#Rally4Trains kicks off and continues through weekend, Penn Station to annex the Farley Building, LIRR attempts to withhold Amtrak Money, San Jose City Council Approves Google Transit Village
June 23, 2017
Check Out Our Newest Hotline! NARP thanks those members who have sent in industry-related news stories, op-eds, editorials, or letters to the editor from your communities. We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Please send your news items to Bob Brady, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will continue to share it with the membership. We also ask members to send events that we can put on the website here. And please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.
Join NARP’s #Rally4Trains
The time is upon us, more than 20 cities kicked off the #Rally4Trains campaign today with a series of local events. NARP members and other rail advocates across the country are demonstrating their support for long distance passenger rail at train stations.
The rallies are a direct response to a proposed federal budget that will kill Amtrak in more than 220 cities and towns in 23 states. More than 140 million Americans are currently at risk of losing all Amtrak service under the proposed White House budget.
Confirmed rallies are taking place this week in: Albany-Rensselaer, NY; Birmingham, AL; Alpine, TX; Charlottesville, VA; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Columbus, OH; Denver, CO; Emeryville, CA; Fisher, IN; Fort Madison, IA; Fraser, CO; Granby, CO; Greenville, SC; Klamath Falls, OR; La Plata, MO; Miami, FL; New Orleans, LA; Noblesville, IN; Portland, OR; Richmond, VA; San Luis Obispo, CA; South Bend, IN; St. Paul, MN; Toledo, OH; and other locations.
This is just the start of the campaign. Rallies continue to be added and changed each day, so keep checking back. And if your community is not hosting a rally it’s not too late for you to stand up to host one -- we’ll send you everything you need, including posters, flyers, handouts, sample press releases and letters, and a list of media contacts.
Even if you cannot take part in a physical event, the most important thing to do is call your member of Congress at: 202-224-2131, and tell them you oppose this disastrous federal budget proposal. That number will allow you to connect with the people who represent you in Washington. Or, email them by visiting the www.townswithouttrains.com website, and clicking the “Contact Congress” button.
Another easy way you can participate, is to use the #Rally4Trains hashtag on your social media accounts to tell your friends and followers that you support passenger rail in America.
Federal representatives must understand that funding and maintaining a national rail network is vital to everyday life for millions of people, as well as the economic growth and prosperity of the country.
As it stands now, the proposed 2018 White House budget would slash funding not only for Amtrak, but also transit and commuter rail programs. It will cost thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs, especially in small town America. Budget cuts will place a disproportionate amount of pain on rural and working class communities who rely on rail and public transit services for everyday travel.
Several local communities have begun to take note, and highlight the detrimental impact that the proposed budget cuts will have.
- The California Zephyr and the Coast Starlight, among other lines on the West Coast are at risk of being eliminated.
- The Empire Builder Line, which travels from Chicago through most of the west coast is at risk, and rallies were held today in Wausau, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois.
- ColoRail helped to support and organize a rally in Denver at Union Station, while other rallies are to be held in Fraser, Granby, and Winter Park Colorado.
- In Sandusky, OH for example, 10,000 people every year take Amtrak’s Capitol Limited train, which runs from Washington, D.C., to Chicago.
- Southern Rail Commission Chairperson Greg White has been encouraging people to take part in the #Rally4Trains in Birmingham, AL. The Commission, along with NARP have been working with Amtrak to restore service again to the Gulf Coast for millions of people.
- The Crescent Line which operates from New York City to New Orleans, and stops at the Greenville, South Carolina Station, is one of 15 long-distance rail routes threatened by Trump’s proposal.
For more information on #Rally4Trains events, to see if your town could lose service, to sign up to volunteer to host a rally in your town, or to contact members of Congress, visit www.TownsWithoutTrains.com.
You can also download and print various posters and flyers that you can use during your local rally or to provide other rail advocates. If you need any additional information, please e-mail email@example.com.
