According to Amtrak CEO William Flynn, the national intercity passenger rail service is wanting to start new service connecting Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio together, those are the major cites within the “Texas Triangle”, the fastest growing region of the entire United States. The Texas Triangle has roughly 21 million people that live about 250 miles apart at the most. Other sizable cities within the Texas Triangle include Waco, College Station, and Killeen/Temple/Fort Hood.
Read More about the Texas Triangle Here.
As part of the Amtrak Connects US plan put forward by Amtrak which seeks to utilize the $66 billion expected from there infrastructural bill making its way through congress, Amtrak said it believes it can put at least one daily train connecting the Texas Triangle Cities. The Dallas/Fort Worth metro area is one of the fastest growing large metro areas in the U.S. gaining one million new residents over the last decade. The Houston metro area gained 1.1 million people during the same time period and is on track to become the nation’s third-largest city within 10 years, overtaking Chicago, the current third largest city. Both the DFW area and Houston area have roughly 7.5 million people each.
Amtrak said it is hoping to eventually be able to run two or three trains a day, believing there is significant growth and business travelers between the four major cites areas. San Antonio and Austin combined have approximately 4.5 million residents and they are only a 1 hour drive from each other.
Natalie Brinks, a self described railfan and economic researcher says that if Amtrak can serve the route with speeds of at least 110 mph with upgraded tracks and grade crossing like was done in Michigan for the Wolverine route and is being done in Florida on the Brightline trains, have free wifi, and put a considerably nicer fleet of passenger rail cars in service than what it has now, the Texas Triangle service could do really well. “It takes 3 hours to drive between Houston and Dallas, and about the same time to fly when you factor in your drive to the airport which can be significant depending on where in the metro areas you live, time to clear security and waiting at your gate, boarding, taxiing, flying, deplaning, getting out of the airport at your destination either by rental car or Uber or a friend and then getting to your final destination. With a train, all of that advanced arrival time is not needed, and at a high speed like 110 mph or 125 mph, you will definitely beat flying in terms of total travel time. If done right, four trains a day are realistic, Texans will use it, but if you half-ass it, Texans just won’t go for it.”
Amtrak currently operates very limited service in Texas. The Texas Eagle passes through Dallas and San Antonio daily on its way to Los Angeles, and the Sunset Limited passes through Houston and San Antonio three times a week between New Orleans and Los Angeles. There is also a state supported route called the Heartland Flyer that runs between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth.