Hotline #991

FRA Releases Draft Rules on HSR; CaHSRA To Buy American; NARP Appointed To New USDOT Committee; FRA Focuses on Sleep Apnea

Following 10 years of discussions and research with the passenger rail industry, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has released a set of proposed draft regulations for high-speed rail in the U.S. It’s the first time the federal government has proposed standards and safety regulations specifically for high-speed trains. Prior to these proposed regulations, the government only focused on regulations for trains traveling below 150 mph, but trains approaching 220 mph require a distinct set of regulations.

FRA says the proposed updates would establish a new category of passenger equipment, Tier III, and it would offer an alternative method for evaluating how well passengers and crews are protected in an accident. Although Tier III trains will be required to have exclusive track to operate at speeds above 125 mph, the new standards will allow Tier III trains to safely share track with current Tier I and Tier II commuter, intercity, and Acela trains.

The FRA is accepting feedback and comments from the railroad industry and related stakeholders for the next 60 days.

In other high-speed rail news, the California High Speed Rail Authority confirmed it will buy U.S.-manufactured parts for the state’s HSR system. The authority previously discussed purchased buying foreign parts, and requested a waiver from the Buy American Act, which drew the ire of federal and state officials. The notice of withdrawal was formalized last week in a letter to Sarah Feinberg, chief of the Federal Railroad Administration. The request was first made since there is no existing HSR train manufacturing sector within the U.S., but the rail authority is planning to issue a request for proposals to passenger train manufacturers within the next eight months to produce two working prototype trains and 16 trainsets of 10 cars each.


NARP Appointed to New U.S. DOT Travel and Tourism Committee

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony R. Foxx appointed National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) President and CEO Jim Mathews to serve on the U.S. Transportation Dept.’s newly commissioned National Advisory Committee on Travel and Tourism Infrastructure (NACTTI). Mathews will provide the committee insight on how passenger trains drive tourism and economic growth, and how rail development can produce a more efficient transportation system.

“It is a great honor to be given the chance to serve on this Committee as a voice for passengers,” said Mathews, who is the only rail industry executive on the 25-member committee. “I anticipate that NACTTI will help tackle the enormous challenges we face in rebuilding our aging transportation infrastructure to connect America with multiple travel modes, to create jobs, and to foster economic growth everywhere in America, including ‘flyover country.’”

The NACTTI, created by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, brings together some of the nation’s top transportation and tourism experts from both private and public sectors.

Signed into law in December 2015 by President Obama after passing with overwhelming majorities in Congress, the FAST Act provides long-term funding for transportation infrastructure and transit projects in rail, buses, aviation and more. As a result, the NACTTI was created to provide advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation on infrastructure pertaining to travel and tourism within the United States.

As a newly appointed representative to the NACTTI, Mathews will serve two years from the date of his appointment. As a member of the NACTTI with expertise in passenger rail service, Mathews will aid in the development of a wide umbrella of responsibilities to assist in expanding the U.S.’s travel and tourism industries. Additional information on the responsibility of the committee can be found at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website.

The NACTTI will hold their first meetings on December 8-9, 2016 at the Federal Aviation Administration headquarters, where members will discuss the current condition of the transportation and tourism industries. Other transportation and tourism experts joining Mathews on the Committee include:

  • Chair: Rossi Ralenkotter, President & CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

  • Vice Chair: The Honorable Mark Begich, President & CEO of the Northern Compass Group, LLC.


Local and state governments continue to throw support behind the return of passenger rail service in the Gulf Coast region since an inspection train traveled between New Orleans and Pensacola. In Florida, local government officials are excited for the possible return of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited line, and have passed several resolutions in support of reintroducing the line in the state. Vicki Garrett, West Florida Regional Planning Council planner stated, “I wouldn't say that it's a done deal, but we're certainly working to that end.” Should the line begin again, Amtrak has estimated that it could see an annual ridership of between 138,300 and 153,900, and generate annual revenue between $12.25 million and $12.72 million. The line would also have daily round-trip service between New Orleans and Orlando.

Following news that the engineer of NJ Transit’s commuter train that crashed in Hoboken in September suffered from sleep apnea, which can negatively impact a person’s sleeping and cause tiredness and fatigue when awake, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is emphasizing the importance of transit agencies testing for the condition. The FRA will issue a safety advisory that will urge railroads to test train operators for sleep apnea, while also urging people with the condition to seek treatment. Though the advisory is only a strong recommendation and not a regulation, it is a measure that the agency can utilize while federal regulators prepare new rules that would require railroads to screen operators. Administrator Sarah Feinberg noted however, that a federal rule could take years, but that the industry should not have to wait for the government to take appropriate actions.


