Heartland Flyer Decision This Week
May 21, 2016
The Heartland Flyer budget decision will be made in budget deals this upcoming week. Once the final budget is announced, we will still have to do some digging. We trust state Representative Richard Morrissette's staff will get the answer quickly.
We would like to personally thank Representative Morrissette and his staff for 12-years of service. He will be missed by those who support passenger rail service. He is running for Corporation Commission which is excellent news. We encourage everyone to cast a vote for him.
The legislature has put off a budget vote until next week, the last week of the session. House Speaker Jeff Hickman indicated state agencies will see an overall cut of $300 million. Representative Earl Sears indicated the $1.3 billion budget hole will be filled through the elimination of some tax credits and expected bond packages.
Know Your Audience: Be smarter than the average bear!
April 28, 2016
Our Action Alerts are still in effect. See below and take action! However, what do you say when you call a state or city official?
Everyone knows the first rule of public speaking, “Know your audience.” We say, “Know what makes your audience tick!”
As fiscal stewards, legislators will only want to discuss the economic impact of passenger rail. Avoid history, nostalgia, and kids need a train ride discussions, unless you can tie the associated tourism revenues garnered from the train. We were corrected many years ago. The color of tourism money is still green.
This is why we pound the Texas Transportation Institute study, Measuring the Benefits of Intercity Passenger Rail: A Study of the Heartland Flyer Corridor, so hard. To refresh, Heartland Flyer passengers spent $17 million in Heartland Flyer communities during FY-2015 of which $1.3 was collected in local sales taxes. This is derived from a 2009 onboard TTI survey.
Ending Heartland Flyer Service Would Hurt State Economy
April 25, 2016
Few state programs can boast a one-year $22 million positive direct economic impact. The Heartland Flyer is such a program. This 2012 statistic reflects a high-point in annual passenger spending in the train’s communities.
Since the Texas Transportation Institute released, Measuring the Benefits of Intercity Passenger Rail: A Study of the Heartland Flyer Corridor, approximately $122 million dollars have been spent in Heartland Flyer communities. More importantly, $9.4 million have been collected in sales taxes.
The life blood of our communities, including imperiled schools, is a sound tax revenue base. Heartland Flyer discontinuance; therefore, would only increase the crisis. Think about this before you let the state legislature cut state passenger rail funding.
Contact the following state legislators TODAY!
Senator Clark Jolley
Appropriations Committee Chair
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Rm. 537
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Representative Earl Sears
Appropriations & Budget, Chair
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Please consider the financial condition of the state as you cast your votes in November.
The Journal Record reports, Heartland Flyer funding is in jeopardy. State Senator Dan Newberry indicated, “With such a large budget shortfall, the state should reconsider whether to subsidize the train.” State Representative Earl Sears indicated the fund “may be trimmed a little bit.”
Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) statements followed. Director Mike Patterson of ODOT expressed extreme concerned lawmakers will end the annual subsidy to the southbound connection. “We really believe the Heartland Flyer brings to the state of Oklahoma an alternative mode of transportation for those who can’t drive (or) don’t want to drive.” Craig Moody, Rail Programs Division Manager at ODOT is quoted as saying, “If (state support of) passenger rail service was discontinued, this would be the beginning of the end for the Heartland Flyer.”
Evan Stair, President, Passenger Rail Oklahoma commenting on the story said, “There is no trimming that can be done. The state appropriates just $2.85 million each year. Amtrak is asking for more than that this year.” Stair continued, “Shutting down the Heartland Flyer will remove $13 million in economic activity for FY-2017 of which $1.3 million are collected in sales taxes.” Stair encouraged those who want to save the service to contact the Senator and Representative:
State Senator Dan Newberry
State Representative Earl Sears
Board of Directors
Passegner Rail Oklahoma
Passenger Rail Oklahoma
April 13, 2016. Watco Letter to ODOT
As we promised earlier in the day, we have posted the letter from Watco Corporation addressed to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT). This letter is subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act, so we post it here for your information as a part of the people's business.
There are some surpirses. In summary here are the details:
1. Sooner Subdivision Class-III Federal Railroad Administration Compliancy is ready for test.
2. Passenger Rail Service will begin before August 4, 2019
3. Land acquisition for the reconstruction of the Cushing rail line is 98 percent complete.
We at Passenger Rail Oklahoma are cautiously optimistic this passenger project will be implemented. Restoring a long abandoned rail route is an unprecedented development in the United States. The news strikes us as miraculous. We hope this is only the beginning of such restorations.
Board of Directors
Passenger Rail Oklahoma
April 13, 2016. Will Tulsa Have a Stop?
Industry experts agree. Tulsa needs to do a better job or risk not being included in the Eastern Flyer project. Will the Tulsa City Council take action?
