Missouri's Amtrak passenger train service causing debt to federal government

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 | 9:29 a.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri is running up a debt with the federal government for running Amtrak passenger train service between St. Louis and Kansas City.

Officials from the Missouri Department of Transportation predict the state will owe Amtrak about $2.9 million by the end of the next fiscal year.

Missouri uses state tax dollars to subsidize the twice-daily train service between the state's two largest cities. But MoDOT officials said the state's subsidy has fallen short of covering its full costs in recent years, and will continue to do so next year unless lawmakers authorize more spending.

The state transportation agency said ridership on the Amtrak route increased from about 164,000 in the 2010 fiscal year to about 191,000 passengers last year.

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Mike Sykuta January 25, 2012 | 12:11 p.m.

Why not simply increase fares by the roughly $16 per passenger suggested in the story? I just checked the fare for taking the train from St. Louis to KC. It is between $28 and $35 dollars one way. That's barely $0.10/mile on the low end. The cost for the same trip in Greyhound is almost identical ($28-30), so there are other equally-affordable options for consumers.

Amtrak's annual passenger count reflects perhaps a week's worth of I-70 traffic assuming only one person in every vehicle. It's impossible to justify subsidizing such a financial train wreck simply to alleviate traffic on I-70 by 2%. And if these passengers took the bus, the increase in vehicular traffic would be negligible over the existing bus traffic.

MoDOT (and Missouri taxpayers) should cease subsidizing a demonstrably failed enterprise that has little if any redeeming value beyond nostalgia.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 25, 2012 | 1:15 p.m.

Close down Amtrak service in Missouri and use the money to improve I-70 and other major highways in the state.
Better that then forcing a toll road on motorists without a vote.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 25, 2012 | 2:04 p.m.

@ Ray:

Assuming that we could close down Amtrak service between St. Louis and Kansas City I seriously doubt that the same could be done for the Amtrak route from Chicago to the West Coast, which runs over the BNSF right of way. This is an express service with only two stops in Missouri, one being Kansas City. The other stop is La Plata, and the train doesn't stop there long! We're talking about a double track railroad, and the trains, freight and passenger, go through like the proverbial bat out of hell.

(Report Comment)

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