Hotline #977

Amtrak announces new CEO; FRA Provides Boost for

Amtrak announced today that longtime rail industry executive Charles “Wick” Moorman will be the company’s next President and CEO beginning September 1

“Wick comes to Amtrak after more than 40 years at NS where he rose from management trainee to CEO,” stated Amtrak in an employee advisory. “Having worked at NS from the ground up, he and his team modernized the way that NS conducted business, served customers and worked with communities. As CEO, Wick emphasized performance and teamwork across all aspects of the company, helping to drive a new culture of safety and service throughout NS’s system. When he retired, NS was well-positioned to leverage opportunities and manage future challenges.”

“Wick’s 40 years of railroad experience at Norfolk Southern, along with his obvious commitment to a strong and thriving national rail network, positions him perfectly to execute a vision for a 21st Century Amtrak,” said NARP President & CEO Jim Mathews in a public statement. “It was my understanding that Wick was looking forward to enjoying well-earned time off with his family. The fact that he came out of retirement to help Amtrak meet the opportunities and challenges that come with 15 years of explosive growth demonstrates a true passion for America’s rail system.

“With more 300-plus trains connecting over 500 destinations across America each and every day, it’s a big job,” continued Mathews. “Moorman’s experience with building teams focused on service and safety will serve America’s passengers well.”

“And of course we’d be remiss to not to take the opportunity to thank Joe Boardman for his service,” added Mathews. “NARP has greatly valued working with Joe as president of Amtrak. He understands that for the railroad to thrive, it needs to be a national service, and that long distance trains are—as Joe said himself—the ‘backbone’ of America’s national network.”

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Tell Us Your #SummerbyRail Adventure

Summer is winding down, but there is still plenty of time to share your summer rail adventures with us on social media.

This invitation to NARP members, and the vacationing American public will continue NARP intern Elena Studier’s “Summer by Rail” journey, while offering new and exciting adventures from people throughout the country. NARP welcomes stories, videos and images through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that use #SummerByRail. For the best submissions, NARP will share the new “Summer by Rail” journeys on the Summer by Rail blog.

And in case you missed it, for 38 days, Elena traveled 10,000 miles on the nation’s rail network, with stops in 20 cities in 15 states. Her Summer by Rail internship circumnavigated the entire United States to help highlight how young Americans are demanding mobility options, and choosing to live in communities that cater to people, not cars. Through blogs, videos, and pictures, Elena shared her travel across the networks that connect America’s cities and national landmarks through her blog, “Summer by Rail,” and on Instagram and Twitter.

Elena relied heavily on Amtrak’s National Network to navigate the country, along with her bicycle (nicknamed “Stevie” after her parents’ two favorite singers: Stevie Wonder and Stevie Nicks). As Elena and Stevie traveled from city to city, they met with numerous elected and transportation officials, including Mayor Chris Koos of Normal, IL, and Mayor Knox Ross of Pelahatchie, MS, as well as transit and bike advocacy groups. Supporting groups included Transportation for America, Southern Rail Commission, Adventure Cycling Association, League of American Cyclists, Congressional Bike Caucus, Bike Texas—and many, many more. Each official and group highlighted how their respective city is working toward train, pedestrian, and bike-friendly transportation infrastructure. Elena used a variety of other forms of public transportation to highlight the rich assortment of modes available to travelers, including buses, ferries, trolleys, ride-sharing, and more.

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It is critical that passenger rail trains have the latest and safest train technology available in order to prevent accidents. And this week, rail networks received a major boost in support from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to install Positive Train Control (PTC) on passenger trains. The FRA has allocated $25 million to 11 different projects in six states, as well as Washington, D.C. Though PTC, a technology that utilizes GPS and can automatically slow or stop trains to prevent accidents, will be mandatory for railroads, the recent grants were made available through fiscal 2016 spending legislation as railroads continue to push toward compliance. The new grants include $2.6 million for Amtrak in D.C. to secure PTC wireless communication between a train’s point of origin and targeted receivers on the Northeast Corridor, and $3 million for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District in California to install PTC and new grade crossing warning systems.

