It’s just after 2:30 on a sweltering Friday afternoon in Independence. It’s 100 degrees outside. Amtrak’s River River, out of St. Louis this morning, normally should have made its brief stop at the Truman Depot in Independence and should be about to pull into Union Station in Kansas City.
Not today. Not yesterday. Probably not tomorrow.
The Union Pacific, whose tracks Amtrak uses between Kansas City and St. Louis, imposes speed restrictions – 40 mph for freight trains, 50 for Amtrak – when it gets really hot. It’s about safety. Heat can do funny things to tracks.
Here’s the rub: Neither the UP nor Amtrak will so much as tweet the sudden schedule changes. The Missouri Department of Transportation, which promotes Amtrak and works closely with it, doesn’t either.
The UP imposed the restrictions June 27, and suddenly the River Runner wasn’t running so fast, arriving at its destination 45 minutes, an hour, even an hour and 40 miniutes late.
The heat eased up Monday and Tuesday, and times were mostly good again. But it was danged hot on the Fourth of July – the first high of 100 on the Fourth since 1954 – and times have fallen off. It looks like 102 today and a lovely 105, maybe with rain, on Saturday, before falling back into the 90s and then 80s for at least several days.
In the meantime, we have slow trains. If you got on the afternoon train out of St. Louis on Thursday, you got far more than your scheduled five-hour-and-40-minute ride. You left St. Louis a couple of minutes late, at 4:02, and by the second stop, Washington, were 11 minutes off schedule. By Jefferson City, it was 26 minutes. By the time you should have been to Independence, 9:06, you weren’t quite to Warrensburg yet. Everything this side of Jefferson City basically ran an hour late. Arrival in Indepedence was 10:10 and Kansas City (scheduled for 9:40) was 10:31.
(Today’s morning train out of St. Louis, the one I mentioned at the outset, left on time at 9:15, according to Amtrak’s website, but times after that aren’t posted yet and there were cryptic notes about projections of 34-minute late arrivals in Lee’s Summit, Independence and Kansas City.)
OK, it happens. Safety comes first. But we live in a social media age, and pushing out a two-sentence tweet would help passengers a lot. Transparency matters. People really are understanding – if you explain what’s going on and why.
@MoRiverRunner (apparently that would be MoDOT) did acknowledge the restrictions to @kclightrail when that person retweeted my post about all this earlier in the week. But how about a heads up, folks?