logo

Happening Now

Hotline #1,034: House Passes Appropriations Act to Support Amtrak; NARP Gears Up To Celebrate 50 Years; Purple Line Moves Forward In Construction Process

September 22, 2017

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...Amtrak’s President/CEO Richard Anderson Is Confirmed To Address RailNation Chicago Attendees On Thursday, November 2.

Don’t Delay...Register For RailNation TODAY!

More RailNation Information Below!


At the end of last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.2-trillion bill, known as the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, to provide all discretionary funding for the federal government for the 2018 fiscal year. The bill is important for providing continued funding for Transportation/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations (THUD), which is one of 12 bills that make up the omnibus package.

Within the THUD bill is a notable victory for Amtrak to continue to receive federal support. The bill allocated $1.4 billion for Amtrak, and this includes $328 million for Northeast Corridor grants, while the remainder will support the national rail network.

Although it is not specifically earmarked due to rules in the bill, $900 million was secured for the Gateway project, which will link New York and New Jersey with a new Hudson Tunnel, among other projects. The funding will be provided through rail state of good repair grants, transit funds and Amtrak Northeast Corridor funds.

“We understand that there is additional work to be done for this bill to be passed, but the House’s recognition in investing in passenger rail is a significant milestone for its future,” said Jim Mathews, NARP President and CEO. “It shows that advocacy work from NARP, its members and other groups is working and that our actions moving forward can help cement this package for passenger rail.”

The THUD bill also includes:

  • $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for the U.S. DOT
  • $2.2 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration
  • $11.75 billion for the Federal Transit Administration
  • $258.3 million for rail safety and research programs

Unfortunately, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants were not included in the package, and no federal funding is allowed to allocated for California high speed rail.

Up next, the Senate will need to approve its own version of the bill. Once both versions are reviewed and a single version approved, the bill will be sent to the White House.


RailNation Chicago Celebrates 50 Years of NARP Passenger Rail Advocacy November 2-5

By Peter LeCody - Chairman - Rail Passengers Association (NARP)

It was 1967, and passenger rail service around the country was on its way down and out. Cars were king. Airlines were the rage. That didn't deter a gentleman named Anthony Haswell and as they say, “the rest is history.”

In those bleak years of "train-offs," Mr. Haswell founded the National Association of Railroad Passengers in Chicago. In subsequent decades, the association fought hard to maintain passenger rail service. Sometimes NARP had a win, but many times could not get the support of officials that was needed to save trains because our country was hell-bent on highways and airlines.

Mr. Haswell kept pushing along the idea that passenger rail is important to linking our cities. Amtrak was formed in 1971, out of most railroads abandoning their passenger trains. But, the desire for Americans to travel by train never went away. Neither did NARP. Tony Haswell started something that has now turned into a renaissance for rail.

Today NARP is strong, vibrant and making inroads. From new intercity trains soon to run in Florida, and on the drawing board in Texas and California, to expanded state corridor rail service there is a plethora of urban, commuter and regional passenger services popping up. From the last decade to the present, NARP has been spreading the word for ,“A Connected America,” by train. It's mission is supported by 28,000 members.

NARP was instrumental in getting passenger rail a seat at the transportation table for the first time ever with language in the bi-partisan FAST ACT passed by Congress. NARP has been educating and informing the public and private sector on the benefits of passenger rail and has a strong commitment to energize Millennials that want to travel by train.

Trains that stop in towns and cities across the country bring economic benefits of tourism, transit-oriented development and provide an important transportation option in many areas that have lost or have had air and bus service reduced. The future for good passenger rail and service is brighter than ever.

All will be celebrated when the NARP event titled RailNation Chicago happens November 2-5 in the Windy City. Complete RailNation Details

A two day symposium on passenger rail will be followed by two days of on- and off-site activities around the Chicago area. Richard Anderson, newly installed Co-CEO/President of Amtrak will speak to attendees at RailNation Chicago on Thursday, November 2, along with many industry experts and advocates.

If you think the first 50 years of NARP made history, just wait to see what's around the corner. RailNation Chicago will mark a transition to a new chapter of the National Association of Railroad Passengers with a bold, new brand to be unveiled. Come experience it.