[The Towns Without Trains and #Rally4Trains project has been made possible through generous bequests from the estates of George McCallum, Edmund Fritz and Lewis Hoppe, as well as contributions from NARP members all across America who make our work possible.]
Stories From Passengers: Nancy Ihara, Arcata, CA
“My sisters and their families live in Los Angeles. I take Amtrak to visit them. The trip involves taking an Amtrak bus, then a train, and then a bus to arrive at my destination. While the trip is a long one it is dependable and, consequently, preferable to making the same trip by plane. Planes to and from Eureka stop in San Francisco. Both Eureka and San Francisco are regularly plagued by bad weather, usually fog, which delays planes. Innumerable times I have been held up at one of the two airports and have had to deal with the anxiety that results from such a situation. More than once the solution for me has been to share a rental car with other stranded passengers adding seven or more hours to the trip, or postponing the journey until the following day which adds a day. Fortunately, I never have to deal with plane delays to and from Los Angeles. I just always take Amtrak. “
A big thanks goes to Nancy, for sharing her story! NARP is looking for more stories like Nancy’s about the National Network to help us fight the White House's proposed budget for FY2018. Facts and figures alone can’t communicate how vital these trains are to the communities that depend on them. NARP needs to hear from YOU about your town, and your train. We’ve heard from hundreds of you so far and we’re making sure they get seen in Washington...but we still need more!
If you haven’t taken part in this campaign, please take just a minute or two to write out a few paragraphs telling us why passenger rail is important to you, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re looking for stories from individual passengers about how train service benefits their lives, and how their lives would be hurt by the loss of train service. We’re especially interested in stories that describe how trains:
- Connect you to vital services, such as medical care or vital government services.
- Provide access to educational opportunities, whether it’s traveling across the state to university or commuting to an internship.
- Allow you to maintain mobility while managing a disability or medical condition.
- Help you and your business, and its role in helping you connect with customers and clients.
A big CBS News story by Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, explained the major need for dedicated funding for Amtrak and high speed rail in America. "We're decades behind our counterparts from around the world," said Deborah Hersman, CEO of the National Safety Council. In the story, Greenberg reported that Japan has had high speed trains for 50 years, while the Acela tops out at 150 mph on a small section of track. The good news, he said, is that Amtrak has ordered 28 high-speed trains for the Northeast Corridor, with the first of these scheduled to be in service by 2021.
NARP President Jim Mathews accompanied Greenberg on part of his trip on the Crescent from New York to New Orleans, providing important information and perspective about Amtrak and passenger rail service.
Similarly, an OpEd in Travel Weekly by Arnie Weissmann, identified two serious concerns that are restricting Amtrak’s growth -- lack of funding for infrastructure and the difficulties in managing the competing needs of passenger and freight rail on shared tracks.
He wrote, “A past president of Amtrak noted his funding was less than that earmarked for roadkill removal and road salt.” This is compounded by the fact that the proposed federal budget suggests funding should only go to lines which show profitability.
"You might as well ask for the interstate highway network to make money," NARP President Jim Mathews said in the piece, adding that Amtrak, “has created economic growth in small towns and communities that are struggling."
New York Gov. Cuomo’s administration recently said it has completed a $1.6-billion deal to transform the Farley Building into an annex of New York Penn Station. The Farley Building will house train halls for Amtrak and Long Island Railroad, and offer commercial and retail space.
"The Farley Building's Moynihan Train Hall is two decades in the making, and we are proud that this project is finally a reality," Cuomo said in a statement. "With better access to trains and subways and state-of-the-art infrastructure, the Moynihan Train Hall seamlessly joins history, architectural design and function, bringing the nation's busiest rail station into the 21st century."
Access to the Farley Building, which will connect underground to a western Penn Station concourse will be called Moynihan Station after the late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who came up with the idea to convert the building into a train station in the 1990s.
