NFA Introduction


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A description of the Northern Flyer Alliance, Inc., including its Vision, Mission and successes to date. It also makes the case for Kansas City\'s involvement in the initiative to restore passenger rail from KC to DFW.

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NFA Introduction

  1. 1. INTRODUCTIONNorthern Flyer Alliance, Inc. (NFA) is an advocate for the reintroduction of passenger rail service from KansasCity, Missouri through Wichita, Kansas to Fort Worth, Texas. NFA is a coalition of 49 cities, six counties, and 19Chambers of Commerce along the I-35 corridor that have joined together to promote passenger rail service in theircommunities.Northern Flyer Alliance, Inc. is the only Kansas-based organization supporting the reintroduction of passenger railservice in Kansas.Background & Organizational AccomplishmentsThe NFA has been in existence as an official non-profit organization since 2008. The effects of a multi-yeareducational outreach effort in which twenty-four thousand people received face-to-face information and countlessothers educated through the media has been significant. As a result, 90 resolutions have been passed bygoverning bodies and civic organizations (including MARC and WAMPO) supporting the reintroduction ofpassenger service along the I-35 corridor. Sixty-five of those resolutions from community governing bodies havebeen sent to Governors and Secretaries of Transportation.Prior to incorporation, the Northern Flyer Alliance, Inc. began advocating with the Kansas Department ofTransportation to complete a Feasibility Study; a required step for any passenger rail service expansion. The studywas complete in 2010 and provided an estimate of costs and ridership. In 2010, the Northern Flyer Alliance, Inc.advocated for KDOT to apply for a Federal grant to complete a State Rail Plan as well as a Service DevelopmentPlan for the Northern Flyer corridor. The Service Development Plan provided much more detail and a more definedestimate of costs than the original Feasibility Study. Funding was granted and the study began in mid-summer2010 and completed in the fall of 2011.Through legislative advocacy, two bills were passed in 2010 by the Kansas Legislature by super majorities(95%). Senate Bill 49 empowered KDOT to enter into contract agreements with Amtrak and other authorizedservice providers. House Bill 2552 permitted Kansas to become a member of Midwest Interstate Passenger RailCommission which coordinates a regional plan and strategy for intercity passenger rail expansion.Alternatives studied by the Service Development PlanAlternative #1: Known as the Northern Flyer or the Heartland Flyer Extension, the extension from Oklahoma Cityto Newton would directly connect the Heartland Flyer (see Figure 1) with the Southwest Chief, effectively closingthe 200 mile service gap (see Figure 1) that currently exists in the center of the country between Oklahoma Cityand Newton. By closing this gap and connecting Chicago to Dallas/Fort Worth through Kansas City, ridershipestimates jump from 80,000 on the Heartland Flyer to over 200,000 annually.Alternative #2: Known as the stand-alone daytime train from Kansas City to Dallas/Fort Worth, there would betwo train sets each leaving Kansas City and Dallas/Fort Worth at 7am, arriving at the opposite destination by 7pm.All stops would be during daylight hours, enhancing economic development opportunities significantly. Ridershipestimates for this segment of the proposed build-out would be 270,000 annually.Combination of 1 & 2: This proposal represents the highest potential economic impact to Kansas City and to thestates of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Ridership is estimated at a minimum of 370,000 passengers peryear.  2012 Northern Flyer Alliance, Inc. All Rights Reserved September 24, 2012
  2. 2. Regional ActivityInterim Study Committee:The 2012 legislative efforts of the NFA, including testimony to the Kansas House and Senate TransportationCommittees as well as a Symposium held April 6, 2012 at KC’s Union Station culminated in the approval of anInterim Study Committee on passenger rail by the Kansas Legislative Coordinating Council. Wichita and WesternKansas have committed to sending business and civic leaders to testify in Topeka on why passenger rail is vital tothe economic growth and vitality of the state’s primary gross domestic product generators: agriculture,manufacturing and its metropolitan areas. The Interim Study Committee Meeting on Passenger Rail will be held at10am, October 29, 2012 in room 548-S at the Statehouse in Topeka.Wichita:With the help of Vectura Consulting, LLC**, Wichita has become actively engaged in the effort to restore passengerrail service to Downtown Wichita. The City is regularly communicating with Amtrak and BNSF and is holdingperiodic conference calls with the Southwest Chief Coalition (explained below) in an effort to create state-widesupport for passenger rail expansion (Northern Flyer) and maintenance (Southwest Chief). The City has alsocreated a Steering Committee of business and civic leaders from South Central Kansas to spearhead the initiative.Western Kansas has been asked to participate in the new committee.Western Kansas, Southeast Colorado and Northwest New Mexico:This region, represented by the community stops along the Southwest Chief Corridor, has organized and is nowknown as the Southwest Chief Coalition. Communities such as Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City, Garden City, LaJunta and Trinidad have each paid amounts ranging from $15,000 to $20,000 to retain the services of Bob Dole’slaw firm, Alston & Bird in Washington DC. Alston & Bird has been charged with helping the Coalition find federalmoney to upgrade the tracks of the Southwest Chief, scheduled for rerouting or perhaps