Over the years, NARP has advocated the benefits of developing high-speed rail in the U.S., including the line that is currently being built in California. A recent Op-Ed in The Los Angeles Times promotes the significant benefits to be had by the new system, should it not get stopped by state Republicans.

One highlight of the HSR system is the integration of communities, including both those wealthier communities on the coast and those on the interior of the state. By cutting travel time significantly, residents can easily commute to and from the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles and the Bay Area for jobs. As stations are developed, that development can spread to the surrounding communities with new homes, business and more. Each station, such as Central Valley locales that house the rail line’s stations, can become urban centers for people. Initially, that means, Madera, Fresno and sites near Visalia and Bakersfield⁠.

In addition to development, the HSR would help the state manage a growing population that is expected to hit 50 million by 2055. We know that this population growth will place further, significant burden on the state’s already congested roads and highways. Shifting some of those travelers to the bullet train would reduce road and air traffic congestion, car accident casualties, and fossil fuel emissions.

What can get in the way of this possible future for HSR, is next year’s vote on a ballot measure to use the state’s cap-and-trade revenue to fund the train. That vote would require a two-thirds majority of the Legislature. It is a measure developed by Republicans as a way of stopping the project from finishing. In addition, two convoluted recent court decisions — one in the California Supreme Court and the other in federal appeals court — increase the likelihood that the train will face a spate of environmental-impact lawsuits that could delay the project even further.

In the greater San Diego area, Amtrak will end daily stops for the Carlsbad Poinsettia and Encinitas Coaster stations beginning October 9, but increase stops in Old Towne. The decision to end the stops is due, in part, to low ridership over the past four years. For example, the Poinsettia station, which had the least amount of riders, had daily averages of 23 Amtrak riders in 2014, 28 riders in 2015, and 29 in 2016. LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency said that the organization looked at the “proximity to adjacent stations and availability of other transit options.” Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner trains added stops at the Carlsbad Village and Sorrento Valley stations as part of a modified agreement with North County Transit District four years ago, when the Carlsbad and Encinitas service also began. The Village and Sorrento Valley service will continue.

Although these two stops are disappearing, Amtrak will increase its stops at the Old Towne San Diego station on October 9. Its other stop between Oceanside and San Diego is in Solana Beach. The Santa Fe station in downtown San Diego is the southern terminus of both the Coaster and the Amtrak lines.


Stories From Passengers: Joe Gust

My wife and I (Nancy and Joe Gust) rely on the S.W. Chief for most of our traveling.

We're both nearly 80 and don't drive long distances, so without AMTRAK we'd be really limited.

Recommended cuts to train travel is another instance of how President Trump has gone back on his promise to rebuild our infrastructure.

A big thanks goes to the Nancy and Joe for sharing their story! NARP is looking for more stories like this about the National Network to help us fight the White House's proposed budget for FY 2018. Facts and figures alone can’t communicate how vital these trains are to the communities that depend on them. NARP needs to hear from YOU about your town, and your train. We’ve heard from hundreds of you so far and we’re making sure they get seen in Washington...but we still need more!

If you haven’t yet taken part in this effort, please take just a minute or two to write out a few paragraphs telling us why passenger rail is important to you, and email it to stories@narprail.org.

We’re looking for stories from individual passengers about how train service benefits their lives, and how their lives would be hurt by the loss of train service. We’re especially interested in stories that describe how trains:

  • Connect you to vital services, such as medical care or vital government services.
  • Provide access to educational opportunities, whether it’s traveling across the state to university or commuting to an internship.
  • Allow you to maintain mobility while managing a disability or medical condition.
  • Help you and your business, and its role in helping you connect with customers and clients.

Officials with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation submitted a recovery plan to the Federal Transit Administration for its light rail project. Development of the line has significantly exceeded costs, but the plan includes an updated financial plan to get the project moving forward successfully and overcome its $3 billion deficit. Submission and approval of the plan by the FTA will allow HART to utilize $1.55 billion provided by the federal government on the project. Prior to submission of the plan, state officials agreed to fund the line by extending the county surcharge on the general excise tax and raising the transient accommodations tax.

