Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
UNC City Center, Charlotte, NC
February 9, 2013 Open - 12:15 P.M.
Present: Martin Wheeler, Art Peterson, David Hill, Ralph Messera, Virgil Hurley, Charles Hiatt, Ernest Robl, Edwin Locklin, Bob Bischoff, Bill Cole, John Bobinyec, James Stevenson, Jim Frierson, Sidney Halma, Thomas Warlick & Phil Astwood

Action Items:
  • Martin will write to the NCDOT indicating CAPT's support for Paul Worley
  • Martin will write to Mayor Benjamin about Charlotte/Columbia passenger rail
  • David will check on placing CAPT brochures at the museum in Spartanburg
  • Jim will invite Christine Wilkerson to speak to Charleston meeting in April
1. Secretary's Report - Minutes of the December meeting were distributed to Board members via e-mail after the meeting and as hard copy at this meeting. Phil Astwood read a summary of the minutes to the meeting and they were approved as distributed.

2. Financial Report - Gene Kirkland has jury duty next week and cannot attend this meeting. He will mail out the treasurers report, but in the meantime reported to Martin Wheeler that all checks have been deposited. The starting balance in December was $10,017.16. Total income and expenses for the period came to about $500 leaving a current balance of $10,520.59. The report was approved as read by Martin.

3. Update on News in NC and SC affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Service - Martin - NC and all states with intercity rail programs may see the cost to operate existing services increase on October 1 (the start of the 2014 fiscal year). NC's increase will be $3.2 million for the current Piedmont and Carolinian services. $3 million which NC had received for Air Quality improvement and which had been used to operate the second Piedmont will be ending. In the future the funds may go to fund the new commuter service in Raleigh that is planned to go around highway construction. With Amtrak charging more to operate the state trains, there will be an overall increase of $6 million to operate the trains. The NCDOT expects to be able to cover this with state funds and new federal funding sources. Any additional service, however, is probably unlikely in the next few years. Paul Worley is the new interim rail division director after current director Anthony Fuller was fired. Martin and Bob will work on a letter from CAPT supporting Paul as permanent head. There is interest in testing a dual-mode power (diesel and overhead electric) locomotive on the Carolinian. This would eliminate the need to change locomotives at Washington and thus save some time. Several people pointed out that such a change can often be made very rapidly. NS has not signed off on this yet. Ernest Robl passed around a copy of "Fast Trains" which he described as a nice book to present passenger rail information to those who may not know a lot about current passenger rail travel. It makes good case for passenger rail. Bill Cole What is holding up double tracking which we thought was all going to be completed together? Ralph Messera - There is a lot of environmental and design work to be done. For example, the current design calls for Concord Road to be raised 25'in places for grade separation. Jim Frierson - SC is working on the "State Multimodal Transportation Plan" conducting a large study of all types of surface transportation except passenger rail. There will be public meetings to collect input and they will conduct a survey about use of public transit. The meetings will take place in COG planning areas, but have not yet been scheduled. This is the very start of the project and there is still time for some input about passenger rail.

4. Update on Resolution Drive in South Carolina in Support of Expanded Rail Passenger Service - Phil reviewed the progress to date including the preparation and distribution of the original brochure and resolution, the preparation of the inserts detailing potential rail passenger routes in SC, and future plans to distribute the inserts to cities and towns listed on the proposed schedules asking once again for local officials to sign and return the resolution. Jim Frierson has completed a mailing list of appropriate mayors, county council chairs and COGs. It was decided that the mailing should also go to county and city chambers of commerce. Copies of the mailing list will be sent to Phil, Gene and Martin. Eventually the resolutions that have been returned to us will be physically presented to the SC House and Senate Transportation Committee Chairs. When the mailing list is ready, Phil will mail a cover letter, a copy of the resolution, the SC brochure and the insert appropriate to the specific area.

5. Update on Recent Push by Central Midlands Coalition for a Columbia-Charlotte Connection to the High-speed Rail Network - Martin said he had not yet sent a letter to Columbia Mayor Benjamin, but will send all of our information along with a letter indicating our support for the project and offering any help we can provide.

6. Discussion of Ways to Distribute the new CAPT Brochure - Jim spoke to Mrs. Harris at SCPRT (Parks Recreation and Tourism) and she turned down our request to distribute the brochure at SC welcome centers. It did not meet their criteria for information to be distributed at welcome centers. It was suggested that brochures be placed in Chambers of Commerce, Libraries, the New Brookland Railroad and Hobby Shop in Columbia, and the Spartanburg Museum (David will check). Martin will talk to Gene about this.

7. Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website Issues - Website - John Bobinyec had nothing new to report. Newsletter - Martin - We got an issue out in December and were waiting for this meeting to work on the next one that should be out in March. Ernest offered any photos that might be useful.

8. Amtrak Update - Martin - Amtrak is redoing all of the corridor schedules. Bill Cole - Due to the snow yesterday the Carolinian and Palmetto were turned at Washington with the passengers continuing on Regional service. There have been at least 5 fatalities in the last 4 weeks involving the Piedmont, Carolinian and Crescent. One was a suicide. Martin - The Virginia governor announced a priority to reestablish passenger service to Roanoke and thus they probably are not going to extend to Greensboro. There already is a successful bus connection to Roanoke carrying 40 riders per day. Also in VA, the Piedmont Rail Coalition is searching for a new mechanism to provide the additional $50 million needed to continue the operation of VA-supported trains after October 1.

