Hotline #1,035: NARP “Rally For Trains” Economic Report Demonstrates Disparities; USDOT Proposes Ease of Environmental Review; Adirondack Scenic Railroad Wins Court Ruling; Brightline to Receive New Train Set
September 29, 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, email@example.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.
Also confirmed to speak at RailNation is Etienne Tricaud, co-founder of AREP, an international multidisciplinary design firm that specializes in urban development and construction. Since 1997, when Tricaud established the company with fellow architect-engineer Jean-Marie Duthilleul within SNCF (the French national rail operator), he has worked on a diverse range of projects that focus on transportation and the mobility of people in crowds. Tricaud and AREP have been able to apply their skills to several different aspects of urban development and transit, including public buildings, multi-modal stations, city spaces and complex urban projects.
You can learn more about Etienne Tricaud and AREP by visiting http://www.arepgroup.com.
You can also Register For RailNation TODAY and read more about RailNation below.
The “Rally For Trains” effort is needed as much as ever. A new report published by NARP this week shows that that cutting train service across the U.S. would disportionately affect low income households in rural communities across the country. At the same time, the report, titled “Dismantling a National Transportation Network,” demonstrates that an increase in federal funding for Amtrak and passenger rail would create vast economic growth in those same areas. The report is a sharp rebuke to recent budget proposals from the White House and members of Congress that would have negatively affected the local economies for 45 percent of American taxpayers. The report provides crucial information and statistics that your legislators need to know as they consider how to fund passenger rail for the long term.
“Investing in rail for the long-term should be a key priority for the next budget cycle,” said NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews. “Those in Congress who believe that passenger rail is not profitable are mistaken. What they don’t see is the big picture. A robust national--and international--intermodal transportation system is crucial to economic growth, especially in those rural and less wealthy areas where travel options are already limited.”
The report cites specific examples of the economic disparity that would result from cutting portions of the national rail network. For instance, household income lags the national average in blue collar towns between Chicago and New Orleans where service would be cut. The same is true in the long corridor from New Orleans to New York and from New York to Chicago. Conversely, the budget proposals would seek to preserve service for wealthy, populous towns along the eastern seaboard between Washington and Boston.
“These budget proposals are not fair to rural, red-state America most of all,” said Mathews. “There are 220 communities in 23 states of so-called ‘flyover country’ that would pay the economic price when trains disappear from their towns and cities. But, if we have the foresight to invest in middle America, the whole nation would reap the benefits.”
The report further details how trains can help spur growth. For instance, expansion of the passenger rail network brings real estate development. Private developers are more interested than ever in investing in public transportation hubs as catalysts. Currently, 29 percent of Amtrak’s passengers use long distance routes to travel to work, and 61 percent use Amtrak to travel to see family and friends.
In an attempt to conform and ease the environmental review process for multi-modal projects, DOT Secretary Elaine Chao announced that the federal agency has issued a new time and money-saving proposal. According to the DOT’s proposed regulation, the agency seeks to "harmonize" the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) environmental review process with those of the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration. Merging the procedures would save time and money for projects throughout the U.S, according to the Secretary.
“Streamlining the environmental review process for various multi-modal projects is a significant proposal by the U.S. DOT,” said NARP President and CEO Jim Mathews. “When projects are proposed and begin development, we can expect anywhere from a couple of years to several for completion. Any steps that can be taken to condense and ease the review process will have tremendous effects in getting projects completed ahead of schedule.”
If passed, the process would allow for all projects to follow just one model for the environmental review, as opposed to abiding by several different guidelines from each federal agency. This has more often than not, become a burden for states that are looking to move quickly on developing new rail lines, stations and hubs for transit communities.
During Secretary Chao’s announcement on the proposal, she said, “The Department of Transportation is committed to identifying ways to eliminate unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy that will save states time, money and reduce burdensome compliance costs. Important new regulatory and policy changes are underway at the Department to help deliver infrastructure projects faster, and in a more cost-effective manner."
Stories From Passengers: Scott Cameron
I have been an advocate of balanced intermodal transportation and expanded Amtrak service since I was in high school in the 1980s. My goal was to find a career in transportation, mainly rail passenger. Due to timing and location, I ended up working for the airlines rather than Amtrak. I have maintained my belief in expanded intermodal via expanded rail passenger services.