The Long Island Railroad threatened to withhold nearly $46 million from Amtrak as a result of the considerable repairs to occur at Penn Station later this summer. However, Amtrak CEO and President Wick Moorman told MTA Officials that this would be “in clear violation” of a long-standing agreement with the LIRR. “Refusing to pay Amtrak the money required to maintain will not solve the station’s many challenges,” Moorman said in the letter. “What it will do is harm the thousands of commuter railroad passengers who pass through the station each weekday aboard nearly 600 LIRR trains.” Withholding money from Amtrak may jeopardize LIRR’s standing and business opportunities with Penn Station. As the legal violation is clear, MTA Board members are calling for LIRR leadership to take a step back from their initial stance.
Summer by Rail 2 Conquers Ireland in 17 Days
By Cate Boyle
Taking in the entire breadth of country in a single go is a daunting task, and it's a challenge I've been thinking about as Vic and I prepare for our August journey across the U.S.
Fortunately, this month I was able to get a bit of practice in ahead of the main event. I traveled extensively around Ireland -- and what the island lacks in size it makes up in variety, with breathtaking countryside views, famous oceanside cliffs, and picturesque small towns. (Not that I'm completely unbiased, what with it being my family's homeland.) They do say good things come in pairs, and if I get a chance to conquer two breathtaking countries from coast to coast in a matter of weeks, you're not going to have to ask me twice!
There is so much to see and experience in Ireland, and it certainly cannot all be done in just a few weeks. However, if you plan it out right, you can see more than you ever imagined! During my 17 days in Ireland, I visited twenty-two of the total thirty-two counties in the country. Therefore, I’ve been able to compile a list of the five must-see attractions that I was able to take away from my trip.
1.) Ashford Castle Cong, County Mayo, Ireland
Ashford Castle is just a town over from where my Grandmother was born and therefore when visiting her home place we were able to make a visit. Not only is it a beautiful castle but the newly renovated gardens are breathtaking. The Castle is located on a famous lake that makes for incredible pictures and boating excursions. Don’t forget to stop for a cup of tea at Mrs. Tea’s Boutique and Bakery on your way out!
2.) Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is home to the Causeway Coastal Route which runs along the northern tip of the country and passes the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It is precisely what it sounds like, a rope bridge, but that does not even begin to do it justice. This was by far the most incredible activity I was able to do on this trip. The bridge connects the mainland to Carrick-a-Rede Island which was built hundreds of years ago by fisherman who were using the Island to safely lower their boats into the water away from the mainland cliffs. As we stood on the Island covered in green, we were able to watch the beautiful blue water crash up against the mainland making it the most incredible view!
3.) Titanic Museum Belfast, Northern Ireland
If you like symbolism and history, The Titanic Museum is just the place for you. I was truly amazed by the incredible detail and meaning behind every corner of the museum building itself. As recommended, we bought The White Star Premium Pass which granted us access to all the features of the museum including the Titanic Experience, Discovery Tour, and S.S. Nomadic. The pass grants you access to wander the S.S. Nomadic and to experience the last remaining White Star vessel that was used to transport passengers of the Titanic from the docks to the ship. The Discovery tour was a truly incredible experience as well. As an engineer, I admired and appreciated all the thought and effort that went into the symbolism both inside and out of the building.
4.) Granny’s Bottom Drawer Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland
Kinsale was a highly recommended stop on my trip and for a good reason. It was magical, between the charm of the small fishing town to the bustle of the shops and pubs. While I was wondering around the town, I came across a beautiful little shop which, caught my eye with its bright colors and name ‘Granny’s Bottom Drawer.' Upon entering I found that it was a gold mine, some of the most beautiful and authentic knit clothing were inside calling my name. My experience here was one of a kind; I was given a detailed explanation of the different knit patterns and their meanings that represented this small fishing town. Kinsale took my breath away and made for an amazing experience not to mention the amazing local seafood is a MUST!
