MOKSRail News April-May, 2002
P. O. Box 1183, Mission, KS 66202-1183
Saturday, April 13
Kansas City Union Station 1:00 p.m. Luncheon meeting
The luncheon meeting will be held in Union Cafe $5 per person meals. Meal attendance is limited to 30 people RSVP ASAP.
Meeting will be held in a private meeting room on the mezzanine above the restaurant.
Please plan to attend this important meeting.
It will have been nearly six months since MOKSRail members last had a formal meeting. Since then, many things with Amtrak and Missouris Amtrak service have changed or may shortly change.
One of the top items on the agenda will be determining how group members can work together and help save the Kansas City St. Louis trains, which are being threatened by a state funding crisis.
The meeting is timed so rail advocates living in St. Louis and other areas of Eastern Missouri can ride the train to Kansas City, attend the meeting and return the same day. About a third of MOKSRails membership lives in the St. Louis area.
EDITORS NOTE: Most of this newsletter is dedicated to getting rail advocates and the traveling public energized to work to save the Missouri train service. Once the trains are discontinued, history shows us it is always a long and difficult road to get service returned. Witness the nearly 20 years it took rail advocates in Oklahoma to restore Amtrak service to the most populous state that lacked rail passenger service.
Missouri Governor Bob Holden has zeroed-out
funding for the state's four daily passenger trains, the Ann
Rutledge and Kansas City/ St. Louis Mules, which travel 283
miles, providing two daily departures from the state's largest
The state has invested in rail transportation since 1979 when Amtrak, under financial pressure to cut routes (sound familiar?), discontinued the important New York City- Kansas City National Limited, which ran from through Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ohio, Dayton, Ohio, Indianapolis and St. Louis. The train, which had a Washington D.C. section, connected with the popular Southwest Chief, then called the Super Chief, which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles via Kansas City and Albuquerque. The Southwest Chief is Amtraks fastest Chicago- Los Angeles train.
The state of Missouri pays $6 million a year to fund the two Kansas City- St. Louis trains. If that sounds like a lot of money to run two coach trains, then consider what the price tag is estimated to be for reconstructing Interstate 70 from Independence, MO., to just west of St. Louis: $3 billion.
The $6 million charge is merely .02% - or two-tenths of one percent - of rebuilding and widening one major Interstate highway, which will likely have to be rebuilt and undergo many more repairs in its lifetime.
This isn't a call to end highway subsidies - which never end - but to show how this country needs to fund a balanced transportation system that affords its citizens the opportunity to travel by modern passenger trains much the same as investments made in airports and highways.
MOKSRail News April-May, 2002
A sample letter you can customize and use in your writings to state lawmakers is included later in this newsletter.
We have also placed a copy of a Save the Missouri Trains flyer, which you can copy and handout to passengers, Amtrak employees and others along the route. This flyer has a simple message: the trains are being threatened. Please write your lawmakers and urge that they continue funding this important transportation service. Note: MOKSRail will reimburse members copying costs.
The flyer and letter can also be found on MOKSRails updated Web site, where it can be downloaded and copied. Information on the threat to the train service is also prominently displayed on the MOKSRail web page, which is now hosted, for free, by Trainweb.com.
Please take a few minutes out of your day and write the governor and your elected state representatives and senators. Tell them Missouri needs to continue investments in passenger rail. Instead of cutting such service, passenger trains should be expanded to include other cities such as Springfield, MO., and St. Joseph, MO. There is no logical reason why the world's leading industrialized country should have a third-world rail transportation system.
MORE FACTS ABOUT MISSOURI AMTRAK SERVICE
Rail travel is a valued link in the transportation system for a large number of people, according to a recent (1998) Missouri Department of Transportation-funded Amtrak service study.
"The service is highly beneficial to the state -- providing a fairly low-cost alternative that is highly valued by a significant portion of the population. The cost-benefit analysis finds that benefits to the
residents of the state of Missouri exceed its public cost," the study found.
