The city of Live Oak is campaigning to win over the influence of Amtrak and the Southern Rail Commission to make the city an active stop for passengers.
Since the inspection train rolled through Live Oak in February, city officials have started a campaign called All Aboard Live Oak to convince Amtrak and the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) that the city would be a preferred stop.
Before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the Sunset Limited Line carried passengers from New Orleans to Jacksonville. The hurricane stopped service indefinitely because of extensive damage to a portion of the line. The main line from New Orleans, Louisiana to Mobile, Alabama was hit the hardest, Live Oak Councilman Keith Mixon said.
Three years after the storm, Congress passed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), which made Amtrak develop plans to restore and improve rail service between New Orleans and Sanford.
Even before Hurricane Katrina, though, the Sunset Limited was one of Amtrak’s least efficient routes, yielding a loss of $433 per passenger, according to a passenger and rail initiative by the Florida Department of Transportation.
Live Oak’s campaign for the stop uses social media, word of mouth, brochures and posters to spread its message around the city, spokeswoman Brianna Barnebee of Oppenheim Research in Tallahassee said.
The main way to show Amtrak and the SRC that Live Oak is a viable option is through the petition on the campaign’s website. So far, the petition has 758 signatures, but the campaign is hoping for over 2,000 signatures.
“This will be a way for us to collect signatures and show Amtrak and the Southern Rail Commission that we have this many people already interested,” Barnebee said.
A group called the Gulf Coast Working Group was established by the SRC to evaluate the restoration of the passenger rail service between New Orleans and Orlando, according to the Southern Rail Commission’s website.
The campaign has made it a priority to be informed on all the ins and outs of the process by even attending the preliminary meetings of the working group.
“We want to be a constant presence,” Barnebee said.