Hotline #1,038

Amtrak Service to Launch in Roanoke; Nashville Mayor Proposes Transit Overhaul; Honolulu Rail Tests See Early Success; NJ Transit to Test PTC

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, bbrady@xenophonstrategies.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: Joseph Szabo of the CMAP and Daniel Elliott III, formerly of the STB to Participate in “How Advocates Can Envision The Future” Discussion.

NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews will moderate an important panel session on how members can advance the goals of “A Connected America” locally. The general session will be held November 3rd at 9 a.m. Joseph Szabo, Executive Director of Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and the former Administrator of the FRA, will join Mathews as a panelist. The CMAP is responsible for comprehensive regional planning in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties in northeastern Illinois. Also joining the session is Daniel Elliott III, the former chairman of the Surface Transportation Board.

As panelists, Szabo and Elliot will provide their perspectives how citizens can make positive impacts in the highly complex world of governmental planning.

To attend ‘How Advocates Can Envision The Future’ – Building Community Support Through NARP’s ‘A Connected America’ Vision, Register For RailNation TODAY. Learn more about RailNation Chicago speakers, events and activities. You can also read more about RailNation Chicago below.


The tourism and economic benefits of passenger rail are often a topic of importance for cities looking to develop new rail lines or open new stations. This is emphasized in our new economic report, “Dismantling a National Transportation Network,” but it is always great to see the prosperity surrounding a new line or station as it develops.

Roanoke, VA is one such city that is soon to benefit from new Amtrak service. Amtrak is set to launch passenger train service in less than two weeks (October 31), and it will connect people from downtown Roanoke to other major cities in the Northeast Corridor. Roanoke city officials are excited for what the new Amtrak service will bring to the city. There is excitement building around the opportunity for new businesses opening up in the city, as well as new tourism increasing sales at pre-established business.

"We think a lot of people will be flying into D.C. and into other major markets and they're going to want to come in and see what we have here in the mountains in the eastern part of the United States," said Visit Virginia's Blue Ridge president Landon Howard.

Sales are also looking good for the new line. Amtrak representatives said ticket sales are high, with travel days around Thanksgiving already sold out.

Mayor Megan Barry of Nashville is looking to public transit as a major factor in the future of the city and making the city a better place to live. Mayor Barry announced plans for a major mass transit proposal, known as “Let’s Move Nashville: Metro's Transportation Solution” that includes a new light rail line, increased bus service, and a downtown tunnel that would allow the new lines to run free of congestion on the city’s roads. The estimated cost of the proposed project is $5.2 billion, and Mayor Barry is asking that voters approve the referendum in May, which includes increasing taxes to pay for the project. The taxes include:

  • A one-half percent hike to Nashville’s sales tax in July 2018, that would increase to one percent in 2023;

  • Increases to the city’s hotel-motel tax, rental car tax and business and excise tax.

Mayor Barry said the project will serve generations to come and it, “will be far-reaching, it will serve every part of our city — north, south, east, and west — and it will help to shape our future growth and development.”

Mayor Barry gave the project a timeline of 15 years, with the first light rail line opening in 2026. The light rail project would include dedicated lanes for service that run through five corridors of the city, as well as the Nashville International Airport. The targeted completion date for the light rail system is 2032.


Registration is filling fast for NARP’s 2017 RAIL NATION CHICAGO Passenger Advocacy EXPO And 50th Anniversary Celebration this November in Chicago, IL

REGISTER HERE TODAY!

  • Thursday, November 2 to Sunday, November 5, 2017

  • In Only Two Weeks! 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 spectacular afternoon & evening Dome Car round-trips to Milwaukee operating on Saturday, November 4th. (The morning trip is now sold-out!) We expect the remaining two trips on Milwaukee Road Super Dome #53 to also sell out fast! Buy your trip tickets TODAY!

These exclusive dome car trips are open to the general public! Purchase your trip tickets HERE!

Registered RailNation Attendees can purchase trip tickets HERE!

  • In addition to the excursions, several other great tours and trips are being offered! Check out the full details of Saturday’s and Sunday’s activities NOW!

Just added on Saturday afternoon...An exclusive tour of the historic railroad collections of The Newberry Library. Extremely limited availability!

  • Don’t miss the Fabulous 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner on Saturday Evening, November 4.

The Celebration Dinner program will include:

  • 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 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:

REGISTER HERE TODAY!