While Missouri's highways are rated third worst in the nation, an Amtrak passenger survey found the Missouri trains well-liked, with travelers giving it an 8.4 on a 1-10 scale.
The trains also serve a broad base of citizens, including large number of college students and retirees, which comprise 19% and 18%, respectively, of the its ridership. 25% of the trains riders are professional or managerial.
If Amtrak service were not provided, a majority of passengers (67%) stated they would drive to their destinations -- further crowding congested I-70 and U.S. Highway 50. Only 7% said they would take the bus; 4% would not travel.
One of every 14 rural Missouri residents does not have automobiles; one-fourth of Missourians over 65 years of age do not have drivers licenses. Public transit provides a lifeline for 600,000 disabled Missourians, according to the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and the Missouri Public Transit Association.
For the year 2000, the last year numbers have been released, 204,766 people rode the trains.
The cost to merely maintain Missouri's existing road system, according to MODOT, is $550-650 million a year -- much more than the $6 million the state spends on Amtrak.
COMMENTS/ UPDATES ON SITUATION FROM OTHER ADVOCATES
I forwarded your web site to Citizens for Modern Transit, a major transit/Amtrak advocacy agency in St. Louis. Their lobbying in Jefferson City has already paid benefits in getting the AMTRAK funding out of the Rainy Day fund and into the regular budget. We're hoping that our advocacy of AMTRAK here will result in full funding for AMTRAK. Let's keep up the pressure on all sides.
Mike McGrath, Region IX NARP director, St. Louis
MOKSRail News April-May, 2002
Mike Mayor Swoboda, mayor of Kirkwood, Mo., in communication with MOKSRail, said,
Were working very hard at it (saving the Amtrak service). Were doing very well in-house. Representatives Joan
Bray, St. Louis, and John Griesheimer, Washington, Mo., are strongly behind our efforts. The bill on April 1 should do quite well within the House. The test will be in the state Senate, he said.
By Doug Ohlemeier, MOKSRail newsletter editor
EDITORS NOTE: The following is an account of one way the writer hoped to help save the Missouri passenger trains. Perhaps it can inspire you to take similar action. This activity did not require a lot of time nor money. Just a couple of hours on a weekend afternoon.
Even if the Missouri trains are preserved, work such as this will need to be done to rally passengers on the other Amtrak trains that serve Kansas and Missouri, the Southwest Chief and the Texas Eagle.
I went to Kansas City's Union Station,
Independence and Lee's Summit Amtrak stations on a recent
Saturday, handing out flyers and talking with passengers, telling
them about the budget crisis may end the Amtrak service. I
received a good reception in my visits, which weren't well
planned. I took advantage of some time I had on a Saturday and
put my energy into getting people concerned about the situation.
Started at Union Station, 12:30 p.m., about a half hour before the westbound train's arrival from St. Louis. It was 30 min. late, so had more time to handout flyers and talk with people, including a conductor after the train arrived. The conductor and LSA from STL I talked with seemed supportive and took many of the flyers.
One conductor seemed a little reluctant about letting us place flyers on the coach seats before departure, due to some Amtrak rule prohibiting solicitations. However, they were very supportive of what our group is doing to help save the MO train service.
The Amtrak agent inside the station
allowed me to tape the flyer to a bulletin board and leave plenty
on hand for people to pick-up.
At 2:00 p.m., drove cross-town to
Independence to tape flyers to the windows of the restored
station. The flyers have been taped to the inside glass (looking
outside) parts of the windows of the doors of the area that had
once been opened prior to train arrival time (by the city) for
passengers. The area is now closed, however, since the door was
vandalized. A genealogy society has the waiting room area of the
station. I talked with the individual there. He took one of my
flyers and put it on the bulletin board.
I then returned to KC Union Station about 10 minutes before the 3:05 p.m. departure for STL. The conductor allowed me to board the train where I handed flyers to passengers and told them the situation. I really enjoyed this part as I did not have one person turn me down, unlike inside the station. I should have placed flyers on the seats, but time probably would not have allowed it. (Plus I had limited copies). The next time I do this, I will definitely arrive early to allow for placing flyers on the seats.
