Amtrak’s River Runner Could Be Reduced to One Train Daily
Train service through Sedalia, Warrensburg, and other communities on the Missouri River Runner line between St. Louis and Kansas City could be reduced to one round trip daily under a budget plan outlined in the Missouri House Wednesday. This according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Why? The Missouri legislature has continually underpaid Amtrak for running the service all the way back to 2010. The House budget committee can pay Amtrak back for the service, however, that leaves funding for only one train per day. And the newspaper article makes it sound like the state legislature would drop the service altogether if it didn't owe the federal government $36 million dollars for station improvements.
One round trip a day is exactly the wrong way to get people out of their cars and on to trains. It's simple, more frequencies of service give people more options. More options will get more people to ride the train. Imagine heading to the Power and Light District for dinner and clubbing and hopping a train back to Sedalia or Warrensburg. Or taking the family to explore the attractions at Union Station in Kansas City. Or heading into the city for concert. All without needing to drive.
Unless you're looking to do a weekend or overnight stay, it's almost impossible to do today unless the train ride is the focal point of the trip. In order to do a round trip to Kansas City or St. Louis, the layover time in your destination city has been about an hour. Effective March 23, the first train out of St. Louis and Kansas City will depart one hour earlier. Giving riders a two hour layover in their destination city.
More service on the line is a complicated proposition. First, Missouri needs to pay for it, and obviously our elected officials aren't interested in that. Second, the Union Pacific would need to be open to it, and most freight railroads aren't interested in seeing more passenger trains on their lines that make running their trains harder. Third, more trains require more equipment which is a major challenge for Amtrak, especially from a funding standpoint.
It's really a shame. The line between St. Louis and Kansas City is ideal for people who live within a couple of hours of those big cities to take a train ride into the city. For us in West Central Missouri it'd be easy to spend the day in Kansas City, and not impossible to do a day trip to St. Louis with more trains per day. I wouldn't expect that anytime soon. In fact, I'd expect the Missouri legislature to do their best to kill the service altogether if they can. That's not only a shame, that's short sighted and bad for our communities.