Hotline #1,043

Thanksgiving Edition; Nearly 90 Percent of Transit Measures Pass; New Amtrak Cascades Locomotives Enter Service; Trump Promises Infrastructure Bill

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.

With the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow, we’re providing you with an early edition of the weekly Hotline. We hope you have a safe, enjoyable and delicious Thanksgiving with friends and family. The office will be CLOSED for the holiday on Thursday November 23rd through Black Friday, November 24th. The next Hotline will be posted on Friday, December 1st.


In this November’s general election, nearly 90 percent of public transportation initiatives were approved by U.S. voters in cities across the country. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) analyzed the results and found that voters in 17 states and communities approved 87.5 percent of measures to support funding in public transit projects.

“Americans voted with their wallets by taxing themselves to support increased funding for public transportation,” said APTA Acting President and CEO Richard A. White in a press release. “Voters clearly see the value as public transit connects customers to businesses, and employees to jobs. The voters have spoken loud and clear through the ballot box that funding public transit provides their community a great return on investment.”

“It’s great to see that the American public are taking a strong interest in supporting public transit project throughout the U.S.,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “Approval of these measures will help local communities create new jobs and strengthen economies.”

APTA highlighted several notable measures that passed including:

  • Denver, CO, transportation bond ($100 million for transit).

  • Athens-Clarke County, GA, new sales tax to fund transportation.

  • Lawrence, KS, sales tax for operating a transit system.

  • Maine, statewide transportation bond.

  • Grand Rapids, MI, 12-year renewal of millage.

  • Mahoning County, OH, renewed the sales tax for their transit system.

  • Philadelphia, PA, capital projects bond that includes public transit.


You Still Have A Chance to Win 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards® Points and Rail Passengers Giveaways, too: Send Us Your Best Photos

The Rail Passengers Association is asking passengers like you to be a part of our new identity. A great way to do this is through our new social media contest that will give nine lucky passengers 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards ® Points, while dozens more will win other prizes.

Throughout the past few weeks, we have received over 40 photo submissions and last week we announced 22 runner-up winners as well as our first Grand Prize Winner: Doug Kerr. Doug submitted a spectacular photo from the California Zephyr in Colorado. Here’s his winning entry:

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We’re still looking for 8 other Grand Prize Winners, and have room for dozens more runner-ups. To enter the contest, we are asking you, along with your friends and family, to share your favorite train-view photos via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. The pictures should be your own, and should depict what you see outside your train window. Whether it’s a photo of countryside, oceans, forests or cities, we want to see what you see. Rail Passengers’ staff will be evaluating the photos, and selected images will be used as part of the Rail Passengers Association’s new visual identity on the web, and in print.

The best selections will be named grand prize winners and participants will receive 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards ® points. We will be offering a variety of rewards for contest submissions, including new Rail Passengers gear such as totes, magnet photo frames or luggage tags for 90 contest winners.

There is a rolling deadline for submissions, and the contest will end once we have enough winners from each of our nine regions: Northeast, Northwest, Midwest, South Central, Mountains & Plains, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, South, and Southwest. Submitting photos for consideration is easy. Just share them on one of our social media networks and be sure to use the hashtag #RailPassengers and @RailPassengers. If you don’t, we won’t be able to find the submissions!

For additional information on how to enter, as well as guidelines for photo submissions, please visit https://www.narprail.org/news/blog/contest-your-view-from-the-train/

(Please remember, we can only use photo entries with permission. The best way to make sure you have the right, is to share photos you took personally. Please don’t just grab a picture off Google!)


The American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) board has named Paul Skoutelas as the organization’s new president and CEO. Skoutelas will begin his new role on January 8, 2018, and replace current APTA president Richard White, who served in the position since CEO since Michael Melaniphy stepped down from the position in 2016.

"Paul Skoutelas' strong leadership skills, vision and energy are ideal to lead APTA in these transformational times for public transportation," said APTA Chair Nathaniel Ford Sr., according to a press release. "He is a collaborative leader who brings the right blend of expertise and passion to ensure that the public transportation industry continues to play a critical role in connecting people to economic opportunities and a better quality of life."