Then hit the car again and speeded to Lee's Summit, arriving about 15 minutes before the train arrived (the 3:41 to STL). Got to handout flyers and talk with the 7 or so passengers, plus people taking their relatives to the train, who again seemed very interested in saving the train. Many had not heard of the crisis, though some had read about it in the newspaper. A number of people were in their automobiles parked alongside the brick platform waiting to see passengers off. I knocked on their window and struck-up short conversations with them as well. I also taped flyers inside the glass cubicle station.
Perhaps MOKSRail members could take the train to Jeff City or further, and back, same day, bringing flyers and talking with people. It might be a good idea for a number of rail advocates in the MOKS Rail group to take such a trip together.
Send a news release to media in KC and en
route - Sedalia - Warrensburg - Lee's Summit - Independence -
Jefferson City - Hermann - Washington - all have local newspapers
- telling them that our group will be riding the train that
Sunday (or Saturday - Sundays have higher ridership - as do
Fridays) and calling attention to the fact that this train may
disappear unless the legislature acts.
We can have some members from STL area
come west - and meet in Jeff City. It may not need many people to
do this - but this might get attention, if we say the MOKS Rail
group is doing this - especially on normally slow news days like
Saturdays and Sundays.
It was a good experience striking up conversations with people and explaining how we want to keep these trains running. Some people, unfortunately, think you're trying to sell them something. Some weren't interested. But most did express interest and took a copy of the flyers.
PRO-MISSOURI TRAINS LETTERS-TO-EDITOR
Rail advocates and others are speaking-out. Their comments have appeared in some of the states leading newspapers. Should you see an article or other letter to an editor that is critical or questions the need for Missouris Amtrak service, or passenger rail in general, feel free to respond by composing your own letter. You would be surprised at how many letters get published and help influence public opinion.
This letter from Kevin Brubaker, Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest, appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2002:
The headline read: Cutting Amtrak would have lasting
While Missouri is making short-term decisions about how to balance its state budget in times of declining revenue, it is also making long-term decisions about its future transportation network.
Brubaker said the governors proposal to save $6 million this year is penny-wise but dollar foolish. Funding for highways will continue at a rate of $1.7 billion a year.
If Amtrak service were eliminated, it would likely never return. That means not just eliminating service now between Kansas City and St. Louis, but forgoing high-speed rail as well.
For five years, Missouri has been working with Illinois and seven other Midwest states to develop fast, comfortable and convenient rail service connecting Kansas City and St. Louis with virtually every major city in the Midwest. Illinois is already spending more than $100 million to reduce travel times between St. Louis and Chicago. Michigan just began running trains at 90 miles per hour - the first speed increase anywhere outside the Northeast in more than a generation.
Missouri stands to benefit from these investments through both its current rail service and its eventual upgrade in frequency and speed.
Rail service won't easily return. Other areas of the country have learned the hard way, spending years negotiating with private railroads to get back service they once enjoyed.
Regardless of the financial challenge faced by the state, $6 million is a small price to pay to remain vitally connected to the region's rail network.
A letter from former MOKSRail president Wayne Copple was published in the March 5 Kansas City Star.
Headline: Save our trains
Copple commented on the Stars Feb. 24 favorable page A-1 article entitled, "Stormy times for Amtrak: Towns worry about losing trains." Copple said the articles pie chart says it all: Amtrak and all other rail programs got 1.2 percent of total federal transportation funding in fiscal year 1999.
What wasn't shown is that even this pitiful token funding is shrinking. After accounting for inflation, Amtrak is getting about half what it received 10 years ago.
Since its inception, Amtrak has only been allowed to hobble along. Every few years, we propose to remedy this by cutting off a few more inches of its crutches -- and then profess wonder that it can't run races.
Copple said where Amtrak has been provided the resources to make even modest improvements, the public has responded through increased patronage.
