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Ride the “Afternoon Hiawatha” or 'Pioneer Limited' During RailNation; USDOT Seeks Public Comments; Social Media Branding Contest Kicks Off; The Pennsylvanian Safe For Now

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: Tickets Still Available for the mid-day 'Afternoon Hiawatha' and evening ‘Pioneer Limited’ Round Trips To Milwaukee - Saturday, November 4

As part of RailNation Chicago, attendees have an opportunity to enjoy an afternoon or evening riding the Milwaukee Road Superdome #53 on its home road through the beautiful Illinois and Wisconsin countryside. The afternoon train departs Chicago Union Station at 1:05pm on Hiawatha Service Train #335 and returns to Chicago Union Station arriving at 4:39pm on Hiawatha Service Train #338. The evening trip departs Chicago Union Station at 5:09pm on train #339 and returns at 9:04pm on train #342.

The trip includes:

  • Round-Trip Dome Car Seat
  • Commentary by Noted Passenger Rail Historians in the afternoon
  • Lite Lunch or Dinner (assorted sandwiches, chips & cookies) & Soft Drinks
  • 2 beers and/or wines
  • Additional beer/wine available for cash purchase
  • Tours at Chicago Union Station will be available before departures
  • Amtrak Equipment Display Will Be Available Before Departure - Times TBA

Tickets are:

To attend RailNation Chicago, Register TODAY. You can also learn more about RailNation Chicago speakers, events and activities.


The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2018 to 2022, and it outlines several key priorities for the Trump Administration and Secretary Elaine Chao. Though not specifically directed at passenger rail, the focus of the plan provides a more robust investment and development of a strong transportation infrastructure in the U.S. - one that allows for economic growth, innovation, efficiency, and safety.

The key strategic goals for the the plan include:

  • Improve safety by reducing transportation-related fatalities and serious injuries across the transportation system;
  • Invest in infrastructure to ensure mobility and accessibility, and to stimulate economic growth, productivity and competitiveness for workers and businesses;
  • Lead the development and deployment of innovative practices and technologies that improve transportation safety and performance; and
  • Serve the nation with reduced regulatory burden and greater efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.

“This new draft proposal from the U.S. Department of Transportation is important to the future of the entire transportation network - not just passenger rail,” said NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews. “We look forward to reviewing and providing our thoughts on the plan in order to help guide the administration’s work and support for the country’s infrastructure.”

Following the issuance of the proposal, the USDOT has also sought public comments. Comments will be accepted by the federal agency until November 13, 2017. After the USDOT has reviewed and revised the plan, it will submit a final proposal to Congress in February next year.

It has been five years since Superstorm Sandy made landfall in the U.S. and caused billions of dollars in damage and economic loss. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) in a press release estimated the total economic loss at $2.8 billion, but the agency has worked over the past several years to invest in repairs and strengthen the area’s infrastructure. Overall, PANYNJ has invested $1 billion to date, which includes immediate repairs to facilities like the Port Authority Trans-Hudson rail system, as well as airports, tunnels and port terminals.

“Superstorm Sandy devastated this region causing unprecedented damage to critical Port Authority assets, including the PATH rail system,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole in the release. “The multi-billion-dollar recovery and resiliency investments will better protect our facilities from the impact of future storms, and keep our millions of customers moving, and our regional jobs and economy growing.”

Past and future investments also include longer term planning and projects that the authority will utilize to enhance protective measures against future storms. One such measure was the creation of a Storm Mitigation and Resilience Office to oversee all rebuilding and resiliency projects. PANYNJ has also completed more than 80 projects over the last five years, with another 65 Sandy-related capital projects ongoing.

Some of the specific projects that the agency has and is working to complete include:

  • A combination of permanent and deployable flood barriers will be installed at PATH’s Grove Street, Newport, Exchange Place and Hoboken stations.
  • A project to repair dozens of PATH cars damaged by Sandy-related storm surge and a major project to clean salt from the tunnels that connect the World Trade Center PATH Station to the Exchange Place Station.
  • Flood protection for electrical substations and improvements to runway and taxiway drainage systems at LaGuardia Airport.
  • Temporary repairs were made to both the Holland and Lincoln tunnels. Permanent repairs are part of future capital Sandy projects.