Skoutelas currently serves on APTA's board and the association's business member Board of Governors. Skoutelas’s previously experience includes CEO of transit agencies in Pittsburgh, PA, and Orlando, FL. Most recently, he was senior vice president at WSP USA.

Based on previous research, assistant professor Jennifer Roberts at the University of Maryland, believes that Maryland’s forthcoming Purple Line will provide an opportunity to improve public health. Professor Roberts said that past studies have shown people who live near public transportation are generally more physically active. Their activity levels increase because rail passengers are more likely to walk or bike to their transit stations. Activity also increases around transit stops due to access to shops and restaurants. What will differentiate Professor Roberts’s study from past ones--which largely looked at Caucasian populations in Seattle and San Diego--is that she will study mostly African American and Latino populations in the Langley Park area of Prince George’s County.

“It’ll be more diverse in terms of the participation,” Roberts said of her health study. “It’s the perfect kind of sample for epidemiology.”

Professor Roberts will start her study with focus groups and send out questionnaires to find out how physically active about 11,000 residents are before the 16-mile Purple Line is built. Some of the participants also will wear activity monitors and GPS trackers for seven days. Then, Professor Roberts plans to look at how active they are one year after the light-rail line opens, three years after, and five years after.

An additional environmental study is being required by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the proposed Southwest light-rail project in Minneapolis. The study will focus on crash protection, and it will be shared by freight and light-rail trains.

“After reviewing all materials, the FTA informed the project office [Monday] afternoon that a supplemental environmental assessment related to the addition of the proposed corridor protection wall will be required,” said Mark Fuhrmann, deputy general manager of Metro Transit, in a statement. “At this point, we don’t know what, if any, impact this will have on the construction timeline. We will be discussing this further with FTA and our project partners.”

Following the FTA’s announcement for the study, it’s not clear if the project, which will cost $1.9 billion, will be delayed. It’s expected to begin passenger service in 2022, and connect downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. The FTA is also expected to fund about half of the project’s cost, or $929 million.


#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.]


LA’s Metrolink Chairman Andrew Kotyuk wrote to U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to ask Congress to maintain a tax deduction benefit for businesses that provide transit passes to their employees. Currently, a proposal in the U.S. House's version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill would remove the federal deduction for public transportation benefits. Overall, more than 280 companies in the LA metropolitan area offer tickets and passes to their employees.

In the letter, Kotyuk wrote that the bill would, “result in an effective tax hike for hundreds of businesses and thousands of employees," in Metrolink's Southern California service area. He argued that the elimination of the public transit tax deduction would undercut Metrolink's operating budget and could negatively impact service. About 20 percent of Metrolink's operating revenue comes from companies participating in the railroad's corporate partnership program.

Amtrak Cascades rolled out eight new state-of-the-art Siemens Charger locomotives, which will be running between Vancouver, British Columbia to Eugene, OR, with stops in Washington state as well. The new locomotives are significant upgrades for Amtrak and passengers, as they are lighter and quieter, while also providing a greater acceleration and top speed. In addition, the 4,400-horsepower locomotives meet strict EPA emission standards.

“The new Siemens Charger locomotives will be a great asset to the Amtrak fleet in the Northwest,” said Jim Mathews, President and CEO of RPA. “They will provide a new sense of quality and reliability that Amtrak passengers expect over older locomotives.”

Over the next few weeks, the locomotives will be utilized on all Amtrak Cascades routes at top speeds of 79 mph. Washington and Oregon departments of transportation jointly own and manage the Amtrak Cascades service.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee wants to take the development of high-speed rail between Vancouver and Seattle to the next level. During a meeting with B.C. Premier John Horgan in Victoria, Governor Inslee insisted that the project move forward once the results of a new study on the project are released.

“I’m bullish about this corridor between British Columbia and the state of Washington,” Inslee said. “I believe that we have nothing but optimism about our growth potential, and growth potential will be accelerated to the extent that we can travel in an hour rather than three hours in safety and comfort.”

