View Full Version : Heartland Flyer

04-13-2005, 12:46 AM
As many of you know, the Heartland Flyer is in trouble and needs state funding to continue. Thus far, the feds have give $23 million to the Flyer and the Flyer has made $29 million.

Something interesting to consider......ridership is up about 30%. Over the past 6 months, the train has averaged about 150 people a day....not too bad. The actual number is 27,194 over the 6 month period.

Here's an interesting article:

"Rail service needs funds to operate

By Julie Bisbee
The Oklahoman

Floetta Vaughn's plans to put brochures about antique shopping in the Purcell train depot may be derailed if the Legislature can't agree on a way to fund the state's only passenger train.

Her business and dozens more along the Heartland Flyer's north-south route could see a drop in traffic and sales if lawmakers don't come up with nearly $3.9 million needed to keep the Amtrak route between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth running.

In Purcell, antique stores along Main Street depend on a steady stream of visitors who come to the small community on the train.

"I don't have any statistics, but we get a lot of people who come here and say they've rode the Heartland Flyer," said Vaughn, who owns Auntie Mae's, a large antique store along Purcell's Main Street.

A few doors down at Butler's Antiques, Jerry Butler knows his antique store in the historic Hotel Love would lose customers if the Heartland Flyer stopped its daily routes through the town.

"We would miss the business, not only when they get off here, but from word of mouth," said Butler, who also runs a bed-and-breakfast in the hotel. "I'm disappointed. Our town spent quite a bit of money to build a new depot here. If they don't fund it, its only going to sit down there. It's not going to get used."

The number of people taking the train has increased this fiscal year by 21.9 percent, said Marc Magliari, a spokesman for Amtrak in Chicago. From October 2004 through March, 27,194 people rode the train and the route has been top-ranked for customer service since Amtrak started surveying its passengers, Magliari said.

The route has also linked travelers in rural areas such as Ardmore or Pauls Valley to a rail system that could take them west to Los Angeles.

"There's a misconception that people take Amtrak for luxury trips, rail cruises," said Evan Stair, executive director, a volunteer organization that runs the Norman train depot and promotes expansion of passenger rail service in Oklahoma. "That's not the case. More and more people are depending on Amtrak for basic transportation."

A round-trip ticket from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth is $46, and the ride takes a little over four hours. City officials in Fort Worth are hoping high gasoline prices and public support hold sway over lawmakers as they decide whether to allocate money for the Heartland Flyer.

"This is important to tourism, to business and in the long run relieves some of the hectic north-south traffic between Oklahoma and Texas," said Douglas Harman, president and chief executive of the Fort Worth Visitors and Convention Bureau.

"The infrastructure is there, you don't have to build it," Harman said. "I think if the Heartland Flyer does not survive, ten years from now a whole host of policy makers will look back with great regret."

04-13-2005, 12:49 AM
"Riders support keeping line

By Roy Deering
The Oklahoman

ABOARD THE HEARTLAND FLYER — One of Mary Taylor’s favorite childhood memories is of riding a passenger train with her parents back in Ohio.

Now, with time possibly running out on Oklahoma’s only passenger rail service, she is glad she took time to enjoy a weekend Amtrak trip to Texas with her 10-year-old son, Christopher.

“It’s sad, really,” she said recently while watching her son view the Oklahoma countryside through a passenger coach window on Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer. “I think a lot of people are in such a hurry these days when they travel, that they’ve forgotten what a wonderful experience a train trip can be.”

Taylor is among the hundreds of Oklahomans in recent weeks who filled the Heartland Flyer as it raced daily from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, with stops at Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley, Ardmore and Gainesville, Texas.

Heartland service began five years ago, but the route could stop running this fall unless state or federal lawmakers make up the route’s operating shortfall.

“I’m deeply saddened about the possibility that this train service could just stop,” said Annette Barnett of Chandler. “It’s a really great service ... how sad it would be if Oklahoma lost its only train service.”

Barnett was making her first trip on the Heartland Flyer, along with her two teenage children. She said she was impressed by the comfortable seating on the train, the cost of the trip and the incredible scenery as the train wound through the Arbuckle Mountains north of Ardmore.

Pacita Perera, a Heartland Flyer crew member who has worked for Amtrak for nearly 20 years, said the route has seen a steady increase in riders, but is still in danger.

