NARP Speaks on STB Hearing; Amtrak Knew of Failures at Penn Station; LA Metro Releases Kindness Campaign; Rick Harnish of MWHSR to Moderate RailNation Session
October 13, 2017
We Need Your ‘Nose For News’! When you see rail-related news stories, op-eds, editorials, or letters to the editor in your communities, send them along to us! We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Send your news items to Bob Brady, email@example.com, and we will continue to share it with the membership. Are you holding a rally, a community meeting, or another kind of rail-advocacy event? We can help spread the word if you send them to us. We can put on the website here. And please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.
RailNation Chicago Update: Rick Harnish to Moderate Panel on Phased Network Approach For U.S. High Speed Rail Development on Friday, November 3
Rick Harnish is the Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, which he helped found in 1993. Harnish will be moderating a panel on Friday morning, November 3rd that will discuss the Phased Network Approach, which has been used throughout the world, but has never been proposed in North America. Outdated safety regulations, combined with splintered planning jurisdictions, have made it infeasible in the USA. This is about to change. New regulations will allow high-speed trains to travel at very high-speeds on dedicated track and operate at slower speeds on freight track. The new regulations will also make all new trains safer, more cost-effective and more attractive to passengers.
To attend this session Register For RailNation TODAY. Learn more about RailNation Chicago speakers, events and activities. You can also read more about RailNation Chicago below.
During this week’s Surface Transportation Board public listening session on CSX Transportation’s rail service meltdown, NARP President Jim Mathews warned regulators that a legislative fix will be required to ensure that passengers are able to enjoy the full rights granted to them under current law.
“It’s often said that passenger trains serve as the canary in the coalmine for railroad operations—when host operations degrade, passengers are the first to notice and suffer disproportionately,” Mathews told Acting Chairman Ann Begeman and Board Member Deb Miller. “This is true of the recent CSX service degradations, and while we’re deeply sorry that CSX freight customers face these troubles, we welcome allies in the fight to restore service quality. With that fact in mind, our organization is sounding an alarm—not just about CSX’s network, but about host railroads across the National Network.”
“Unfortunately, many host railroads have demonstrated repeatedly that when there is insufficient enforcement of their statutory obligation to grant preferential dispatching to Amtrak trains, they will default to treating passengers as simply another form of freight. Without some kind of action, this will happen again—and is already happening… The evidence is in, and self-regulation hasn’t worked,” Mathews went on to say. “[We] believe Congress needs to step in and expressly delegate regulation of on-time performance to the Federal Railroad Administration, and needs to define that OTP as all-stations OTP. We’re advocating for Congress to strengthen protections for passengers by enshrining metrics and standards into law, and providing clear thresholds that will allow Amtrak to trigger STB investigations into dispatching practices. These investigations should have clearly defined timelines and, in the event of findings of malpractice, meaningful and significant consequences.”
It was point that was echoed in testimony given by CSX’s own CEO, Hunter Harrison.
“Amtrak…we need to…live up to the contracts... We need to do what we say we’re going to do,” Harrison admitted, before adding: “Now, do freight railroaders love Amtrak? No, probably not. And the groups, to some degree, clash, because it’s almost designed that way. You know you’re not, in my view, you’re not going to solve the problem with Amtrak in some public-private partnership unless there’s something in it for somebody.”
NARP believes that common-sense metrics and standards to quantify quality service, combined with effective oversight, can ensure that host railroads have skin in the game—and that passengers get to their destinations on-time.
Following an intensive review of Amtrak records and interviews with past and current employees (engineers and executives, as well as federal and state representatives) The New York Times provides inside details of Amtrak’s New York Penn Station maintenance plan, highlighting internal disagreement over whether to prioritize politically popular expansion and modernization plans over critical but unglamorous track maintenance.”
“To prioritize station improvements over critical track maintenance jeopardizes the safety of the millions of intercity and commuter passengers who travel along the Northeast Corridor and through Penn Station each year,” said NARP CEO Jim Mathews. “But the U.S. is the richest country in the world, and we have the capacity to plan for the future and preserve current service. These problems are decades in the making, and it will take a lot of hard work to solve them. Congress and the states of New York and New Jersey must increase rail investment today to address these critical issues.”
