Although the passenger rail industry may not be as well-known or as well-utilized as other modes of transportation, Americans continue to enjoy the comfort, ease and enjoyable ride that trains provide. Here in the 21st District, we are fortunate to have convenient access to the Warrensburg train station — one of 10 stations situated along Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner route, which travels twice daily between Kansas City and St. Louis. Also, the community of Carrollton is looking to add an AMTRAK stop on the Southwest Chief line.
Since 2011, I have had the privilege of serving as one of four Missouri delegates on the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC), which will hold its annual meeting in late September in St. Louis. The commission is a diverse group of state legislators, governors and leaders from across the Midwest. Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin are all connected via this organization and the passenger rail lines it represents. Founded in 2000, the group works closely alongside the Federal Railroad Administration to create an improved interstate rail system that is similar to what the United States enjoys within our highway and aviation transportation systems.
For the past year, I had the honor of chairing the MIPRC University Partnerships Committee, which conducted a study of students, faculty and staff at 30 colleges and universities across the Midwest about passenger rail service. The committee was pleasantly surprised at the survey’s interest, with over 19,000 people responding. Among many other findings, the study revealed that 43 percent of Missouri’s respondents had previously traveled by train to or from school. Of those, 11 percent of respondents said the train is their primary method of transportation when going to and from school.
The study also found that many students rarely or never took the train for a variety of reasons, such as far-away station locations, inconvenient travel times or simply a lack of knowledge of the system. Perhaps most encouraging, however, is that the study found there is plenty of desire to see passenger rail service grow, especially among younger Missourians. The issues raised in the study are just some of the topics we will address at MIPRC’s 2016 conference.
Passenger rail offers us a more comfortable and efficient way to travel. Like all forms of transportation, it needs state, federal and public support if it is to continue developing into a mainstream method of intra- and interstate travel. If you have never been, I recommend hopping aboard a train for a long weekend or family vacation. Whether your destination is on the other side of the state or the other side of the country, traveling by train is one of the most classic, fun and comfortable ways to travel.
I am proud to help host my colleagues from the Midwest at the upcoming MIPRC annual meeting. I look forward to once again collaborating with them as we work toward the development of a more cohesive and supportive interstate system of public rail transportation — a system that reflects the efficiency, technology and innovation of our fast-paced 21st Century. For more information on the commission and its work, please visit www.miprc.org.
As always, please feel free to contact me or my staff with any questions or concerns at any time. We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions and trying to answer any questions you may have. You can reach us by phone at 866-277-0882 (toll-free) or (573) 751-2272, or by fax at (573) 526-7381.
Senator David Pearce serves Caldwell, Carroll, Howard, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Ray and Saline counties in the 21st State Senatorial District.