Box 1183, Mission, KS 66202-1183
Dining car and sleeper service reduced
Amtrak management, just before the traditional increase in summer travel demand, announced it was removing one of the two sleeping cars on the Texas Eagle, which runs through St. Louis and Poplar Bluff, Mo., en route from Chicago to San Antonio.
The announcement came shortly after Amtrak ended dining car service from Fort Worth, Texas to San Antonio. The dining car would remain on the train; crews would stop service south of Fort Worth. Sleeping car passengers in both directions would be served food from the lounge car.
Such cuts run counter to common sense, especially considering the high ridership the popular train has received during the past couple of years. In an Amtrak press release, Amtrak commended the train as being the system’s best-performing long-distance train.
By Carolyn McMasters, MOKSRail Secretary
An electric cart for the use of Amtrak passengers at the new facility in Kansas City Union Station is ensured now, following a donation of $2,999 from Missouri Dept. of Transportation (MODOT) and an appeal to MOKSRail members.
The cart will transport passengers from the Amtrak waiting area down the walkway to the elevator leading to the tracks. It will carry three passengers and their luggage, plus a driver, in each trip to the elevator.
The request to members, including a contribution from the Kansas City chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society, brought a total of $1,858. The MODOT money has arrived at the cart company, which has started assembling the cart. The cart should be delivered by September 1 to Union Station.
The expected cost will be $4,300 - $4,600, not including taxes. Any leftover funds will be used to buy
an extra baggage push-cart for individual Amtrak passenger use. Thanks to all of the members and friends who donated to the cause. The committee thanks MOKSRail members for their generosity and support for this project.
The Union Pacific Railroad donated the old Missouri Pacific depot building and the historic steps leading from the building to Main Street to a local organization called the Committee to Save and Restore the Historic Train Depot. The committee plans to renovate the station and put it to use, according to a June 17 article in the Poplar Bluff Daily American Republic. Please see following page.
Poplar Bluff station, continued.
Committee chairman Dennis Glaze said the donation marks the end of more than two years of negotiations with U.P. He said the group thinks the depot will be an added attraction to Poplar Bluff.
Glaze said he is seeking grants from the Ozark Foothills Regional Planning Commission to renovate the depot. The first project will be roof repair. If the application is accepted, restoration could start in August. Efforts to restore the station’s steps are being done in conjunction with the Poplar Bluff Garden Club.
Glaze visits the depot weekly to unlock the waiting room for Amtrak passengers and to make sure the room is clean and welcoming for passengers. The Amtrak waiting room is the only current use for the building.
Glaze said the group is proud it was able to save the station. He said it means a lot to many people in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Herzog affair gives Amtrak a black eye.
In an April editorial, the Kansas City Star attacked Amtrak for its handling of the Herzog bidding. The Star said consumers and taxpayers were hurt by “Amtrak’s arrogance.”
In a story carried widely in Missouri newspapers and broadcast news, Herzog Transit Services, of St. Joseph, Mo., announced – without providing specifics - it could operate the four daily Amtrak trains between Missouri’s biggest cities for a lot smaller price tag. Herzog operates commuter train systems for transit agencies in Dallas and Miami. It does not run reservation systems.
However, the company almost as quickly withdrew its proposal claiming difficulties it said it had gaining access to Amtrak’s facilities and reservation system.
On the positive side, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a letter to the editor from Missouri State Senator Joan Bray, of University City, in late March. Bray, a long-time Amtrak supporter, responded to a columnist’s attack of the St. Louis- Kansas City service.
She asked if the writer, Kevin Horrigan, had asked his fellow passengers why they took the train. Even if they have access to car travel, she wrote, “maybe the potholes and bumper-to-bumper 18-wheelers going 80 mph on I-70 discourage that as an option.”
Bray said the federal government has failed to invest adequately in Amtrak for 30 years: She cited the $500 million dollars a year Amtrak receives compared to $12 billion for airports and $30 billion for highways.
Bray attacked Horrigan’s objections to the state spending $6.2 million for Amtrak when it spends $1.8 billion on roads. Amtrak is not even a half a percent of MoDOT's budget, she noted.
