AUSTIN – The newest figures show people are increasingly opting for the Amtrak Heartland Flyer train between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth and avoiding the higher cost of driving their own cars and trucks.
For the 10 months ending July 31, ridership on the daily trains is up by more than 17 percent over the year-ago period (67,141 vs. 57,327), with growth of more than 40 percent in July 2008 versus July 2007 (11,721 vs. 8,362).
Amtrak operates the Heartland Flyer (Trains 821 & 822) under contracts with the Oklahoma and Texas state transportation departments. These are two of the 14 states for which Amtrak operates service that supplements the national network of Amtrak trains.
“The Heartland Flyer’s increased ridership numbers point to increased enthusiasm for rail travel in Oklahoma and Texas,” said Phil Tomlinson, Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation. “I’m pleased that our cooperative effort with Texas is looking successful and has produced an important option to the increasing cost of traditional vehicle travel in our two states.”
“Increased ridership means more motorists are taking advantage of this great service,” said Amadeo Saenz Jr., P.E., executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). “At a time when high gas prices are hurting Texas families, we want to make sure that people have transportation options that meet their needs.”
“In addition to our unprecedented increase in passengers, our customer scores also are outstanding, with a satisfaction index of 98,” said Joe Yannuzzi, the Amtrak General Superintendent responsible for Amtrak Southwest Division services. “Heartland Flyer customers are among the happiest in the Amtrak network and that is due to the focus, commitment and dedication of our employees.”
Along with Amtrak and the state DOT’s, the Heartland Flyer Coalition works to promote and improve the service. The volunteer group represents communities and leaders along the 206-mile route, sponsors the www.heartlandflyer.com website and organizes events all year that make the train experience even more special.
In addition to the Heartland Flyer, Amtrak is studying additional service in the two states at the direction of the state agencies. Specifically, a report reviewing service to and from Tulsa is due soon to the Oklahoma DOT, while next year TxDOT will receive a review of additional service between Austin and San Antonio.