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 bnelson@narprail.org.


Although the White House has only released a brief outline of an infrastructure plan earlier this year, officials within the Trump Administration said the president is committed to pushing a plan through. The commitment was said during a meeting on Wednesday this week between four White House officials and Senate Republicans on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, including Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Sen. Gardner said the meeting was very positive and the passage of an infrastructure bill to rebuild US. roads, bridges, railways, airports and other projects, is important to the President. However, no timelines were given by the administration as to when a plan can be expected. Trump’s infrastructure proposal was considered a 100-day priority, but has not moved forward since Congress has focused on health care and tax reform.

“Hearing that the White House is committed to the country’s infrastructure is important, but actionable steps need to be taken,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “We have seen our railways and highways fall into states of disrepair when funding is neglected and it costs more in the long run to rebuild them. Federal officials should act now to improve our transportation infrastructure.”


#Rally4Trains

If you haven’t already, check out the “Rally For Trains” economic report to find 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.]


Amtrak officials said they expect to begin repair work on four East River tunnels in New York by 2025, which is 13 years after Superstorm Sandy caused critical damage and flooding. The tunnels are primarily used by the Long Island Rail Road, and repairs will require the rail agency to operate without one of the four tunnels for up to four years after repairs begin. Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said that the update from Amtrak was, “extremely troubling,” since LIRR has already experienced a 72 percent increase in disruptions since the storm hit in 2012. Additionally, Amtrak officials originally expected to begin repairs in 2019 for a third of the newly project $1 billion price tag.

The change in the timeline and cost of repairs is due to one of Amtrak’s consultants, that primarily focused on repairing deep cracks and holes in the structure caused by the storm and corrosive saltwater. Amtrak officials said that the information provided by the consultant did not include aging electrical wires and signal systems. As result of the damage and aging systems, Amtrak agreed that a, “full reconstruction,” of the tunnels would be necessary for the tunnels’ future use. The design phase of the project, which began in 2015, is not expected to be finished until 2020. Once repairs begin, Amtrak plans to minimize delays for LIRR by waiting until the railroad begins running some trains to Grand Central Terminal as part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s East Side Access project.

The Federal Railroad Administration granted NJ Transit permission to begin testing Positive Train Control (PTC) technology. The testing will only be conducted on 10 miles of track between Madison and Denville, also known as the Morristown Line, on trains not carrying passengers.

PTC technology can remotely monitor trains to either stop or slow them to avoid accidents, such as Metro-North derailment in the Bronx in 2013, and the Amtrak accident in Philadelphia in 2015. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said that the use of PTC on these trains could have prevented the accidents. The NTSB is also looking into the September 2016, crash of a NJ Transit train at Hoboken Terminal, and whether PTC could have prevented that crash and resulting fatality. NJ Transit officials said tests will begin in early 2018, and will take three months to complete. NJ Transit also has until December 31, 2019, to install PTC technology on its 326 miles of track.

During the completion of signal testing on February 5 of this year, an All Aboard Florida Brightline train derailed and needed $408,000 worth of repairs. The transit agency looked into the derailment and its cause, reporting to the Federal Railroad Administration that the accident was caused by irregular track alignment. However, officials said the assessment is not “definitive." Officials reported to the federal agency that a few “anomalies” were found that could have contributed to the derailment. Findings said the configuration of the track — sharply curved — was “not ideal” and could have played a role, and the new track had rough surfaces that could have created high friction levels. Following the derailment, Brightline realigned the track and sent the train back to Siemens, the manufacturer, for repairs. The train is now back with Brightline and is ready to begin service later this year.

Opponents of the passenger rail line criticized Brightline and said that the transit agency showed a lack of transparency in handling the derailment. However, the FRA agreed that Brightline officials handled the derailment promptly and appropriately.

“As confirmed by the Federal Railroad Administration, Brightline followed all applicable rules by providing prompt notification about the minor incident that occurred on its private property," Brightline said in an emailed statement.

Construction crews for Brightline continue to move forward and will begin development of the transit agency’s new station at the Orlando Airport in December. Then, come January, workers will begin interior train station buildout and building a new rail line that will connect into the Intermodal Terminal Facility. The facility will be a transit hub for the airport, and will include 200,000 square feet of transportation services, including stations for Brightline, the airport's automated people mover, and a future leg of the SunRail commuter rail. Ground transportation including taxis, shuttle buses, and public bus operations also will be accommodated at the front of the complex. The project is estimated at $682 million and is scheduled for completion in 2020.