5.) The Promenade Salthill, County Galway, Ireland
Galway is known for its busy city center, live music, dancing, and always having a great time. However, there are also some more hidden gems throughout the city. Located in Salthill, which means ‘the road by the sea’ in Irish, the Promenade is a walking path that runs along the coast of the Galway Bay. During this three mile stroll, you can look out onto the Galway Bay and see the Aran Islands, the Burren in County Clare, and the mountains of Connemara. As you finish the Promenade walk or the ‘Prom’ as locals call it, heading from Galway City towards Salthill, you complete the journey as all good things do in Ireland with an old local tradition. There is a stone wall at the end of the 3-mile journey, and you must kick the wall for good luck. Locals say “You haven't walked the Prom unless you've kicked the wall at the end."
Ireland’s Bike Sharing system seems to be popping up all over the country in many of the major cities as well. I visited one bike station in Galway city that has a very similar system to what we use in America. In Galway city, there are many small streets, cute alleyways and The Promenade made for a beautiful scenic bike ride!
Traveling across the Atlantic Ocean for an adventure seems to be the trend right now. But we seem to be forgetting all the incredible things we can do and see in our own backyard! The Summer By Rail 2 journey will kick off on July 30th and Victoria and I will be able to highlight all the amazing experiences that can be made in America! This trip to Ireland has prepared me for not only time away from home, but lengthy travel days and exciting adventures!
Massachusetts State Sen. Eric Lesser spent Monday of this week advocating for the growth of passenger rail in his state, with hopes of creating high-speed rail service between Springfield and Boston. Sen. Lesser began his “Whistle Stop” tour in Boston and was joined at the first stop by state Sens. Linda Dorcena Forry and Joseph Boncore. Sen. Lesser ended his tour at Springfield’s Union Station.
"More than bringing economic development to communities outside of Boston, high-speed east-west rail would go a long way toward solving Boston's housing crisis by offering a faster commute to the city from areas with more affordable housing," Lesser said.
The high-speed rail project is growing support, as business leaders and the public see the economic benefits associated with the project.
"This is why this proposal continues to receive unanimous support in the Senate and is gaining support from the business community and others across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who see its potential," he said.
The next steps for the project include conducting a feasibility study to understand its scope and likelihood of completion.
The San Jose City Council recently approved Google’s plan, in a 10 to 1 vote, to remake downtown into a “transit-centered” Google Village. The Council agreed to, “exclusively negotiate,” 16 city-owned parcels with Google, with the hopes of bringing nearly 20,000 new jobs to the area.
“This is a once-in-a-century opportunity,” for San Jose, Kim Walesh, the city’s economic development director, told the council. “This is a dramatic opportunity to expand the downtown core westward.”
The development of a project like this has some major economic benefits for the area. The Transit Village is expected to bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue, and some believe that nearly 3,000 housing units could be built as a result of the influx of jobs. If Google receives the go-ahead on construction, they plan to build between 6 million and 8 million square feet of offices and other spaces in the downtown area.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo wrote in a memo to the city, “With major transportation investments on the horizon — including BART, high-speed rail, bus rapid transit, and an electrified Caltrain — Diridon Station will become the ‘Grand Central Station’ of the West Coast.”
Upcoming Regional NARP and State Passengers Association Member Meetings
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a local, state or regional meeting added to the NARP calendar of upcoming events!
Passenger rail service in the Midwest received some well-deserved support on Thursday as Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) officials said they plan to work closely with states along the route between Chicago and the Quad Cities. "(For) a portion of it, we've been able to get those investments in place. When we've hit the short line (railroad) territory, things have been a little more difficult. But we're working through that with the state and you have our commitment to continue working with the state on it," said Paul Nissenbaum, Associate Administrator of Railroad Policy and Development for the FRA. This is a great sign for the expansion and preservation of passenger rail network, but for this route to prosper, Illinois and Iowa must do their part to direct the necessary investment and resources towards the route.
Louisiana officials remain hopeful that the passenger rail project connecting New Orleans and Baton Rouge will stay on track. State officials expected a gas tax increase to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects. However, the tax failed to be passed into law by the state legislature at the end of May. Despite the failure, the rail project is still at the beginning stages and has enough support to continue development.
