NEWS RELEASE - Missouri-Kansas Rail
HOUSE VOTE TO CUT AMTRAK WILL HURT MISSOURI
A state legislative committee's decision to cut Amtrak funding will hurt Missouri and Kansas passenger train riders and provide Missourians fewer transportation choices. The cut comes when Amtrak ridership is increasing in Missouri.
“They're always talking about the terrible condition Missouri’s roads are in,” said Doug Ohlemeier, an Independence resident and vice president of the Missouri-Kansas Rail Passenger Coalition, a grassroots organization representing Missouri and Kansas rail passenger riders and transportation advocates.
“Taking the trains off will put more traffic on the roads. The way to improve the highways is to get some of the traffic off of them.”
The Feb. 10 House budget committee vote means Missouri may have only one train a day running between Kansas City and St. Louis. That would prevent passengers from making single-day trips along the route’s 10 stops, which serve the downtown areas of Jefferson City, Sedalia, Warrensburg, Hermann, Washington, Kirkwood, Lee’s Summit, and Independence. The trains will play a key role in moving people around Missouri during this years Lewis & Clark celebration.
Additionally, the Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the tracks the trains run on, has finally agreed to upgrades that should lead to improved timekeeping.
Despite poor recent on-time performance, elimination of station agents at Jefferson City and Kirkwood, and uncertainty over service continuation, ridership from August-December 2003 was up 7.3% from a year earlier.
Cutting the train will also harm ridership. During the early 1990s, when the state cut one of the trains for three months, ridership plummeted. It took three years for Amtrak to rebuild ridership.
About 200,000 people, including professionals or managerial (25% according to a recent study), college students (19%), retirees (18%), vacationers and others, ride the trains a year. A majority (67%) stated they would drive if train service was not available; only 7% would take a bus; 4% said they would not travel.
“The need for this service will only grow in the future,” said Ohlemeier.
The state pays Amtrak $6.2 million a year for operation of the two trains. Like last year, the legislature shorted the funding, providing only $5 million.
“This situation also shows the futility of the Bush Administration's Amtrak reform plan, which burdens states with the costs of running the country's passenger trains.
“Financially pressed states all over the country are having trouble finding money to fund schools and other social services. Passenger trains are interstate commerce and should be funded by the federal government, much as federal taxes pay for airports and highways.”
MOKSRail urges transportation advocates to write their representatives and tell them to properly fund the service so all Missourians can have modern transportation options.
Missouri began funding Amtrak service in 1979 when the U.S. Department of Transportation reduced Amtrak funding and ordered the discontinuation of several highly patronized trains, including two that served Missouri.
The National Limited ran from New York and Pittsburgh to St. Louis and Kansas City.
The Lone Star, which ran through Kansas City, Lawrence and Topeka on its way to Oklahoma City, Dallas/ Fort Worth and Houston, was Amtrak's 7th most traveled long-distance train at the time.
MOKSRail is working with Oklahoma and Texas transportation advocates to restore that needed service as well.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Doug Ohlemeier at firstname.lastname@example.org, 816-795-8775-, 800-255-5113 x375 –w http://www.trainweb.org/moksrail/
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