Grand Canyon Ridership Exceeds Amtrak’s in Arizona June 21st, 1998
The Grand Canyon Railway, which offers daily tourist excursion service from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon, now carries about 130,000 passengers annually to the South Rim. This exceeded Amtrak’s 1997 ridership to Arizona destinations. While Grand Canyon’s ridership has been increasing, Amtrak ridership in Phoenix fell from 21,495 in 1995 to just 199 last year after bus service was substituted for direct Sunset Limited rail service.
Amtrak Station Â Â Â 1997 Rail Ridership
Kingman Â Â Â 3,137
Flagstaff Â Â Â 53,229
Winslow Â Â Â 2,553
Yuma Â Â Â 2,036
Tucson Â Â Â 23,578
Benson Â Â Â 1,278
TOTAL Â Â Â 85,811
According to the Mesa Tribune, Grand Canyon’s Max Biegert “wants to add scheduled daily flights [from Scottsdale Airport] to Williams Airport and to Grand Canyon Airport to link up with his train service to the Grand Canyon. â€¦Scottsdale visitors could fly to Williams in the morning, take the train to the Canyon, spend the day and fly back in time for cocktails at their Scottsdale hotel.”
In 1991 and 1992, the City of Williams and ARPA asked Amtrak to implement a Williams stop to coordinate with Grand Canyon Railway service. Wrote James Hoffman, Mayor of Williams, “We have the support of the local community, including the Grand Canyon Railway, in pursuing the implementation of service. We recognize that, among other things, the City of Williams must provide a suitable platform, lighting, parking area and an enclosed shelter. Kindly advise me what Williams can do to provide ready access to Amtrak and to facilitate your decision to implement service here.”
In the final letter, Graham Claytor of Amtrak responded, “Our recent route analysis indicated that Williams, Arizona, the Grand Canyon Railway, and the Grand Canyon are already adequately served through the Flagstaff stop which is only 30 miles away.” Then, as now, there is a bus connection from Flagstaff to Williams.
Meanwhile, through this September 30, Steam Engine #4960 will pull Grand Canyon Railway’s vintage train from the historic 1908 Williams Depot through the world’s largest stand of Ponderosa pines, high desert plains and small arroyos to its ultimate destination: the Grand Canyon. GCRy offers five classes of service, from coach through dome to luxury parlor-car.
Grand Canyon Railway:
San Diegan Upgrades June 21st, 1998
Amtrak West intends to purchase 40 new bi-level, stainless steel passenger cars from GEC-Alsthom for the San Diegans. This equipment will replace the Amfleet cars, like the ones used on the Diamondbacks Express. GEC-Alsthom now makes the “California Car” formerly produced by Morrison-Knudsen.
This car style looks more like an Amtrak Superliner, with the passage between cars on the upper level. The other bi-level style in widespread use in California, from Bombardier, has a center bi-level section, with the car end sections being at the traditional height.
Of the “California Cars,” Howard Bingham said: “They’re the most gorgeous new-looking, smooth-riding bi-level wheelchair accessible push-pull trainsets I’ve ever seen!
“I was totally unprepared for what I found: the refectory service, the plush appearance, the seat tables, the low-floor accessibility ramps: they’re really dream cars. No wonder the Capitol service demand is outstripping supply.”
Phoenix West Line Update June 21st, 1998
As reported in the April NARP News, “NARP submitted a statementâ€¦ to the FRA March 13 opposing Union Pacific’s plans to remove signals from this former route segment of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited. NARP cited UP freight congestion problems and the possible return of passenger trains through the large and growing Phoenix metropolitan area.” ARPA appreciates NARP’s support on this important issue.
Arizona and Amtrak West June 21st, 1998
On April 19th, the Arizona Republic reported, “Gil Mallery, president of Amtrak West, was in town Saturday morning [4/18/98] to brainstorm possibilities with [ARPA]… He said Amtrak is interested in exploring corridor travel – such as between the Valley and Los Angeles, the Valley and Tucson, and the Valley and San Diego – as well as local commuter travelâ€¦”
While Amtrak Intercity will continue to provide the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle and Southwest Chief services, Amtrak West now may begin to investigate corridor options within Arizona and between Arizona and California.
Mr. Mallery, who was in Phoenix accompanying the Diamondbacks Express train, seemed optomistic about such prospects, also noting that Talgo trainsets for the Los Angeles – Las Vegas service will be available this Fall. ARPA hopes to work with Amtrak West on an exhibit of the equipment here.
NOTE: The special train, drawn from the San Diegan service, ran from Los Angeles via Cadiz, Parker, and Wickenburg – not across the Phoenix West Line.