In addition, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has made available $7 million in grants to help support the safety of transit workers and passengers in the U.S. Overall, the grants are geared towards supporting transit agencies as they look to develop new approaches to increasing safety and avoiding dangerous situations. This ranges from exploring technologies that prevent collisions, such as PTC on railroads, to protecting public bus operators from assault. The grants are funded through the Safety Research & Demonstration (SRD) Program and help fund research on new technologies and safer vehicle designs to reduce the potential for accidents. The SRD program is one of FTA's public transportation innovation programs authorized under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which established requirements to improve the safety of public transportation systems nationwide.

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New Member Benefits For You, And New Support For Us And Our Work!

Travelers United, the only non-profit membership organization that acts as a watchdog for traveler rights, now offers free reciprocal membership to all NARP members! To check out benefits and get the low-down on your passenger rights, visit https://TravelersUnited.org/welcome-narp/

Amtrak Vacations, a premier tour operator offering first-rate travel packages combining great destinations and train travel, is now offering all NARP members a 10% discount on the rail travel portion of any package booked, along with a 5% discount on parent company Yankee Leisure Group’s Unique Rail Journeys packages across Europe! Better yet, go watch a recorded webinar co-hosted by Amtrak Vacations and NARP to learn about a special offer worth up to an additional $400 off certain rail-travel packages! Click here to watch the recorded webinar, or copy and paste this URL into your web browser: https://youtu.be/uiETYMKziWA , and to learn more about Amtrak Vacations please visit http://www.amtrakvacations.com .

If you buy anything from online retailer Amazon.com, sign up for Amazon Smile so that a portion of your purchase price is donated to support NARP! The price you pay for your items does not change, but every purchase helps your Association as we do the work you want done for A Connected America! Visit http://www.narprail.org/get-involved/donate to learn more.

VSP Individual Vision Care now offers specially discounted individual and family insurance plans exclusively for NARP members that typically save hundreds of dollars on your exams, glasses and contacts. In addition, as a VSP member you -- or any family member you designate -- can also enjoy savings of up to $1,200 per hearing aid through VSP’s TruHearing plan. When you sign up for a VSP plan through our website, you not only help yourself and your family with significant savings and great benefits, but you help support NARP’s work as well! Click here to enroll today!

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The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) announced $390 million in competitive grants for the 2016 Transit and Intercity Capital Program (TIRCP) grants on August 16. The projects are focused on reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions while advancing the state’s public transportation system. The grants, distributed across 14 recipients, are made possible through the state’s Cap and Trade auction proceeds.

“This investment of Cap and Trade dollars is really about transforming this state’s transportation system to create jobs, reduce harmful emissions and expand mobility options so Californians can get around as efficiently and conveniently as possible,” said CalSTA Secretary Brian Kelly.

Projects include:

  • $82 million to LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency for its plan to make track improvements and lease 31 new Talgo rail cars to offer faster and more frequent Amtrak, Coaster and Metrolink service (these are the two trainsets built for, but never accepted by Wisconsin).
  • $40 million for the Los Angeles County Metro Transportation Authority’s project to build a new transit station that will allow passengers better access between the Los Angeles International Airport, the Metro Green and Purple lines and bus services.
  • $30 million to construct a new zero-emissions streetcar line to link Sacramento and West Sacramento.
  • $28 million to the Orange County Transportation Authority to build its zero-emission OC Streetcar line to connect Santa Ana and Garden Grove while also bringing in system-wide mobile ticketing.
  • $20 million is set to go toward the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers board for its project aiming to build the Caltrain Electrification Project to bring in new trainsets and offer faster, more frequent service.
  • $20 million to complete the BART to San Jose Phase II extension.
  • $9 million to construct a new rail system connecting downtown San Bernadino and the University of Redlands.
  • $8,999,000 to construct track and facility improvements to allow for three Amtrak roundtrip services daily between Sacramento and Roseville.

Long-term, this revenue stream will help fund funding to go toward projects such as:

  • The BART Silicon Valley Phase II Extension to San Jose Diridon and Santa Clara stations
  • Commuter and intercity rail projects in northern California, such as expanded ACE, San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor service, that will link the high-speed rail project to millions of Californians through shared stations in the Bay Area and the Central Valley
  • Expanded capacity for Los Angeles Union Station
  • Commuter and intercity rail projects in southern California, such as expanded Metrolink, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, and Coaster service that will link the high-speed rail project to millions of Californians through shared stations in the south
  • Streetcar, light rail and high-frequency bus projects all around the state that expand transit ridership with zero-emission vehicles well suited to the achievement of climate goals
  • Investments in stronger integration between local transit and the statewide high speed, intercity and regional rail network, such as those underway in Fresno, that boost ridership and increase use of existing services
  • Expansion of the intercity rail network into new markets, such as the Coachella Valley and the Central Coast, and development of zero-emission services on the intercity feeder bus network