End of the Year Donations Support A Connected America

As we enter the last few weeks of 2016, we have been looking back at NARP’s accomplishments this past year. The big programs that stand out are Gulf Coast Rail Restoration, engaging the Surface Transportation Board’s ruling on On Time Performance, and ramping up the grassroots efforts for a Daily Cardinal.

Needless to say, we have been busy! But we cannot accomplish these goals and many others around the US and take them to the finish line without your continued support. NARP wants to make sure that your hard work for “A Connected America” becomes reality.

You can help by making your year-end donation today! It’s easy to do – just log on to your NARP Account and click “Get Involved” then “Donate.”

Does your company match donations? If you’re not sure, check with your Human Resources Department. Once you make your donation, all you have to do is fill out a form and NARP will receive matching funds from 2-4 times your donation amount depending on your company’s policy.

You can also make the ultimate symbolic donation to NARP: consider donating your old car, RV, or boat! It’s easy and a great way to give! Just go to www.narprail.org/vehicle. All the information you need is right there.

Thank you for your support!


Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, Amtrak’s busiest time of year, officials expect to carry an estimated 750,000 passengers across the country. To highlight how busy the passenger rail service is, ABC News shared a video that takes a look behind the scenes of Amtrak and highlighted what happens after passengers disembark the train for their Thanksgiving feasts. The train begin a process call "scrub and shove," which is designed to clean and restock a train before it goes back in service.

Black Friday is no longer just for stores. Amtrak, for the first time ever, is offering customers an opportunity to save up to 30 percent on coach fares with a new sale known as “Track Friday.” The Black Friday deals run from November 25th through Monday, November 28th, and are for trips between December 10th through April 9th of 2017. The offers will be available only on Amtrak.com.


Save These Dates!

Spring 2017 Advocacy Summit & Meeting - Washington, DC

  • Sunday, April 23 to Wednesday, April 26, 2017

  • NARP’s ‘Action Day On The Hill’ & Congressional Reception – Tuesday, April 25, 2017

  • Host Hotel: Sheraton Silver Spring (MD)

NARP’s 50th Anniversary Celebration – Chicago, IL

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

  • Four days packed with an exciting array of presentations, speakers, exhibits, tours, and events

  • Celebrating NARP’s accomplishments over the past 50 years and looking ahead to the future of passenger rail in the United States

  • Host Hotel: Millennium Knickerbocker


Though construction is set to begin in the summer of 2017, Caltrain has starting performing pre-construction work for the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project in San Francisco. The work will involve locating utilities, confirming soil conditions and testing cables in preparation for the electrification project, which will electrify Caltrain's corridor from San Francisco's 4th and King Station to approximately the Tamien Station. The work will last until the end of February 2017. In addition, railroad also will replace its diesel-hauled trains with electric multiple units.

If you plan to ride on Iowa Pacific’s Hoosier Train between Lafayette and Chicago on Sunday mornings, and love history, the line is offering a new educational service. On select departures, interpretive guides with the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation’s Rail Rangers program will be aboard to present “rolling” educational programs about Indiana’s people, places, industry, and history. Passengers will have the opportunity to learn about such things as the Battle of Tippecanoe (the train passes right by the battlefield), agriculture and industry, geology, famous Hoosier ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Orville Redenbacher, and interesting facts about the dozens of trackside towns along the route.


You Win! And So Do We! Benefits Enhance Your Membership And Support Our Work!

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!

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.

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.


To be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has been continuously updating and renovating its rail stations. It’s most recent renovation was completed Tuesday, with a ceremonial ribbon cutting at its Warrensville-Shaker Station. The station now has a new platform, new sidewalks, tactile warning strips, new crossings from the east to the west side of the station and new signs. RTA currently is finishing construction of a new rail station in Brook Park. The Brookpark Station has been under construction since June 2015 and is expected to wrap up around the beginning of 2017.

After finding that Metro’s 4000-series railcars in a lead position could provide a “false indication” of a train operator going undetected, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) removed the cars from service. Metro noted that the car’s automatic train control (ATC) system is what’s used to keep trains appropriately spaced for a safe distance from other trains and provides alerts to a panel for the train’s operator. Through Metro engineers believe the potential for a failure to occur is remote, the transit agency agreed to remove the cars from service.


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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