News & Reviews News Wire ‘Missouri River Runner’ service cut to one daily round trip

‘Missouri River Runner’ service cut to one daily round trip

By David Lassen | January 3, 2022

State funding insufficient to continue more frequent service

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Passenger train at station platform
Eastbound Missouri River Runner train No. 314 prepares to depart Kansas City, Mo. on Oct. 6, 2021. Service on the route has been cut from two round trips daily to one. (Bob Johnston)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As of today (Jan. 3, 2021), Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner service between St. Louis and Kansas City has been cut from two round daily trips to one.

The move comes after the state failed to provide sufficient funding to continue to the twice-daily round trips and federal coronavirus relief funding, which had maintained the second train, ran out.

The Fulton Sun reports Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna said the state budgeted $10.85 million for the train service for fiscal 2022, which runs through June 30, 2022. “Estimates in the last couple of months showed we’d go into the red by $2.5 million if we retained two trains from January to June,” McKenna said. “… We didn’t have an option — we had to balance the count.”

Service had previously been cut from two round trips to one in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic; the second train had been restored in July. McKenna said ridership had returned to 80% of pre-pandemic levels since the second train was restored.

Supporters of the service have pointed to a study showing the economic value it provides [see “News and analysis: State budget cap threatens second Missouri River Runner round trip,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 21, 2021].

“I realize it makes it tough for some members of the legislature to support a service that doesn’t impact the entire state from a customer prospective, but it does provide economic benefit across the state,” McKenna said. “They’d like to see the service not subsidized in any way, but that’s probably not realistic for this service. All modes of transportation have some degree of governmental support.”

The reduced schedule sees the eastbound train departing Kansas City at 8:15 a.m. and arriving in St. Louis at 1:55 p.m., with the return trip departing St. Louis at 4 p.m. and arriving in Kansas City at 9:40 p.m

18 thoughts on “‘Missouri River Runner’ service cut to one daily round trip

  1. Missouri did this. Not Amtrak or “Joey Biden”. I would prefer equal federal funding for all of Amtrak and lots of it. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic at this point. Hoping the local supporters will be successful.

  2. “[I]nstead of state funding of NEC services, assess a one dollar per ticket surcharge on ALL NEC passengers, commuter as well as Amtrak, to be used only for right of way maintenance.”

    Would this be applied only on those routes that use the NEC, or throughout each system that is involved?

    Would passengers riding on routes, a portion (but NOT the entirety) of which utilize the NEC, be surcharged? NJT’s own route to Trenton uses the NEC in its entirety, but the North Jersey Coast line diverges from it south of Rahway.

    1. If any trip uses the NEC for any part, the fee will apply. A VRE commuter, for example, would pay this fee if that person rides to Union Station, but not if he gets off at Alexandria. He could beat it by riding the Metro, but then it seems penny wise but pound foolish.

    2. Don’t forget the Raritan Valley Line that uses the NEC for less distance than the North Jersey Coast Line. The former uses it mostly Newark Penn Station-Lane Interlocking, what maybe 5 miles, or, if the handful of through trains are back, NYP-Lane.

    3. The Raritan Valley Line diverges from AMTRAK at “HUNTER” interlocking, just West of MP 10, and Newark Penn Station is between MP 8 and MP 9 so it’s less than two miles.

  3. A bit off topic, but instead of state funding of NEC services, assess a one dollar per ticket surcharge on ALL NEC passengers, commuter as well as Amtrak, to be used only for right of way maintenance. It may not yield that much additional revenue, but it would send a signal that those who use this service are contributing to it above and beyond the price of a ticket.

  4. Nobody in their right mind is going to operate passenger rail privately in an environment with publicly funded competition. Amtrak does not have the financial friends/connection to ensure a steady funding stream like competing modes. That is what is needed is a reliable flow of funding from Federal, state & locals to ensure that “investment” is consistant. Problem is Amtrak does not have the deep-pocketed allies to further this type of funding.

    1. Almost no one. Brightline is attempting to. I believe they are gambling on using the service as a money losing business shuffling people to and from their close to their right-of-way commercial and residential real estate developments.

      One way that might encourage the class Is to get back in the passenger business would be to exempt their right-of-way and stations from property taxes. After all, roadways and the air routes are property tax exempt. Although this would treat would treat all modes more fairly, I am not sure it would be enough to induce enough Class Ist o get back in the passenger business.

  5. I don’t know what it will take, but we need a return to private passenegr rail. This is insane to keep cutting trains adding trains cutting trains… Gov’t has no place operating anything..

    1. Got any ideas? Maybe 25-30 years ago Railway Age Senior Editor William Vantuono floated the idea that the freight railroads, given proper good solid incentives, might be induced to taking back their passenger trains. But now with the PSR-addicted Class 1s trying to drive their ORs down to the cellar? We’re gonna hafta find another way.

    2. Texas High Speed Rail is attempting just that. And the Libs and NIMBY’s are out in full force crying foul. A privately funded venture, making generous payments to landowners along the right of way wants to implement a rail service that actually makes sense and will compete with airlines and autos, and they’re having to fight every step of the way.

  6. I thin they will come up with the funding at some point to restart the second daily train AND then I think we will go through this process often of losing funding for a second train and then having to get the legislature to renew funding.

  7. So…80% ridership recovery wasn’t sufficient? They (we all know who) was just looking for an opportunity to eliminate this service this is why state supported passenger rail doesn’t work its too vulnerable to political partisanship. And YES! the NEC should be under the same guidelines, especially now with the poor ridership recovery the NEC is experiencing.

    1. Yeah it’s the law that the NEC (aka “The Sacred Way” according to Stephen Gardner and Anthony Coscia) isn’t subject to Section 209 of the PRIIA of 2008. And as I understand it, Gardner was instrumental in getting that exemption for the states that make up the NEC. Why? Well, among other things he suspected those states, or at least some of them, wouldn’t pony up. Wanna put the sacredness of the NEC to the test, and I certainly want to? Revoke that exemption. Then be prepared for judgement day for the NEC. Gotta wonder how the “wonder boys” at the RPA are gonna spin this one. This is only the second time this has happened to a state-supported train in as many years.

  8. Does Delaware pay for Joey Biden’s train? No it doesn’t. Then why should Missouri pays for it’s corridor?

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