December 22, 2018 - TRA Newswire -

The San Antonio city council has joined a list of cities across the southern tier states supporting a call for daily service by Amtrak's Sunset Limited, which now only runs tri-weekly through Texas and adjoining states.

The resolution, passed by the San Antonio city council this week, cited a growing southern tier population, Interstate-10 congestion and safe, affordable and reliable alternatives to automobile and air travel.

San Antonio now joins Houston and Tucson, Arizona as the latest cities that have renewed interest in having daily passenger rail service. The initiative is being led by Rail Passengers Association, the D.C. based national organization that supports better transportation options for riders and its Division Leader Bruce Ashton, who is based in San Antonio.

San Antonio's resolution of support for daily service cited statistics that showed counties within the five states served by the train have seen a population increase of 22% between 2000 and 2016, far outstripping other parts of the country. "This shows there is a need for better transportation options along the southern tier states," according to RPA's Ashton.

Amtrak's Sunset Limited at present only operates three days a week cross-country between Los Angeles and New Orleans. It serves the Texas cities of El Paso, Alpine, Sanderson, Del Rio, San Antonio, Houston and Beaumont. Even with only tri-weekly service 99,000 passengers were carried during 2017. According to statistics supplied by Rail Passengers Association some of the most heavily traveled city pairs in Texas included Los Angeles to San Antonio, Houston to New Orleans, Houston to Los Angeles, New Orleans to San Antonio, El Paso to Los Angeles and El Paso to San Antonio.

The train has been cited as important to tourism in some of the smaller towns it serves. Alpine Texas, with a population of 6,000 in sparsely populated West Texas saw over 4,000 riders through its station in 2017, many were tourists to the Big Bend area.  Sanderson is another West Texas town dependent on passenger rail service as its only surface transportation link in Pecos County. The tiny town of 837 had 173 passengers pass through in 2017.

Amtrak's daily Texas Eagle offers through service to the Sunset Limited by way of the San Antonio station. The Texas Eagle serves points north to Austin, Temple, Waco, DFW, East Texas and stops to its ultimate destination in Chicago. Creating a daily service on the Sunset route would increase ridership on the Texas Eagle as well, according to Ashton.