Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Burlington Amtrak Station, Burlington, NC
January 20, 2018 Open - 2:15 PM

Present - Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, Harry Clapp, John Bobinyec, Ralph. Messera, Bill Cole, Jim Frierson, Bob Bischoff, Ed Locklin, Dan Smith & Phil Astwood

Treasurer's Report - Gene Kirkland reported an opening balance of $1,006.79, deposits of $325.00, expense of $98.00 for a closing balance of $1233.79. There were 11 renewals. The Association currently has 188 members.

Secretary's Report - In Phil Astwood’s absence at the November meeting, Bob Frierson recorded the minutes. The minutes were approved with minor corrections.

Membership - Martin Wheeler announced that John Stein would like to step down from his position as a director, and Art Peterson has not yet approved his election as NC Vice President. At a minimum we will need an NC resident to replace John and perhaps another North Carolinian to take Art’s place if he does not want to continue. Martin will send out an e-mail requesting suggestions and volunteers.

Update on Resolution Drive in South Carolina - Jim Frierson will send Phil Astwood an updated list of the members of the transportation-related committees in the SC House and Senate. Phil will prepare a cover letter for Martin’s and Jim’s signatures and will send this along with our brochure on possible SC rail service, our sample schedules, a copy of our resolution, and an indication of how many communities have supported our goal for strengthened passenger rail service in South Carolina. We have sufficient material on hand to complete this mailing, but will then be short of copies of the Greenville – Myrtle Beach insert. Gene suggested we have more printed so as to always have a supply available and Martin suggested that if we are having these printed, this might be an opportune time to produce a map showing our “vision” for rail service in the Charleston area.

Update on CAPT Fostering Creation of an Organization similar to Virginians for High Speed Rail - David Robinson, who has volunteered to head up this project, could not attend today’s meeting, but he sent out a copy of a proposed “action plan”. A copy of this plan is attached to these minutes. Martin read the “Action Items” to the meeting. In the following discussion the meeting approved the ‘action items’ and agreed to ask David to continue with the plan. It was decided that we should eventually establish two organizations (one for each of the Carolinas), but it was the consensus that we should currently work only on a NC plan as SC is not yet ready for such an organization. It was not clear whether or not we should design the organization as a non-profit since this might limit our ability to lobby members of the legislature. We will need official advice on this point. It was further decided that such an organization would need several paid staff members so as to be able to accomplish its goals in a reasonable period of time.

Newsletter & Website - Gene plans to get a newsletter out next week that will include a summary of the information discussed in this meeting. John Bobinyec is working on a system that will allow CAPT members to renew their memberships online and pay dues via PayPal. It would be most convenient for members if the system retained their information (address, e-mail, etc.) so they did not have to enter it each time. The difficulty has been to find a way by which this same information could be readily available to Gene Kirkland so he can send mailings such as the newsletter.

News Affecting NC & SC Transit and Rail Passenger Service - Martin – In recent correspondence Allan Paul said that the Connecticut DOT has put a hold of at least a year on planning to extend the Carolinian to New Haven. The advantages to doing this are that it would give New Haven an early morning departure to New York and it would make the Carolinian a ‘National Train’ thus relieving NC of the cost of financing it. An apparent problem would be that New Haven currently has no facilities to service the train overnight. Allan also mentioned the possibility that one or more of the Piedmonts could be extended to Washington or perhaps Philadelphia to add additional service north of Raleigh. He said the next Piedmont frequency should start up in late May 2018 subject to final approval by NS. This would provide a train in each direction every 4 hours and when the fifth Piedmont begins service in May 2020 there will be a train every 3 hours. The latest word on the Raleigh station was that the building should be complete by late January and the necessary track work finished by early April. In relation to Charlotte Allan said they expect to break ground for the Gateway Station track work in February or March. The work will take about 2 ½ years. The contractor has turned over the new Blue Line track to CATS, and starting today, trains are running on the whole line on schedule but without passengers on the new section. Regular service will begin on the entire line on March 16. They will be running 2-car trains because many station platforms have not been extended for longer trains. Jim Frierson - There is not much going on in SC and information about what is happening is hard to come by. A project schedule indicted that work at the Clemson station should be complete by August of this year, but no other information about the project was available. Bill Cole - The Crescent is still running and charging extra for a ‘Business Class’ car that is no different from the other coaches on the train. Time keeping on the Crescent is bad and the Atlanta station is terrible. Bill has many concerns about the conditions at the Charlotte station including the fact that the lighted sign was removed for road work and never replaced. Bob Bischoff – The vintage trolley car #85 is at Spencer Shops. Nothing is being done to run it. Ed Locklin – One positive note on Amtrak. When he and his wife boarded the ‘Silver Star’ in Kissimmee there were personalized welcome cards in their rooms. Dan Smith - Amtrak has not moved into the new Miami station because it claims it is too short for the train. There seems to be no information about what is being done about this.

