This is a really hard review to write. Not because everything about the experience is wrong, but because there were so many things that were right….yet the things wrong were so glaring. In addition, there were some heated political and ethic (pertaining to the disabled) debates the could have impacted on the evening/future of the business.
To begin with, I will outline some some history –
The Columbia Star Dinner train was originally built in 1938 in California to run as a passenger train but was rebuilt in 1987 to operate as a dinner train, which is important…as you will see later. It served as a dinner train in Michigan until 2003 and around June 2010 the dinner train’s operator (Central States Rail Associates) began tabling the idea of bring the train to CoMO.
Later that year, the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau dedicated $45K to the company as an attempt to offset costs and further lure the Dinner Train to Columbia, believing that it would also bring tourist dollars from St. Louis and Kansas City to the community. An additional $20K was dedicated to the upgrade of existing train station's facilities there on Brown Station Road.
The proposed new business did not progress without some bumps along the way. First, there was the disabled community (organized by the Mid-Missouri Advocacy Coalition) here in Columbia, who protested that the train cars were not Handicapped accessible….ignoring the fact that this had been an operational dinner train from 1987 (being properly vetting to be complaint with the law since that time) and was exempt from the requirements of FTA Title 37, specifically by Sec . 37.107 due to the historic nature and age of the train.
Secondly, there was the subculture that believes that $65K in Tax funds should not have been allocated to a private business.
Me personally, I think the first case is a mute point….it is exempt and was 100% a business decision by the Central States Rail Associates not bring in the handicapped accessible car to CoMO. A further (interesting) read, can be found in the Columbia Missourian (HERE), which highlights that the $175K for an additional handicapped car would be “excessive and unreasonable burden on our new business.” and explains they had written to the City Council back in 2010 highlighting this and their exemption.
I can agree with the second part, regarding use of Tax Dollars, however…this was a decision by your local elected officials of CoMO. Rather than attempting hurt the business (that brought several jobs to the community, instead take your complaint to the Council…particularly in the ballot box.