The columnist also overlooked the public money besides fuel and airport taxes that make road travel and aviation possible: local property and sales taxes that build access roads to highways and provide state law enforcement to patrol them plus federal taxes that fund air traffic control, Bray pointed out.
“For years, advocates have advised that more frequent trains between St. Louis and Kansas City would increase ridership. It's a wonder that people can fit current service into their schedules at all.” Bray said ridership in the first three months of this year has risen 13% compared to last year.
Kansas City and St. Louis –area congressional representatives sign pro-Amtrak letter.
Many thanks to Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat representing the Kansas suburbs of Kansas City, including Leavenworth and Lawrence, Karen McCarthy, a Democrat representing parts of Kansas City, Mo., and the Independence area, and Rep. William Lacy Clay, a St. Louis area Democrat. All three signed on to a bipartisan “Dear Colleague" letter supporting Amtrak that was circulating in the House in mid-June. Please see following page
Amtrak funding update continued.
Please call or write your congressional representatives and urge them to support the $1.8 billion that Amtrak has requested for 2004. The letter states that David Gunn has demonstrated to this Congress that he has the knowledge, discipline and integrity to make the reforms required to right the previous wrongs at Amtrak. “His track record speaks for itself. As you work to reach agreement on the appropriate funding for our national transportation system, we urge you to approve $1.8 billion for Amtrak."
National Funding Update: In late June, there was major movement by House and Senate authorizing committees on Amtrak and on general rail infrastructure investment. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a three-year Amtrak reauthorization, H.R.2572, which allows up to $2 billion a year for Amtrak for fiscal years 2004, 2005 and 2006. It requires Amtrak to provide a yearly business plan for Congress and the DOT with separate accounting for ridership, revenue, and expense targets for the Northeast Corridor, commuter service, long-distance service and state-supported service.
The Senate Commerce Committee also approved a $2-billiion-per-year Amtrak reauthorization for six years. The National Association of Railroad Passengers says the appropriations process will be difficult but says it is helpful to get both authorizing committees on the record in a positive way
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a 10-year high-speed rail bill, "Railroad Infrastructure Development and Expansion Act for the 21st Century" (RIDE-21), that lets states issue $12 billion in federally tax-exempt bonds and $12 billion in federal tax credits bonds, and expands the size of the Railroad Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Financing loan and loan guarantee program to $35 billion.
The Bush Administration has promised Amtrak critic Sen. McCain, who heads the Commerce Committee, its detailed Amtrak “reform” (code word for discontinuing trains) plan. Many members don't expect to like the Administration's plan, based on what DOT officials have said about it, NARP reported in early July.
Early reports and comments from Bush DOT officials say the Bush plan would involve having states pick-up costs of long distance trains. Trains would not run, administration officials say, if states don’t agree to fund service. Critics of the plan say states could not agree on the time of day, especially given massive state budgetary problems. Imagine trying to get all eight states on the Southwest Chief route from Illinois to California to agree on funding. Suppose Kansas, which has trains mostly in the middle of the night, refuses to fund the train. Would that mean the train wouldn’t run?
DOT Secretary Mineta was quoted as saying the DOT would simply “not open the train’s doors” in non-funding states. Clearly, the administration has not done its homework on passenger rail.
CNN/Gallup/USA Today and Washington Post polls show 71% support for continuing or increasing federal Amtrak funding. Citing the Post poll, conservative columnist George Will on June 4 wrote: ‘Support for Amtrak is strong among all regions, ages, education levels and income groups.’ At some point, legislators have an obligation to represent the views of the people who sent them to Congress.”
For up to date coverage of the appropriation process, visit http://www.narprail.org/bills108.htm#9.
Senior citizens group, thanks to lobbying, issues pro-Amtrak statement
For the first time, the influential membership group for people over 50 years of age endorsed passenger rail in its annual policy book, found at http://assets.aarp.org/www.aarp.org_/articles/legislative/03ch10.pdf
Inclusion of passenger rail in the Policy Book culminates a years-long effort by National Association of Railroad Passengers Director Doras Briggs of Emeryville, Calif. This was reported in the June 2002 MOKSRail newsletter.
