Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Cary Amtrak Station, Cary, NC
February 11, 2012 Open - 12:20 P.M.
Present: Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, John Bobinyec, Bob Bischoff, Art Peterson, Ed Locklin, Ken Davis, Bill Cole, Leon DeBaer, Harry Clapp, John Stein, Jim Stevenson, Charles Hiatt, Mike Noonhester, Ernest Robl, Ann Franklin (CAFT), and Phil Astwood.

Action Items:
  • Phil will prepare a summary of the minutes for the next meeting
  • Gene will buy a copy of the book "Amtrak by the Numbers" for the Association
  • Gene will get addresses & mail CAPT brochures to NC & SC state/fed reps. and senators
  • Jim will get a list of addresses for SC mayors and county councils along insert routes
  • John will try to scan the CAPT brochure and put it on the website
  • Martin, Ed and Bob will get a newsletter out by the next meeting
1. Secretary's Report - Phil Astwood distributed the minutes of the December meeting via e-mail to Board members and as hardcopy at the meeting. Several typographical errors pointed out by Jim Frierson (via e-mail) and by members at the meeting were corrected and the minutes were accepted as corrected. Phil suggested that due to the length of the minutes, a summary be prepared to read as a review at the start of each meeting. The suggestion was accepted.

2. Treasurer's Report - Gene Kirkland distributed the treasurers report and pointed out expenditures of $176.88 for postage, $658 for printing, and $12.17 to renew our domain name on Go Daddy. The current balance in the Associations checking and money market accounts i $10,639.86. Gene said there had been a good response to David Hills letter campaign to NARP members and he would report on new members in detail at the next meeting. Current membership is 191. Gene and Jim Stevenson recommended "Amtrak by the Numbers", a new illustrated roster of all of Amtraks equipment over its 40-year history. They suggested the Association purchase a copy for the files and the Board approved. Gene will buy a copy.

3. Update on Legislation in North Carolina and South Carolina affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Funding - Minutes from the last meeting describe several actions taken in Raleigh and Durham to increase funding. As yet nothing major is coming up in the legislature of either state. The SC legislature is now in session. NC currently has its "mini session" only.

4. Update on the Resolution Drive in South Carolina in Support of Expanded Rail Passenger Service, and Additional Inserts for the Resolution Drive Brochure - Phil Astwood reviewed past activities in this area including the original mailing of the SC brochures and the plans to resend the brochure including the new schedule inserts to towns and counties mentioned in the schedules. Gene will include a copy of the SC brochure and inserts in welcome letters to new South Carolina members. Martin Wheeler pointed out that all of this information will be put on a CD and can be reprinted as needed. There are still a few errors in the brochure which will be corrected on the disc and we will eventually get 2 copies. John Bobinyec will get one; perhaps Phil will keep the other. Martin briefly discussed the Charlotte to Charleston and the Greenville to Myrtle Beach schedules commenting on the selection of the proposed routes and the travel times used to prepare the schedules (details about the routes can be found in the December 2011 minutes). He pointed out the brochure contains a PO box address. If we wish to maintain this address, CAPT will need to pay for the box.

5. Ann Franklin (Capital Area Friends of Transit) - CAFT is an advocacy group established by Wake Up Wake County. The population of the Triangle Area is expected to grow by 1 million people in the next 10 years and we hope they will be even more mobile than citizens are today. Additionally, we want the area to be attractive to anyone worldwide who might want to come here. To this end, Wake Up Wake County has worked on water quality, transportation, and education. CAFT is one of many allied groups working on this effort. Publicity and the collection of opinion are important tasks now. A plan for bus, light rail, and commuter rail is being formulated. When a plan is ready we will ask for a referendum on a 1/2 cent sales tax, perhaps as early as this fall, which would support all 3 types of service (bus, commuter rail, & light rail). The bus and commuter rail plan will depend only on this tax. The light rail plan will derive part of its support from sales tax, but will require additional outside funding. We plan to mount a campaign in favor of the referendum, but at the moment we are only seeking to spread the word on how people get around and how transit will affect that. Any support is welcome. We would like each of you as well as CAPT to join the group. We want better mobility because we know it is related to everything else we care about. Its related to our economy, our environment, and our health. It would be nice if everyone lived in the same place and everything they needed was nearby, but we know thats not possible, so we need transit. Some communities have done a lot already with bus, light rail and heavy rail. In some areas even bike groups have had an effect on mobility with bike lanes and other accommodations. For us, the first step will be to double bus hours. Second part is a commuter rail line from west of Durham to south of Raleigh, almost to Johnson County. This will solve many traffic problems. The third step is light rail. This is the most expensive to build, but it has the most power to shape land use. This initiative attracts people in all age ranges - people who want interaction and choices. Information meetings will occur in each town and they will lead to a commitment between the town and the county for what will be done. Ann passed out a copy of the "Wake County Transit Plan" and asked each person who wished to to sign up to work with CAFT. The reason for asking for a sales tax increase is that the people who pay the tax are the same people who use the service. For example, AAA says it takes $10,000 per year to operate a car. It is difficult today for employers to give employees a raise, but if they can provide a benefit (effective transit) that allows a household to eliminate a car, the employees get the equivalent of a substantial raise in salary. The people who benefit are also the people who make the majority of the purchases in the community. Several comments were made about the need to improve bus connections to Amtrak due to the limitations on parking at many stations. Ernest Robl pointed out that the current "spoke" design of the Durham bus system makes it difficult to travel in any direction except into and out of the city. Circle routes are needed. Better connections to the airport are also needed. Some of these problems will be addressed as Durham undergoes a planned major rearrangement of bus system. Individual service routes are a partial solution to some problems, and these are available in all 100 NC counties, but the quality of the service varies greatly. Martin asked if the Board was interested in having CAPT join CAFT. It was so moved, seconded and approved.

