Traveling from Kansas City to St. Louis is typical done by car or by plane but there is another option: Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner. It is a train that runs between the cities twice a day. It is a shame that more people do not use the cost effective service from Amtrak to be honest.
When I needed to go to St. Louis, I looked at it and realized it was by far the best option. There is no way I could drive for the price and being on the train for a few hours is a much more comfortable ride. I wanted a painless trip to the gateway to the West!
It is also seems that Amtrak has stepped up their game and is competing directly with the airlines. They even have their own rewards program now. It is called Amtrak Guest Rewards. I have to admit getting a free gift card to Panera Bread just from using the train to travel the country is amazing!
All is all, I was able to book the train right on their website without any trouble just a few days ahead for just a little over $30. I just showed up at Union Station in Kansas City early in the morning and relax for the lazy Sunday morning.
My experience with Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner
I used the KC Streetcar and arrived at the Union Station of Kansas City about 6:45am to make sure that I had enough time. In reality, there was no need to be there before 7:50. I waited in the waiting room and talked with someone going to Chicago about football and things to past the time.
After boarding the train, the conductor came around and scanned everyone’s ticket using QR codes. It is really simple and he just moved on to the next person. That was the last I would see of them for several hours (until they needed me to move to load someone’s bike).
The train itself was just a few cars for people to sit in and there was one at the back of the line for getting snacks and drinks. Besides that, it was just time to sit back and enjoy the journey on Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner.
The trip itself includes quick stops in Independence, Lee’s Summit, Warrensburg, Sedalia, Jefferson City, Herrmman, Washington, Kirkwood and then into St. Louis. Each stop is only 2-3 minutes for people get off and on the train. There is no layovers on the way.
Every row does have 120v plugins so I was able to charge my laptop and the wifi that Amtrak offers for free is not that bad. When I tested it, I was getting about 3MBPS. There was some blind spots along the way but nothing too serious. When I hit them, I have Call of Duty to pass the time.
At about 1:45 in the afternoon, we pulled into St. Louis’s Gateway Terminal that houses both Amtrak and Greyhound. They also have the city’s LTR and bus services just outside the building.
Scheduling is key!
The biggest challenge that I see to make it work is making sure you can travel in the morning or evening. As there is only two trips a day, it make it hard to use sometimes. Greyhound has about half a dozen trips to St. Louis and airlines are flying over every hour. Amtrak just does not have the trips for the customers at this point.
The other thing is if you are not going to Jefferson City but Columbia (where the University of Missouri is), you will have to try and get to the university. Jefferson City is about 30 miles south of the school. There is a few buses that run to Columbia for under $20 though.
The bottom line is that Amtrak really need to add more trips to the route and needs to bring Columbia into the path it takes. I understand the logic behind Jefferson City (especially since the State of Missouri finances the route) but having the University city off it is just smart for business.
I am not sure what they would need to do to develop more trips to make it where a train was leaving every six hours or so but that would make it much more competitive with Greyhound and the airlines. I am a big supporter of Amtrak so I want to see this made into something usable by the masses.
In the mean time, we still do have the two trips every day and they are on time and cheap!
Is Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner for you?
If you want a cheap way to relax as you cross the state of Missouri, it is. If you prefer to be crapped up on a Greyhound seeing road signs on I-70, this wouldn’t be the thing for you. The other reason it might not work is you are going to the few towns that it services (like Columbia).
Currently, the prices between Amtrak and Greyhound on a given day is about $4. I do not know about you but comfortablity and a better view is worth the extra that wouldn’t even buy a cup at Parena’s Bread.
One other thing to consider if you are going to or from Kansas City is the access to downtown or the airport. You can quickly board the KC Streetcar for free and connect with the #229 to the airport from Union Station. Greyhound is not as easy to do that with.
All in all, I highly suggest using the Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner when going to St. Louis and it is why I used it myself. I can’t say enough good things about it. It was that good.
If you have used it, I would love to hear about your experience and if you have questions, feel free to comment and ask me, I will do my best to answer your questions.
Here is a video about my trip on Youtube. I hope you enjoy it. I sure did.