Amtrak officials have said they the recent infrastructure breakdowns will likely mean more service shutdowns and disruptions to allow the kind of intensive maintenance work they performed over the summer, which newspapers colorfully dubbed “the Summer of Hell.”
“We’ve got a lot more work to do, and there’s a lot to catch up on,” said Amtrak Chair Anthony Coscia. “The work we’ve done is hardly the cure for everything that ails Penn Station.”
Repairs at Penn Station and along the NEC are critical to the region and the U.S. economy as a whole, and NARP’s Jim Mathews emphasized the importance of the federal government funding the national rail network in an Op-Ed in The Hill. The Op-Ed emphasizes the points made in the Association’s new economic report, “Dismantling a National Transportation Network,” which focuses on how cutting train service nationwide would disportionately affect low income households in communities across the country.
The report and the Op-Ed, also counters the Administration’s false belief that other forms of transportation in the U.S., do not receive federal subsidies. On the contrary, highways and the aviation network received billions of dollars.
Like our network of roads, the U.S. aviation system is supplemented by infusions from the general treasury fund. The price of an airline ticket might make it profitable for an airline to carry you from Point A to Point B, but the federal excise taxes on that ticket don’t cover the full cost of our national aviation system. The annual revenue from aviation excise taxes tends to rise and fall with the health of our economy and demand for air travel, so the extent to which supplemental funding is needed varies from year to year. Between FY 2012 and FY 2016, the trust fund provided between 71% and 93% of the Federal Aviation Administration’s total appropriations, with the remainder coming from the general fund of the U.S. Treasury. In FY 2016 alone, some $2 billion of general funds were transferred from the general fund.
The Op-Ed, “Don’t Cut Trains, Invest in Them: Killing Passenger Rail Would Hurt ‘Flyover Country’” is available online at The Hill.
Registration is filling fast for NARP’s 2017 RAIL NATION CHICAGO Passenger Advocacy EXPO And 50th Anniversary Celebration this November in Chicago, IL
Thursday, November 2 to Sunday, November 5, 2017
Don’t Miss Out...Four days packed with an exciting array of presentations, speakers, panels, exhibits, tours, excursions and events highlighting the future of passenger rail in the United States and celebrating NARP’s 50th Anniversary. You’ll hear DIRECTLY from leaders shaping the future of passenger rail, here in the U.S. and worldwide!
An Amtrak Culinary Demonstration, a passenger-rail jobs fair and fun exhibits, too!
Seats are filling fast on the three Saturday, November 4th, Chicago to Milwaukee Rounds-Trips using Milwaukee Road Super Dome #53! We expect the Dome Car trips to sell out fast. Buy your trip tickets TODAY!
Registered RailNation Attendees can purchase discounted trip tickets HERE!
Starting today, these exclusive dome car trips are open to the general public too. Purchase your tickets HERE!
Don’t miss the Fabulous 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner on Saturday Evening, November 4
The Celebration Dinner program will include:
A Prominent Keynote Speaker
A Salute To NARP Founder Tony Haswell
A Look Back At The Past 50 Years And To Those Who Have Given Their Blood, Sweat & Tears To NARP's Cause
The Inaugural Presentation Of The Ross Capon Passenger Citizenship Award (Given To Individuals That Demonstrate Exceptional Leadership, Initiative Or Passion In Citizen Advocacy)
Celebration Dinner Attendees Will Receive A Special Commemorative Memento!
The COMPLETE detailed program agenda is now available on the event page!
By popular demand, a reduced registration rate for students and young advocates (30 and under) has now been added.
Host Hotel: Millennium Knickerbocker - E. Walton Place at N. Michigan Ave. Discounted hotel reservations are now closed! Regular rate rooms are available.
Visit the Event Webpage for complete information, the up-to-date agenda & details Or call the NARP Office 202-408-8362 for assistance.