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NARP: MAKING MONEY THE OLD FASHIONED WAY: AMTRAK INDUSTRY DAY AT BALTIMORE PENN

The re-development of Baltimore Penn Station and its adjacent vacant railway owned properties is a missing and obvious project, that exact sentiment being expounded upon in the recent press release on the topic. To those keeping track of the state of the industry, this can hardly been seen as a surprise, given Penn's unoccupied acres of otherwise urban space, and three million yearly passengers. Certainly, Amtrak's recent zeal for similar projects in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. also factor here. Indeed, for the industry, land development is a widespread trend and a return to form. It's what passenger railways of all scopes have always done well, and something that Amtrak sagaciously plans to turn into a permanent source of revenue.

What was interesting about this event wasn't so much why it was happening, but how. This was Amtrak's first so-called "Industry Day" where diverse engineering, development, and architecture firms came together to gather information about the project as it moves forward. The turnout was good, as I was in the room perhaps with over a hundred such representatives. Significantly, all attendees are listed on the project website (nec.amtrak.com) in the wake of the meeting. This has the smack of transparency and due process, but there is something else in this small fact as well. Showing overwhelming interest from private companies and developers over such a project is a gauge of Amtrak's direct potential economic impact on a given place where it has significant service. I would estimate that the list alone will have some political value.

The attendance is further remarkable because the ask is big: Penn Station needs approximately seventy million dollars to bring it up to a state of good repair alone, not to mention the intricacies of developing the so-called "overbuilding" to bridge the Corridor for three blocks on the North side of the station. Amtrak is asking for help with it all, specifying a phased project that will be able to fund its own expansions.

Amtrak is also visualizing this process in a remarkable way. The slideshow (worth a look) emphasizes a coordinated approach to value enhancement of their latent properties. Rina Cutler, Amtrak's Senior Director for Major Stations Planning & Development, was brought on a scant 15 months ago, and the shift in perspective at Amtrak surrounding these properties is perhaps only three years old at most. She has an appropriately holistic approach. One of the slides explicitly shows a "prior" approach to Amtrak's property asset management, with value realization being totally disassociated with operations, as if left to chance. Now, railroad operations forms the core, with direct and indirect value capture emanating directly from it:

I was glad to hear many times over that Amtrak is first and foremost a railway. They spoke of increasing railroad capacity, and of developers allowing for that eventuality. All too often in such large projects, developers and transit agencies work in silos and end up prohibiting inherent symbiotic potential. For the development to be truly successful, the passenger facility must be successful and visa versa. However, there are many examples where this has not been realized: too many examples of light rail lines placed across a sea of parking from shopping malls come to mind. Even Denver's otherwise fabulous Union Station project was a casualty of this: the project was executed in a way that prohibits building additional rail capacity at the dawn of the city's commuter rail system. By putting its foot down about prioritizing railroad operations, Amtrak is setting the tone for which such symbiosis may have a long term chance.

Additionally, there were three stated values outside of the presentation intended to inform potential projects, that may not be mentioned elsewhere:

1. Money (obviously)

2. Community (Amtrak realizes that input must be taken for such projects to proceed with minimal controversy (and may be rewarded with a built-in constituency if successful-- "station as the city's living room" was a recurring theme))

3. Design ("we're not going to allow ugly stuff to get built. These are legacy projects")

They seem intent on doing this right. The RFQ is out this month, with the RFP coming this winter, after which we'll hopefully see some diverse competing visions for the project.

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A week after the Association of American Railroads (AAR) petitioned the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) decision to support the measurement of on-time performance (OTP) for passenger railroads between multiple stops, the issue, and its history, was highlighted by an in-depth Wall Street Journal story. The story notes that the AAR says that it currently complies with the preference rule, while Amtrak disagrees in some instances. Overall, AAR filed documents with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and is arguing that the new on-time measurement rule should be overturned because the STB does not have the authority from Congress to set those standards.

