condo, and no worries about the baggage gorillas breaking your skis or stealing your camera.

KCKANSAN 5 years, 10 months ago


I won't dispute that the east has a greater population than the central west, but that really has little bearing on any potential ridership or cost benefit of expanding passenger rail in this area. The Missouri trains run a consistent schedule connecting two 2.2 million metro areas with a relatively thin population in between. And this population is no thinner than in Kansas. There are actually 10 -12 million people who live along this corridor in the greater metro areas of Kansas City, Fort Worth, two state capitals, Wichita and quite a few moderate sized cities in between. If you look at the few lines where Amtrak runs in the east (it should be noted that there are not that many train routes in the entire Amtrak system and analyze the actual population that can reasonably benefit from traveling by rail in that area, the total user population is not that great, and is far less than the total population in the Northeast. The Northeast Corridor does not provide a good argument for comparison, unless you want to note that there are more frequencies in some locales.

High speed trains do not always have limited stops, and making a stop which averages all of 2-3 minutes have no real impact on schedules. Delays and slow running are entirely due to other traffic on the line, oncoming or slower or having trouble. The other limitation is track speed restrictions. The Northeast does not have open stretches where the train can shake its legs out and run before having to slow for a too tight curve. Out here, there is much more open space and a train can run fast as long as modern and safe crossings are in place. When high speed trains approach a city, they generally approach at 70 mph in this region until just at the outskirts; the train will slow dramatically and come into the station at about 40 and come to a quick halt. Auto travelers are much more likely to encounter several 3 minute stop lights, and be held up in traffic longer than the train will be in town. When running 79 mph standard speed, no car can legally or safely keep up with an Amtrak train. Lastly, to compare this with air travel, while you board and sit at the gate for 15 minutes and then taxi for 15 minutes, the train will have been racing away from its station at 79mph, connecting with city after city along the way passengers will board and be let off at destinations that the airlines fly over. If a traveler is heading to one of these intercity destinations, and fly, they will likely be driving for some distance and time in addition to their air travel.

BigDog 5 years, 10 months ago

Cappy - Are you kidding me? How practical would that be for business or vacation?

I recently flew to Washington DC on business and was there for 4 days. In looking at Amtrak, it would have taken over a day and a half just to get there. So then my business trip now becomes 7-8 days to accomplish the same business. Not real practical.

Kirk Larson 5 years, 10 months ago

Japan has trains that run better than 250 mph. At that speed you could go KC to Denver in a couple hours and debark at a station in downtown rather than the airport which is way outside of town.

gccs14r 5 years, 10 months ago

You can't base the practicality of HSR on Amtrak's current level of service. As Cappy mentioned, there is a big difference between 87 mph on shared rail with freight priority and proper dedicated high-speed rail of 250 mph or more. Also, we're going to run out of liquid fuel, and unless you want to ride on a battery-powered airplane, rail is the answer for most of our future long-distance transportation needs.

classclown 5 years, 10 months ago

"No wonder the Canadians he spoke to think this country is full of dimwits."


That probably had more to do with who they were talking to than anything else.

KCKANSAN 5 years, 10 months ago

I attended the House and Senate Transportation meetings and the Passenger rail Caucus meeting in Topeka yesterday, and was a witness to everything that transpired. This article tells only part of the story.

What was not reported is that several legislators at several times told KDOT that they wanted them to move forward with the next steps (this was after KDOT made their statement). One legislator said this process is being drawn out and delayed and that he didn't want to be sitting here next year talking about the same issues. Another said it was disappointing that Missouri thinks it proper to have passenger rail service but Kansas DOT doesn't show any effort to work with the opportunities available. Another legislator said that he knows that KDOT staff have some of the best minds in the country and he was sure that they could determine a way to move forward and not sit still. Another legislator said that money from new casino's that has been earmarked for commerce should be used for this passenger rail development, saying, "wouldn't this project be a commercial expansion and improve commerce on the corridor?"

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