Shawn Wilson, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development secretary said the Federal government will fund about $260 million of the project, while Louisiana, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge will have to allocate the rest.
For now, the project remains a priority. But, it will take longer than previously expected to complete, leaving passengers hungry for an easy way to travel between the cities.
Registration is NOW Open For NARP’s 2017 RAIL NATION CHICAGO Passenger Rail EXPO And 50th Anniversary Celebration - Chicago, IL
- Thursday, November 2 to Sunday, November 5, 2017
- Four days packed with an exciting array of presentations, speakers, exhibits, tours, and events
- Celebrating NARP’s accomplishments over the past 50 years and looking ahead to the future of passenger rail in the United States
- Host Hotel: Millennium Knickerbocker
The White House wants to encourage greater foreign investment into the U.S. infrastructure through public-private partnerships. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the Administration’s infrastructure package will rely heavily on both domestic and foreign investment. “Working with foreign investors is going to be a critical part of any plan we put forward,” Mnuchin said at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington. "Public-private partnerships are crucial to ensuring that the American taxpayer does not bear the full cost of any proposed program."
Earlier this year Japan expressed interest in investing in the infrastructure plan by buying debt issued by American companies, resulting in $150 billion in private and public over 10 years.
A New Mexico passenger rail study examining the potential service between Las Cruces and El Paso found that the population was large enough to sustain the route. “The study reveals how people will use the commuter service, which impediments or problems the commuter service may have, and will be helpful for a proposed service plan,” said David Chandler, director of market research and innovation at Chicago-based CNT and project manager for the commuter rail study. “A rail service would be a fixed, permanent anchor (of transportation) and would operate on the same track as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, one of the largest freight railroads in the United States.” The study was created using State funding of $50,000 to do two public meetings and an online survey in April 2016 that received more than 1,000 responses. Local advocates believe the study creates a dialogue to help plan for what the transportation network will look like in the next 25 years.
NARP Office Move Update
NARP’s new offices are a launching pad for advocacy activities in Washington, D.C. Easily accessible from the Metro Center Metro station and steps from Capitol Hill and the White House, the new offices offer a state-of-the-art conference space that enhance the effectiveness of advocacy for passenger rail in America.
The 2,000-square-foot location at 1200 G Street, NW, Suite 240, Washington, D.C. 20005 is fully ADA-compliant so that members with mobility challenges can easily and safely visit the new offices. The building also offers bike-friendly lockers and 24-hour security.
Stay tuned for more details regarding open houses and a planned ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Construction on the Roanoke Amtrak Station in Virginia is underway. Construction began earlier this year and continues to progress. Amtrak expects to add service to Roanoke later this fall. In order to add this stop to the Northeast corridor route, engineers, conductors, and other crew members must familiarize themselves with the extra 60 miles of track. In the next few months, qualifying trains will operate along the route two times per weekday with no passengers.
Mark your calendars for July 12! Amtrak and President CEO Wick Moorman will speak at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. to discuss the challenges facing passenger rail in the U.S.
Moorman will talk about the repairs to New York's Penn Station and other needed infrastructure projects, and how they relate to Trump’s proposed infrastructure projects. To learn more head over to the National Press Club’s website.
There are openings for state representatives on the NARP Council of Representatives, including one each in Alabama; Arizona; Hawaii; Idaho; Indiana; Missouri; North Carolina; North Dakota: Ohio, Texas, Virginia (2 openings) and Wyoming. There is also one ‘At-Large’ Representative position currently available. Check out the full, up-to-date, list of current vacancies here.
If you want to become more active in NARP’s leadership and work, this is your opportunity to become involved. If you are interested in being considered for an appointment to an open state seat or to the ‘At-Large’ position by the Board of Directors please visit review these position responsibilities and required qualifications and complete the corresponding Candidate Information Statement. There is no deadline to apply...submissions are considered as they are received.