The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has heard back from seven passenger rail companies looking at taking over operations of the Heartland Flyer.
Amtrak currently operates the line from Oklahoma City to Dallas at an annual cost of $3.30 to Oklahoma.
Passenger rail advocate Evan Stair has been pleading with ODOT to find another carrier in an effort to save money and improve service.
“It’s time for a change in the Heartland Flyer service,” said Stair.
Corridor Capital, Erie Lackawanna, First Transit, Herzog, Iowa Pacific, PTSI Transportation, along with Amtrak, all responded to ODOT’s request for information.
Stair hopes ODOT looks to other states for examples of how changing operators has been a success.
Last year, Indiana made a change on its “Hoosier State Train” that travels from Indianapolis to Chicago.
Amtrak had solely operated the train. Now, Iowa Pacific provides the cars. The service includes food and Wi-Fi. Amtrak still provides the conductor and ticketing services.
“It’s one of the highest-rated trains in the Amtrak system. Since we made the change, we are starting to see that translate into increase ridership and revenue,” said Indiana Dept. of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield.
ODOT told News 9 its still exploring operations and doesn’t have a timeline on when or if operations of the Heartland Flyer will be put out for bid.