Read our article on the study here.
March 10, 2023
On behalf of the Nevada Rail Coalition, I want to thank and support the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak and its partners in taking on the crucial Amtrak Long Distance Service Study.
Established in 2021, the Nevada Rail Coalition is a citizen-based initiative that brings together unions, environmental organizations, passenger/freight rail advocacy associations, social justice organizations, and community associations for the purpose of building an expanded, robust rail system in Nevada and
neighboring states as the keystone of a low-carbon, environmentally sustainable and socially just transportation system. Here is a link to our website
The Nevada Rail Coalition offers below our recommendations, and the reasons for them, for improvements to the California Zephyr route and the restoration of the Desert Wind between Los Angeles and Denver.
Restore the Desert Wind between Los Angeles and Denver
As shown in the chart below, the three major intermountain western cities formerly served by the Desert Wind have grown substantially since the service was discontinued in 1997.
Population growth 1997-2022: Intermountain West cities served by former Desert Wind
|City||1997 Population||2022 Population||% Growth 1997-2002|
|Las Vegas||392,074||2.839 million||724%|
|Salt Lake City||171,588||1.203 million||701%|
Las Vegas – Nevada’s largest city, home to 87% of the state’s population, and a destination for 38.8 million visitors annually – currently has no passenger rail service at all. Restoration of the Desert Wind will provide key access to long-distance rail transportation for a growing, diverse population now critically unserved by passenger rail.
A restored Desert Wind would also serve currently unserved rural towns in Nevada and parts of Utah, or, in eastern Utah and Colorado, rural communities served only by one daily California Zephyr. The route between Denver, CO and Glenwood Springs, CO is the top long-distance station pair serving a small community by volume of annual trips, and the route between Glenwood Springs, CO and Granby, CO, is one of the top ten station pairs connecting two small communities. These statistics, taken from FRA’s slide show about the Amtrak Long Distance Service Study prepared for regional working groups [slides 123 and 124], show significant existing demand for services to and between rural communities in the intermountain west.
Improvements to California Zephyr Route
Service to Rural Communities
The daily California Zephyr, though designed as and designated a long-distance route, is a critical transportation resource to residents of the small towns of northern Nevada. As in many rural areas in the US, northern Nevada towns are underserved – if even served at all – by public transportation. According to Nevada’s State Rail Plan, “following Greyhound Lines’ abandonment in 2018 of its parallel services, Amtrak represents the only public transport option between these cities [of northern Nevada].” So residents who do not own an automobile or are unable to drive use the Zephyr to access key services – including medical visits – in cities to the east and west along the Zephyr route.
To enhance service to Nevada’s rural communities, we request that
- The FRA/Amtrak consider adding two California Zephyr stops in northern Nevada, in Wendover and Lovelock.
- Amtrak make the improvements outlined in Nevada’s State Rail Plan including improvements to existing Amtrak stops in Elko to make the trains more safely and conveniently accessible to disabled and elderly passengers. [Nevada State Rail Plan, Page 3-6]
- Amtrak expands California Zephyr service to twice daily.
Service to California
Northern Nevada has a growing population and a rapidly expanding economy:
- Population in Washoe County, NV, which includes the cities of Reno and Sparks, grow 15% from 2010-2022. Other communities in northern Nevada -Carson City, Douglas County, Fallon – also grew by about 15% in that time period.
- The student population of the University of Nevada, Reno, grew from 17,679 to 20,722 from 2010 to 2022. This includes a substantial non-Nevada-resident student population. According to the Reno Gazette Journal, “In five years, UNR’s nonresident undergraduate enrollment has more than doubled.”
- Northern Nevada is seeing rapid growth in jobs. According to the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, in 2022, 27 companies relocated or expanded their workforce in Greater Reno-Sparks. “The companies will add a combined 2,263 new jobs, at a record average wage of $32.67, along with 12 new headquarters.”
This growing population is not adequately served by one daily California Zephyr. Accordingly, we request that California Zephyr service be expanded to twice daily. Further, though we understand that it is outside the scope of this study since it is not a route at least 750 miles long, we request that FRA/Amtrak work with California’s Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, the Nevada Department of Transportation, and the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission to expedite the extension of the existing Capitol Corridor passenger train service to Reno.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Co-chair, Nevada Rail Coalition