23 August 2003
Train in vain
Bruce sees a future where cities here on the Lone Prairie are tied together much like the BosWash corridor back East:
The first critical step would be to tie Tulsa and Oklahoma City together and then to tie each of those locations to other cities to the north and south, with the most obvious choices being Kansas City to the north and Dallas/Fort Worth to the south. Promoters planning an event could then extend the reach of their potential audience to those cities and as long as access to the venue would require little more than a few trips on a fast and air conditioned train then you can count on people being willing to attend that event from other cities. Its no fun driving five hours either north or south to attend an event only to have to drive that distance back after the event has ended. It would be much more pleasurable if you knew that the return trip home might mean taking a nap or reading a book, watching a movie or visiting with friends.
I think a Tulsa/Oklahoma City train could be doable; Amtrak already has service of a sort in Oklahoma City, there's plenty of traffic between the two towns, and the distance is only about 100 miles, about the same as Baltimore to Philadelphia. And at the moment, Oklahoma City has better event facilities, so it's conceivable that Tulsans might come down en masse. But not a lot of people take the train south of here to Dallas, and how many people are likely to come down from Kansas City?
We'll never be BosWash, simply because the distances out here are too great. And that will have to be one heck of a fast train to beat my 5:10 time to Kansas City. What's more, Southwest often offers a $39 (!) air fare to Kansas City, which the train would be hard-pressed to match. (There is, of course, the fact that KCI is practically halfway to Des Moines and therefore you'll have to rely on ground transportation in the opposite direction to see anything, which offsets the fare bargain to some extent.)
Still, it's a long-term plan, and there are other factors at work, as Bruce notes:
With the heightened fears of flying and the questionable long term viability of some airlines it might be time to look for better alternatives for at least the short distance traveler.
I can buy that, I think. But all else being equal, I'll probably still drive, if only because I actually enjoy it.