Additionally, Brightline is currently waiting on approval to start work on the second phase of its rail line from Orlando to West Palm Beach. The permit could create about 6,600 jobs in the state. Once complete, Brightline and other transit agencies expect to be able to boost Orlando's $60-billion tourism industry by offering South Florida visitors and residents a quick and convenient way to add Orlando as a stop on their trips.

Massachusetts Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) launched a new website that shares the views of community members on why high-speed rail in the state is important. Known as, “Rail Matters: Real Stories from Real People,” Sen. Lesser asked people throughout the state to share their stories on how HSR would change their lives and help connect the state. The specific HSR line would the the east-west rail line between Boston and Springfield for which Sen. Lesser has been advocating. However, his efforts have not been able to spur the state Legislature to approve a feasibility study.

People say that the line would help them see friends and family, commute to work or school more easily, find better paying jobs, or even visit hospitals in Boston for special care. Sen. Lesser hopes that these stories will motivate the Legislature into passing a study on October 24, when the Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on Sen. Lesser's proposed study.


Upcoming Regional NARP and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events

  • Wednesday, November 8 - Vermont Rail Action Network Annual Dinner and Awards - Rutland, VT - Tickets are now available and include a special train from Burlington to Rutland.

  • Monday, November 13 - Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers Meeting - East Greenwich, RI

  • Saturday, December 9 - All Aboard Washington Annual Meeting - Lacey, WA

Please contact Bruce Becker to have a local, state or regional meeting added to the NARP calendar of upcoming events!


The King of Prussia Rail Coalition is a new group of supporters that was formed to promote and advocate for the proposed high speed rail line that would extend to King of Prussia, PA, by 2023. The line was proposed by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), and the agency recently released a draft report on the line’s impact for the area. The group is compiled of business, civic and academic leaders, including Jerry Sweeney, president and chief executive of Philadelphia developer Brandywine Realty Trust, who was named the group’s chairman.

“When we look at King of Prussia and the wonders it provides in terms of economic growth … it becomes incredibly important to make sure we do not pass King of Prussia by, that King of Prussia becomes just as accessible as other parts of our region,” Sweeney said at a news conference Tuesday announcing the rail group’s formation. The coalition also includes officials with the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the King of Prussia District business association, and officials with Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Villanova University.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has been testing its new rail cars over the past two weeks with great success. Trains began running at only three mph, but this week a train reached 40 mph on its own power during testing. Enrico Fontana, Anseldo Honolulu's managing director, said that testing has been hitting its target speeds for the first stage. The current set of tests are being conducted with an operator on the train, but the trains are designed to be fully automated. Automated tests are not scheduled to take place for another two years.

"The train will be stopped in the workshop for a few days for the next stage, and then we still start aiming to reach shortly 55 miles per hour, the cruise speed, the top speed of the train," said Fontana. "Once the system is in operation, passengers will be able to move from east Kapolei to Ala Moana Center in less than 45 minutes, running at 55 miles per hour."


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.


This week, Timothy Griffin started at Amtrak as the new executive vice president and chief marketing officer. Griffin has more than 40 years of marketing experience in the transportation and travel industries, including time spent with Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines. Most recently, Griffin managed a private investment company, which provided consulting services in the travel, transportation and distribution industries.

“We would like to extend a congratulations to Timothy on his new position,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “Amtrak is heading in a new direction and we look forward to seeing their marketing efforts under Timothy’s guidance.”

In his new position with Amtrak, Griffin will work under new CEO Richard Anderson, and will be responsible for marketing, passenger experience, product support and management, and business development for the Northeast Corridor, state-supported routes and long-distance services.

After years of ridership decline, Michigan is beginning to see an uptick in the number of people taking the train. The Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers said more than 150,000 people traveled by train in Michigan in 2017, and since 2015, the number of passengers has grown by more than 5,000. As a result, the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, a nonprofit advocacy organization located in Traverse City, asked Michiganians where in the state they would like to travel by train, and the answer was Northern Michigan.

Following the results, Groundwork worked with the Great Lakes Central Railroad to identify a section of the GLC rail network that runs between Traverse City and Ann Arbor. Groundwork hopes to begin a preliminary feasibility study within the next month to examine the potential ridership, economic impact, and infrastructure needs. It is expected to be complete by summer 2018.


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