MoDOT offers discounts to increase Amtrak ridership

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Department of Transportation is offering train ride discounts in an effort to increase Amtrak ridership.

The MoDot Railroad Operations Manager, Kristi Jamison, said ridership numbers have remained flat in and out of Jefferson City. Jamison said MoDOT is always trying to find innovative to attract passengers either back to the service or first-timers to try it for the first time. 

MoDOT is offering a Kids Ride Free offer on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for children ages 2-12, but they have to be accompanied by an adult. The offer is available through Aug. 26. The department is also offering a Midweek Fare sale with a 25 percent discount on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until Oct. 31. Both discounts are only available online. They ask riders make reservations on the Missouri River Runner be made at least one day in advance. 

“One of these is geared towards children, so it’s important to us that we are having children take a change on the train, so that they can build a love for it hopefully and decide to be passengers as they grow into adulthood,” Jamison said. 

Jamison said MoDOT tried offering the same two discounts last year, and had really great ridership numbers throughout the spring and the summer. 

“It was very well used, so we were glad to be able to offer that again on the Missouri River Runner,” Jamison said. 

The Missouri River Runner is offered twice daily between Kansas City and St. Louis. The train makes eights stops along the way. 

She said they saw ridership at about 172,000 for the entire route in fiscal year 2016. In fiscal year 2017, she said they saw 171,000 riders. So far, for this year she said ridership is up by 2.5 percent. 

“Ridership has remained pretty steady, which is a good sign for us,” Jamison said. 

She said track work on the route had an impact on ridership in 2017 because the work affect when they’re able to deliver trains on time.

The state appropriation for 2018 was $9.1 million, however, Gov. Eric Greitens withheld $500,000 from the amount requested. MoDOT is asking for $15.1 million for the 2019 budget. Jamison said they’ve seen a reduction in funding from time to time.  

Jamison said they are looking for new passenger cars and replace all of its cars by 2020. 

She said its host railroad, Union Pacific, is working on implementing a system called Positive Train Control and finish by the end of the year. The system determines how safe it is to travel on the track.

Jamison said MoDOT would like to increase the number of times the train is available, but only if funding becomes available in the future.