If the HSR line is built, it could cut travel time between the two cities down to just an hour at speeds of 250 mph. Despite the positivity surrounding the project, Premier Horgan said he’s flagged two concerns: the curvy rail line alignment from the U.S. border and the potential slowdown caused by customs between the two countries. Premier Horgan is still hopeful that the HSR line will be built as it will be a benefit to both countries.


Upcoming Regional NARP and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events

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


Amtrak’s Cardinal train, which runs from New York To Chicago three times a week, experienced a 7.25 percent increase in ridership for FY 2016-17. Amtrak reported that the Cardinal had 7,601 new riders and carried a total of 112,432 passengers. Additionally, the Cardinal added to Amtrak’s historic year overall, as it recorded 31.7 million passenger trips which was a 1.5 percent increase over FY 2016. System-wide revenue was $3.2 billion, a 1.1 percent increase over FY 2015-16.

All in all, the success of the Cardinal is great news for Amtrak and passenger rail, but it came as somewhat of a surprise. “Obviously, any time we have an increase, I’m pleased,” said Chuck Riecks, a vice president with the Rail Passengers Association and co-chairman of the local Friends of the Cardinal group. He said the increases were particularly encouraging, given issues with on-time performance for the Cardinal in past months due to ongoing operational problems with CSX freight trains on the route.

The CSX freight trains caused considerable on-time performance issues throughout the year, but despite this, the Cardinal route flourished. As the CSX freight issue is currently moving through the regulatory process, the future of the Cardinal route looks great, with the hopes of adding more first class cars in the coming year.

Colorado’s passenger rail commision is working on a bill to expand passenger rail service to Front Range communities between Fort Collins and Pueblo. On Saturday, November 18, State lawmakers and rail advocates spoke at a transportation forum to discuss the possibility of creating a new extension, with the hopes of decreasing the number of cars on the road.

A recent survey showed that 61 percent of respondents support using $50 million of a $700 million sales tax increase to link those Front Range communities. "The public up and down the Front Range desperately wants this service," Jim Souby, President of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association said.

While the bill is still in the early stages of development, if passed this would be a huge victory for not just Colorado transportation, but a greater victory for U.S. passenger rail as a whole.


Nominations Open For The 2018 Election Of Council Of Representative Members

The Rail Passengers Association 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 Rail Passengers 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 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 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 Rail Passengers office. Complete information on serving on the Council of Representatives with detailed specifications on the election procedures can be found on the website under Join the Council

Rail Passengers 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.


Once Congress passes a reformed tax bill, President Trump has again promised he will unveil a plan for a $1-trillion infrastructure package. As it stands now, a tax bill was passed by the House last week, but the Senate has introduced a different version. Republicans hope to be able to pass some version of a tax bill before Christmas.

“We provided the president a list of shovel-ready passenger rail projects earlier this year, and we are eager to see what the White House will include in its infrastructure package,” said RPA President and CEO Jim Mathews. “Rail transit projects, as well other public works projects are in need of federal support to make a more robust American transportation infrastructure.”

White House tech policy adviser Reed Cordish said at an Internet Association conference that the administration currently has a detailed, 70-page memo of infrastructure principles. The document is still being finalized, and it will be submitted to Congress and serve as a building block for lawmakers to draft an actual legislative package.


Renew your Membership by End of Year and get Double Amtrak Guest Rewards® Points!

That’s right. As a thank you for a great year in advocacy, and we couldn’t have done it without your support. Earn Double for renewing in 2017!

Membership level

$30

$35

$40

$60

$125

$250

$500

$1,000

Amtrak Guest Rewards Points®

400

400

700

800

2,000

4,000

7,000

15,000

From the Rally4Trains raising awareness to 17 Million Americans about the threat to the National Network Trains, to our recent petition of the Supreme Court, your association has been punching above its weight-- If you renew your membership today not only do you continue to support this great work, but you can travel more too!


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