MOKSRail News April-May, 2002
Copple said road and air will likely remain the predominate modes of public transport for some time, but there is a growing awareness of the downside of our fly/drive system and increased demand for reasonable alternatives.
You don't always get what you pay for, but you almost never get what you don't pay for. We've tried to have a national rail passenger system on the cheap, and it shows.
Copple proposed that either the country makes a serious commitment to having a first-class rail passenger network, a truly national network comparable to our interstate highways, or junk the whole thing and admit we have sold out to the highway and airline lobbies.
By Doug Ohlemeier, MOKSRail newsletter editor
Members of the Passenger Rail Oklahoma association (PRO) recently traveled north to Wichita, Kansas to generate Kansas support for continuing funding for The Southwest Chief.
PRO executive director Evan Stair, of Norman, Oklahoma, legislative director Matt Dowty, of Enid, Oklahoma, came to Kansas to call attention to the threat of losing the train, which also serves Oklahomans who drive to Newton to board for points east and west.
Think of it. Two Oklahomans coming to the Sunflower State to get Kansans fired-up about saving their only passenger train.
Having worked with this group in the past via email and Internet rail passenger advocacy, I represented the MOKS Rail Passenger Coalition and agreed to help them man their booth. The group's trip to Wichita for the two-day weekend model railroad show March 16-17 appears successful.
The booth at the Air Capitol Train Show operated by the volunteers from the Sooner State displayed an organized rail passenger support group that is making inroads in providing information about the benefits of expanded rail service. PRO's exhibit featured pictures of Amtrak's Southwest Chief.
Members handed out many free colorful Amtrak carrying bags that had system timetables and 2002 travel planners. PRO also provided a simple flyer explaining the need to get involved and encourage people to write letters to their congressmen and senators.
More than 125 people were persuaded to write hand-written letters to their lawmakers. The booth featured clipboards with writing paper and chairs to allow people to compose simple letters. PRO provided the paper, envelopes, postage and even a sample letter that simply read, Dear Senator Brownback, please work to keep the Southwest Chief running through Kansas. Free soft drinks were offered as an enticement to get people to write.
We felt that the opportunity to raise awareness on the issue in a Kansas, which has three lawmakers on Amtrak jurisdictional committees, was too important to miss, said Dowty, who skipped the Region IX NARP Fort Worth meeting.
On behalf of Region IX NARP, Dowty held a press conference in the waiting room of the Newton Santa Fe-Amtrak
station. The news conference served the purpose of letting people know that the Southwest Chief may be cut.
Spreading the word about the endangered Southwest Chief: From right, Evan Stair, PRO exec. director, Doug Ohlemeier, MOKSRail, Matt Dowty, PRO, and Brent Peterson, Amtrak Newton, Kan., station agent laid-off in the recent station cuts
Members of Passenger Rail Oklahoma and MOKSRail worked the booth to promote interest in saving Amtraks Southwest Chief, which stops in Lawrence, Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City, Kansas. The Southwest Chief is one of 18 trains Amtrak has targeted for discontinuance if Congress does not provide the carrier funding.
MOKSRail News April-May, 2002
The Wichita ABC and NBC television affiliates as well as the Newton and Hutchison newspapers covered the event. Also in attendance was a representative of Congressman Tiahrt's office. Tiahrt, a Wichita Republican, sits on the all-important House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee.
Newton Mayor H. Grant Scott did an excellent job at the conference, Dowty said. He was well-versed on the issue and had all the arguments down pat. They don't want to lose their service.
Many people let us know the next day they saw the coverage in one form or another, Dowty said. We made hundreds of contacts at the train show. All of us were pretty sore being on our feet all day but it was worth it to help save the trains.
Perhaps MOKSRail members can take a page from Oklahomas efforts. We could have booths at area events and help rally public support for rail service in this region.
MOKS needs to have booths at similar shows in KC and STL. The Oklahoma group received a lot of attention.