Aviation can often be severely impacted by weather more so than rail. During my career at the airline, there have been countless times Amtrak or other rail has performed a vital alternative either for myself or our passengers. Many years ago, my employer, Continental Airlines, saw the wisdom of partnering with Amtrak. Through ticketing, the partnership began in Newark, NJ between Amtrak and Continental, with the intermodal station at EWR airport. Amtrak became a regular backup plan not only in the northeast, but right here in Cleveland, OH. Amtrak's logo was posted right on the backdrop of Continental’s ticket counter as a valued partner. I became the Amtrak "go to guy" when weather severely impacted aviation operations. There were many examples of this vital back up which I could share. Two occasions really come to mind though.
One was a businessman who had a very important meeting the next day in Chicago. Severe weather caused the closure of Chicago's airport. The customer was desperate to find a way to Chicago, so I was summoned to assist with a possible Amtrak alternative. We found a seat on Amtrak's Capitol Limited for $100 and took care of the rebooking. The gentleman was surprised to discover the alternative and was pleased with our airline for offering this backup plan. He and I discussed how improved intermodal could really help our transportation system. The man made his meeting in Chicago and later stopped back to thank us profusely and brought me an Amtrak Acela passport holder as a token of appreciation.
The other occasion that comes to mind was a family bound for San Francisco from Cleveland. Again severe weather during a peak travel period impacted us. Flights for all airlines were cancelled in mass. The family would be rebooked for the only available seats, which was two days out. I then suggested the Amtrak idea to San Francisco, making this a family adventure as opposed to waiting around Cleveland for two days. We found accommodations on the Capitol Limited and California Zephyr for them and arranged the rebooking and taxi to Amtrak. They also stopped back in after their vacation when they flew back into Cleveland on their return trip. All went well on the trains and they thanked us and assured us we would be their airline of choice after we suggested making the best of a bad situation and turning the trip into an unforgettable family experience.
There were other services we utilized in times of irregular operations. The South Bend South Shore line many times helped us get people where they needed to go by connecting from our flights to South Bend, Indiana.
Amtrak has helped many airline employees for our own personal travel as well. Whether as a vacation choice or an alternative to getting home to Cleveland when flights are full from Chicago or the east coast cities.
I could write more of these experiences. However, my point is that Amtrak and rail transit are vital to our transportation network. Even in Cleveland, Ohio where we have only two long distance trains in the wee hours of the morning, Amtrak does its duty providing a great alternative transportation. The national Amtrak network MUST be preserved and upgraded. Amtrak is a vital service that positively impacts our economy and keeps families and business people on the move. Beyond this, Amtrak is a national gem, a rolling national park. Our great nation needs to take pride in having these trains. Their demise would be a disgrace. We must work to not only keep what we have, but expand the national long distance services.
A big thanks goes to Scott for sharing his 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
Construction of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (Metro) new Culver City Metro station, known as “Ivy Station” began this week with a groundbreaking ceremony. Metro and developers Lowe Enterprises, Rockwood Capital and AECOM Capital plan on creating more than just a new station, but rather a community hub. The new station will open in early 2020 and will be located halfway between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California.
Culver City Mayor Jeffrey Cooper said at the groundbreaking, "The city's overall plan has been to create a higher-density, transit- served neighborhood that provides new, quality housing, retail and employment opportunities that will help improve regional mobility and air quality by reducing local reliance on the automobile. We have developed a strong partnership with Lowe, and we look forward to the opening of the Ivy Station project.”
Ivy Station, which will cost $350 million, will include 200 apartments, 55,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space, a 148-room hotel, a 200,000- square-foot office building and two acres of open space. The station also will provide 1,500 spaces of below-grade parking, 300 of which will be dedicated for use by Metro transit riders.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad won a major legal victory as a New York Supreme Court Judge ruled against the state’s plans to remove 34 miles of track. The State of New York had planned to remove the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, N.Y. to create a multi-use trail. State Supreme Court Justice Robert Main Jr. ruled that removing the tracks would, “effectively remove Segment 2 from Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor designation.” Justice Main said the state did not sufficiently, “resolve historic preservation efforts or title issues to land within the corridor.”
“Today’s decision is a victory for the thousands of people who have contacted my office over the past several years objecting to the removal of a large segment of the railroad infrastructure on the Remsen to Lake Placid Travel Corridor,” New York State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, said. “Officials with the Adirondack Scenic Railroad have been in limbo for a long time, and this ruling allows them to proceed with plans for a Utica to Lake Placid railroad line."