After advocating against transferring funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to cover a major budget deficit, rail advocates working through Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail saw their efforts pay off. State legislators in Pennsylvania agreed on a new budget plan that will help keep funding for Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian intact. The plan, which still needs to be reviewed by Governor Tom Wolf, will bring in additional funding for the state through a casino expansion and help close a $2 billion deficit. State lawmakers say that the bill would allow for $200 million this fiscal year and more funds later by allowing for the development of 10 new "mini-casinos" around the state.

Original plans called for transferring funds from dedicated sources, such as PennDOT, which funds the Pennsylvanian through the Multimodal Transportation and Public Transportation Trust Funds. If funding was removed for the Pennsylvanian, the service would have been put at risk of no longer running its regular service.


Social Media Contest: Send Us YOUR View From The Train!

Since 1967, our mission has been to work toward a modern, customer-focused national passenger rail network that provides a travel choice Americans want. In each of the past five decades we’ve been helping to preserve and expand the service we have, primarily by giving passengers a voice.

50 years on, our trains now run through a new era, rich with multimedia, and the passenger’s voice today must be broadcast and amplified in new ways. How we are portrayed as an Association and our identity to key stakeholders who ride, support, or fund passenger rail in all its forms, needed to evolve right along with our members and the traveling public. For us, this involved a shift in perspective: our logo has always had a train in it, even though we’re not a railway. Our name is a mouthful, and doesn’t succinctly get to the point of who we are, and what we’re about.

The new name? Rail Passengers Association. The look? The very window you look out of as a passenger! Because don’t we all revel in and celebrate the view as we roll past the rich pageantry of this vast country?

With the change, we need rail passengers like you to be a part of our new identity, before we broadcast it to the world in November. And we decided the best way to do this is through a friendly contest.

We are asking you to submit photos via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter depicting what you see outside your train window – whether its countryside, oceans, forests or cities. Rail Passenger Association executives and staff will be judging the photos, and the winners’ images will be used as part of our new visual identity on the web, and in print!

Prizes will include:

  • Your photo being featured on our website or in the Newsletter
  • Ninety winners will receive Rail Passengers gear
  • Nine grand prizes of 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards® points

When submitting, be sure to:

  • Use the hashtag #RailPassengers and
  • Tag @RailPassengers

The contest has officially kicked off and has a rolling deadline for submissions. The contest will end after we have 10 winners from each of our 9 regions: Northeast, Northwest, Midwest, South Central, Mountains & Plains, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, South, and Southwest.

Now’s the fun part. What will your photos be used for? Well, part of our new image is a train window, so we want your photos to be what you see THROUGH the window. You can see an example online at: https://www.narprail.org/news/blog/contest-your-view-from-the-train.

The rectangle with two slanted lines represents a train window and the image behind it represents your view of the world. We want to put your experience at the heart of our new identity!

You should submit photography of landscapes and cityscapes that could be viewed from a train window. Feel free to get creative! Here are some tips for a great submission:

  • Use high-resolution, dynamic photos
  • Tell a story with your photo
  • Use travel-oriented imagery

While the main use of the “Window” icon cutout is to tell a story about what a train passenger views, there are acceptable instances where imagery may fall outside of what can be viewed from a real train window. No matter the scene, the photography or imagery should always be able to answer affirmatively to this question: “Can I see this through a window?”

As an extra incentive we’re offering any brand-new member who makes a photo submission for this contest a discounted one-year NARP membership. Benefits to being a member include:

  • 10% Discount on most Amtrak® Fares
  • 20% Discount on the Alaska Railroad
  • Up to 7 Amtrak Guest Rewards® points for every dollar you donate

So what are you waiting for? Jump on a train, take some photos, and send them our way!


New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Sen. Cory Booker (D-Newark), and members of Amtrak, NJ Transit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey helped break ground on a new bridge to replace the 107-year-old North Portal Bridge. The bridge currently supports about 450 trains traveling between Newark and New York each day. Due to its age, the bridge has become an issue for riders in the Northeast Corridor. Frequent delays occur on both Amtrak and NJ Transit trains when the bridge fails to close properly after barges pass below on the Hackensack River.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Gov. Christie said that $20 million has been secured for development of the replacement bridge and the first phase of the much larger Gateway Project. The Gateway Project will take several years and cost about $30 billion for upgrades to the NEC between New Jersey and New York’s Penn Station. Despite the $20 million earmarked for Amtrak and NJ Transit, other sources of funding have not been identified. Additional projects associated with Gateway that will need funding include:

  • Increasing capacity in Penn Station;
  • Expanding the railroad to four tracks from Newark to New York;
  • Building the "Bergen Loop" connection at Secaucus Junction for North Jersey commuters;
  • Building a new tunnel and rehabilitating the old tunnel under the Hudson River.