Confirmed And Invited Speakers:
Richard Anderson - Co-President/CEO - Amtrak - Confirmed for Thursday, Nov. 2
Étienne Tricaud - CEO & Co-Founder - AREP - Keynote Address Thursday AM, Nov. 2
Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts (Expected)
Hon. John Robert Smith - Board Chair - Transportation for America
Joseph Szabo - Executive Director - Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
Daniel Elliott III - Vice-Chair - Surface Transportation Board
Jim Wrinn - Editor - Trains Magazine
Ian Jefferies - Senior Vice-President Government Affairs - Association of American Railroads
Tim Keith - President - Texas Central Partners
Henry Posner III - Chairman - Railroad Development Corporation
Bob Johnston - Passenger Rail Columnist - Trains Magazine
Chef Daniel Malzhan - Corporate Executive Chef - Amtrak
Karen Hedlund - Director Public-Private Partnerships - WSP - Parsons Brinckerhoff
Richard Harnish - Executive Director - Mid-West High Speed Rail Association
Prof. Anthony Perl - Simon Fraser University
Travel by Train to NARP’s 2017 Passenger Rail EXPO And 50th Anniversary Celebration
Don’t miss out! There’s still time to book your seat on the PV Dearing following our 50th Anniversary Celebration and November Passenger Rail EXPO in Chicago. Space is available from Huntington, West Virginia to Chicago on the Cardinal and from Chicago to Washington after the meeting on the Capitol Ltd. The Cardinal will arrive in Chicago on November 2nd. If you have any questions about pricing and accommodations please reach out to Betsy Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With an increase in ridership for intercity rail lines and growing demand for high speed rail, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) issued a new report that examines the appropriate framework for determining the return on investment associated with these modes of transit. In APTA’s report, ‘Framework for Assessing the ROI for High-Speed and Intercity Rail Projects’ the association’s High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee takes into account the full range of effects that these types of rail lines can have on an area. It also looks at how project investment benefits are measured, and what are the best benefit and cost elements to consider when measuring ROI. The report also examines the growth of intercity passenger rail in the U.S. - specifically Amtrak which most recently reported an annual ridership of more than 31 million in 2016, which is 1.5 times what it was in 2000.
“For communities to get a complete picture of high-speed and intercity passenger rail and its benefits, the analysis should involve a combination of methods including a cost-benefit, an economic impact, and a social impact analysis,” said Anna Barry of the Connecticut DOT and the Chair of the APTA High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee in an APTA press release. “This study brings important measurement elements together which will help reveal the true value of these rail projects.”
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), has released a new campaign that encourages riders to be more polite and have good manners towards one another. The idea of the campaign is not so new, as people can often be unfriendly when they are in a hurry or in a crowded rail car, but what sets the campaign apart is its Japanese style. The series of three videos feature a furry creature named Rude Dude, and Super Kind, a Japanese pop superstar/ superhero who rides Metro and comes in to stop Rude Dude from being so rude to other riders.
Mike Diva, a YouTube director, created the videos for Metro, and said, “The initial pitch from client was just a superhero named Super Kind who teaches people etiquette, and at the end of each spot, the riders on the Metro would say, ‘Thanks, Super Kind!' Needless to say, it’s changed a lot since then. Props to the marketing team for letting me go nuts with this.”
There are three spots for the campaign, with each one focusing on a different issue that LA Metro wants riders to address. The three areas are: Aisle Blocking, Seat Hogging, and Eating on the train.
Videos are available on Metro’s YouTube page.
The new “Rally For Trains” economic report is out and contains an array of stats and data that can bolster advocacy efforts for passenger rail in America. The report details how cutting funding for trains will hurt America, especially in rural areas with lower household incomes. It shows why expanding funding for passenger rail will be a boon for our national and local economy. Feel free to pick out data and share it on social media with the #rallyfortrains hashtag.
Sharing photos at your station or in your town on Facebook or Instagram is another easy and free way to keep the pressure on Congress to ask for funding for rail passengers! At the end of your post, insert #Rally4Trains, just as you see it spelled here. That ensures that everyone’s messages and pictures are gathered in one place for everyone to see online!
As always, you can call Congress at: 202-224-2131, and tell them you support funding rail in America. That number will allow you to connect with the people you elected to represent you in Washington. Or, email them by visiting the www.townswithouttrains.com website, and clicking the “Contact Congress” button.
[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 financial contributions from NARP members all across America who make our work possible.]
