Amtrak Heartland Flyer Discussion

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Heartland Flyer / Lone Star service Plan Discussion

Postby ohle » Mon Mar 29, 2004 10:29 pm

Here are some of my ideas, and others', on expanding the Heartland Flyer in combination with reconfiguring the Texas Eagle.

This isn't to hurt the Eagle; rather, to realign it, playing on its strengths (CHI-Dallas) and expanding to Houston, Austin and San Antonio via direct, non circuitous routes.

This would all take some work on Amtrak - and rail advocates' - parts, along with state DOTs. Since Amtrak doesn't have any money, perhaps the states could invest in equipment and have Amtrak run the train. The buildup in ridership, which would help the HF, would help make the train a system, instead of state-funded train.

http://www.trainweb.org/moksrail/advoca ... routes.htm
http://www.trainweb.org/moksrail/advoca ... /eagle.htm

-Heartland Flyer expands to Newton, merging with the Southwest Chief, with through sleeper, coach and dining cars,

and south to San Antonio and (later) Houston. The train would split at FTW, going to Dallas and Houston, similar to the early 1990s Eagle which used to run Dallas-HOU.

Unfortunately, according to Dan Monaghan, congestion and limited capacity would prevent the reverse move the Eagle used to require to split the train to HOU.
This HF extension solves that, providing a cross-platform connection in Dallas.

-Eagle ends at Fort Worth, with cross-platform (or a through car) to the Heartland Flyer, which continues south of Fort Worth to San Antonio. Having the HF go on to SAS would save 1:30 travel time over the Eagle from CHI-SAS.

-Eagle splits into 2 sections at Longview.

One goes on to FTW.
The other heads to HOU, which would have substantial ridership, perhaps higher than the Eagle's earlier HOU section since it would be a more direct route. The HF FTW-HOU would provide Dallas travelers access to HOU and thus avoid the circuitity of the earlier Eagle CHI-HOU routing.

-In the future, the Eagle could continue beyond FTW to El Paso and California with a second frequency.

-Another section could head to Austin and San Antonio. That would make it to SAS much earlier than the current Eagle, probably by as much as six hours. I haven't looked at my Official Guide yet on either the HOU and SAS sections.

-Wichita gets decent departure hours, of 6:00 a.m. southbound and 10-11 p.m. northbound.

This might ease some of the "We won't fund a middle-of-the-night train" arguments Kansas always puts up. Later, a KC-FTW daylight train could run, perhaps in connection with the planned Crescent Star Meridian extension, could run giving the region needed daylight service.

- Southbound station times at Little Rock would be improved, moved to 6:30 a.m. v. the abysmall "Salt Lake City" timing of 4:30 a.m. Plus a later CHI departure could allow for Empire Builder connecting traffic.
----

OTHER OPTIONS:

1) Leave Eagle as it is and extend the HF to Houston (via Dallas), running through cars with the Southwest Chief. This would give needed Kansas City-Dallas service, and connect Dallas with HOU.

2) Run the current HF (ending at FTW) north to Newton with through cars. That would require a smaller equipment investment.

3) Run the HF north to Newton with only cross-platform connection with the SW chief.

No. 3 would be the least expensive idea. HOwever, it wouldn't be as attractive to travelers as the first two ideas.

----
These are merely ideas. If nothing happens, the stub-ended HF won't be as successful as it could be. Many Oklahoma advocates, by the way, aren't satisfied either with the status quo. The train needs to be expanded.

All these ideas would require money, for the additional trainsets, of course, but this is something advocates need to consider for the future viability and improved performance and ridership of trains in the Southwest.

-Doug Ohlemeier, NARP member, VP- MOKSRail
Last edited by ohle on Wed Mar 31, 2004 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Doug, Answer the tough question, please....

Postby John_Perkowski » Tue Mar 30, 2004 11:16 am

ohlemeier wrote:
<snippage>
Since Amtrak doesn't have any money, perhaps the states could invest in equipment and have Amtrak run the train.
<snippage>

-Doug Ohlemeier, NARP member, VP- MOKSRail


Doug, the issue of finding the funds IS vital. The proposal goes nowhere without funding.

Key points:
- Whether its still de jure in effect or not, de facto Mr Minta's moratorium on new routings is out there. Change is for sometime in the future.

