Kansas Transportation Department to consider Amtrak extension to OKC

Amtrak All Aboard Amtrak Print – Transit Gifts


The Kansas Transportation Department plans a virtual public hearing Wednesday on the topic of whether Amtrak Service should be extended from Kansas down to Oklahoma City or Fort Worth where the Heartland Flyer runs on a daily basic.

The 12 p.m. meeting will focus on a proposal to extend Amtrak service from Newton, Kansas to Oklahoma City where there would be the potential connections with Southwest Chief, a national route on Amtrak’s passenger rail.

Evan Stair, President of Passenger Rail Oklahoma and Passenger Rail Kansas supports the extension of Amtrak service, but not the hours of operation as proposed.

“We ask why Amtrak, KDOT, and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) are not studying the more logical daylight alternative? ” asked Stair in a statement.

“Consider the Southwest Chief currently stops in Newton at 2:15 am eastbound and at 2:41 am westbound.  Consider Amtrak’s dreadful Southwest Chief On Time Performance and how often the Heartland Flyer and Southwest Chief will actually be able to make connections.  Is Amtrak taking Kansas and Oklahoma for a ride?”

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Thirteen years ago, Amtrak conducted a study showing ridership for night-time passenger service from Kansas City to Fort Worth would have estimated ridership of 118,200 a year. The startup costs were estimated at $317 million and the operational subsidy would be $5.2 million.

The same study showed that if the service from Kansas City to Fort Worth were during the daylight hours, ridership would be 65,900. Startup costs would be $309 million and the subsidy would total $6.4 million a year.

The same study showed an extension of Amtrak from Newton, Kansas to Fort Worth would have ridership of 92,500 and the startup costs would be $156 million while the annual subsidy would total $3.2 million.

Heartland Flyer's challenging connections with the Southwest Chief - Trains

Stair argues that daylight service to Oklahoma City would have a higher ridership potential and would restore passenger rail service to Emporia, Kansas which was last served in 1996.

“We ask KDOT to do the right… include the daylight option in the new Service Development Plan (SDP),” he said.

He also maintains that the daylight plan would provide a more commercially beneficial service to Wichita and en route rural communities. It would also provide a second availability of service to Kansas City, Lawrence and Topeka.