Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, Ralph Messsera, John Bobinyec, Paul Killough, Bill Muller, Dean Smith, Ed Locklin, Bob Bischoff, Bill Cole, Jeffrey Sullivan (guest speaker) and Phil Astwood
Guest Speaker -
Jeffrey Sullivan, representing the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project, spoke about the need for improved transit based on the area's significant growth in population and employment. The desire was to find a way to protect the environment while providing convenient transportation for everyone. Planning began in 2006 for a project to include 17.7 miles of light rail, improved bus service and support projects such as light rail stations and improved bus shelters. The light rail line would run from NC Central University in Durham in the north to the UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill in the south. Service would operate 7 days a week from 6 am to midnight with 10 minute peak frequencies and 20 minute frequencies off-peak. The light rail would use 26 vehicles in 1 and 2 car trains with a top speed of 55 mph, an average speed of 35 mph, and an end-to-end running time of about 40 minutes. The system would connect with Amtrak at the Durham station. The currently estimated cost of $2.48 billion will be funded 50% by federal funds, 10% by state funds, and 40% by a local 1/2 cent sales tax as well as vehicle registration fees and a rental car tax. Construction is planned to begin in 2020 and to be complete by 2026-2028.
Secretary's Report -
As Phil Astwood was not present at the November meeting in Columbia, minutes were taken by Jim Frierson. Phil read these minutes to the group and they were approved with several minor corrections.
Treasurer's Report -
Gene Kirkland presented the treasurer's report for the period September 16, 2016, to January 20, 2017. The report showed a beginning balance of $1,979.30, expenses of $578.88, a credit of $10.00 and a closing balance of $1,410.42. The association currently has 203 members. Gene said the newsletter sent with the meeting notice this time cost only marginally more than sending the meeting notice alone.
Update on the Resolution drive in South Carolina -
Phil Astwood passed out a brief report describing the most recent activity which involved a second mailing of packets to cities and counties within 10 miles of existing rail lines in South Carolina. The packets contained a cover letter signed by Martin Wheeler and Jim Frierson, our brochure outlining potential SC passenger service, two 'inserts' showing proposed running times and station stops, a copy of our 'Resolution' and a 'thank you' to those who had already signed and returned a copy of the resolution. On August 16, 2016, 222 packets were mailed to 130 mayors, 46 county council chairs and 46 clerks to council. As a result of this mailing, 10 signed resolutions were received from: Easley, Chesnee, Batesburg-Leesville, Chester City, Norway, Fairfield, Barnwell County, Conway, Little Mountain and Cross Hill. Twenty signed resolutions had been received from the original mailing. Each entity that returned a resolution received a 'thank you' letter. The Board requested that a reminder be sent to the larger cities that had not yet returned a resolution. Jim Frierson will prepare a letter to be sent to: Greenville, Spartanburg, Rock Hill, Winnsboro, Orangeburg, Summerville, Florence and Myrtle Beach. Once any resulting resolutions have been received, all resolutions that have been received to date will be collected and sent to members of the SC House Education and Transportation Committee and the SC Senate Committee on Transportation.
Report from CARTA Board Meeting and Other SE Rail Meetings -
Jim Frierson attended the most recent meeting of the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) and sent the following report which Martin Wheeler read to the meeting: "Land for the intermodal station has been purchased and is owned by the City of North Charleston. An RFP for construction planning for the building will be released in February. An agreement has been reached with Amtrak concerning platform improvements and agreements are being sought with Southeastern Stages and others who will use the station. Rick Wyatt at SCDOT plans to attend the next meeting of the SE Stake Holders Advisory Group, part of the FRA Southeast Regional Rail Study, that will occur in Jacksonville". As a part of this same study, Martin Wheeler was invited by the president of NARP to take part in a conference call on January 5 with other NARP members. The primary discussion was about suggested city pairs for rail service in the area. Martin noted that there should be a connection between Greenville, Spartanburg and Columbia. Rick suggested a connection between Charlotte and Myrtle Beach, and Martin pointed out that this could be combined with a Charlotte to Wilmington line with a branch to Myrtle Beach. We can still make other suggestions and these should be sent to Martin in the next few weeks.
Update on CAPT Fostering Creation of an Association similar to Virginians for Highspeed Rail -
Martin Wheeler reported that this project has been turned over to David Robinson and there has been no recent report from him.
Update on CAPT newsletter and Website Issues -
Newsletter -The Board liked the combined Newsletter and Meeting Notice that Gene Kirkland sent this time. He plans to continue and hopes to send the Newsletter about two weeks before each meeting. Any material for the Newsletter should be sent to Gene at least 3 weeks before each meeting.
Website - John Bobinyec is still working to set up a method to pay dues via PayPal.
Update on News in NC and SC Affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Service -
Gene Kirkland reported that all Piedmont locomotives have gone back for modification that will allow true push-pull operation within the next few month. Martin said work on the maintenance facility in Charlotte is finally underway. Real estate is being acquired for the intermodal yard in Rocky Mount. In response to questions about the removal of the dining car from the Silver Star, Martin said Alan Paul suggested it was due to a lack of Heritage Diners to cover the train and also to the requests to have food sales cover the costs of food service. Perhaps the situation will change once all of the Viewliner diners are available. There must be data to explain the current decision to keep the diner off and Martin suggested asking NARP to seek those data.
Note: At this point Bill Cole read a letter he had written to NCDOT with 11 questions about the Charlotte Station, the Piedmonts, passenger connections and train hosts. He read and discussed the answers he received. This was rather long, and as I was recording the session, I did not take adequate notes. Unfortunately, Bill was sitting too far away from the recorder and I could not understand the resulting recording. Bill, if you would be kind enough to send me a copy of that letter, the answers, and any comments you would like included, I will be happy to put it into the minutes.
Martin Wheeler reported that the CityLynx Gold Line phase two contracts were awarded to extend the current line to 2.5 miles and add 11 additional stations. Construction now getting underway will probably extend to about 2019. A contract has also been awarded for 6 new street cars. The current free service is well used with over 1,200 riders per day. Service will remain free until the new extended service begins. The new cars will have the capability to go from overhead power to battery operation for 3 or 4 blocks in the downtown area. The current service will eventually be a shut-down for up to a year to reconstruct parts of the original line and alter platforms to match the new cars which will come into service. The current cars will be sold to a system in Orlando. Charlotte will receive free assistance from the FRA in design and development of the areas adjacent to the streetcar line. There are already plans for some development on the east end of the streetcar line to include a parking deck and apartments. A current operational problem is parking in the streetcar right of way. The Blue Line extension seems to be moving a bit slower than expected and may not make the September start date, but nothing has been said about this officially. All the track is in, but there are a few overhead sections yet to be completed. The Yard on the north end is about 80% complete. The last delivery of 22 new cars has been received. Some cars that have already been tested and "burned in" should be put into service soon. Ridership has been up slightly at about 16,000 per day. Planning for the Silver Line from Charlotte to Matthews has been finalized. The next step is to study connections for that line into the uptown area, hopefully through the Gateway Station.
Planning for Future Meetings -
At a previous Board meeting, it was suggested that we plan a meeting closer to Greenville, NC so that Art Peterson could attend. Perhaps in place of the Salisbury meeting on March 18 we might meet in Wilson or Greeenville. This is yet to be decided. Other planned meetings are: Landrum, SC - May 20, Greensboro, NC - July 15, Columbia, SC - September 16, Charlotte, NC - November 18, Charleston, SC - January 20, 2018 and Raleigh, NC - March 17, 2018.