Charleston Routing - Our original proposal for the Charleston area used the old SR route into the city, but this line has recently been sold to become a bike and walking park. The mayor says it could also be used for transit, but it’s very narrow. Jim will try to set up the March 17 Charleston meeting including a visit to the new station site.

Adjourn - 4:40 PM


January 20, 2018




  • Perform preparatory work to establish the Group by May 2018 to coincide with expansion of NCDOT Piedmont service between Raleigh and Charlotte.

  • Name a CAPT member to lead the effort.

  • Decide on a name and URL.

-OnTrackNC (suggestive of economic development)

-GobyRailNC or GoByRail-NC



-PTFNC = “Passenger Trains For North Carolina”

? Other suggestions ?

  • Draft a set of preliminary bye-laws.

  • Draft list of potential board members (taking into account: expertise, representation, level of interest, commitment, etc.)

  • Draft a preliminary mission statement.

  • CAPT board reviews items 1-6 and makes recommendations.


  • Invite potential board members to participate.

  • Call and hold meeting of board of directors to adopt bye-laws and discuss financing, administration, operations, action plan for 2018-19, etc.

  • Register organization with NC Secretary of State as private nonprofit corporation.










































Yellow shaded months are those in which CAPT board meets



Committee Members
Harry Clapp
Jim Fierson
Leon DeBaer
Arthur Petersen
David Robinson


All committee members have received Exhibit A (Compilation of Other States’ Advocacy Activities) and Exhibit B (Initial Thoughts) and have commented to differing degrees.

Exhibit B was divided into ten sections:
1. Expectations
– mission?
2. The North Carolina Situation – current passenger rail activities
3. The South Carolina Situation – current passenger rail activities
4. What’s the Geographical Focus? – individual states, or both combined, or regional?
5. Organization – non-profit, membership, grants, corporate support?
6. The Common Thread – paid staff vs. volunteers
7. The Mindset – nostalgia vs. real transportation alternative
8. The Business Case
– must be business-driven
9. How to Help the States -
10. Where Do We Go From Here?
– the next step?

Members’ Comments

The committee members’ comments to Exhibits A and B ranged from general to very specific. Sections 1, 4, 5, 9 and 10 generated the most comments. Here is a brief summary to start with. Each one will be addressed in more detail later in the document.

In Section 1, everyone insisted that there should be a very clear mission statement for the advocacy group (whatever it might eventually look like.)

In Section 4, however, there was division between those who preferred a combined state (NC + SC) organization and those who thought that each state (NC, SC) should have individual organizations.

In Section 5, there was general agreement that the organization should be non-profit, but division on whether it should be run just by volunteers or by a small paid staff (probably because a funding method had not been postulated.)

In Section 9, there was general agreement that the organization should help the states’ individual passenger rail programs in addition to being an advocacy group.

Finally, in commenting to Section 10, decisive action was supported by all committee members. Everyone thought we should actively proceed to further develop the concept and get “something” operating soon (being fully operational by January 1, 2019 is a realistic target date.)

Based on the above comments, let’s now consider each topic and its decision-making importance. In some cases there are obvious recommendations; in other cases, more thought needs to be given.


Consideration 1: One Organization or Two?

Before creating an advocacy organization and worrying about other issues, we must answer the above question.

Because NC and SC currently have different levels of Amtrak service and are at quite different stages of state passenger rail development, it is going to be extremely difficult for one organization to adequately serve both states. Also, we want individuals and businesses in South Carolina to feel that they belong to an organization that focuses on South Carolina’s opportunities (i.e., an “ownership” issue) not North Carolina’s. And vice versa for individuals in North Carolina.

For example, the NCDOT Rail Division is highly likely to financially support some activities of a North Carolina organization, but not one that also caters to South Carolina. The reverse applies also. This is not a question of enmity between the states, it is merely a practical matter. This does not mean that the two organizations would not work together to address some mutually beneficial issues. In fact, a cooperative association of the two could eventually include a similar organization from Georgia. At the beginning (to save money), one staff person could direct both organizations, while individual organization policy would be set by each organization’s board of directors.)

It is therefore recommended that two advocacy groups be established – one for NC and one for SC – each with a board of directors composed of individuals and business representatives from the respective states.

Consideration 2: What Should Be the Organizational Structure?

