Can Oklahoma Support a New Passenger Train Line?
While the story has been brewing for about six years, Oklahoma has taken the next step to expand railway service in the state via Amtrak.
The Heartland Flyer Amtrak train that travels between OKC and Fort Worth has been surprisingly popular since beginning service in 1999, continually surpassing expectations of passengers and revenue year over year. Proponents have been asking for an expansion since 2017.
If you're familiar with the saga, you already know the progress this rail line gained in the first twenty years fell at risk during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it seems passenger numbers are up again, and in turn, so is the expansion conversation.
The idea is to connect the Heartland Flyer with another route up north in Kansas but in turn offer rail service to many small Sooner State towns in the process.
But the billion-dollar question remains... Will Oklahoma be willing to support this expansion?
While the Heartland Flyer has been a popular travel experience for Oklahomans traveling to Fort Worth, would it have the same appeal and encourage people to head towards Kansas?
It's all about the money.
Truth be told, my hometown would be along that expanded railway. I'd gladly hop on a train and head home at least once, just to experience it. While it'd likely take twice as long, it'd cost much less than paying for gasoline in my own personal vehicle.
The round trip from OKC to Fort Worth and back is just shy of $50 per passenger for the cheapest fare. If you're traveling alone or as a duo, the cost offset makes it a bargain.
If you have a family of five and you're headed to Texas for any number of reasons, even the cheapest tickets for all would likely cost more than just driving yourselves, plus it'll take half the time... but people pay for the experience. Especially around christmas when Amtrak runs it as the Polar Express.
The proposed route to Kansas isn't the only expansion.
While the expanded Heartland Flyer route has been the main talking point for the last seven years, in 2023 it's not the only route the government is considering.
In addition, we could see Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma linked to Dallas, OKC linked to Tulsa, Tulsa connecting with the Midwest, and Western Oklahoma sharing a line between Amarillo and the expanded Heartland Flyer line in Kansas.
There was even a conversation about connecting Wichita Falls, Texas, and Lawton, OK to OKC on a railway that's already pretty well established and maintained... but the politician that spoke loudest about this plan has since retired.
Voice your opinion.
The Federal Railroad Administration is currently doing a study in which you can voice your opinion on the matter, for or against.
Click here to visit the study and let your thoughts be known, it's pretty far down the page.