WSP USA has joined companies Fluor Enterprises and Lane Construction Corporation as part of the team that will help Texas Central Partners bring a high-speed rail line in between Houston and Dallas. Texas Central said in a press release that WSP will provide engineering support on the project, which is currently in is pre-construction phase. WSP currently has dozens of full-time personnel working on the HSR project, assisting both Fluor and Lane
“We are excited to partner with WSP, a company that has been involved in many iconic transportation projects around the world,” Texas Central CEO Carlos Aguilar said in a release. “This further demonstrates the attention the Texas Bullet Train has received from world-class firms with such scale and experience.”
WSP has worked on several passenger rail projects, including work in Texas in 1886, when William Barclay Parsons served as chief engineer of the Fort Worth and Rio Grande Railroad. Since that time, WSP has worked on HSR projects in Taiwan, California, China, the United Kingdom, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
The U.S. Department of Transportation currently only requires a five-panel drug test of marijuana, cocaine and PCP, for safety-sensitive transportation workers, but the Trump Administration is moving forward with a proposal that would require the testing of opioids. If approved, the new legislation would have some passenger rail engineers be tested, as well as pilots, air traffic controllers, truck drivers and other employees who are subject to federal drug and alcohol testing regulations. The proposal comes after years of increased use in prescription painkillers by employees in the transportation industry. Most recently, two maintenance workers who were struck and killed by an Amtrak train last year while working on the track tested positive for cocaine and oxycodone.
Pressure for revised testing regulations has also come from Democrats in the House who wrote a letter to the administration and encouraged action. “We are in the midst of a prescription opioid crisis in America,” Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said in a letter to USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao. “In 2016 alone, it is estimated that 11.8 million Americans engaged in opioid misuse.”
Upcoming Regional NARP and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events
Wednesday, November 8 - Vermont Rail Action Network Annual Dinner and Awards - Rutland, VT - Full details to be announced!
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a local, state or regional meeting added to the NARP calendar of upcoming events!
Amtrak has revealed the livery of its new fleet of Alstom Avelia Liberty high-speed trains, which will enter passenger service in 2021. Since Amtrak first released images of the new Acela trains in 2016, the livery has changed with the blue color now matching Amtrak’s blue, and the black has disappeared. There is also more white added to the train’s livery, which gives it a cleaner look. Once the trains are up and running, Amtrak will have 28 new trains, which will replace the current 20-train Acela fleet. A prototype Acela Liberty is scheduled to begin testing in 2019, with the fleet entering revenue service in 2021. The entire fleet is due to enter service by the end of 2022, enabling the withdrawal of the current Acela fleet along the NEC.
In Rochester, NY Amtrak opened a new downtown station that was 15 years in the making. Planning and development of the station lasted more than 15 years due to uncertainty with design and funding, but persistence from rail advocates and local officials paid off when the station opened last Friday. The new station, which was built on the site of the previous Rochester stations, is spacious and includes high ceilings, skylights and large arched windows, with two spaces for small retailers to take up shop.
The most notable feature of the new station is how passengers will be able to enter and exit trains. The old station required passengers to walk out the station’s back door and climb steps onto the train. This feature also required passengers in wheelchairs to be lifted by mechanical means to and from the train. But the new platform is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act for level boarding. Passengers will now descend to a tunnel that extends to the middle of the tracks, then ascend to a boarding platform with rail cars' doors waiting.
The new station cost $44.3 million, but was originally budgeted at $29.8 million. Majority of the station was paid for by federal and state grants.
Nominations Now Open For The 2018 Election Of Council Of Representative Members
NARP is inviting all members in good standing to consider running for seats on the Council of Representatives, the Association’s volunteer governing body. The next election for seats on Council will occur in January 2018, for a two-year term starting March 1, 2018. Any NARP member, who has paid dues for at least one year, is at least 18-years of age and is a U.S. resident is eligible to run.
The Council consists of 112 elected state representatives. The number of representatives per state is determined by an equally weighted ratio of the NARP members in a given state and the state’s number of U.S. Representatives. Every state has at last one Council Representative. The certified number of Council seats to be elected, per state, in January 2018 can be viewed here.
