The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

16 February 2005

Riding that train

As reported by KOKC radio, transcribed by The Downtown Guy:

Oklahoma City's Amtrak service is in jeopardy of ending by September.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Willa Johnson applauds an agreement to provide security at the Bricktown train station. But Mayor Mick Cornett says the federal government doesn't appear to be interested in keeping the train service to Fort Worth going so the state legislature needs to financially help keep the affordable transportation. Mayor Cornett estimates the cost of keeping Amtrak alive to be about 3 million dollars for the fiscal year.

The Heartland Flyer is the state's only railroad passenger service. And it's been getting more riders lately; during the fourth quarter of 2004, 14,062 riders took the train, up 27 percent from the fourth quarter of 2003. The track itself is getting some much-needed upgrades this spring.

Even with the additional riders, this route, like most Amtrak routes outside the BosWash corridor, is losing money, and there's always the question of whether the government should subsidize this sort of thing at all. Right now, though, I'm not going to gripe much if the state does kick in $3 million to support the train, which is admittedly a triumph of "Wow, cool" over cold sober reflection. Some days I do that.

Posted at 8:00 AM to City Scene

I love the train ... and it is another piece in the whole "transportation puzzle". I distinctly remember a lunch meeting I attended a few years ago. I was seated with former senator Herbert who is a real transportation issue wonk. As a group we were discussing economic development issues and he made mention of the proposed efforts to link Tulsa with the OKC area via "light" rail. He was an outspoken advocate of using an already existing track network that with a relatively small investment would create an alternative to the Turnpike. They had some estimated ridership numbers and the like ... they were reasonably impressive. He alluded to the development that would see Tulsa and OKC developing internal tourism and of course commuter traffic. The route would allow for a development corridor as well. It was exciting to hear him talk about it. Of course, he was defeated in a re-election bid and is now a transportation lobbyist ... I haven't heard much about that particular train idea lately though ...

Posted by: Ron at 10:55 AM on 16 February 2005