February 2013 Update

As you notice, we have a new home – www.pioneertrain.org – courtesy of All Aboard Washington, the Evergreen State’s passenger-rail advocacy organization. Our former host, Visit Cheyenne (the Cheyenne Area Convention and Visitors Bureau) has retired from that role, which it fulfilled since the website’s 2009 inauguration. Thanks to their CEO and president, Darren Rudloff, and his staff for their long and able help in getting information about the Pioneer out to you these several years.

And likewise thanks to All Aboard Washington’s Zack Wilhoite and Charles Hamilton for their help with transferring the site, and with its ongoing maintenance. Such matters leave your technically challenged coordinator cowering.

A new and independent study of the feasibility of the Pioneer corridor continues to be our main focus. We have been discussing such a study with the National Center for Intermodal Transportation at Mississippi State University for some time, but our hopes got a major lift recently when Dr. Hugh Medal, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at MSU, expressed interest in performing the study. He has already put together a team from MSU and the University of New Orleans to help him with the work.

This represents major progress, but there remains the usual question: money. Some funds would be available through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Centers program, but this needs to be matched 50-50 by other sources. Dr. Medal has identified some matching money, but it remains for us to find roughly $50-75,000 to complete the funding.

So….Where do we get that kind of money?

Thus far the Pioneer Restoration Organization has run essentially on volunteer labor. I myself have done little fund-raising in my life, but am learning fast now, as I begin contacting potential backers. The Pioneer effort would benefit greatly from your help right now, as we face this crucial question – a challenge but also and an opportunity to get us to the next crucial stage. Congress, which as ever occupies the key decision-making role, will pay attention to credible academic research. All Congress has had to go on thus far, however, is the Amtrak service feasibility of 2009, which simply restated the old Pioneer’s shortcomings, without the keen eye for opportunities that can turn a good idea into a thriving enterprise.

The future’s Pioneer – or whatever it may be called – would be more than a train. It would from the backbone of an intermodal system that could bring more effective mobility options to an entire swath of the country. The potential public benefit of transportation in the nation’s less populated countryside continues to increase as pressures on the airline industry continue to translate into dismal air service prospects for rural America. As National Association of Railroad Passengers chairman Bob Stewart pointed out recently, more and more smaller communities across the map face a future in which rail could be the only intercity transportation option.

Such is our context, and I hope that we’ll rise to the occasion by renewing our efforts, and focusing them on the potential which an independent study of the Pioneer corridor’s possibilities presents.

All the best,

C.B. Hall, coordinator
[email protected]

7 Replies to “February 2013 Update”

  1. Suggestions for improving ridership: Start line atTrinidad Co so to pickup Colorado Springs and Puebla. It also allows for an Albuquerque connection. Would be adding a million potential riders. Also would be nice if there was a spur from Hermiston Or. to Tri-cities, WallaWalla, Pullman-Moscow(university studends are big with amtrak), Lewiston-Clarkston and Spokane. This could pick up a lot of riders (6-700,000).

  2. The Pioneer would likely be a breakaway from the California Zephyr at Denver. They’d probably use existing thruway bus connection from Pueblo to Denver.

  3. Idaho needs the Pioneer back. I live on the Oregon Shortline I have not seen the Pioneer since 97 when those Amtrak blowhards pulled it. air service into Idaho is not regular Southwest and Delta provide service but they are charging extra rates and their service is below average Bus service is starting to leave and today it is hard to find a bus to Seattle because bus service goes to Portland but does not go to Seattle past Boise. Idaho needs the Pioneer because it is cheaper and cleaner fuel is expensive and airlines are monopolies who charge extra rates and hardly go by government rules. I will press Crapo and Simpson to get this bill back on the floor. Idaho needs Amtrak and Amtrak needs the Pioneer in Idaho.

  4. All of this excitement for the return of the Pioneer is great to see.

    Unfortunately I do not think any of us will see it again. Amtrak is not interested at all in restarting long distance service. An example is the Gulf Coast segment of the Sunset Limited: once Katrina hit, Amtrak was and somehow remains off the hook. The timetable lists the storm as the reason for suspension; while it was a devastating storm, it was also a decade ago. Similarly, the money spent for the ‘study’ was a false gesture of goodwill on Amtrak’s part: it made a know-little consultant a lot of money, and nothing else will come of it.

    Would be great to see 25/26 return, but it just ain’t gonna happen.

  5. I think you could raise the money on Kickstarter.com. Use the power of social media to reach out to college students and others along the route. Make up a batch of stickers or something to send as thank-you gifts.

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