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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Guest Contribution: The Brazos Valley should welcome passenger rail

Amtrak+recently+proposed+new+passenger+routes+that+would+connect+Bryan+to+Dallas+and+Houston.+The+Brazos+Valley+should+welcome+Amtrak+to+the+College+Station%2FBryan+area.+%28Photo+via+70154%2FPixabay%29
Amtrak recently proposed new passenger routes that would connect Bryan to Dallas and Houston. The Brazos Valley should welcome Amtrak to the College Station/Bryan area. (Photo via 70154/Pixabay)

In 1867, the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, after years of delay, rumbled into Bryan for the first time, greeted by raucous celebrations glorifying the Brazos Valley’s newfound connections to the outside world. 

Along with economic development and community prestige, the railroad brought some unwelcome guests — most notably yellow fever — but over the following decades there was little doubt that passenger rail positively impacted this part of the Brazos Valley. College Station is named College Station after all. 

However, despite the fact that Amtrak service ended only in 1995, it feels as though the community is a millennia removed from the rails that made it. The Brazos County Council of Governments’ Board of Directors repeatedly renewed resolutions opposing Texas Central’s plans to build high speed rail in Grimes County, mainly due to ongoing property disputes. Walker and Grimes County have also been firm opponents, often claiming they do not oppose passenger rail service, merely Texas Central’s alleged disregard of property owners in developing it. 

If those opponents to high-speed rail really object to high-speed rail and high-speed rail alone, they have an opportunity to prove it. Amtrak recently released a number of proposed long-distance routes using existing rail corridors, one of which would connect Denver and Houston via Dallas-Fort Worth and, more importantly, Bryan

The Brazos Valley should welcome this proposal with open arms, as it can only benefit the area. 

For one, the Brazos Valley might be about to lose a vital transportation lifeline. Greyhound will soon close their bus terminal in downtown Dallas, which currently serves Brazos Valley customers who are unable to fly or drive. The last time I was on a Greyhound bus to the Metroplex was in October, and that bus, which left early in the morning, was packed.

Of course, Greyhound and Dallas are already in the early stages of planning a new terminal, but it is unclear how long that will take, as well as how passengers will be managed in the meantime. That could mean fewer buses and long layovers out in the elements. Nobody wants to spend three hours or longer in the middle of downtown Dallas waiting for a bus, but that may be an inevitability until a new terminal is built.

Enter Amtrak. While any route would likely only come through the Brazos Valley no more than a few times a day, trains can carry many more passengers than buses. Moreover, as it provides service to Dallas-Fort Worth and then Denver thereafter in one direction, the train would also supplement existing transportation options to Houston. With College Station losing its direct flight to Houston a few years back, that supplement could provide an important lift, particularly for short-haul travelers. 

Along with boosting intercity transportation in the Brazos Valley, Amtrak would be a boon to the local economy as Amtrak ridership boosts spending at shops, restaurants and hotels in the communities it serves. 

A 2010 study by the Texas Transportation Institute found Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer route — which serves a similar corridor between Dallas-Fort Worth and Oklahoma City — generated more than $18 million in revenue for local businesses, as well as $1.4 million in sales tax revenue for the communities it served. Studies in Michigan, Colorado and California all came to similar conclusions — more local train travel means more local business. 

Keep in mind that these numbers would almost certainly be higher for the proposed Denver-Dallas-Houston route, which would serve three major metropolitan areas and many populated communities like the Brazos Valley in between. That also assumes the Brazos Valley does not continue to grow, which it almost certainly will. In other words, a growing community could only stand to profit from train travel. 

Whether Texas Central’s Brazos Valley opponents have a leg to stand on is up for debate. But support for Amtrak’s plans to reintroduce typical passenger rail service to the Brazos Valley is an obvious win even the most die-hard high speed rail opponent should be able to acknowledge. More money and more transportation options are a win-win in almost any circumstance, but particularly for the Brazos Valley.

Garion Frankel is a Ph.D. student in PK-12 educational leadership at Texas A&M University. He is a Young Voices State Beat fellow and was previously an education journalist. 

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  • J

    Judy DickeyMar 26, 2024 at 12:40 pm

    I agree! Having a train option to get to Dallas or Houston for flights would be wonderful, and I imagine the service would get a lot of ridership for that. I hope that Amtrak ensures that stops are airport-convenient.

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  • J

    Jason JohnstonMar 25, 2024 at 12:21 pm

    This was a very well written and researched article. It would be great to have passenger rail service back in Bryan and College Station. Wouldn’t it be great to see special trains bringing people in on game days from Dallas and Houston?

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