Fewer ride Heartland Flyer in train's second year of service

Saturday, September 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Fewer people rode the Heartland Flyer passenger train in its second year of operation, but transportation officials said they were not surprised.

In its first year of operation from mid-June 1999 through mid-June 2000, 71,129 people boarded the Amtrak train that runs from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas.

In the second year, which closed in mid-June 2001, 61,025 had ridden, 10,104 less than the previous year, Oklahoma Department of Transportation figures showed.

The department had anticipated that in its first year the Heartland Flyer would have a lot of one-time or novelty riders, said John Dougherty, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation rail programs assistant division manager.

``Obviously, the service we have now from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth is Phase 1,'' Dougherty told the Tulsa World's capitol bureau. ``We want to extend the service north to Newton (Kan.) or possibly Tulsa to Kansas City (Mo). That is what is going to make the big turnaround on what our numbers will be.''

Even with the decrease in ridership, Dougherty said the second-year numbers are solid. About one-third of the train's passengers were making another connection, he said.

More than 142,024 people have ridden the Heartland Flyer since it began service, ODOT reports.

This year, the Heartland Flyer, in connection with an Oklahoma City travel agency, is offering a package to those riding the train to Dallas to see the Oct. 6 Oklahoma-Texas football game.

Promoters are offering 200 tickets, of which half have been sold, Transportation spokeswoman Brenda Perry said. Tickets cost $390 and include a round trip and two-night stay at a Dallas hotel, but no tickets to the game, said Charlene Hughes, owner of the Oklahoma City-based Funseekers Travel.