Hotline #1,044

NARP Launches New Brand and Website; New Bill to Increase Security for Mass Transit; Brightline to Launch by End of December; Branding Contest Continues

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.


National Association of Railroad Passengers Unveils New Brand and Website

The Rail Passengers Association, formerly known as the National Association of Railroad Passengers--or NARP--unveiled an innovative “logo system” and a revamped brand image at its annual conference, “RailNation Chicago,” earlier this month. This week, our new website went live at www.railpassengers.org, featuring the new look. The brand switch comes on the 50th anniversary of the organization’s founding, and heralds a new age of advocacy for rail passengers in North America.

“Our commitment to fighting for passenger rail is stronger now that it has ever been before,” said Jim Mathews, President and CEO of the newly named Rail Passengers Association. “As we look to the future, we intend to fight for modern, interconnected transportation systems that meet the needs of train riders today and in the future. Our new brand symbolizes our commitment to ensuring that advanced, modern, and safe passenger rail reaches every corner of North America.”

The new brand image was developed over the last year after extensive research and review of the organization’s membership of more than 28,000 rail passengers. It coincides with the previously announced relocation of the organization’s headquarters in Washington, DC, to a larger, modern and connected office space. The new brand is designed to appeal to a broad swath of riders--in every age group--who can benefit from rail as a major mode of transportation, including to work, school and for recreation.

“The brand image is modern, simple and human, focusing on passengers, as opposed to trains,” said Mathews. “After all, Rail Passengers represents people and serves to amplify their voices in the halls of power around this country.”

The dynamic, new “logo system” Rail Passengers introduced evokes the image of a train window through which passengers view the world. The landscape-oriented rectangle, with two slanted lines in its lower left corner, allows the organization to highlight scenes riders would see from their train seat by adding different pictures and photos inside the window. By highlighting the passenger’s view, the brand makes the passenger experience its central focus. It is also designed to be flexible for an increasingly digital and ever-changing world.

“There are infinite possibilities to show a mix of cityscapes and landscapes inside the rectangle of the logo to create a view out of the imagined window,” said Mathews. “We can even use animation and movement to take advantage of the social media and web-based platforms where we advocate for rail riders. And, we can highlight regional differences and issues that we care about.”

The National Association of Railroad Passengers will continue to be the legal name of the not-for-profit entity, in the same way that Amtrak is legally the National Passenger Railroad Corporation.

To learn more about Rail Passengers and its mission and advocacy work, please visit the new website at www.railpassengers.org, or on Facebook and Twitter @railpassengers. If you’re just learning about Rail Passengers and would like to become a member visit the member benefits page at www.railpassengers.org/membership.


Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) introduced a new bill this week that will help increase security measures for public transit systems, as well as other public areas from terrorism. Coleman, who is the Vice Ranking Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security, hopes the Surface Transportation and Public Area Security Act of 2017 will protect railroads, buses and the public areas of airports, otherwise referred to as “soft targets.” Through the bill, Coleman wants to strengthen federal partnerships with state and local officials to protect transit systems, require a review of whether people should be able to carry guns into public transportation areas, and mandate the distribution of best practices for securing against vehicle-based attacks, such as the recent incident in New York.

“It has become increasingly clear that the federal government has fallen behind in ensuring that our mass transit systems are secure and safe. Knowing that, I am appalled by the Trump Administration's proposal to cut the few existing transit security programs,” said Coleman in a press release. “It is imperative that, as federal legislators, we learn from the deadly attacks we’ve seen worldwide and take all the necessary steps to prevent such tragedy on American soil.”

Part of the urgency to pass the bill is that Al Qaeda recently instructed its members in a propaganda magazine how to derail trains in Europe and the U.S. Despite the issuance of the instructions, the White House has proposed cutting funding for the Transit Security Grant Program for safety measures.

“Coleman’s proposed bill is an important measure that can provide $400 million through the Transit Security Grant Program to increase security for U.S. passengers,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews.