In a letter to MOKSRail president John Mills, Briggs thanks him for MOKSRail’s support of the issue, says AARP has neither staff nor time to lobby for an improved passenger rail system. Briggs says AARP will focus its efforts on Social Security. She says it is up to passenger rail advocates to let their elected representatives in Congress know that AARP supports passenger rail. She recommends faxing a copy of the AARP policy statement to senators, congressmen and governors.
Remind public officials that AARP has 35,000,000 members and that seniors have a strong voting history. Tell your elected officials you want Amtrak to finally be assured of continuing financial support as given to other transportation modes. Chapter 10 of the 2003 Policy Book (on "Transportation") says, "Congress should ... support nationwide
Please see following page
AARP pro-rail resolution, continued.
passenger rail service that is integrated and coordinated with regional, state and local passenger rail; and establish a dependable funding mechanism that ensures continuing passenger rail service."
10-14 The Policy Book: AARP Public Policies 2003
Passenger rail is another mobility option for midlife and older people who travel both within congested regional corridors and between cities separated by long distances. The 1995 American Travel Survey found that people age 65 and older make more than a half million long-distance trips (100 miles or longer) by train. Amtrak estimates that nearly a quarter of its national ridership (4.7 million people) is age 55 and older, and that on 13 of 36 routes, more than a third of the riders are age 55 and older.
In addition, passenger rail provides essential service to many rural communities, and it is an alternative to air travel in the more congested corridors, such as in the Northeast. Many states perceive rail as an important contributor to economic development.
Congress should: authorize and appropriate funds to provide states and local jurisdictions with incentives for expanding and improving public transportation; increase funding for public transportation to improve the quality and quantity of services for persons with disabilities; appropriate sufficient transit funds for capital assistance, operating subsidies, … support nationwide passenger rail service that is integrated and coordinated with regional, state and local passenger rail; and establish a dependable funding mechanism that ensures continuing passenger rail service.
September meetings scheduled – MOKSRail invited to Lincoln Rail Summit
On behalf of the officers and board of ProRail Nebraska, we would like to invite representatives/interested persons from MOKSRail to attend and participate in a Rail Summit meeting to be held September 13 in Lincoln, 12:30 p.m. in the Nebraska Department of Roads auditorium.
A state senator that attended a Midwest High-Speed Rail Compact Commission meeting in Washington, D.C., reported that of the 12 states eligible to participate in the Compact, six have joined, but Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas and South Dakota have not, although bills to have the states join have been introduced in the respective state legislatures.
Visits to friendly members of state congressional delegations in Washington elicited the message from the lawmakers requesting reauthorization of Amtrak with full funding and appropriating $7 million for the Midwest High Speed Rail study.
Laura Kliewer of the Council of State Governments, the High Speed Rail Compact host organization will speak.
Kansas' stake in the future high-speed rail service is the connection to Kansas City from Chicago.
Our state senator requested that ProRail host a conference of various passenger rail advocacy groups to push for support of the rail mode. The Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers plans to send a delegation.
ProRail Nebraska continues to work toward closer ties and communication with MOKSRail. Our president, Dick Schmeling, wants to communicate with potentially interested parties/organizations/entities. We look forward to hearing from you and hope to greet a sizeable delegation from MOKSRail in September.
- Dan Lutz, ProRail Nebraska past president.
ProRail Nebraska will also hold a general membership meeting in Omaha, at the Union Pacific Room at Creighton University, on Saturday, September 20, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM. We would like to invite anyone from MOKSRail to attend this meeting, as it is fairly close to your territory and also deals with the constant issue we work together on: getting a train between Omaha and Kansas City.
If any MOKSRail member would like to speak on that topic, we would be most grateful. Let me know if you believe this meeting would interest any of your members. We plan to get Amtrak’s Barbara Richardson to speak to us. We will also have an update on our downtown streetcar project.
- Eric Miller, 2nd District Director, ProRail Nebraska
MOKSRail member submissions welcome. Anyone wishing to contribute material to this publication or Web site, please contact editor Doug Ohlemeier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-795-8775.