Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Queen City Q Restaurant, Charlotte, NC
January 17, 2015 Open - Noon
Present: Martin Wheeler, Ken Davis, John Stein, Ernest Robl, John Bobinyec, Bob Bischoff, Ed Locklin, Jim Stevenson, Ralph Ward, Jim Frierson and Phil Astwood

Secretary's Report - In Phil Astwood's absence, Bob Bischoff took minutes at the October meeting. These were accepted as e-mailed

Treasurer’s Report - Gene Kirkland mailed the report prior to the meeting. The Association had an opening balance of $4,432.96 on October 4, 2014; expenses of $257.31 and income of $30.29 for a closing balance of $4,205.94 on January 11, 2015. The report was approved as mailed. Gene indicated he planned to send out the treasurer's report earlier in the future. The meeting notice will be sent two and a half weeks before the next meeting.

Update on CAPT Fostering Creation of an Association similar to Virginians for High Speed Rail - If we are going to establish such an organization in NC, we are going to need guidance from those who have done so successfully in Virginia. Martin attempted without success to meet with members of the organization in Raleigh. It was suggested that VARP (Virginia Association of Rail Passengers) might be able to help. Martin will look into this. It appeared that David Robinson was going to head up the NC effort, but now it is not clear if he still intends to do so. As David said several months ago, our organization will need a full-time director, David or someone else, if it is going to be able to publicize itself, raise funds and have any influence.

Update on the Resolution Drive in SC in Support of Extended Rail Passenger Service - Phil reported that our mailings in 2010 and 2014 have thus far yielded 21 signed resolutions from the following cities and counties:
  • 2010 - Winnsboro, Colleton County, Clemson, Central Midlands COG, Cayce, City of Charleston, Andrews, Campobello, Cheraw, St. Matthews, City of Newberry, and Trenton
  • 2014 - City of Union, Carlisle, Hampton, St. Matthews, Allendale County, Branchville, Columbia, Union County, and Laurens County.
Martin reported that the new brochures have been printed along with additional copies of the inserts. It was suggested that some of these be sent to cities specifically mentioned in the insert for Charlotte-Columbia-Charleston service. A cover letter should report on the recent meeting of people concerned with Charlotte-Columbia service called by Mayor Benjamin on October 30 in Chester. As no one from CAPT was able to attend this meeting, Jim will contact Sam Johnson in Mayor Benjamin's office to find out what occurred, and if possible, obtain the minutes of the meeting. If this group meets again, it was suggested that we try to include representatives from those cities and counties that signed the resolution.

We need to establish better communication with The SC Rail Passenger Consortium. Jim will locate contact information for its chairman, Frank Ezell.

There has been a rumor that Georgia is interested in a new train that would follow the Crescent route from Charlotte to Atlanta. GA would cover the train costs and SC would pay station costs. Allen Paul is reported to have said that this would be highly unlikely for at least the next three years.

In connection with the replacement of a bridge over a highway close to the Clemson, SC station, it is necessary to temporarily remove the track directly in front of the station and operate on an adjacent track. Amtrak has asked Clemson to build a very expensive ($750,000) replacement platform that should be in use for only a few months. Clemson believes an adequate temporary platform could be built for only a few thousand dollars. The project is on hold until this is settled. John Wagner from Clemson asked CAPT to urge Amtrak to reconsider. Sarah Nuckles (former member of the SCDOT Commission) indicated her intention to contact Amtrak about the problem. Jim will find out what Sarah found out from Amtrak. Martin will find out how to file a protest with Amtrak.

The SCDOT Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan is complete and available on the SCDOT website. It contains very little information about passenger rail.

Update on News in NC and SC Affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Service - Martin presented several items related to NC rail. He received an e-mail from John Hall asking for help on Train Day (May 9). NCDOT released a draft of NC State Rail Plan. There is a comment period. More information is available at their website. There is an article about possible bus service between Asheville and Salisbury as an attempt to increase interest in eventual rail service on the route. Rail service might be established between 2020 and 2055 at a cost of over $400 million. There is talk of spending $15-$20 million to restore 15 miles on a line from Andrews to Murphy which was taken out of service a few years ago. After the meeting today there will be a tour of the streetcar line that is mostly complete. CATS will begin testing in March for service to begin in June. Street cars will run in traffic. A draft schedule for the Gateway Station calls for planning completion in 2016, construction from 2018-20, but it is still not clear what will be built and what will accompany it. A new government ordinance that prohibits smoking on any government property will go into effect tomorrow. This will affect light rail and transit. There will be a $50 fine for smoking in any enclosed areas including bus stops. Open bus stops will not be affected. The other part of the post-meeting tour will follow the route of the Blue Line extension. Some bridge construction has begun, some land is being cleared. No track construction yet. The project is still on budget and some items deleted earlier have been added back in (expanded parking and additional crossing gates). On the existing line four stations are being expanded for the three-car trains that will eventually run on the extension. They will also be adding new substations to provide the extra power the longer trains will require. The first of the 22 new cars have arrived and are being tested. These are very similar to present cars, but have increased space and greater comfort. The new cars come into Charlotte by rail and are then carried by truck to the facility.

Charlotte Trolley - There is nothing new. There will be a meeting next week.

Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website Issues - Newsletter – We are still having the same problems and are not able to get it out. Website – We are missing all minutes from 2014 and June & October of 2013. Phil will try to find and send these. Still working on setting up the PayPal system to accept payments online.

Amtrak Update - There is a lot of new equipment coming. The 20 new baggage cars were seen at Hialeah Florida as they were being tested. More complex cars, such as sleepers, will follow. The delays on the Empire Builder and Lake Shore created by freight traffic are starting to diminish. Issues concerning the route of the Chief have not been settled.

Reports by Officers and Directors -
  • Jim Frierson - As reported earlier, CARTA is planning to build its new multimodal station on the site of the current Amtrak station. The project should take about 30 months. The project is fully funded. The new station will serve all trains, buses, and taxis. It will also contain some retail space and community meeting space. It is still planned to resemble the old Charleston Union Station, but will be somewhat smaller than originally planned. Construction is expected to begin this year. Due to its age and condition, the old station on that site will be torn down. Our plan for Charleston to Columbia service could easily use that station. The Camden station is being revamped; getting a new roof and platform.
  • John Stein - Problems still exist coordinating train arrivals in Charlotte with the arrival and departure of special city busses.
Future Meetings - March 14 - Greenville (Jim will contact David about setting this up. Perhaps Frank Ezell could speak), May 16 - Wilson, July 18 - Salisbury, September 19 - Greensboro, Nov 21 (Annual Meeting) - Columbia
Adjourn - 2:23