Registration is filling fast for NARP’s 2017 RAIL NATION CHICAGO Passenger Advocacy EXPO And 50th Anniversary Celebration this November in Chicago, IL
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
The Celebration Dinner program will include:
- A Prominent Keynote Speaker
- A Salute To NARP Founder Tony Haswell
- A Look Back At The Past 50 Years And To Those Who Have Given Their Blood, Sweat & Tears To NARP's Cause
- The Inaugural Presentation Of The Ross Capon Passenger Citizenship Award (Given To Individuals That Demonstrate Exceptional Leadership, Initiative Or Passion In Citizen Advocacy)
- Celebration Dinner Attendees Will Receive A Special Commemorative Memento!
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 6th!
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:
Étienne Tricaud - CEO & Co-Founder - AREP - Keynote Address Thursday AM, Nov. 2
Richard Anderson - Co-President/CEO - Amtrak - Confirmed for Thursday, Nov. 2
Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts
Hon. John Robert Smith - Board Chair - Transportation for America
Joseph Szabo - Executive Director - Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
Daniel Elliott III - Vice-Chair - Surface Transportation Board
Jim Wrinn - Editor - Trains Magazine
Ian Jefferies - Senior Vice-President Government Affairs - Association of American Railroads
Tim Keith - President - Texas Central Partners
Henry Posner III - Chairman - Railroad Development Corporation
Bob Johnston - Passenger Rail Columnist - Trains Magazine
Chef Daniel Malzhan - Corporate Executive Chef - Amtrak
Karen Hedlund - Director Public-Private Partnerships - WSP - Parsons Brinckerhoff
Richard Harnish - Executive Director - Mid-West High Speed Rail Association
Prof. Anthony Perl - Simon Fraser University
Don Phillips - Rail Industry Columnist - Trains Magazine
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 email@example.com.
All Aboard Florida’s last Brightline train set has left the Seimens USA manufacturing plant in Sacramento, and is heading to West Palm Beach. The train set, named BrightRed, will soon join BrightBlue, BrightGreen, BrightPink and BrightOrange, and begin serving the Brightline route between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach later this year. Although there are five trains, only three will be on the tracks to carry passengers at any time, while the other two are on standby.
“The arrival of the last train set is part of a bigger milestone that has been taking shape for years,” said Jim Mathews, NARP President and CEO. “Once Brightline is fully operational and carrying passengers this year, it will mark the first time in decades that a private passenger rail line has opened in the U.S. That’s huge.”
The train set includes two Brightline diesel-electric locomotives and four stainless-steel coaches. Although Brightline is set to open this year, no official launch date or ticket price has been announced.
In the great Portland, OR area, regional transit agency TriMet officials are considering placing a new bond measure on the November 2018 ballot. The proposed measure would create a $13 vehicle registration fee and a new property tax assessment within the TriMet’s service area to get taxpayers to help fund $1.7 billion for Southwest Corridor light-rail project, as well as other transportation projects. TriMet officials said that the proposal is still in its early stages and that the numbers could change, or the agency may not pursue a funding measure at all.
It the agency does move forward, early numbers from the measure include raising:
- $740 million to help fund the Southwest Corridor light-rail project, which would connect downtown Portland with Tigard and Bridgeport Village in Tualatin.
- $950 million to be split among Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas counties, as well as the city of Portland, for congestion-relief and safety projects due to a 13.6 percent increase in the number of hours stuck in traffic by Portland area drivers between 2013 and 2015.
The new “Rally For Trains” economic report is out and contains 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 with lower household incomes. It shows why expanding funding for passenger rail will be a boon for our national and local economy. 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.]
Officials with Caltrain looking to the future held a workshop with 50 local stakeholders to create the transit agency’s long-term business plan. The plan will guide how the agency should meet the growing demands from riders in the San Francisco area. This includes Caltrain’s electrification project, which will also directly affect the future of high-speed rail in the state, integration of transportation systems in the region, and meeting the population growth that is currently taking place.
“We have long been supporters of Caltrain, including encouraging U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao to provide federal support for the agency’s electrification project - which would greatly benefit commuters, the economy and the environment,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “With that support given by the government, Caltrain officials are now moving forward in a diligent and thoughtful manner to explore the best options in transit for its service and the great San Francisco region. We’re looking forward to seeing what is developed.”
Caltrain is also looking to extend rail service across the San Francisco Bay and connect with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), Altamont Corridor Express and Capitol Corridor rail systems. These plans to evolve and improve rail connectivity in the Bay Area will be considered in the soon-to-be-released California State Rail Plan.
Additional details on Caltrain’s business plan can be found online.
