The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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.

Posted at 9:07 PM to Soonerland


its one thing to take a trip when you want to get away from the city for a while, its another thing entirely when, like I had to, you need to make several trips back and forth between cities. You find yourself staring at the same stretch of road again and again wondering,

"Why do I have to sit here and guide this damn thing back and forth, why can't I just ride? Please! I'm so bored!"

Posted by: bruce at 10:18 PM on 24 August 2003

Which is why commuter trains prevail in the East. But the costs are going to be so much higher here, simply because everything is so far away from everything else.

Posted by: CGHill at 6:22 AM on 25 August 2003

Airships!

Airships!

Posted by: Fuz at 9:05 PM on 25 August 2003

Having done the Tulsa-OKC drive, as well as the Boston-DC drive, I can say that the reason that the trains do well over there is density. There are twenty times as many people in the East Coast corridor as in the KC-Tulsa-OKC corridor. (And while I know of Tulsa folks who will travel to Dallas for the weekend, I don't know many going the other direction.) But it's not going to be twenty times cheaper to lay track in Oklahoma than New York.

Southwest Air is profitable. There's not a reason to build high-speed rail in Oklahoma. Moderate high-speed rail on the East Coast corridor survives only because of massive government subsidies.

Posted by: Max Power at 8:27 PM on 30 August 2003

Bruce doesn't have a problem with massive government subsidies. :)

Posted by: CGHill at 9:08 PM on 30 August 2003