Passenger Rail Oklahoma has scheduled a Tuesday, April 16 OKLAHOMA PASSENGER RAIL RALLY at the State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City. The rally will provide passenger rail supporters an opportunity to meet with state lawmakers and to listen to presentations from Heartland Flyer Coalition Members. Texas Department of Transportation representatives will discuss Governor Rick Perry's Trans-Texas Intermodal Corridor Plan.
Let your voice be heard. Without your help, the Heartland Flyer could end, PRO members say.
House Bill 2360 has passed the Oklahoma State House of Representatives 95 to 0. The bill has been sent to the Senate for action. This is however only the beginning of the battle. Rail supporters say it is still much too early to determine if we have the support in the Senate to save the train.
Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor, who has blocked measures to support the train, is being targeted in a letter writing campaign. HB 2360 would earmark funding for Oklahoma's State Rail Maintenance fund in addition to highways, aeronautics, public transit and waterways. The railway maintenance fund would provide funding for the Heartland Flyer and expanded Oklahoma Service. Oklahomas contract with Amtrak expires in May and without his support Oklahoma will lose Amtrak service likely forever.
For more information, please visit the groups Web site at http://members.aol.com/sfrr5/probak.html.
Amtrak ridership grows while airlines' decline
MORE RAIL TRAVELERS; MORE UNCERTAINTY ON THE HILL March 15, 2002
February was the sixth straight month in which Amtrak performed much more strongly than did the airlines in terms of year-to-year percentage change comparisons. It also saw Amtrak's strongest percentage increases of the fiscal year.
Amtrak ridership was 6.4% above the February 2001 level; passenger-miles rose 8.6%. The Air Transport Association reported declines for domestic service of 12.5% and 10.3%, respectively. Amtrak's passenger revenues were up 17.0%.
Strong demand for passenger rail is truly nationwide and is not confined to the Northeast Corridor:
On sleeping cars, ridership was up 13.1%, passenger-miles 18.0% and ticket revenue 18.0%. For the third consecutive month first class ridership on the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight hit an all-time record, increasing 10.7% compared from a year ago, while ticket revenue was up 12.3%. Ridership on the Pacific Surfliners (San Diego-Los Angeles-Santa Barbara) and Cascades (Eugene-Portland-Seattle-Vancouver, B.C.) surged 9.6% and 14.2%, respectively.
The public's post-9/11 travel patterns continue to send a clear message about the new importance of intercity passenger rail, but the message from Washington about what if any such service will exist after October 1 is still ambiguous.
At yesterday's Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Amtrak, Chairman Hollings (D.-S.C.) noted that his bill -- S.1991, an authorization aimed at supporting and improving the entire system -- now has 25 co-sponsors. But John McCain (R.-Ariz.), the committee's ranking member, again questioned the need for passenger trains outside the Northeast Corridor and perhaps the West Coast.
Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson took criticism from both Hollings and McCain for the lack of a specific Bush Administration plan for passenger rail. Jackson said, "We need to change the behavior and the structure that has produced [Amtrak's fiscal] problems ... We're not prepared to commit to a specific dollar amount...The President needs to review the significant economic costs of this need."
MOKSRail News April-May, 2002
AMTRAK STATION AND TRAIN CUTS:
EDITORS NOTE: Amtrak service on its Western long-distance trains has suffered massive personnel, station and checked baggage cuts. The only cities on the Southwest Chief route between Chicago and Los Angeles that have checked baggage are Kansas City, Albuquerque and Flagstaff.
Many stations have been closed on weekends with only one attendant working most shifts. Passengers and large groups of travelers now have no one to help them with luggage while boarding trains.
MOKSRail vice president John Mills wrote this article, posted on Internet Amtrak news forums, criticizing the National Association of Railroad Passengers for its response to the massive station and train cuts.
To any or all of the NARP hierarchy who helped come up with the response which appeared on the NARP Hotline of Friday, February 22, 2002, to the matter of station services and/or hours of operation, let me register my protest.