Gov. Christie said he believes President Trump will support the project. “I am absolutely confident the president of the United States will partner with us to make sure that this entire project is done,” Gov. Christie said during the ceremony.

In Maine, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) is looking into expanding passenger rail service beyond Brunswick. As it stands now, Amtrak’s Downeaster only runs between Boston, MA and Brunswick, ME. But, the organization is developing a pilot program that would see the service extend to Rockland and include additional stops in Bath, Wiscasset, and Newcastle. The NNEPRA, which was created by the Maine Legislature in 1995, and holds an agreement with Amtrak to operate the Downeaster, believes seasonal service could begin as early as 2018 although planning is still in its early stages.

Natalie Bogart, marketing director for NNEPRA, said that the development process for the line is taking shape over the next couple of weeks, and it will include several public meetings. Bogart also said that the rail line to Rockland has been upgraded to passenger rail standards and that a feasibility review to look at the line more in-depth will be part of the process.


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 One Week! 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.


Paul Dyson, President of the Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada, wrote to The Los Angeles Times following a story that again criticized the development of California’s high speed rail line and its cost due to the tunnel under the Pacheco Pass. The story said, “A Times analysis has found that tunnel construction could exhaust the $5.5-billion budget for the entire 54-mile segment from Gilroy to Chowchilla.”

In his Letter to the Editor, Dyson wrote that the Times is lacking, “any analysis of the alternatives for moving people between affordable housing and jobs, and for improving mobility in general.”

And he’s not wrong.

HSR in California will be life-changing to the communities around it. It has already created jobs for construction, but it will create long-term jobs once it’s open, provide opportunities to people to get to other well-paying jobs in different cities, and help create a strong economy for local communities and major cities, as well as the state of California. Without HSR, people without other transportation alternatives will never be able to take advantages of the opportunities that could be available to them.

According to President Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn, the administration could support an increase in the federal gasoline tax to pay for the detail-limited $1-trillion infrastructure proposal. The possibility of the gas tax was mentioned during a private meeting between Cohn and moderate House lawmakers earlier this week. The tax hike would be a 7-cent increase, and would fund public work projects, such as railways, roads, waterways and bridges.

Details of the potential increase are limited, but President Trump said he would be open to the idea earlier this year in an interview with Bloomberg News. If the tax increase was passed, it would be the first time in decades that the federal government has passed a gasoline tax. Since 1993 the tax rate has been held in place, despite decreases in available funding from the Highway Trust Fund caused by enhancements in fuel efficient vehicles.

As it stands now, however, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said there is little interest in the gas tax hike. Committee members, he said, could support the tax hike if the White House is involved and supports the increase.


#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. It shows why expanding funding for passenger rail will be a boon for our national and local economies. 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.]


The passenger rail line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is closer to the development of two new stations. The East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority (RDA) selected a team led by HNTB, an engineering firm based in Kansas City, MO, to design the two stations. Part of HNTB’s new role on the station development will be to determine ways to fund the building and operate the terminals. Other companies supporting HNTB include Fregonese Associates of Portland, Oregon, an urban planning firm that developed the FuturEBR land use plan; Manning Architects of New Orleans; Franklin Associates of Baton Rouge, a consulting company that handles community outreach; Stantec, a consulting firm with offices in Baton Rouge that handles transportation and urban design issues; and CNT, a Chicago firm that deals with housing issues. HNTB has previously worked on several local projects in Louisiana, including the proposed tram line that would connect downtown and LSU.

To plan and design the stations, HNTB has several sources of funding. The RDA budgeted $450,000 for HNTB’s work from federal and local sources. The Southern Rail Commission awarded the city-parish $250,000 in federal funds in December, part of a $2.5-million distribution to local governments in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama earmarked for designing, building and improving train stations. In August 2016, the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council voted to invest $250,000 for a downtown rail station.

