A southbound Heartland Flyer boarding in Norman, Oklahoma.
|Termini||Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Fort Worth, Texas
|Ridership||77,831 total (FY14)|
|Opened||14 June 1999|
|Owner||BNSF Railway (track)|
|Line length||206 miles (332 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The Heartland Flyer is a daily passenger train that follows a 206-mile (332 km) route from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Fort Worth, Texas. Amtrak serves as contractor, initially only for the State of Oklahoma, but now also for the State of Texas. The train's daily round-trip begins in Oklahoma City in the morning and reaches Fort Worth in the early afternoon, then makes an evening return to Oklahoma City. As of November 2014, the train is scheduled at 3 hours 58 minutes in each direction.
The train connects to Amtrak's national passenger rail network at the Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center, where it is timed to allow transfers to the Texas Eagle in both directions. The Texas Eagle runs daily between Chicago, Illinois and San Antonio, Texas, and continues three days each week to Los Angeles, California. The Trinity Railway Express commuter rail service also runs from Fort Worth to nearby Dallas Monday through Saturday each week, with roughly hourly service on weekdays and service every two hours on Saturday. Among its several stops, TRE indirectly connects to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport at CentrePort station, and links to DART Light Rail at Victory station and Union Station (which is also a Texas Eagle stop).
History and funding
After Amtrak's formation in 1971, the corridor was served by the railroad's Chicago-Houston Lone Star route, but that was discontinued in 1979 and left the state of Oklahoma without any passenger rail service. The Heartland Flyer was inaugurated on June 14, 1999, ending a 20-year absence of passenger trains on the route. First-year ticket sales totaled 71,400 passengers, surpassing Amtrak's original 20,000 projection. The Heartland Flyer carried 68,000 passengers during FY 2007. In September 2007 it had carried 500,000 passengers since its inception, and in November 2013, it carried its millionth passenger.
The temporary federal funding for the service was used up by 2005. However, regional passenger rail advocates came out in force on April 11, 2005, for a state capitol rally sponsored by PassengerRailOk.org. Keynote speaker, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett addressed the crowd along with the mayors of Perry, Guthrie, and Purcell, Oklahoma, encouraging the state fund the service and to expand the train into Kansas. State lawmakers kept the Heartland Flyer in operation by passing House Bill 1078 that provided an annual $2 million subsidy to continue the service.
According to preliminary data, the Heartland Flyer carried over 77,000 passengers in fiscal year 2014, a 4.1% decrease from FY2013. The train had a ticket revenue of $1,965,642, a decrease of 2.8% from FY2013. Total revenue for the train, including state-level subsidies to Amtrak, was approximately $7.3 million, against a fully allocated cost of $9.2 million.
Locomotives commonly used on the Heartland Flyer include the General Electric P42DC and P32-8WH. Rolling stock includes Superliners. For many years, the train was powered by only one locomotive, and a Non-Powered Control Unit (NPCU) on the end of the train opposite the locomotive made the train bi-directional. In 2009, the NPCU was replaced with a standard Genesis P42DC, and the train now has locomotive power on both ends.
From April 2010 to April 2011, Amtrak and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation carried out a one-year research project during which the train was run on a biodiesel blend known as B20 (20% pure biofuel and 80% diesel). P32-8 locomotive No. 500 carried an Amtrak decal indicating the use of B20 fuel. The test made national news when TIME magazine listed it as one of “The 50 Best Inventions of 2010.”
Several proposals for extending the route of the Heartland Flyer, or providing additional service over all or parts of its route, have been made over the years. Expansion planning revolves around portions of the former Lone Star route and the state-owned route from Oklahoma City to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The line to Kansas City would stop at Wichita's Union Station and follow the route of the Southwest Chief north of Newton, Kansas. Recent interest in Kansas and Oklahoma communities has been sparked by the proposal and many towns have released resolutions supporting the idea and requesting stations should the route ever be extended. Some of these cities include Wichita, which lost its train service with the discontinuance of the Amtrak Lone Star in 1979. Emporia was eliminated as an Amtrak stop in 2000 but may once again have a train station. Nearly a dozen other communities ranging in size from the tiny community of Strong City, Kansas (pop. 570), to Wichita, with nearly 358,000 residents have passed these resolutions.
A study conducted by Amtrak in 2009 resulted in four proposed service extensions:
- Extend the current train north to Newton, Kansas, where passengers could connect with the Southwest Chief to both Chicago and Los Angeles, which stops in Newton in the middle of the night.
- Add a second day train from Fort Worth to Kansas City, which would offer twice daily service over much of the route but wouldn't connect with other trains.
- A variation of the first plan would extend the overnight train to Kansas City.
- A variation of the second plan would terminate the day train at Oklahoma City, rather than operating all the way to Texas.
According to the August 2010 issue of Trains Magazine, a combination of options one and two as noted above is not out of the question, either, allowing for day and night service, plus perhaps thru-car service to/from the Southwest Chief.
In late 2011, the Kansas Department of Transportation released the results of a study into new service south to Fort Worth, presenting the options of a night train from Texas to Newton, with start-up costs of $87.5 million and an annual subsidy of $4.4 million, or a day train to Kansas City, with start-up costs of $245.5 million and an annual subsidy of $10 million.
During the 1990s, service to San Antonio, Texas, via Austin in conjunction with a reroute of the Texas Eagle west from Fort Worth to El Paso, Texas via Sierra Blanca was considered. This would have created another connection with the Sunset Limited.
Part of the route used by the Heartland Flyer is designated by the USDOT as the South Central High Speed Rail Corridor and is slated to be upgraded to high-speed rail service should funding ever become available. The corridor extends from San Antonio, Texas, to Tulsa through Fort Worth and Oklahoma City. Another branch of this corridor extends from Fort Worth through Dallas to Little Rock, Arkansas.
- "Amtrak Ridership and Revenues Continue Strong Growth in 2014" (PDF). Amtrak. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- "Information Release 07-016" (PDF) (Press release). Oklahoma Department of Transportation. 2007-03-21. Retrieved 2007-08-12.
- "Texas Eagle and Heartland Flyer timetable" (PDF). Amtrak. 2014-11-02. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
- Cooper, Aaron (June 14, 2000). "Amtrak, ODOT celebrate 1-year anniversary of Heartland Flyer". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
- "Ridership up on Heartland Flyer". Associated Press. November 9, 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
- "Amtrak recognizes OSU student as millionth passenger on Heartland Flyer". The Oklahoman. November 15, 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
- Talley, Tim (April 11, 2005). "Rail passengers rally for Heartland Flyer". Associated Press.
- Price, Marie (May 25, 2005). "Beefed-up state agency budgets sent to governor". Tulsa World. p. A10.
- "Monthly Performance Report for September 2014 (Preliminary and Unaudited)" (PDF). Amtrak. 12 November 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
- "Heartland Flyer". Amtrak History & Archives. Retrieved 2014-10-03.
- "Amtrak's Beef-Powered Train". TIME Magazine. November 11, 2010. Retrieved 2014-10-03.
- Bob Johnston (August 2010). "Kansas weighs new train choices". Trains Magazine (Kalmbach Publishing).
- "Kansas DOT releases passenger-rail service development plan". Progressive Railroading. 5 December 2011. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- "Fort Worth-Los Angeles Proposed Schedule Change Updated October 27, 1999". Texas Association of Rail Passengers. 1999-10-27. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14.
- "South Central Corridor". USDOT. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
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