First of all this statement should be withdrawn immediately for the sake of our membership roll. Longtime members are already calling saying they will not renew their membership. I don't blame them.
Second, the statement is passive and non-compelling to the point of suggesting additional cuts.
The imbalance in the cuts are obvious and regionalism quite apparent. The Southwest Business Unit took an unreasonable hit. The state of Kansas will have no station open seven days per week for instance. Only
five-day operation at Newton, which averages 1,000 on and offs per month is pure stupidity. People are driving from Oklahoma City, Wichita, Salina, Ft. Riley, and many other points from miles around to catch the trains and purchase tickets, and now to find the station closed who knows when (with no vacation or sick relief). This holds true at too many other important stations and NARP should be raising hell, not compromising.
As I have said many times, "Run the system till the funding provided is gone, lock the doors nationwide, park the trains and wait for the results."
Also, could NARP ask Mr. Cox how can the NE Corridor make a profit, including operation and capital costs and yet be 12 BILLION behind on capital as we speak?
Also, when did the separation of the NE Corridor and the rest of the system take place? What portion of these cuts was made up there, except at Bear/Wilmington, DE?
I thought the railroads were notorious for using the means they did to discourage and run off potential passengers, but Amtrak has resurrected all those schemes and a few new ones that even the anti-passenger scalawags could not dream up. - John A. Mills, Topeka, Kan., NARP Region IX director at large
NARP Letter to Amtrak board: cancel train-offs notices
By Matthew Dowty, Enid, Oklahoma, NARP Region IX director.
National Association of Railroad Passengers Executive Director Ross Capon has written Amtrak Board Chairman John Robert Smith and asked him not to go ahead with plans to post discontinuance notices on 18 long-distance trains.
There are now 29 Senators signed on to S.1991, the proposed National Rail Defense Act. This is effectively an Amtrak reauthorization bill.
The Senate Budget Committee released its blue print for the FY 2003 which INCLUDES Amtrak's request for $1.2 billion. This was after 51 unidentified Senators wrote Chairman Kent Conrad on Amtrak's behalf. Even so, the funds must still be approved through the regular appropriations process.
House Railroad Subcommittee Chairman Jack Quinn (R) New York has announced he is working with
Representative Bob Clement (D) Tennessee to produce a House version of an Amtrak reauthorization to be completed in early April.
Comment from another writer:
The letter did indeed do go to John Robert Smith, chairman of the Amtrak board. It was pointed out that the intended "message" to Congress had been sent and that posting these notices would only do harm to the summertime long-haul business. We'll all have to work to get more Senators to sign on to S. 1991.
MOKSRail News April-May, 2002
EDITORS NOTE: This NARP meeting is in another region. However, since Omaha is a three-hour drive from Kansas City, some rail advocates may be interested in attending the meeting. It would also be a good opportunity for Missouri and Kansas advocates to meet and interact with our neighboring advocates to the north.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS Region 10 Meeting - Omaha
Best Western Redick Plaza Hotel,15th & Harney, downtown Omaha. 1-888-342-5339
The NARP Region 10 annual membership meeting will be held on April 6 at Omaha, Nebr., running from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 or 3 p.m.
ProRail Nebraska, an independent state affiliate of NARP, will host the meeting, which draws attendees from Iowa and Colorado. (South Dakota and Utah are also included in Region 10), but to date have not attended this regional meeting.
Dan Lutz, PRN president, extends an invitation to MOKSRail members to attend this meeting, as we have common interests and issues across state lines that do not necessarily hew to the boundaries of Region 10.
Speakers so far for the meeting are Alan Yorker, president of NARP; and Brian Rosenwald, representing Amtrak Intercity, Chicago. Rosenwald spoke at the Region 10 meeting in Iowa last year, and does an excellent job.
His appearance is extremely timely, given the threat to long distance passenger trains. State reports will be given by Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado.