Don’t miss out on the ceremonial celebration of the new Amtrak station in Marks, MS with the Quitman County Mules Freedom and Blues Fest, on October 6 -7! Come join blues icon Willie Clayton, and many more as the as the town of Marks celebrates the highly anticipated Amtrak Station. The Marks train station will bring greater accessibility to those living throughout the Mississippi Delta and we can’t wait to celebrate such a success. To learn more about the ceremony and festival visit www.mules-bluesfest.org. See you there!
Work has kicked off at Chicago Union Station that will provide a greater and smoother flow of people through the station, Amtrak said. The project specifically targets the iconic Great Hall, which Amtrak will have, “painted in its original colors, made brighter by a restored and protected skylight with improved lighting.” The Great Hall is nearly 100 years old, and the 219-foot-long skylight has seen notable deterioration over the years due to water damage and design flaws when it was originally created in 1925.
“Many of our country’s rail stations are quite old - reaching or surpassing hundred years of use, but also wear and tear from time and weather,” said Jim Mathews, NARP President and CEO. “It is important to keep these historic landmarks, which are still high use, in good shape and well-maintained. Chicago Union Station is the fourth busiest station in the country, and it deserves to be kept in good standing for passengers who come and go through it everyday.”
A press release from Amtrak also says that, “to maintain the historic appearance of the skylight from within the Great Hall and to overcome the complications of the existing drainage system,” a new skylight will be build in order to, “protect the historic skylight with a new drainage design and maintenance system.” Once the new skylight is complete in 2018, lighting in the Great Hall will increase by about 50 percent.
A new survey conducted by several Massachusetts state senators said community members would prefer improved rail service in the state over other transit issues. This was the common answer when state Sens. asked residents what transportation issues are most important to them. Many residents said that it’s impossible to get from one location to the next using current public transportation.
Jim Aloisi, a former state transportation secretary who worked on the Senate study, said he believes the statewide interest in rail is due to increased traffic congestion. For example, the average Boston area driver spends 53 hours a year stuck in traffic, according to the study.
Upcoming Regional NARP and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events
Wednesday, November 8 - Vermont Rail Action Network Annual Dinner and Awards - Rutland, VT - Full details to be announced!
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a local, state or regional meeting added to the NARP calendar of upcoming events!
A rare opportunity will be offered on Amtrak’s 2017 Special Autumn Express Trains to ride along the scenic west side of the Hudson River north of New York City to the Albany area on Saturday, October 14 & Sunday, October 15. These two one-day trips will leave New York’s Penn Station at 8:00am, make a pick-up stop at Newark, NJ at 8:30am and return to Penn Station at 6:10pm. On the way north the special train will pass by the Bear Mountain Bridge, Storm King Mountain, the US Military Academy at West Point, Newburgh, and the Poughkeepsie - Walkway Over The Hudson - Bridge. After crossing the Hudson River on the Alfred H. Smith Memorial Bridge at Castleton, NY, the special train will head south along the east side of the river on Amtrak’s Empire Service route back to New York City.
New Hampshire may soon have its very own private passenger rail company operating through its state. While the prospect has been debated for years without any progress, it isn’t impossible. Boston Surface Railroad Company is a start-up based in Rhode Island that wants to develop passenger rail between Worcester, MA and Providence R.I. The Boston Surface Railroad Company, which is made up of consultants and entrepreneurs with no rail experience but have business savvy, would like to utilize an existing railroad in the area. The startup wants to provide an intercity-train service to areas that suffer from dense traffic congestion and, if successful, this may open the door for private railroads in the future.
Seasonal weekend passenger rail service between the Berkshires, MA, and New York City is moving closer towards reality. The NYC/Berkshire Passenger Rail Working Group, chaired by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation met for the first time last week. The initiative was included in Massachusetts’ fiscal 2018 budget bill and which was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker. The Working Group will conduct a study to identify and evaluate the economic and cultural benefits, while also identifying any legal, logistical, or political challenges that may knock the project off track. The group, which is comprised of federal and state transportation officials, local representatives, industry leaders, and transportation advocates, must submit their findings and recommendations by March 1.
Amtrak is getting ready to completely renovate the interior of its train fleets to maximize the passenger experience. The renovations provide new cushions, carpeting, bathroom flooring and LED lighting throughout the train cars. By Summer 2018, more than 450 cars will have been updated.
While we know that’s still a year away, check out Amtrak’s historic interior slideshow to see just how their trains have evolved over the years.
Nominations Now Open For The 2018 Election Of Council Of Representative Members
NARP 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 NARP 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 NARP 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 overall NARP 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 NARP office. Complete information on serving on the Council of Representatives with detailed specifications on the election procedures can be found on the NARP website under ‘Join the Council.’
NARP 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.