- I trust you listen to KMBZ, KCUR-FM (NPR from UMKC), and KANU (NPR from KU).
-- Kansas cannot even legislate a change to its education funding in the face of a judicial order threatening to take over the State funding mechanism.
-- Governor Holden and the General Assembly cannot agree on any priorities.
-- The funding to operate even the two KC-SL 403b trains daily is at risk.

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Future expansion thinking

Postby ohle » Tue Mar 30, 2004 11:56 am

John,
I am well aware of the money situation in Kansas and Missouri.

"These are merely ideas. If nothing happens, the stub-ended HF won't be as successful as it could be. Many Oklahoma advocates, by the way, aren't satisfied either with the status quo. The train needs to be expanded.

All these ideas would require money, for the additional trainsets, of course, but this is something advocates need to consider for the future viability and improved performance and ridership of trains in the Southwest. "

--

This is a blueprint for the future... something advocates - if they want expanded service - should work towards in the future. This would involve seeking funding from KS, MO, OK and Texas for capital. With the equipment paid for, I believe operating costs would be much less. And with equipment shared with the proposed Crescent Star service, LA, MS might also help.

Perhaps someone can develop ideas for equipment costs - for expanding the HF. Then we can go from there.
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Now, as to details of your proposal...

Postby John_Perkowski » Tue Mar 30, 2004 12:53 pm

1) Sources of cars: Illinois Transit has a few ATSF hi-levels for sale. 40-45K per car for several hi-levels. That's base cost for the metal, not a "ready for service" car.

2) PC-2 inspection: The 1964 hi-levels are due in 2009, the 1956 cars were due in 2001. Let's assume $3K per car for the inspection.

3) Rebuild after PC-2: I have no idea what rebuild will cost. I don't think 100K is out of order per car, as a sophisticated wild- a###d guess.

4) Title of cars: I assume you propose an interstate compact between Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

5) 403(b) subsidy: Mr Mineta isn't going to let new routes into the system on his nickel. States will have to pony up funding for this.

Where does the money come from? How do you sell two or three State Legislatures??


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Postby Rhinecliff » Tue Mar 30, 2004 4:37 pm

I also see nothing whatsoever wrong with Mr. Ohlemeir proposing a restructuring of the Heatland Flyer to make it more viable, even if the restructuring proposal requires additional funding. Whether the States of Kansas and Oklahoma would ever pay for the services, as proposed, is another question. Perhaps a question for this forum is whether they should.

My concern is that if the Heatland Flyer is not extended to Newton, it will die. Assuming the initial Federal grant to Oklahoma for this service really is about to run out, I cannot see the people of Oklahoma continuing to fund this service as it is currently constituted.
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OK Mr Rhinecliff

Postby John_Perkowski » Wed Mar 31, 2004 9:15 am

Where do you propose Kansas and Missouri find the equipment money and their share of an operating subsidy???

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Postby Rhinecliff » Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:38 am

I have no expertise in the financial affairs of the States of Oklahoma, Kansas, or Missouri.

All I have are some ideas on how the Heatland Flyer's service could be made more useful and ultimately more viable, which are very much in line with Mr. Ohlemeier's ideas.

Whether and/or how the States of that region choose to fund any improvements in their rail service is, or course, their own perrogative. If -- for what ever reason -- the citizens of those states would like more bang for their transportation bucks, they may wish to consider some of the proposals on this thread. If not, they can stay with the status quo.

In my opinion, however, the status quo is not viable over the long term.
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Let me give you a clue...

Postby John_Perkowski » Wed Mar 31, 2004 12:56 pm

I do live in Missouri.

I am here to tell you, bluntly, that the General Assembly WILL NOT vote additional dollars for passenger rail. I've been in touch with my assemblyman and state senator. The money just is not there. Mr Ohlemeier talked some weeks back about the GA taking the funding for 1 403b RT per day out of the budget. I think that flew. If the state is already cutting rail from the transportation mix, why fight for NEW service? The battle is over the existing level of service.

I work in Kansas.
I listen to local, issues oriented, FM radio. Want to know the big issue: Where will Kansas find the $$$$$$$ to fund elementary and secondary education. The state is at risk of having the state court system take over funding from the Legistlature.

So, I have a simple test to anyone who wants to advocate service in an area where I pay taxes: Whither the funding? If the funding requires a new revenue stream, how do you sell that stream to the taxpayers?

Pass the test, and I will listen to you as an advocate. Fail the test, and your credibility, in advocacy, is nil with me.