We usually plan an extracurricular activity (optional) after the close of the regular meeting, including a tour of the currently vacant former Burlington Depot in downtown Omaha, a visit to Durham Western Heritage Museum (former Union Pacific passenger station currently including full-size railcars, several model layouts, and the Union Pacific Museum collection), and the RailsWest Museum across the river in Council Bluffs, housed in a former Rock Island depot, with some rolling stock on display.
Scheduled guest speakers:
Alan Yorker, President, NARP
Brian Rosenwald, representing Amtrak Intercity, Chicago
Lunch is included (choice of chicken sandwich, pork chop, or marinated steak)
Registration is $15.00 per person, payable by April 4.
To register please contact ProRail Nebraska Secretary Eugene Nick
mail: 1960 Prospect St., Lincoln, NE 68502
For more information please contact ProRail Nebraska President Dan Lutz:
fax: 402-472-0025, Attn: Dan Lutz
mail: 3915 Apple St., Lincoln, NE 68503
NEEDED for MOKSRail:
MOKSRail needs a logo to use on its new Web site, newsletters and other promotional materials.
If you have graphic arts experience and can design a simple, non-elaborate logo, please contact the newsletter and Web site editor at email@example.com or 785-865-0035. The logo can be a simple outline of the states of Kansas and Mo. with the MOKSRail name over the state backgrounds. A passenger train image inside the logo or in the background would be nice. Thanks for your assistance.
MOKSRail News April-May, 2002
Southeast Colorado passenger rail supporters are involved in a campaign to save the Southwest Chief. The Trinidad-Las Animas County (CO) Chamber of Commerce has started a letter writing campaign to lobby members of Congress to provide the necessary funds to keep the Southwest Chief running, according to a March 25, 2002, article in the Pueblo Chieftain.
Chamber members began the effort after Colorado Association of Railroad Passenger President Jon Esty told them at a meeting last month that it was up to them to save the train.
The article, datelined Trinidad, states if Amtrak's Southwest Chief route that passes through Trinidad, La
Junta, Las Animas, Lamar and Raton, N.M., is going to be preserved, the small towns along that route will
Have to put pressure on Congress to come up with the necessary funding to sustain it.
Jon Esty, president of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association since 1995 and a member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers was quoted in the article as saying he thinks it is the small towns and cities of America that are going to keep long-distance passenger rail going. Esty spoke at a late March monthly Trinidad-Las Animas County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
"It is you folks who really want the (transportation) alternative," he said.
Esty said there isnt much concern in Denver where the citys International Airport that allows people to travel practically anywhere.
"The invitation to speak here has fired me up to start talking to some of the chambers of commerce in Grand Junction, Granby, Fort Morgan and La Junta to get the kind of support I know you folks are giving to Amtrak and long-distance passenger rail," he said.
The chamber is doing its part to try and save Amtrak's southwestern route by urging its membership to write Colorado's elected officials in Congress and at the State House. The letter-writing campaign that started Feb. 19 has produced responses so far from Gov. Bill Owens, state Sen. Lewis Entz and state Rep. Ken Kester, and encouraging replies from officials in La Junta, Fowler, Lamar and Raton, the article reported.
In the February edition of MOKSRail News, president David Riddle wrote an article on how the whole town of LaPlata, Missouri (population 1,401), turned out to a December 2001 open house to celebrate the completion of interior restoration of the citys renovated art deco Amtrak station.
LaPlata, located 14 miles south of Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, is the only other Southwest Chief Missouri stop outside of Kansas City.
What a great surprise to see our Open House on the first page of your newsletter. I also appreciated the several pages of information. I have used it many times and copied it for our board.
It was very helpful in talking with people about the problem with funding on the state and national level.
We are currently working with BNSF and the Missouri Historic Preservation Office in getting the depot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Thanks again for sending the newsletter.
Ann Bullock, President of the Friends for LaPlata Preservation
MOKSRail News April-May, 2002
Sample letter you can write to your Missouri lawmakers:
Missouri-Kansas Rail Passenger Coalition
Box 1183, Mission, Kan. 66202