From Oklahoma Passenger Rail Association (OPRA), newsletter for September 2005:
One officer of OPRA has proposed changing the Association's name to simply Oklahoma Rail (which would mimic recent moves by Illinois and Arkansas). This will be decided when the Association meets for their annual meeting in December.
Operation of the HEARTLAND FLYER has been ensured for another year, and it looks good for operation through the end of FY 2007 as well. This is thanks to agreement between the two houses of legislature in Oklahoma to fund the train at $2 million per fiscal year.
In FY 2005, patronage is up 24% over the previous fiscal year. That is its best performance since 1999.
Special trips were added to the regularly scheduled HEARTLAND FLYER. Over the period of September 29-October 2, a northern extension of the train beyond Oklahoma City was operated to Guthrie for that city's annual Bluegrass Festival. Over the weekend of October 7-9th, two round trips were extended to Dallas from Fort Worth to handle crowds attending an annual football game between Oklahoma University and University of Texas.
When the TEXAS EAGLE was truncated south of St. Louis in advance of Hurricane Rita, the HEARTLAND FLYER continued running. Many passengers took advantage of the combination of this train and its Thruway motorcoach connection between Oklahoma City and Kansas City (where they could then switch to either the ANN RUTLEDGE or the SOUTHWEST CHIEF to get to Chicago). OPRA had volunteers at the unstaffed Oklahoma City station to guide passengers in making the switch between the train and bus, or vice versa.
Amtrak is considering changing the type of equipment used on the HEARTLAND FLYER train. Currently it runs with a combination of Superliners and old Santa Fe Highliner cars. OPRA has voiced its opinion that the Horizon fleet should not be considered, as they would represent a clear downgrade from what the FLYER's passengers are used to. The train may get single-level Capstone rebuilds, ex Metroliner Amfleet I's (similar to what are used on the ADIRONDACK and DOWNEASTER), or it may go all Superliner.
OPRA will have its next meeting on Tuesday, October 18th, at 7:00 PM at the former Santa Fe depot in Guthrie, OK. Other than last weekend, there has not been any rail service to this location since the President Carter cuts of 1979.
With the upcoming fare increases, HEARTLAND FLYER passengers can expect to pay up to three dollars more each way.
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