Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Imagination Station History & Science Museum
Wilson, NC
March 18, 2017 Open - 1:05 PM

Present - Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, John Bobinyec, Bob Bischoff, Bill Cole, Art Peterson, Leon DeBaer, Jim Frierson, Lynette Peterson and Phil Astwood

Secretary's Report - Minutes of the January 21 meeting were accepted as e-mailed with minor corrections.

Treasurer's Report - Gene Kirkland presented the treasurer's report for the period January 20 – March 15, 2017. The report showed a beginning balance of $1,410.42, expenses of $799.67, credits of $225.00 and a closing balance of $835.75. The association currently has 192 members this includes 2 renewals and 1 new member. Twelve were transferred to ‘inactive’.

Update on the Resolution drive in South Carolina - After our most recent mailing, we have received a total of 30 signed resolutions. Martin Wheeler will modify our existing cover letter and a final mailing will be sent to the larger cities that have not responded earlier These include: Greenville, Spartanburg, Rock Hill, Winnsboro, Orangeburg, Summerville, Florence and Myrtle Beach. Martin will also revise an earlier cover letter which will be sent with our packet of information and the resolutions we have collected to approximatly 40 SC Senators and Representatives on the SC Senate and House committees that deal with transportation. Jim Frierson will send the names of new members to whom this should be sent.

Update on CAPT Fostering Creation of an Association similar to Virginians for Highspeed Rail - Martin Wheeler reported that David Robinson is working on this. Art Peterson agree to contact David for an update. The Virginia asociation has been very active, but Martin has found it difficult to get in contact with anyone in the organization.

Update on News in NC and SC Affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Service - (SC) Jim Frierson reported that on February 28 CARTA (Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority) accepted a bid to build the new intermodal station on the site of the current Amtrak station in North Charleston. Ground breaking will take place on May 11. Completion is expected in the summer of 2018, approximately 15 months behind schedule. Jim had no new information on the new bus and rail transportation center being planned for Columbia. Apparently, USC is planning its own transportation center to be built nearby. Both centers will be near the current Amtrak station. (NC) According to a conversation Martin had with Alan Paul, the new Raleigh station is expected to be compete in February 2018. Paul said the next Piedment should begin service at that time. This is in the current budget, but there is presently a great deal of uncertainty about support for passenger rail at the state and federal levels. It may be a battle to simply maintain the current level of serevice. However, the NCDOT and Connecticut DOT are exploring the possibility of extending the Carolinian to New Haven. This would have the distinct advantage to NC of making the Carolinian a “long distance” train and thus relieve NC of the cost of funding it. Several of those present, however, questioned the ability of New Haven to service the train during its layover there. Martin reported that the Charlotte Blue Line extension is currently scheduled to open in March 2018. The Board still plans to meet in Charlotte in November and see the progress to date. The Charlotte maintainance facility for locomotives and rail cars should be complete by the end of July. Leon DeBaer said that double-decker cars are being considered for the Piedmonts. Gene Kirkland announced that Burlington (the last city to do so) has accepted the ‘Transit Pass Plan’ that will allow passengers detraining in North Carolina to receive a pass before leaving the train allowing them to use the city’s public transit system free of charge from the station to their final destination. Apparently few conductors yet know about this plan. Gene also said that the new Raleigh station is seeking resaurants and other retail businesses to lease space within the station. Passenger service to Asheville was already in doubt due to Norfolk Southern’s request for $150 million in advance to pepare the route, but the recently imposed speed limit of 25 mph on the route effectivly eliminates passenger travel.

Amtrak Update - An outline budget proposed by the Trump administration includes a 13% cut in Amtrak funding from last year’s level. In a note to the Board, David Robinson suggested that this was an opportunity to franchise out the long distance trains which apparently is done in other countries. The Board saw little chance this would work. It was announced that Florida’s Brightline will begin service in July with full service by September. Service may eventually be extended to Orlando and perhaps Jacksonville. Brightline owns the FEC (Florida East Coast RR) and will take over its freight operations.

Update on CAPT newsletter and Website Issues - Newsletter - The Board liked the combined Newsletter and Meeting Notice that Gene Kirkland has prepared. He plans to continue and expand it. Website - John Bobinyec, who is still working to set up a method to pay dues via PayPal, explained that security is one of the prime complications. In order to make it possible to sign up securely, the session must be encrypted. To do this a “certificate” is needed and if that certificate is not issued by a ‘trusted’ company, some browsers will not accept it. The Board approved spending $25 to obtain a certificate and renew it yearly.

Planning for Future Meetings - Our next meeting is planned for Landrum, SC on May 20. Jim has found that the meeting room at the station is booked for that day, and will try to find space at the library. Upcoming meetings are planned for: Greensboro, NC - July 15, Columbia, SC - September 16, Charlotte, NC - November 18, Charleston, SC - January 20, 2018 and Raleigh, NC - March 17, 2018.

Adjourn - 4:00 PM