Though All Aboard Florida has not announced a start date for Brightline, Fitch Ratings agency, reported that service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach will begin in December, and service to Miami will start in early 2018. Brightline officials declined to comment on the report, which Fitch made as part of its analysis of a $600-million bond issue being set up to pay for the higher-speed passenger service. The report also said that Brightline’s potential is good, based on strong revenue generated by other passenger rail service elsewhere in the U.S. According to the report, Fitch said that Brightline can expect $147.6 million in revenue in 2021. The report predicted the service can break even with revenue of $90.6 million, ridership of 1.6 million, and average fares substantially lower than those offered on Amtrak’s Acela service from Washington, D.C. to Boston.

If Brightline begins service in December, it will be five months after the original proposed launch date. A series of issues delayed the launch, including ongoing signal work at rail crossings across Palm Beach County. Brightline will be the first passenger trains to run on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks since 1968, when passenger service was discontinued following a protracted union strike.

This week, community members in Newark, NJ, were able to get a first-look at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s $1.7-billion plan to extend PATH train service to Newark Liberty International Airport. Tuesday’s public comments session was the first of two session that the PANY/NJ would host. Currently, the PATH’s Newark to World Trade Center line now ends at Newark Penn Station, but the proposal would extend that line about two and a half miles farther out to a new PATH station in the South Ward that would connect travelers to the existing AirTrain Station. Due to the limitations on service, some community members see the extension as an opportunity for economic revitalization in the area.

“Right here, the Dayton Street/Frelinghuysen area, we’ve become a home to methadone clinics, halfway houses, that’s not a way to rejuvenate an area. That did not improve our quality of life. This new project will,” said South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James.

Some residents questioned the project which is competing for funding with large-scale Port Authority projects including a proposed new bus terminal in midtown Manhattan and new rail tunnels under the Hudson River.

Rodney Nolley said at the session, “It’s a good thing to have access, but are we going to be here when the final decision is made?”

Margaret Simon also said, “I just don’t feel good about it. I have a gut feeling it ain’t going to work like they say it is.”


Congrats to Our Second Round of Photo Contest Winners! Seven of You Still Have A Chance to Win 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards® Points and Dozens Others Will Win Rail Passengers Giveaways: Send Us Your Best Photos

Throughout the past few weeks, we have received over 100 photo submissions through our new social media contest. Last week, we announced 22 runner-up winners as well as our first Grand Prize Winner: Doug Kerr. Today, please join us in congratulating the next 19 runner up winners, and our second grand prize winner: Bill Wrenn. Bill submitted this stunning photo from the Amtrak Empire Builder route through the Montana mountains:

BMycTfK0a3qonKdmOi89mG6iAZSndHa7RNmngAmUypGqQVq3NMe4zVoXiOzakzfePFcUgyKhYUbdDy8gwn_ovfLVj31DZllPzy6nxhSDzWgK9XDMsPmY5Dmiwb9HaWc5ArPHmuJx

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.

We’re still looking for 7 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.

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!)


Chicago city officials issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the development of an express train from downtown to O'Hare International Airport. The RFQ asks potential bidders to provide their credentials to design, build, finance, operate and maintain an express service through a public-private partnership with Chicago.

“Express service to and from O'Hare will give Chicagoans and visitors to our great city more options, faster travel times, and build on Chicago’s competitive advantage as a global hub of tourism, transportation and trade," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a press release. "More than a century ago, Daniel Burnham encouraged Chicago to ‘make no little plans,’ and today Chicagoans continue to make big and bold plans with an eye towards the future. Strengthening connections between the economic engines of downtown Chicago and O’Hare airport, at no cost to taxpayers, will build on Chicago’s legacy of innovation and pay dividends for generations to come.”

The train is one of Mayor Emanuel’s major transit priorities. However, industry sources familiar with the planning of the express train estimate that it could run between $1 billion and $3 billion. The RFQ calls for no taxpayer funding and requires the service to be paid for only by project-specific revenues, such as fares and advertising, and financed by whomever gets the concession.