The Council of Representatives represents the overall NARP membership in setting and approving the overall policy and direction for the Association. The Council elects the Officers and Board of Directors of the Association, in addition to up to 10 ‘At-Large’ members of the Council. Serving on the Council is a great opportunity to collaborate with others who have a common interest in actively improving passenger rail service across the country. Council members are expected to encourage activities at the grassroots level to advance the Association’s goals and represent local needs, issues and activities at the national level.
The Council meets in person twice per year; in the spring in Washington, D.C., and in the fall at varied locations across the country. Council members are responsible for their own travel and meeting expenses to attend these gatherings and they may be able to apply these expenses on their federal tax returns.
Members interested in running for a seat on the Council must complete and submit a Candidate Information Statement to the Candidate Certification Committee for review and qualification by 11:59 p.m. local time on December 1, 2017. The Candidate Information Statement is also available by requesting a printed copy from the NARP office. Complete information on serving on the Council of Representatives with detailed specifications on the election procedures can be found on the NARP website under ‘Join the Council’
NARP is only as strong as the leaders who step up and share their time and talents in working towards our collective goals. Please consider becoming one of these leaders and help make a difference in the future.
The Regional Transportation District in Denver is working towards making their trains compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The effort to reconfigure the space in the RTD’s light rail trains came after a lawsuit was filed in 2014 by the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. In August, RTD officials reached a settlement with the coalition that calls for changes on all 172 new and existing cars by 2022. Laurie Huff, a spokesperson for RTD said the transit agency will be removing 16 seats per train, which will provide more boarding spaces for people using wheelchairs, scooters and walkers.
Expansion of the Kansas City Streetcar is a current debate for city officials, but several supporters were voted to the board of the Main Street Rail Transportation Development District. The board of 19 people has a strong say on how the expansion project may or may not move forward, and of those elected, seven are supporters of expanding the streetcar. Four opponents of the streetcar expansion were also elected to the board. This election was the second in a three-step process to expand the streetcar from downtown to 51st Street and Brookside Boulevard, near the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In the first step was a mail-in election in August, and residents approved the boundaries of the expanded streetcar district beyond downtown. In a third and final election, which is planned for next year, will ask voters within the district to approve specific sales and property taxes needed to help fund expansion.
Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Dale Fyock, who passed away on Monday, October 9 at the age of 99. Dale was a train enthusiast, a regular passenger (along with his family) on Amtrak, and a member of NARP for some time. Dale is survived by his five children: Becky (Fred) Widdowson, of Roanoke, Va.; Dale Tracy (Darlene), of Clymer; Peggy (Aaron) Ankeny, of Quincy, Fla.; Corinne Cramer, of Penn Run; and John (Jean), of Penn Run.
In lieu of flowers, his family asks that memorial gifts can be made to the Penn Run Church of the Brethren, 2317 Route 553, Penn Run, PA 15765, or the Cherryhill Township Volunteer Fire Company, 1442 N. Harmony Road, Penn Run, PA 15765.
New data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) represented an increase in fatal traffic accidents for 2016 - a representation of increased reckless behavior by motorists across the country. Overall, 37,461 people died in traffic accidents, which represented a 5.6 percent increase from 2015, said NHTSA officials in a press release. Reckless behaviors according to the release, includes speeding, alcohol impairment, and not wearing seat belts. The number of vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads in 2016 also increased, by 2.2 percent. This represents a fatality rate of 1.18 deaths per 100 million VMT – a 2.6 percent increase from the previous year.
A breakdown of fatalities from 2016 national data by NHTSA includes:
- Distraction-related deaths (3,450 fatalities) decreased by 2.2 percent;
- Drowsy-driving deaths (803 fatalities) decreased by 3.5 percent;
- Drunk-driving deaths (10,497 fatalities) increased by 1.7 percent;
- Speeding-related deaths (10,111 fatalities) increased by 4.0 percent;
- Unbelted deaths (10,428 fatalities) increased by 4.6 percent;
- Motorcyclist deaths (5,286 fatalities – the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008) increased by 5.1 percent;
- Pedestrian deaths (5,987 fatalities – the highest number since 1990) increased by 9.0 percent; and
- Bicyclist deaths (840 fatalities – the highest number since 1991) increased by 1.3 percent.