1. Schedule a Meeting. A BNSF Railway-ODOT-Stillwater Central Meeting must convene.
The agenda should include a discussion of a 99-Year Buyer's Passenger Service Rights
agreement and a station location. The agreement, purchased by the state in 1998, requires
the BNSF Railway to provide access for up to four daily passenger trains between Sapulpa
and downtown Tulsa. BNSF Railway must provide capital upgrades.
2. A Station Location. Initial Eastern Flyer operations will require a small amount of real
estate adjacent to BNSF Railway tracks to provide parking and train access. Whether a
depot structure is required is still to be determined.
3. A Station Platform. An American with Disabilities Act (ADA) station platform will be
Contact your local city councilmember at http://www.tulsacouncil.org. Let them know you support this project. Encourage them to work on the three points referenced above.
April 10, 2016: Vista Dome on Southwest Chief July 6-July 8
Some of our members occasionally like to take an upscale trip on the Southwest Chief. This involves booking space on a private rail car. On July 6, 2016 Train 4 (eastbound) will depart Los Angeles Union Station with the Silver Solarium , a former Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Vista-Dome, Observation, Sleeper-Lounge. As of this date a second car, the Silver Rapids, another sleeper will be added if five more commit to booking this trip.
This is a rare occasion. You will get about as close to reliving a Super Chief style journey as possible. The Super Chief was a Los Angeles-Chicago passenger train that operated over essentially the same route as Amtrak's Southwest Chief. The Super Chief was an all Pullman Santa Fe Railway sleeping car train. It disappeared in 1974 when Amtrak's service standards dropped dramatically.
We have developed a list of the top five reasons to book this trip as follows:
1. It is the Southwest Chief.
2. It is a Vista Dome.
3. Semaphores in New Mexico are endangered.
4. The "clickety-clack" sound of jointed rail is rapidly being replaced by welded rail.
5. YOU need a break from the routine.
Book today at California Zephyr Railcar Charters. Click on the image above.
April 3, 2016: What you should know about the Eastern Flyer
In 1998 the state of Oklahoma purchased a BNSF Railway line between Sapulpa and Oklahoma City. It was barely good for 10-mph and scheduled for abandonment.
Quickly, the state leased the line to WATCO Corporation. Under a 1998 lease contract , the state required the WATCO (in the name of the brand new Stillwater Central Railroad) to install 10,000 new ties per year on the line.
By 2013 the full rail line and business had been restored. The route became a hostile takeover target for the railroad that was ready to abandon it in 1998, the BNSF.
Unfortunately, the state sold the railroad despite public protests. Still, the sale went to WATCO rather than BNSF. We certainly hope the Stillwater Central lives up to the sale agreement.
This agreement requires the railroad to provide a pilot commuter rail project, seven days a week for six months with two frequencies (two to the northeast and two to the southwest) daily by 2019.
1.The Union Pacific Railroad must complete its $50,000 capital improvement study for the City of Oklahoma City to get the “Eastern Flyer” the final four miles into downtown. Oklahoma City must agree to terms and fund the improvement project.
2.Iowa Pacific Holdings stated in January they could run the service. Stillwater Central has tagged them as the operator.
3. Tulsa must bring the BNSF Railway, ODOT, Stillwater Central Railroad to the bargaining table to interpret a 1998 Buyer’s Rights agreement that would allow the state to name a carrier. This carrier would operate the final 18 miles between Sapulpa and downtown Tulsa.
4.The communities, specifically Chandler, Stroud, Sapulpa, and Tulsa must find locations for depots and build support infrastructure. Bristow has a depot and Oklahoma City’s depot is used already for Heartland Flyer (OKC-Fort Worth) service.
This must all complete by 2019. If not, the Stillwater Central Railroad will be penalized $2.8 million by the state for failing to live up to the agreement. Other penalties also apply.
Granted, a lot can happen between then and now. However, everyone needs to remain positive and talk up the prospect. Keep your city councils on point. Don't take "no" for an answer.
March 29, 2016: OKC to Acquire Streetcars
Railway Age Magazine reports the City of Oklahoma City is acquiring streetcars in its article, "Oklahoma City, Brookville agree to streetcar deal." This will bring Oklahoma City into the 21st Century and prepare for a Railvolution in the state. We only ask why Tulsa is not moving forward with similar planning.
March 29, 2016: Where Do Heartland Flyer Passengers Come From?
In March 2010 the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) released a landmark study. Measuring the Benefits of Intercity Passenger Rail: A Study of the Heartland Flyer Corridor Measuring the Benefits of Intercity Passenger Rail: A Study of the Heartland Flyer Corridor, included the following graphic. The figure shows the spread of Heartland Flyer ridership by zip code for July 2009.
contact Evan Stair at EvanStair@PassengerRailOK.org
Copyright 2016, Passenger Rail Oklahoma