Through December 20, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will collect public comments on its draft 2018-2021 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) for federally funded, multimodal transportation improvement projects. Under the draft plan, WSDOT will focus on prioritized projects including state, tribal and local roadway, bridge, safety, bicycle, pedestrian and transit improvements. These projects would be funded with revenue from federal, state, tribal and local sources. Overall, more than 1,400 statewide transportation improvement projects, using $3.5 billion in federal funds, are included in the 2018-21 STIP.

The public comment period for the draft STIP is Tuesday, Nov. 21, to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20. Written comments can be sent to: Nancy Huntley, WSDOT, P.O. Box 47390, Olympia, WA 98504-7390, email: Huntlen@wsdot.wa.gov, or by fax at 360-705-6822. Comments received will be sent to the local or regional planning organization for their consideration.

Singer and song writer Gabriel Kahane took a trip on Amtrak in November 2016, a trip that influenced his new releases and current show - “8980: Book of Travelers.” Kahane did a two-week trip over 8,980 miles without a phone and internet, and took the time to meet 80 new people and enjoy the sights within the American landscape. Kahane’s new music, which he his performing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, pulls from these moments.

Kahane also writes about several of these moments, and his view of Amtrak and passenger rail in an Op-Ed to The New York Times.

In the Op-Ed, Kahane said, “Where much of the digital world finds us sorting ourselves neatly into cultural and ideological silos, the train, in my experience, does precisely the opposite. It also acts, by some numinous, unseen force, as a kind of industrial-strength social lubricant. To be sure, I encountered people whose politics I found abhorrent, dangerous, and destructive, but in just about every instance, there was something about the person’s relationship to family, and loyalty to family, that I found deeply moving. That ability to connect across an ideological divide seemed predicated on the fact that we were--quite literally--breaking bread together. Perhaps it also had something to do with the pace at which we traveled…

On the train, I slowed down. I thought more deeply. I listened better, and longer. We moved at such a languorous pace through what would otherwise have been a blink of a town that I could feel, for just a moment, that this tiny hamlet, with its single pub, gas station, antique shop and general store, was the center of the universe.”


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!


Construction crews have completed $28-million worth of upgrades to the Oceanside Transit Center in California, which was overseen by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the North County Transit District (NCTD). Upgrades include new and longer boarding platforms, a third train track, new crossovers between the tracks, and more signs, seating and shelters for the 1.2 million travelers who visit the station each year. Travelers at the Transit Center can board Coaster trains to San Diego, Sprinter trains to Escondido, Metrolink to Orange County, or Amtrak to stations across California and beyond.

“Our transit center is one of the busiest in the state serving more than 220 trains and buses a day,” said Oceanside Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery in a press release. “We are reducing travel times by improving system reliability and the efficiency of freight movement, which in turn reduces car and truck traffic on Interstate 5. This is a step in the right direction for each one of us: cleaner air, less traffic and more travel options.”

Of the $28 million, about $21 million of the funding for the project came from TransNet, a half-cent sales tax San Diego County voters approved to pay for transportation improvements.

Nashville, Tennessee Mayor Megan Barry has proposed an updated light-rail plan for Charlotte Avenue that would extend service to neighborhoods in West Nashville. Originally, the mayor’s proposed light rail line would run 2.5 miles, but due to demand from community members, light rail service would now extend 5.2 miles from downtown Nashville to White Bridge Road. The change also increases the estimated cost of Mayor Barry’s mass transit proposal by $240 million, and now sits at about $5.4 billion.

“Our revised finance plan gives us the opportunity to better connect West Nashville with the city’s transit network and provide even more residents with access to jobs and amenities available along the corridor and in the booming job centers downtown," Barry said.

Those who requested extended light rail service include city council members Kathleen Murphy and Mary Carolyn Roberts, as well as state Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) and state Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville), who both represent parts of West Nashville.

“It’s incredibly important to provide access to mass transit for people in greater metro areas, as access can spawn economic growth and development,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “Mayor Barry extending the Charlotte Avenue light rail line can allow for such growth in and around Nashville.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Transit (NYCT) is offering tours of their newest class of subway cars. The new cars are the R211s, and people can view the prototypes through December 6 at the 34th Street-Hudson Yards Station in Manhattan. The new cars feature:

  • 58-inch door spans that are wider than standard doors on existing cars;

  • new grab rails;

  • brighter lighting and digital displays that provide real-time information;

  • And some of the new units will feature an accordion-like "open gangway" design.