The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) will study safety improvements that may lead to converting the Orange bus-rapid transit (BRT) line into a light-rail line.The Metro’s board has approved the staff recommendation to conduct the study, which will examine possible installation of railroad crossing gates at intersections and explore grade separations at specific locations along the 18 mile Orange BRT route. If accepted, the improvements will be designed to incorporate future light rail conversions.Currently, Metro has $286 million to dedicate to Orange Line improvements, which county voters approved last year.

Due to limited transit capacity from the Regional Transportation District in Denver, CO, officials in the greater Boulder area are considering the creation of their own transit authority. Officials are eager to see new and increased bus rapid transit lines, as well as last-mile bus service for people living outside business areas of Boulder. Others are interested in the RTD’s rail network extension, originally voted on in 2004, which would run to Boulder and Longmont. RTD had set a potential date of service launch in 2040, but now says that will not happen.

The problem lies with financial challenges that RTD is currently facing as it struggles to avoid delayed or missed service to passengers. RTD’s Board of Directors even voted this week to reduce off-peak service on the R-Line that goes to Aurora and the W-Line that goes to Golden due to poor ridership. With the agency focused on its current issues, plans for expanding or increase service have been put on hold, while Boulder officials look to study transit alternatives.


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 2 - AORTA Annual Fall Membership Meeting & Luncheon - Portland, OR

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

  • Saturday, December 9 - All Aboard Arizona Fall 2017 Passenger Rail Summit - Tucson, AZ

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


Longmeadow Democratic Sen. Eric Lesser was joined by more than 40 citizens advocating for a connecting segment between Springfield, MA and the state’s capitol, Boston. State Sen. Lesser and the other high speed rail advocates, traveling from Springfield to Boston, urged the Transportation Committee to advance the process surrounding high-speed rail connecting the two cities. One of Sen. Lesser’s arguments to the committee surrounded the fact that Western Massachusetts business and households are growing at a slower rate than the rest of the Greater Boston area. A more affordable transit option connecting Springfield to Boston would offer relief for those living along the line, he argued.

“We cannot sustain a commonwealth where almost all the growth is hyper-concentrated in just a few square miles,” Lesser told the committee. If growth remains concentrated around Boston, further economic success there will be stymied by skyrocketing rents and “endless traffic,” he said.

If passed, Sen Lesser’s bill would direct the Mass. Depart of Transportation to conduct a feasibility study of the high-speed rail connecting Boston and Springfield. Additional legislation sponsored by Dem. Rep. Peter Kocot, would create a working group tasked with keeping the project on track with development.

ULI Advisory Services, a panel of urban development experts working for the Urban Land Institute, was tasked with examining the impact of constructing an underground rail line that would connect the North and South Stations in the Boston Metropolitan area. ULI’s observations come as Boston continues to experience growth in all aspects of the city. With the intent to attract premium business and the top talent, ULI analyzed how the NSRL could potentially alleviate the transportation and housing struggles that the city is currently facing.

The Panel, which was led by Marilee Utter the President of Citiventure Associates in Denver, released their recommendations at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel after meeting for a week. The panel concluded, that by connecting the the North and South Stations it would improve “efficiency, mobility, and capacity throughout Massachusetts, New England, and the Northeast Corridor.” In addition, if completed, the link would improve existing commute times into and within the city, and also create greater Transit Oriented Development opportunities along the commuter rail, especially for communities in the area with little or no access to major public transportation.

In 2015, Sound Transit in the Seattle metropolitan area, misled state legislators before a vote that would give the agency permission to put a tax increase package and light rail expansion on the state’s ballot. The state Senate Law and Justice Committee found that giving Sound Transit the authority to implement their tax package was unconstitutional, as the vote passed in 2015. The conclusion came just weeks before an election that will decide which party will control the state Senate. The committee's findings came as a surprise to many state Senate Democrats, as they claim there were not public hearings or votes on the conclusion of the Committee, which is Republican led.

“I wasn’t even aware that the report was coming out today and I hadn’t seen it before,” said Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, a committee member. “It’s not really surprising that this thing is dropping right as we’re going into a critical election where the balance of power in the state Senate is on the table.”

Despite the Committee’s conclusion, state Sens. believe that Sound Transit’s tax package will be upheld because bonds already have been sold. The real impact of this finding will be felt at voting booths in the coming weeks.


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.


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