Everyone thought that a non-profit organization should be the model. But before recommending that model and moving on, we need to know more about the IRS position on lobbying which could be a crucial activity.

In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying).  A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure.  It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.

An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.

Organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying.  For example, organizations may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.” (

So, what role do we want an advocacy organization to play in either state? Is education enough, or do we want to influence law-makers and other decision-makers?

Recommendation 2: It is doubtful whether educational activities alone will produce enough advocacy, so to be most effective we should not automatically go the “501(c)(3)” route. Let’s get advice from a tax attorney before making a final decision.

Consideration 3. How Should the Organization Be Run?

Regardless of the outcome of Consideration 2, the leadership, direction and management issues must also be addressed.

Volunteer-run organizations cannot keep up with the day-to-day operations of an advocacy group. Despite the best of intentions to perform or conduct necessary activities, volunteers still have private lives, family commitments, go on vacations. It is hard to hold volunteers accountable because you know they are using their own time without compensation.

However, volunteers can still be and always will be an important part of an advocacy group. But the direction should be given to a business-oriented board of directors, and a paid manager/director.

How we pay a director will be covered later. The important point is that when you pay someone to manage an organization, you are entitled to expect results and hold him/her accountable for getting the job done.

Consideration 4. What should be the Composition of the Board of Directors?

Supporting current passenger rail services and expanding into new communities must be a business decision for all parties involved. Therefore, board members should, if at all possible, represent a wide variety of private business interests, such as banks, commercial and residential real estate, insurance, retail, and manufacturing. Government agencies and other private businesses will start listening to them.

Business support for passenger rail will mean more than speaking on behalf of current passengers. Potential future passengers (whether college students, millennials or seniors) do not care what train riding was like 50 years ago and few have any interest in what locomotive is pulling the coaches. Instead they want to know if passenger rail services will meet their time, comfort and convenience needs today.

How many airline passengers are “plane-fans?” Few. In fact, not many airline passengers are even “airline-fans” any more.

How many NCDOT Piedmont train riders are “rail-fans?” Again, few. The Piedmont Service’s success is a result of individuals’ ability to conveniently travel between Charlotte and Raleigh (and other city pairs) in comfort (not driving I-85.)

The point is that passenger rail proposals must be economic development driven, because community leaders want an answer to this question:

What will be the economic impact to our community of having a train station with Amtrak service?”

We have to be able to answer this. A board of directors with current business experience will be in a position to do this.

Consideration 5. Economic Benefits

Here are some examples to consider:

a. North Carolina

Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh hold a large number of public events (such as music, art, sporting) during the year, as well as being the locations of museums and other static attractions. A largely untapped source of event attendance right now is visitors from other “Carolinian” and “Piedmont” -served communities. As NCDOT Piedmont Service expands, more one-day out-and-back train trips can be made. And more (admittedly slight) economic benefits will result from visitor spending.

Salisbury benefits economically from the proximity of the NC Transportation in Spencer.

Kannapolis benefits from the across-the-street proximity of the North Carolina Research Campus and the David H. Murdock Research Institute.

High Point attracts some of the Furniture Market attendees in April and October, as well as transfers to Winston-Salem, but there is little other economic benefit to the city.

For the rest of the stations, it appears the benefits are mainly to residents: Gastonia (middle of the night flag stop for the “Crescent”), Burlington, Cary, Selma and Rocky Mount. Wilson may benefit a little as a focus of Amtrak Thruway bus service from Wilmington and New Bern (and points in between.) Fayetteville is also for convenience of residents and military.

b. South Carolina

The “Crescent” (Spartanburg, Greenville and Clemson) appears to only be beneficial to a few residents; the same goes for the “Silver Star” (Camden, Columbia and Denmark). The evening and night times for NB and SB of the “Silver Meteor” (Yemassee, Charleston, Kingstree and Florence) are not conducive to economic benefits. The “Palmetto” (Dillon, Florence, Kingstree, Charleston and Yemassee) may bring some economic benefit to Charleston from northern visitors but it won’t be measurable, and is certainly not promoted by convention and visitor bureaus.

Trying to sell other SC communities on “economic benefits” will be hard, however, because there are so few quantifiable benefits right now.

c. Overall Appeal
“Writing off” certain communities (whether NC or SC) since the benefits only appear to accrue to residents may not be completely fair, since certain individuals and families might relocate to a community because it has passenger train service which they want to use.

Daytime frequent service is more likely to be an incentive for in-migration than is one-train-daily and middle-of-the-night service. Maybe the economic development should be looked at from a regional standpoint. How easily can someone live in one community and conduct business in another community along the rail line. The “Piedmont” trains provides this opportunity in NC, but regrettably there is no equivalent passenger train service in SC.