“This updated Recovery Plan lays out the local funding now available to meet the current cost estimate and complete the project,” HART Executive Director and CEO Andrew Robbins said in a statement. “In addition, it shows that HART has put in place the controls and procedures, robust risk management, and cost containment measures that, in addition to the funding, are needed for the recovery of this exciting and important project for Honolulu.”

HART officials said the total project cost included in the plan is $8.16 billion for capital costs exclusive of finance charges, “with full revenue service scheduled for December 2025.” The rail authority projected financing charges of $858 million, bringing the total project amount to $9.023 billion, including contingency.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released information on two separate train crashes in New York from the past year, and said both operators of the trains suffer from sleep apnea. The accidents involved an engineer for the New Jersey Transit and an operator for the Long Island Rail Road, and both were unaware they suffered from severe sleep apnea, which causes a person’s airways to close and stops their breathing during sleep, leading to potentially dangerous daytime drowsiness. Although the NTSB has not yet determined the cause of the crashes or issued recommendations, the information from the NTSB adds to concerns that have already been raised regarding hours of work and safe conditions for engineers. Sleep apnea was linked to a 2013 Metro-North derailment in New York and a deadly 2000 tractor-trailer crash in Tennessee.

“Not only is the well-being of passengers critical, but so is the well-being of train operators,” said NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews. “We can’t expect operators to work countless hours with little rest, and expect them to function safely. Steps need to be taken in order to enhance safety by reducing or even eliminating sleep apnea as a risk to public transit.”

The Trump administration faced backlash earlier this summer when it made a controversial decision to scrap Obama-era plans to require that all truck, train and bus operators be screened for sleep apnea. Since then, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has said he plans to introduce legislation soon that would expand sleep apnea testing and treatment requirements for operators.


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

  • 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!

  • Fabulous 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner on Saturday Evening, November 4

  • Host Hotel: Millennium Knickerbocker - E. Walton Place at N. Michigan Ave. Make Your Hotel Reservations HERE! Don’t Delay...Discounted hotel reservations must be made by October 3rd!

  • 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.


GoTriangle, in Durham, NC, is interested in building a 19th station on its Durham-Orange Light-Rail line, which will run 17.7 miles between UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, and Duke and N.C. Central universities in Durham. The organization is looking at adding the line in downtown Durham, in front of the city’s performing arts center. The new stop, though currently only under review, could act as a “City Center station” and it would allow for people to more easily arrive and depart downtown.

Before Durham and Orange county commissioners, the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro regional planning group and the GoTriangle Board of Directors make a decision on adding the stop, the general public have been invited to learn more about the proposal. The public can attend a meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26, in Durham or on Thursday, Sept. 28, in Chapel Hill.

Four bids that were submitted in regards to building the Southwest light-rail line in the Minneapolis metro area, were all rejected by the Metropolitan Council. The specific budget for the project is unknown, but according to the council, all four proposals were too high. The bids ranged in costs from $797 million to $1.08 billion to connect downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie with 14.5 miles of track. As a result, the companies will now have to rebid on the project, which will further delay the development of the light-rail system. A new modified bid package will be released in October and the project will be awarded next March. The timeline for the line to open will now be pushed from 2021 to 2022. In addition, the delay stalls the council’s application for a $929 million matching grant from the Federal Transit Administration, along with adding an estimated $12 million to $16 million in cost to the overall budget.


#Rally4Trains Fights Off Attack

Our advocacy efforts this summer have helped give Congress courage to defeat attacks on the national rail network. Congress passed a short-term fix to keep the government open until December 8. But, we need a long-term solution. As the full Senate takes up their version of the transportation budget, we need YOU to continue to engage on social media using the #Rally4Trains!

Sharing pictures at your station or in your town on Facebook or Instagram is an easy and free way to pitch in! 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!

Another way to amplify your voice is to join more than 210,000 people who have signed a petition to save long-distance passenger rail in America. We are now looking to get 225,000 signatures!

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.]


