It appears a better on-time performance is convincing more Missourians to ride the train.

State transportation officials report ridership on Amtrak between Kansas City and St. Louis jumped 16% in December, compared to December 2008. The Missouri Department of Transportation reports that is the third-highest increase among Amtrak’s 27 state-supported corridors. Ridership on Amtrak between St. Louis and Chicago jumped 16% as well. Nationally, Amtrak ridership is up 5%.

Steve Strachman of Amtrak says the future looks bright for the passenger rail service.

“We think that there is an opportunity to grow this business. It’s the railroad’s time,” says Strachman. “The American people want it. We hear it everywhere. Missouri is just an example where they’ve taken their resources, put it into something that and help the rail industry. We think it’s going to work all the way around.”

Much work has gone into making Amtrak a better service in Missouri. An agreement reached between Union Pacific and Amtrak has resulted in better scheduling between the two so that freight and passenger trains aren’t competing for rail space, a competition passenger service loses every time. MoDOT has put more money into rail improvements, such as the 9,000-foot siding west of California that allows long freight trains to get out of the way and let Amtrak through. MoDOT has applied for federal economic stimulus money to make additional improvements that would remove other bottlenecks between Kansas City and St. Louis.

On-time performance, which at one time dropped as low as 55%, is not clocked at around 93%. Strachman says that makes all the difference in ridership. He says safety, comfort and on-time performance attract people to passenger trains, something that is becoming more common in Missouri.

Strachman says Amtrak has room to grow in Missouri.

“It has to make good business sense. There has to be identified ridership and support from the state in order to do that,” according to Strachman.


Brent Martin reports [1:10]