“We really only have two slow periods in the year,” she said while serving passengers in the train’s snack car. “When the kids go back to school in August, and when they go back to school in January, we are slower. But, other than that, it seems to me that we’ve steadily increased our passenger load.”

In Pauls Valley, Hattie Vickers enjoys a brisk business at the Santa Fe Depot and Museum, where the train stops twice daily.

“We have a lot of our older people who ride the train down to Gainesville or Fort Worth to visit their children and grandchildren,” Vickers said. “They tell me all the time that there’s just no way they could drive down there, and that they don’t know if they’d ever get to visit with family.”

04-13-2005, 12:51 AM
"Oklahomans rally to keep rail service

By John Greiner
The Oklahoman

Nearly 100 Oklahomans, many carrying handmade signs, rallied at the state Capitol on Monday for more money to keep the Heartland Flyer passenger train running another year between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas.

Rail service needs funds to operate
Riders support keeping line

They also called for extending the Amtrak passenger rail service north from Oklahoma City to Newton, Kan.

Oklahoma's contract with Amtrak for passenger rail service expires at the end of September. The state pays about $3.9 million to Amtrak to have passenger rail service.

People's signs at the rally included, "$3.00 a gallon? I'll take AMTRAK" and "We need more transportation choices -- not fewer."

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett told the group the facts surrounding the Heartland Flyer are compelling.

"This is a route that began in 1999 through the wisdom of U.S. Senator Don Nickles. Since then, 300,000 people have taken this route," Cornett said.

Ridership is up about 20 percent and Amtrak said from a quality standpoint, this is the No. 1 route in the entire Amtrak system, Cornett said.

The mayor said the $3.9 million needed to keep the Heartland Flyer is about how much building a quarter-mile of urban interstate highway would cost.

"In the end, this is not the story about the little train that could. This is the story about the little train that's already proven it can," Cornett said.

Richard Stawicki, a Norman City Council member, told the group the Heartland Flyer should be extended to Guthrie.

"If we lose the Flyer this year, we'll probably never get it back again," Stawicki said.

Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, told the group the state Senate has a plan that would provide funding for the Heartland Flyer.

The plan is the Senate Democratic proposal for increasing revenue for the highway program and includes $1.1 million for the Heartland Flyer.

Russell and Dorothy Deards of Oklahoma City, who attended the rally, said they went on their honeymoon in 2000 on Amtrak.

However, the couple had to drive to Newton, Kan., and catch the train there to go to Chicago and then to Flint, Mich., they said.

Both have ridden the Heartland Flyer to Fort Worth, too, they said. "

04-13-2005, 12:52 AM
I just love the way Mick Cornett compares the cost of operating the train to the cost of building a freeway. The yearly cost for Amtrak would build about a quarter mile of highway. That shows you how insignificant the cost is.

04-13-2005, 01:03 AM
We really need Ft Worth and Texas to contribute to the Heartland Flyer! Especially since the current routing sends Oklahomans to Texas, TX should welcome and subsidize the line!

That is why I argued for another route, which has a morning run from FTW into OKC and then go back at nite. That way, both cities get tourist dollars without having an overnight stay (actually a win for OKC in that texans have to stay in a hotel here or a loss in that texans will not ride the train because they have to stay in a hotel in order to come here).

A twin route also opens the possibility of business travel. If we had another train for the Heartland Flyer route, we could even do an express run between just OKC and FtW.

Express: 6am - 7:30am Nonstop FTW to OKC, Train A
Express: 5:30am-7am Nonstop OKC to FTW, Train B

Regular: 8am - 12 noon FTW to OKC with stops, Train B
Regular: 9am - 12:30pm OKC to FTW with stops, Train A

Express: 5pm - 7pm Nonstop OKC to FTW, Train B
Express: 5pm - 7:30pm Nonstop FTW to OKC, Train A

Regular: 8pm - 11:30pm OKC to FTW with stops, Train A
Regular: 7:30pm - 11pm FTW to OKC with stops, Train B

I think this is feasible and would greatly increase tourism and business between the cities. With gas prices as high as they are, im sure each run would be filled to the rum.

04-13-2005, 08:59 AM
Not a bad plan. I would, however, like to see routes to Kansas, Missouri, and New Mexico. They could be used as a state commuter rail as well. I bet ridership would skyrocket.

04-13-2005, 12:14 PM
We really need that connection to KC to link in with the national network. If we could get that, I think AMTRAK ridership would only improve!