BY TOM ELMORE
Every few years we have to deal with the Daily Oklahoman’s persistent and apparently deliberate misrepresentation of Heartland Flyer financial performance.
Remember with me that when The Flyer came to Oklahoma in 1999, it arrived in the company of a $23 million grant from Amtrak – and a plan to make the train self-supporting from “day-one” via immediate extension to Kansas City where a revenue-producing First Class Mail Contract was waiting.
What on earth happened to that plan? The Oklahoman’s beloved bunch of highway-lobby money hogs at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation happened to it – as Gary Ridley mentor Neal McCaleb cut the proposed route off at OKC, killed the mail contract and several other prospects for lucrative express freight carriage [First Class Mail and Express Freight were the successful and sustaining revenue streams that always made the old commercial passenger rail network possible] and then proceeded to eat up the $23 million grant in less than four years, quite deliberately transforming the train into a subsidy case.
ODOT – and nobody but ODOT did this – quite clearly so that at some future date, the Columbia Journalism Review’s “worst newspaper in America” could go right back to its calculated misrepresentation of the situation.
Why would the Oklahoman do this? Look at the preponderance of its advertisements and its sustaining revenue stream. Yep. Automobiles – whether Oklahoma’s aging population can safely and comfortably operate them, or not. Yep. Oklahomans have “choice.” They can have any form of transportation that they want – just as long as it also feeds the Oklahoman.
– Tom Elmore is executive director of the Oklahoma City-based North American Transportation Institute and an occasional contributor to The Oklahoma Observer