even elimination after theexisting Amtrak/BNSF contract ends in 2016.Next Steps for the RegionNEPA Study:In order to qualify for federal funding for capital investment (once it is available) the corridor from Kansas City toDallas/Fort Worth will need an environmental impact study. This is the final study needed in a long sequence ofstudies the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) requires prior to capital investment and the reinstatement ofservice. Given the multi-state nature of the corridor, KDOT must partner with ODOT to complete this study.Depending on the Alternatives chosen, KDOT may need to partner with MODOT and TXDOT as well. Currentadvocacy efforts by the City of Wichita are underway in Oklahoma to encourage such a partnership. Moreadvocacy is needed.State Funding Match:Federal capital investment for passenger rail comes with a lengthy list of requirements, including a state fundingmatch. Federal capital programs such as HSIPR, PRIIA and TIGER require a state investment of around 20% -50%of the total cost. Before any capital grant is awarded, the FRA has shown by example in neighboring states thatstate funding must be secured. This could include, but not be limited to the introduction of legislation in 2013.Expansion of Support:Look to successful states for the path to achieve economic development through passenger rail expansion. TheStates of Illinois and Michigan have a well-developed network that includes municipal government, businessleaders, grass roots organizations, university and chamber of commerce coalitions, as well as organized legislativeand gubernatorial support.  2012 Northern Flyer Alliance, Inc. All Rights Reserved September 24, 2012
  3. 3. Group of States Application/Effort:A regional effort is preferred. Regional grant requests receive priority over individual state applications. A Groupof States Application between Kansas and Oklahoma is necessary for Alternative #1 while a Group of StatesApplication between Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas would likely be necessary for Alternative #2 or aCombination of #1 & 2.Currently, Oklahoma and Texas understand the need for regional effort and are collaborating on and received afederal grant for, a high speed rail study from Oklahoma City to San Antonio. This study is currently underway.Missouri and Kansas must play catch up to achieve the organized success of neighboring states.LOCAL OPPORTUNITYBenefits to Kansas CityThe societal and economic benefits of passenger rail service to the city will be significant. Hints of the economicimpact were highlighted by two different studies completed in 2009 by KU and in 2010 by Texas TransportationInstitute. The studies found passenger rail service would have and currently has a positive return on investment:4.6 to 1 found in a hypothetical study of the corridor from Kansas City to Oklahoma City completed by KU, and 4.5to 1 found by Texas Transportation Institute in a study of the existing Heartland Flyer route from Oklahoma City toFort Worth.These studies show that when passenger rail service is reintroduced, communities along the corridor, including themetropolitan Kansas City area, will have an opportunity for economic development, job growth, business and agri-business productivity gains, tourism, and overall development of quality of life as a result of the new passenger railservice.Serving a regional population base of 14 million people, more than already planned, rail travel to KansasCity’s Union Station from population centers further south would be a catalyst turning Kansas City’s Union Stationinto a hub for intermodal connection; including but not limited to connectivity to KCI for destination travel and allpoints within Downtown through planned streetcar service. Just as anticipated in Wichita, increased passengerload at Kansas City’s airport would be fueled by a direct connection for rail travelers.What’s Next for Kansas CityWhy Kansas City should be involved:The KC metro area is large and dynamic and therefore should not be left out of the conversation. Unfortunately,(and for whatever reason) that has been the case on this issue. The possible elimination of the Southwest Chiefshould be reason enough for Kansas City to become a partner in this transportation initiative, particularly since theridership lost in such an event represents an economic blow to Downtown Kansas City. Equally important is theeconomic development potential represented by the expansion of service to Dallas/Fort Worth with the NorthernFlyer.The economies of the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas are so interconnected, that directlyconnecting Kansas City to the region’s largest and fastest growing metropolitan area (Dallas/Fort Worth) justmakes sense.What does Kansas City need to do to become involved?A good first step would be for key city leaders to learn of the benefits of involvement, as well as the economic risksassociated with a lack thereof. After that, there is a significant case to be made for finding several business leaderswilling to be champions of the effort.  2012 Northern Flyer Alliance, Inc. All Rights Reserved September 24, 2012
  4. 4. Creating Critical Mass in Kansas City:The nature of the initiative is complex. A well-known and respected local champion has the potential to generatelocal support. Even yet, Wichita found it necessary to engage a consultant in order to attain the critical massnecessary for public and business sector support. If interested in exploring that possibility, please call DeborahFischer Stout at 913-787-5732 for more information.Figure 1: Amtrak Service Gap Service Gap Southwest Chief Heartland Flyer** The Northern Flyer Alliance, Inc. is a separate and distinct organization and not affiliated with VecturaConsulting, LLC.  2012 Northern Flyer Alliance, Inc. All Rights Reserved September 24, 2012