It’s been more than 30 years since Yakima County in Washington state has had access to passenger rail. John Bowen, a Geography Professor at Ellensburg University, believes now is the time to bring trains back to Central Washington. In a study conducted by Professor Bowen, he found that 90 percent of Yakima County residents said they would be willing to travel on a train at least once year. Bowen presented his findings at an All Aboard Washington summit, advocating for passenger rail in the state of Washington. Professor Bowen’s survey polled participants on which cities they lived closest to and the likelihood of whether or not they would use a train to travel to either end of the route. Yakima County Residents were willing to travel to Auburn, which is a 3½-hour trip from Yakima at $27 one way and $17 to get to Pasco in less than 2½ hours. The study used fares and travel times based on Amtrak’s Empire Builder line as a reference to generate potential costs and duration of travel.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit will be hosting open houses to talk about the Cotton Belt Commuter Line and what rail stations along the 26-mile route may look like. The line will connect southeast Plano to Terminal B at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Pending a federal environmental impact review, which is expected to be finished by April, the Cotton Belt Commuter Line will be fully operational in 2022. DART expects the line to carry 7,000 people daily, and will eventually grow to 12,000 by 2040.

One of the most important issues DART will have to consider when building the Cotton Belt Line, is the construction impact on those living along the route. “There are probably going to be some places where we need to have some walls or things we can do with trees. We’ve been doing some sound measurements and the community is aware of that,” Morgan Lyon, DART Spokesman said.

The Cotton Belt Commuter Line is expected to cost $1.1 Billion.


Upcoming Regional NARP and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events


The Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board has agreed to provide $350,000 to fund an operational analysis study that will evaluate the feasibility of a passenger rail service traveling along freight traffic in the New River Valley. The Norfolk Southern Railway will conduct the study, which will determine whether or not passenger rail will likely come to the NRV. The bipartisan regional group of business and political leaders, better known as NRV 2020, provided several spots suitable for construction of the 1,000-ft station with 200 additional parking spots. The leading location for the new station stretches along Mill road in the town of Christiansburg, near the Aquatic Center.

“With the concentration of students both at Virginia Tech and Radford this makes a lot sense for the region,” said Ray Smoot, chair of NRV 2020 and a former Virginia Tech administrator. “I think a lot of the ridership [out of Roanoke] will come from here. So let’s just bring them on home.”

Roanoke is set to begin train service on Halloween after more than 30 years of a discontinued service. Building on Amtrak’s expansion into Western Virginia, NRV 2020 conducted its own study in 2015 to gather statistics on passenger needs and travel habits. The study found that the the NRV service would carry 40,000 passenger trips a year to cities like Lynchburg and Washington D.C.

America runs on Dunkin’ and now, so does Amtrak. The train service has extended its partnership with Dunkin’ Donuts to serve the Original Blend and decaf on all of its Northeast Regional trains, expanding the service, previously served exclusively on the Acela trains between Washington and Boston. Amtrak will serve Dunkin’ in First Class and the Cafe cars all day on its Northeast Regional trains. Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service grew nearly 24% since 2007, no wonder why they need more coffee!

“We are excited to provide even more of our customers with an elevated coffee experience,” said Thomas J. Hall, Amtrak vice president of passenger experience. “Our expanded partnership offers customers more of what they told us they want on board — variety, value and higher quality options

In the latest development of legal issues surrounding Maryland’s Purple Line metro route, contractors can start clearing trees along the Georgetown Branch of the Capital Crescent Trail, paving the way towards completion of the 16-mile long project. Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon declined to issue a ruling that would delay construction of the Purple Line. Clearing of the trees can temporarily continue until Judge Leon issues a final ruling, which is to come with the next couple of weeks. Members of the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, the Purple Line’s opposition, have asked the contractors to wait on cutting down trees until a final decision is made from the court. Maryland’s Department of Transportation issued a statement but did not specify whether or not the tree chopping would carry on, and neither did the contractors. While it is uncertain what the Court’s final ruling will be, the legal battles will continue regardless, as some living in Chevy Chase recently sued the federal government for funding construction of the project, citing this violated federal law. Judge Leon asked the federal government to provide the appropriate information surrounding the decision to fund the project.


Comments