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story.lead_photo.caption Passengers form a line Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019, as they board their train to St. Louis at the Amtrak station. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

Amtrak ridership in Missouri is down.

For the first five months of the 2020 state fiscal year (July to November) there were 70,903 Amtrak passengers statewide versus 76,929 in the same time last year (a 7.8 percent decrease), according to figures from Missouri Department of Transportation Railroad Operations Manager Bryan Ross.

"On-time performance in Missouri suffered in late summer and early fall, and ridership on the trains usually decreases when there are periods of poor on-time performance," Ross said.

The twice-daily trains between Kansas City and St. Louis began regular service on the first day of the state's fiscal year, July 1, after not being able to operate for 42 days due to flooding.

For July to November, Jefferson City had 14,519 passengers arrive and depart here vs. 17,009 for the same period last year, or a 14.6 percent decrease in ridership, according to MoDOT figures.

The biggest decrease came in November, when the number of passengers dropped by 28 percent year-over-year.

In early October, the Amtrak station at Union Hotel closed after a structural inspection of the 19th-century building determined there were significant problems.

Amtrak service and customer parking has not been disrupted, but Amtrak customers had to wait for their trains at an outdoor tent with portable toilets nearby. It wasn't until this week that a temporary Amtrak station opened in a trailer in the visitor parking area of the state-owned parking lot 3, which is adjacent to the Lohman Building at Jefferson Landing State Historic Site.

"It appears that not having an indoor passenger waiting area was a large factor in the decrease in passengers coming in and out of Jefferson City, " Ross said. "Hopefully, the passengers numbers come back up with the temporary station now in place."

The historic Union Hotel building is owned by the Office of Administration and managed in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources and Jefferson City. Missouri State Parks leases the hotel property from OA and is responsible for maintaining the property.

Results of studies on what could be done to shore up the building have yet to be finalized.

The main concern remains the north wall of the hotel, which is on the track side of the building, where a bulge in the wall has developed.

Despite the station problems, Jefferson City is still the fourth-busiest stop for the Missouri River Runner trains, with Kansas City, St. Louis and Kirkwood the top three stops.

Ross said the first round of refreshed Amtrak passenger cars is being cycled into service, and some of them have already appeared on the Missouri River Runner this fall. The cars have new upholstery and paint. That cycle of new cars is to be completed early this coming year.

Later in 2020, more new passenger cars, which are being manufactured by Siemens in Sacramento, California, will begin to be delivered. Those cars will begin to be cycled into service as they become available.

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