9. Reports by Officers and Directors -
  • Jim Stevenson - There is an article from NARP about the sequester expected to take place on March 1. "Sequestration requiring that most federal programs including the military take program by program across the board spending reductions is set to happen March 1, postponed from the original January 2. With no serious plans to divert this mindless approach to governing, more attention is being paid to the impact. At least for the current fiscal year through September 3, it appears that the impact on Amtrak will not be dramatic (more in our February newsletter). The most visible immediate transportation impact is likely to be on aviation, falling on air traffic controllers and airport security. About 1200 fewer air traffic controllers could lead to 900 more flight cancellations stranding 45,000 people and more than 200,000 delays hindering 1 million travelers. Kip Hawley, former administrator of the Transportation Security Administration which handles airport security says the TSA could absorb the cuts for a month or two before they become unsustainable and they are forced to rethink how to enforce security measures."
  • Ed Locklin - A newspaper article from Wilimington said that two of our state senators are trying to find funding to reestablish the Wallace to Castle Hayne trackage. Their prime goal is to increase military and freight capacity for the port.
  • Ernest Robl - There were plans to build a new port further down river and run a rail line from Sunny Point which is the largest military port in the world. This is where the most secure military materials are loaded. An important point is that once tracks are removed it costs a whole lot more to replace them than it would have if the tracks were left there. Even if they are in deplorable condition, the tracks provide a base and a means to replace tracks and ties. A new port is needed because maintaining the port at Wilmington is difficult due to silting and lack of space.
  • Art Peterson - Moving military equipment is strongly dependant on available rail connections and it is difficult to get to NC's largest bases from NC ports. There are several abandoned lines that could be replaced to carry military traffic.
  • Ernest Robl - There are existing rail lines into Ft. Bragg and Camp Lejeune, but it is difficult to get from either one to a NC port. Restoring the Wilmington to New Bern line would be difficult because much of it has been built over. This line and several others still appear on the state map even though they are have not existed for many years. Even the published Delorme maps often contain errors in rail placement.
  • Ed Locklin - There is an announcement from Amtrak about a 20% fare discount. NS has a steam program planning 7 weekends of excursions in areas north of Charlotte. Bob Willits has moved his rail car restoration service from the Lancaster and Chester rail offices to Spencer. This ought to be a real boost for the Spencer museum. Also NS is said to be planning to rent space to rehab an E unit there and use it to run excursions.
  • Virgil Hurley - Being in Spencer will make it easier for Bob to move cars by just bringing them down to Charlotte and putting them on the Carolinian. He can only move two at time, however, or he will have to pay for an additional engine. Another note is that the media do not treat the railroads with respect. Rail is ignored in stories about transportation.
  • Art Peterson - CTA (Chicago) rail ridership up 4.2% to 231 million in 2012. * Cleveland RTA ridership was up 4.3% in 2012. Red line rail was up 9.1%; Blue line rail was up 4.1%; Green line rail was up 4.1% and trolley was up 5% * New Mexico Rail Runner (Belen Santa Fe) was up 4.6% in 2012 * Dallas has the largest light rail system in the country. Ft.Worth now has the TEX Rail plan to establish a 37 mile commuter rail line on existing tracks from southwest Ft.Worth through town to Grapevine and on to DFW northwest side. * Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) gaining funding for extension to Santa Rosa airport. * WMATA (Washington, DC) has issued a draft of a strategic plan to define the next generation of WMATA-rebuilding, expanding and keeping pace with population growth. * Wisconsin is planning for transportation projects; funding by a 5 cent/gallon gasoline tax increase, mileage based registration fees and increased heavy truck registration fees. * Maryland is looking at establishing regional authorities to raise taxes to pay for new light rail in DC and new heavy rail in Baltimore. * SEPTA (Philadelphia) is evaluating extensions of its Norristown High Speed line to King of Prussia and Valley Forge. * Minnesota has proposed a sales tax dedicated to transit projects. * Minneapolis is reviewing transit alternatives for its light rail, perhaps linking it to a trolley line. * Virginias governor has proposed a $1.07 billion budget for rail and transit to pay for: (a) the Dulles Metrorail extension, (b) passenger rail to Roanoke, (c) increased passenger service to Norfolk.
  • Bob Bischoff - The Charlotte Business Journal has an article questioning how friendly McCrorys business director Art Pope is to mass transit and intercity rail. Pope is "great friends" with the Koch Brothers who have oil, gas and asphalt businesses and support the Cato Institute that speaks against rail projects. Pope also backed the John Locke Foundation that is well known to oppose rail and mass transit projects. I am looking for information on cities that are using sales tax to support transit. How can I find this out? American Public Transit?
  • Martin Wheeler - Sources in RGH say the P&N still has some customers on the line to downtown at State Street and is not interested in having NCDOT take over the line at this point. Apparently Charlotte trolley funding will be approved in thee months.
  • Bob Bischoff - Perhaps the funding delay is due in part to the fact that they do not want a temporary building on the property, but something more permanent.
  • Martin Wheeler - The Blue Line extension is all set to go. The State will appropriate $25 million each year, but there is always the risk that they will renege. The Mayor of Atlanta came to talk about the advantages of street cars. The Blue Line extension is going to the University area. As best we can, we will follow the planned alignment today to see where it will go and where the stations will be located. We will also follow the proposed street car alignment and see the area for the new CATS storage yard. There is no visible construction as yet. (Martin described the route the tour will follow).
  • Ernest Robl - NCRR will offer a Progress in Motion seminar March 3-6. These are very informative. Details on NCRR website.
10. Future Meetings - April 20 - Charleston (Christine Wilkinson to talk?), June 8 - Selma, August 10 - Aiken, October 12 - Asheville, December 14 - Columbia.

Adjourn - 2:25 P.M.