Consideration 6. Help to the States

The future of passenger rail services in both North Carolina and South Carolina can benefit greatly by the existence of an advocacy group in each state, but it is evident that the role of such an organization in South Carolina needs to be different from the one in North Carolina. We should nevertheless engage the assistance of stakeholders from each state (off the record, if necessary) to find out how an advocacy group could help. This activity should be one of the first undertaken (and by CAPT), even before being close to the establishment of advocacy groups with boards of directors and paid staff.

What is learned from the states will be invaluable in determining the full scope of an advocacy organization’s potential role and overall mission.

Consideration 7: Funding of Staff

Before a decision is made to hire a director of operations, private funding (from business supporters) must be obtained. I am intentionally jumping to “private funding” because no government agency is likely to go out on a limb for a brand new organization (however bright the future might be.) This statement also applies to philanthropic foundations.

This is where CAPT enters as an important player at the very beginning. CAPT should identify substantial businesses (e.g., banks, insurance companies, law firms, engineering and technology firms, retail businesses, chambers of commerce, convention and visitors’ bureaus) in communities in existing rail corridors with passenger services. CAPT should also try to estimate the operation budget requirements of the advocacy group as a preliminary talking point.

Then the CAPT president and one or two board members should methodically approach these businesses for the initial purpose of soliciting ideas, working from a carefully crafted “script” that discusses economic benefits of passenger rail service. The message must be consistent, or else confusion will result. Future passenger rail corridor opportunities should not be mentioned at this point; the focus should remain on economic development potential in existing corridors.

Throughout this exploratory process, individuals will surface who might be potential candidates for a seat on the board of directors. These individuals may initially be also willing to serve on a 4- or 5-member task force including CAPT’s president or delegate) with the purpose of creating the advocacy group.

Issues for the task force to address include:

  • Mission

  • Type of Organization

  • Board of Directors

  • Staff

  • Budget


This purpose of this document is to give to the Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains (CAPT) Board of Directors a proposal of how to move forward with a passenger rail advocacy group for North Carolina and South Carolina. Because so many of the issues and considerations are intertwined, there has been some unavoidable repetition. However, several recommendations can be made for immediate action.

Recommendation 1

Agree that North Carolina and South Carolina need their own passenger rail advocacy groups.

Recommendation 2

Grant the CAPT president the authority to name one individual from North Carolina and one from South Carolina to be the initial “state leaders” of the two efforts to create the advocacy groups.

Recommendation 3

The CAPT president (or a delegate) and the two state leaders, acting as an Exploratory Task Force (ETF) should arrange to meet with one or more representative of their state departments of transportation to solicit ideas. Reports of these meetings should be made at the next available CAPT Board of Directors meeting.

Recommendation 4

The ETF should make a list of potential supporters from the business community in their respective states, jointly develop a “script,” and arrange a series of meetings (say, over a two-month period) to solicit ideas and create a level of awareness. By making these preliminary lists available to the CAPT membership, individual members can assist by reviewing the list and identifying any friends employed in these businesses who are potential contacts.

Recommendation 5

At the conclusion of the initial meetings with businesses, the ETF should report the results back to the CAPT Board of Directors for their information (either at a meeting or by email.) Depending on the level of interest demonstrated by the business community in each state, a decision should be made by the CAPT Board of Directors as to future actions by the ETF.


Admittedly, the above five recommendations do not result in the formation of the advocacy groups, but they do establish a foundation for doing so. Hopefully, they will also produce a level of confidence in proceeding with the two groups, as well as identifying a core group of individuals who can provide necessary technical expertise and/or services and products.

For example, an accounting/tax firm might be willing to provide free services to establish the non-profit (or whatever) corporation; a law firm might be willing to develop pro bono all the necessary legal documents; a commercial developer might offer free office space for a limited time; an engineering firm might offer the use of a conference room whenever needed (as available); a technology firm might offer free Internet service; and a communications company may offer free phones. The opportunities for donated services and products are as endless as the imagination.

The donation of services and products by the business community will be of significant financial help to the advocacy groups during their formation and in their early days. Ultimately, a stable revenue flow must be developed through annual sponsor contributions or membership fees that will support paid staff and expenses. Paying too much attention to the ongoing budget needs in these early days will not be productive, but the ETF should be listening to their business contacts during the interviews for indications of willingness to provide ongoing financial aid.

It is hoped that this document will be received favorably by the CAPT Board of Directors and that the recommendations will be approved.

David Robinson
August 30, 2017