6. Discussion of Ways to Distribute the New CAPT Brochure - Gene has obtained permission from Amtrak to put brochures in all SC and NC stations. The brochures are in the Raleigh, Charlotte and Cary stations now; they will be in all others in two weeks. Martin suggested we send a brochure to each federal and state legislator in North and South Carolina. These should be accompanied by a personalized letter. We need to find a centralized source for these addresses. Gene will get some folks to help him with this. He will contact Jim Frierson for addresses of SC legislators. Should it also go to Chambers of Commerce? We are already planning to display it at welcome centers, but this is going to require some reprinting so that it can be read.

7. Update on Mailings to NARP Members in the Carolinas - Gene will bring a list of new members to the next meeting. No information yet on CAPT members who joined NARP.

8. Update on recent Push by a Central Midlands Coalition for Charlotte/Columbia Connection to the High Speed Rail Network - Jim sent an e-mail stating there was nothing new to report. Studies are planned that are still awaiting funding.

9. Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website - Website - As requested, Gene Kirkland and John Bobinyec looked into the feasibility of CAPT having an online registration and fee payment system on the website. To complete an agreement with PayPal, John needs to file information on our 501(c) (3) tax-exempt status. He has the pdf for the brochure, but it shows the material just as it is on paper. One portion is upside down and he needs to find a way to fix this at minimum cost. Alternatively, he could scan it and change it manually, but that is time consuming. Will try to scan it first and perhaps break it up into 'screen-sized' sections. Ed Locklin will try this also and send John a copy. Newsletter - At the last meeting it was decided Ed Locklin would edit the newsletter, and Martin Wheeler and Bob Bischoff will submit material along with anyone else who would like to. No newsletter is ready yet. Ed has edited what he received from Gene, does not have much to work with yet. Ernest Robl said it is important to get something out soon so that members who do not come to meetings have an idea of what is going on. Some of the material can go on the web site. Ernest said his pictures are always available when needed. Martin said something will be out by the next meeting. Among other things, the newsletter will contain the announcement for the next meeting. Gene showed a copy of a new masthead for the newsletter that had been designed for us by Allan Paul.

10. Amtrak Update - There is a proposed bill in the House (HR7) that would end dedicated funding for public transit, cut Amtrak funding by 25% and prevent any funding from going to California high speed rail. There would be no funding for any transit system that operated any rail line. It would eliminate funding for sidewalks and other safety features, but would expand domestic energy production. There is expected to be a lot of resistance to this. A proposed bill on the Senate side would preserve funding for transit and revise grant guidelines for DOTs so they will be based more strongly on merit. According to Martin, Allan Paul says there are no plans to extend any of the Piedmonts to DC and no plans to make any changes in the Carolinian. Asheville service is still on the drawing board. Most of the stations are ready. The new Norfolk train is scheduled to start by December. Southbound it is planned to be in Richmond at 6:30 PM and Norfolk at 8:35. Northbound, however, it is planned to leave Norfolk at 4:55 AM in order to become a train to Boston. This schedule will not provide any reasonable connections from Raleigh to Norfolk. A recent issue of 'Trains' mentioned "chaos" in management at Amtrak and Gene said this is very real. Jeff Mann (assistant vice president for policy and development - south) was fired for not being productive. From February 27 to March 29 service on the Palmetto and Carolinian will be altered for track work Monday through Thursday. During this time the Silver Star will leave Miami five hours early and arrive 5 hours early at all points up to Washington. There will be a meeting in Norfolk on March 3 to include a tour of the light rail facilities. The connector bus to Lynchburg is doing very well and might be extended to Roanoke. Former Senator John Edwards rode the Piedmont this week. Bill Cole has heard that there is $3 million available for renovations in the Charlotte Station, but nothing has been done yet. The fact that the Amtrak sign does not work has been reported many times, but it has not been fixed. It is probably Amtraks responsibility. Parking lot lights are out too. The state is requesting information about companies to develop the Multi-modal station in Charlotte. A master developer is to be selected by the end of the year. This is a $200 million project that includes the station and all necessary track work and grade separation. There also will be a service facility and perhaps lay over area for the Red Line south of the station. The light rail is not expected to serve the station, but buses, streetcars, Amtrak, high speed rail, and commuter rail will.

