Amtrak to look at ridership potential

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 By: Brian Brus Source: The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – Amtrak officials said strong public response to their recent trip through the Oklahoma City metro affirmed interest in re-establishing a passenger line from Texas to Missouri and Kansas.

“We’ll be looking at ridership potential now,” company spokesman Marc Magliari said. “There hasn’t been a report done on this for several years, and the economy has changed a bit. It could be that the freight volumes have changed a bit.”

“From OKC to Edmond and Perry and Guthrie … up to Wichita, there was quite the turnout for our inspection trip,” he said.

Amtrak now operates daily passenger rail service from Oklahoma City south to Fort Worth, Texas, in a joint operating agreement with Oklahoma and Texas departments of transportation. Towns north of the metro haven’t seen passenger rail service since 1979 when Amtrak halted its Lone Star line.

Magliari said company officials are talking with those departments, as well as the Kansas Department of Transportation, about the next steps. He said they’ll be looking at deeper infrastructure improvements now, also bringing BNSF Railway Co. into discussions as the owner of the track.

Passenger service north of the metro could result in a cross-platform model involving passengers moving from train to train.

Establishing passenger service north of Oklahoma City could take different forms. Amtrak could take a cross-platform model, where passengers would need to change trains in the middle of the night. Or, he said, Amtrak could add cars to the end of its Southwest Chief trains to change lines at Newton.

Peter LeCody, chairman of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said the success of re-establishing the line will rest on the public’s shoulders.

“We’ve got to energize every mayor, city council, municipal planning organization, tourism bureau and literally anyone with an economic development interest or social benefit,” LeCody said. “They can certainly talk about what they can do at the governmental level, but you’ve got to get the public involved in it.”

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