"Developing a first-in-class subway car is an essential part of modernizing our subway system," said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota. "It is important that our subway customers provide their feedback in this process and we hope they will do so after visiting the prototype."

As part of the tours, NYCT officials will also be asking passengers for feedback on the prototypes. Feedback will then will be shared with the designers of the new cars, as well as NYCT's car equipment division.


Nominations Open For The 2018 Election Of Council Of Representative Members

DEADLINE TO SUBMIT IS TONIGHT AT 11:59PM!

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.


Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews, along with former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, former Brookline state Rep. John Businger and Frank Calabro, business manager of Local Union 88, participated in a public discussion Wednesday about development of the North-South Rail Link. The link would see the construction of a tunnel between the South and North Stations in Boston, and it would connect the MBTA commuter rail lines north and south of the city. It would also allow Amtrak lines south of Boston to meet with an existing line that continues north of the city to Maine.

During the meeting Dukakis said the NSRL, “is about providing Massachusetts – and New England, for that matter – with a first-rate regional rail system.”

Some people have raised concern about the cost of building the link, as estimates have gone as high as $8 billion, though Dukakis said that figure is too high. A cost estimate published in August by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government estimated the cost of $5.9 billion in 2025 dollars.

“The North-South Rail Link would provide major benefits to people commuting in and out of Boston,” said Mathews. “It would help cut travel time for many on MBTA and Amtrak, while also providing a new and quicker alternative to driving through Boston’s city streets.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that U.S. rail accidents saw an increase in fatalities from 2015 to 2016 - 708 as compared to 733. In the agency’s annual report on U.S. transportation fatalities, 487 deaths were caused by people trespassing on tracks, either freight or passenger rail lines.

“Safety and well-being of passengers, employees and bystanders is of the utmost importance,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “People need to make sure they are paying attention when they cross rail tracks, and to realize there are serious risks associated with trespassing in these areas."

The NTSB's report also found that 2,030 more people died in transportation accidents in 2016 than in 2015, with highway fatalities accounting for 95 percent of all transportation fatalities in 2016. This accounts for 39,339 people in 2016, versus 37,309 people in 2015.

"Unfortunately, we continue to see increases in transportation fatalities," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a press release. "We can do more, we must do more, to eliminate the completely preventable accidents that claim so many lives each year."

Sumwalt also called for the implementation of the 315 open safety recommendations related to the agency's Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. The list includes reducing fatigue-related accidents and improving transit-rail safety oversight.

The congressional Problem Solvers Caucus is moving forward with a creating a report that members want to provide the White House as a blueprint for rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. The report has collected--and takes into consideration--input from five meetings over the past two months, one that also included members of the Trump administration. The most recent meeting took place this week, with 25 members of the caucus, including former Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) and former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who co-chair Building America’s Future.

"The process we’ve developed is to basically do what regular order is supposed to do," Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) told reporters. "We’re meeting with people, we’re shopping ideas and proposals, vetting them within subcommittees, and then we vote on them. It actually works."

She said their infrastructure ideas align pretty closely with the administration, which has yet to unveil further details about its plan, though it has a 70-page memo of infrastructure principles it has been circulating internally.

The caucus wants to complete the report within the next two weeks. Following completion, members will then vote on its approval before providing it to the White House. The final plan will include potential funding offsets, such as a gas tax hike or charging for the number of vehicle miles traveled, as well as a broad range of infrastructure projects that could be included in the White House’s $1-trillion infrastructure proposal.


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

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$125

$250

$500

$1000

Amtrak Guest Rewards Points®

200 400

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350 700

400 800

1000 2000

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3500 7000

7500 15000

Whether it is raising awareness about the funding threat to National Network Trains, or our recent petition to the U.S. 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! #Rally4Trains

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