11. North Carolina Transit Update - CATS recently got an $18 million grant to extend platforms to 3-car lengths along the Blue Line and add power substations to produce the power needed for 3-car trains. The Red Line is trying to find funding since there is apparently no federal money for commuter rail. Other places seem to have gotten it, it is not clear why Charlotte cannot. The Blue Line extension is moving along well at 85% design and a target date of 2016 to begin service. They are already starting to buy land; construction could be only a year away. The five-mile long streetcar project is at about 35% design. Work is lagging to wait until the DNC is over. Some rail is in; they need a connection track and signals. Until their facilities are complete, the trolleys will stay at the light rail facility over night and then travel over the light rail to go into service. Charlotte Trolley is trying to get about a mile and half of unused track north of B of A Stadium on which to run the trolley. Some upgrading will be needed. Ground breaking to begin for the new multimodal yard out at the airport next week. The old yard will be used by CATS for storage and a crew base.

12. Reports by Officers and Directors -
(I am afraid the recorder and I missed the comments made by Leon DeBaer, Mike Noonhester, and Art Peterson.)
  • Ernest Robl - "Operation Lifesaver" appreciated our contribution. They are struggling due to cutbacks, but so far presentations are still available to all who make a request. Anything we can do to promote safety and stress Lifesaver would be appreciated. Grade crossing accidents are down, but trespassing fatalities are up. I recently wrote a column for "Going Faster" in "Passenger Train Journal."
  • John Bobinyec - Engines 1755 & 1797 have been released from Beach Grove. They have to complete a shakedown before being accepted by NCDOT. Every summer train 92 is run a couple hours earlier due to track work. If 92 were just a half hour earlier all of the time with a wait in DC, it could become a guaranteed connection to train 29. Can we push for this? Now it does not connect with anything. Gene will call Malcolm at NARP. Leon has tried this without much effect. Perhaps a joint letter from NARP and CAPT to a high level official would help.
  • Gene Kirkland - Two food service cars are coming next to the Piedmonts. Leon and I will be attending the meeting of the Rail Users Network in Washington on April 20 I will be on a panel to discuss NC rail. Amtrak's 40th anniversary train will be coming to Spencer in March.
  • Ed Locklin - I wrote to (Transportation Secretary Ray) LaHood with questions and got a reply from an underling who did not answer the questions. Can we get the 'Sunset' back on the route from Florida to New Orleans?
  • Ken Davis - The Train Hosts will meet in Kannapolis on March 3. Martin plans to attend
  • Harry Clapp - Dr. Meredith Richards who got significant improvements in Charlottesville service might be a good person to present to us.
  • Bill Cole - Amtrak National Train Day is the first Saturday in May. Big stations do a lot and we should do more. I got a lot out of Guest Rewards with a trip around the country in a full bedroom. In the last 24 hrs before a train departs, the fare from Charlotte to Raleigh goes up $6.
  • Bob Bischoff - Is there any talk of an Amtrak fare increase?
  • Jim Stevenson - Any news about a new Raleigh station? Gene 3 weeks ago City Council approved a new location in the old Dillon Supply Bldg. Initial funding for design will be supported by a bond issue. The new station will have high level boarding platforms. It will look like the Durham Station.
  • Martin Wheeler - NRHS Chapter in Greensboro is sponsoring a NC passenger rail meeting at Greensboro on March 3 at 10AM. There will be many speakers. It is open to all.
13. Planning for Future Meetings - April 14 - Burlington (Art and Gene will set this up) This might be a late meeting (2PM) to allow all trains, June 9 - Columbia, August 11 - High Point, October 13 - Spartanburg, December 8 - Raleigh

Adjourn - 3:45 P.M.