As NARP has noted previously, it was actually the AAR, in January 2015, that petitioned the STB to review the definition of measuring OTP. The STB agreed and actually filed a preliminary finding that favored freight traffic in regards to OTP, and it was no surprise that the freight railroads favored the new decision. However, following a concerted advocacy campaign—led by NARP and Amtrak-served communities—the STB revised the proposal and issued a more passenger-friendly final ruling. Having not gotten their way, the AAR finds itself in the embarrassing position of accusing the STB—which only issued the ruling in the first place in response to an AAR request—of not having jurisdiction over OTP.

NARP’s comments on the STB’s ruling are available online.

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There are still openings for state representatives on the NARP Council of Representatives in several states, including one each in Alabama; Arizona; California; Delaware; Hawaii; Idaho; Iowa; Louisiana; Massachusetts; Missouri; Nebraska; Nevada; New Jersey; North Carolina; North Dakota: Ohio (2 Seats); Texas (2 Seats) and Wyoming. Check out the full, up-to-date, list of current vacancies here.

If you live in these states and want to become more active in NARP’s work, this is your opportunity to become involved. If you are interested in being considered for an appointment to an open state seat by the Board of Directors please complete this Candidate Information Statement.

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Amtrak reached a new deal with locomotive manufacturer, Alstom, to produce new high-speed trains for the transit agency. The deal is estimated to create 750 jobs in New York state, including 400 at Alstom’s rail-car plant in Hornell. Alstom is planning to build high-speed trains for Amtrak's Acela Express service that runs along the East Coast, a $2.5 billion program.

Development of a new “transit village” is moving forward in Aberdeen, NJ following the groundbreaking of a new $50 million project. The village will feature rental properties and retail stores, but more importantly is the project’s location. The village is be located on 20 acres of property directly next to NJ Transit’s Aberdeen-Matawan train station, which will help attract new commuters to the area to live, work and play. The village, which is being developed by BNE Real Estate Group and Highview Homes, is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2018.

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Make plans now to attend NARP’s Fall 2016 Advocacy Symposium and Membership Meeting, being held in Denver, CO, Friday, October 14 - Sunday, October 16. Preliminary information and agenda for this exciting event is now posted on the event webpage and will be updated regularly as the planning process continues. Event Registration is NOW open via a link on the event web page, along with a full listing of the available options and rates.

Demand for the discounted group rate hotel rooms at the host hotel, Embassy Suites Denver Downtown, have exceeded expectations and we are working to make more group rate rooms available. We will provide an update on this availability by August 26.

A list of alternate nearby currently available hotel options is posted on the Event web page.

Thank you for your patience as we work to accommodate everyone’s housing needs!

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Register now for the joint membership meeting for NARP & RailPAC, being held Saturday, September 24th at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

Speakers will include NARP’s Chairman Peter LeCody and President Jim Mathews, Former Assembly Member Roger Dickinson of Sacramento, and Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority. The museum features 21 restored locomotives and railroad cars, some dating back to 1862

Passengers who ride on the Amtrak’s Downeaster Service between Boston and Portland, Maine from August 13 through September 18, 2016 will be able to see Northern New England from Amtrak’s Great Dome Car. The car will make four scheduled trips per day. After September 18, the Dome Car will move to it’s traditional use on the Adirondack between Albany and Montreal for the fall leaf season.

Amtrak’s popular On Board Pets Program has been expanded to include all services in New York State and on the Ethan Allen Express to Vermont points. Pet reservations are now being accepted for travel starting Monday, August 22. There is a $25.00 fee per pet and other restrictions apply.

Officials in Oregon are looking into how its program to reduce carbon emissions from cars, trucks and buses could offer a financial boost to light rail, streetcars and electric bus programs. Overall, Department of Environmental Quality plans to consider new rules this fall that could award carbon reduction credits to new — and perhaps existing — light rail, streetcar and electric bus programs. The Portland metro area and Eugene are the only communities with existing transit systems that could qualify for the potential perk. The Oregon transit districts could turn around and sell those credits to the companies that import gas and diesel into Oregon. Those firms are required by the state's low-carbon fuels law to lower the carbon intensity of fuels by 10 percent over a decade by blending in biofuels or purchasing the carbon offset credits.=

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NARP thanks those members who have sent in industry-related news stories, op-eds, editorials or letters to the editor from your communities. We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Please send your news items to Bob Brady, bbrady@xenophonstrategies.com, and we will continue to share it with the membership. We also ask members to send events that we can put on the website, here. And please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.

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