Heartland Flyer Facing Funding Cut

Oklahoma legislators are considering cutting the funding for the Heartland Flyer service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas.

Although the Amtrak train is not necessarily expected to be eliminated, Oklahoma House Appropriations Chair Earl Sears said the funding for the train “may be trimmed a little.” The Sooner State is facing a $1.9-billion budget shortfall.

Heartland Flyer“A Heartland Flyer discontinuance would set Oklahoma transportation back to the 20th century,” said Evan Stair, president of Passenger Rail Oklahoma. “Those who call passenger rail passé need an economics lesson. People spend money in the communities where the train stops.”

Stair said that if Nos. 821 and 822 are ended or have their operation reduced that Oklahoma would stand to lose approximately $18 million in passenger spending and $1.4 million in sales tax collections.

Passenger Rail Oklahoma has been pushing to expand the number of Heartland Flyer trips because the current schedule does not make it a viable option for day trips from Dallas/Fort Worth to Oklahoma City.

The Flyer is oriented toward day trips from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, leading the Oklahoma capital city at 8:25 a.m. and arriving in Fort Worth at 12:23 p.m.

It departs Fort Worth at 5:25 p.m. and is scheduled to arrive back in Oklahoma City at 9:23 p.m.

The Heartland Flyer began operation on June 14, 1999, and was funded with federal money for its first six years of operation. Oklahoma paid whatever expenses that the federal government did not.

The service is now funded jointly by the states of Oklahoma and Texas although the latter has reduced its funding in recent years.

The Heartland Flyer carried 68,186 passengers in fiscal year 2015. It’s peak ridership was 86,446 in FY 2012.

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