I do not know if you ever heard the term "zero-sum game." It's a governmental policy challenge: Many times, if Agency A wants a new service B, they have to figure out what existing service C has lost its constituency. That's my perception of the 30 years of Amtrak: Zeo sum gaming at best. As Matt will, properly, point out, that also implies that the legislature and the Executive will do their job ... and fund what they authorize.

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Postby Rhinecliff » Wed Mar 31, 2004 2:40 pm

Re:
So, I have a simple test to anyone who wants to advocate service in an area where I pay taxes


I, for one, am not advocating for service in Oklahoma, Missouri, or Kansas. I am merely expressing agreement with several long standing suggestions on how your passenger rail service could be improved.

If the taxpayers of your region are content with the Heartland Flyer's equipment seeing about 9 hours of revenue service a day, and the train missing significant opportunities to connect better into Amtrak's system, more power to them. And I wish them well in their endevours to fund elementary education.
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Call it Public policy analysis or "Decisionmaking 101&a

Postby John_Perkowski » Wed Mar 31, 2004 3:34 pm

Mr Montanan....

Define the problem:

We believe that passenger rail service between Dallas/Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and Omaha will provide essential linkages in the passenger transportation grid of the western plains states. Further, this service makes best use of an expensive, although not necessarily limited resource (passenger rail train sets)

Determine facts and assumptions:

N passenger miles per year flow by air and auto from OMA-DFW
-do- -do- -do- from KC-DFW
-do- -do- -do- from OKC-DFW


X passenger miles per year flow along but stop short on the OMA-DFW rte.
(add as needed)

Assume from demographic data n% of psgr miles can be diverted ...

Identify possible courses of action:
1) Do nothing. No changes to the cost structure involved.
2) Create a 403b service KC-OMA. Build in a bus-KCI airport connection at Beverly MO in both directions. With three RT daily, cost of subsidy is ... and cost recovery is...
3) Create a 403b service KC-DFW. Market it under state tourism and intercity business travel. Tie in intraurban transit to train schedule at Lawrence, Topeka, Fort Riley, Salina, Wichita, Enid, OKC and Norman. Cost of service is N.
4) Create a 1 RT per day DFW-OKC-KC-OMA. Under 5 state funding, offer to buy Amtrak N trainsets.
5) Fund options 1-Z with...
6) Fund options 1-z with
7) Fund from current general fund

Compare advantages and disadvantages of each course of action:
- Economic costs
- Economic benefits
- Incentive costs to BNSF, UP, or OKT
- Disincentive penalties from BNSF, UP or OKT
- Highway use displacement

Select and show the most feasible course of action in such a way that you SELL legislators that an added cost generates jobs and revenue.

This isn't rocket science, folks. It takes an ability to do research, a working knowledge of transportation economics and employment economics, a desire to create change, and some flair of salesmanship.
Last edited by John_Perkowski on Wed Mar 31, 2004 4:57 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Heartland Flyer Discussion

Postby union21 » Tue Oct 19, 2004 11:21 pm

The Heartland Flyer is no longer a brand new train. Since it began operation in 1999 it has been funded by the State of Oklahoma and Amtrak. Very Shortly the Oklahoma money will be spent and the State has not decided yet if it will continue funding or how much. From what I've read this route has increased in Passenger ridership all 6 years of operation. The line dead ends in OKC from Fort Worth and many would like to see this train go all the way to Newton Kansas, shortening travel time to the West Coast for Okies. What are some reasons this train should be kept and if warranted what would be an argument for dropping?
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Postby Jersey_Mike » Tue Oct 19, 2004 11:38 pm

I was in OC recently and dropped by the station. It would be great if the line could be given a second round trip so that each end city could have a morning depart to the other end city.
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Postby John_Perkowski » Wed Oct 20, 2004 6:36 am

From my observation post in Kansas City...

Don't count on the State of Kansas ponying up $$$$. It is not out of the woods from the recession, let alone 9/11 and homeland security add-ons to required funding.

No bucks, no Buck Rogers. The chances of HF extending to Newton are someplace between 1 x 10 to the -20th power and 1 x 10 to the -21st power.

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Postby AmtrakFan » Wed Oct 20, 2004 12:14 pm

I would like to see it exteneded to Newton then on to Chicago as a Chicago-Houston Run but I don't think it will happen any time soon if at all.

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Postby usa4624 » Wed Oct 20, 2004 11:01 pm

That's an easy question.

If Oklahoma continues to pay for it, the Heartland Flyer will continue to run. If the state of Oklahom decided not to continue funding it, the Heartland Flyer will go away.
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