Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Burlington Amtrak Station, Burlington, NC
April 14, 2012 Open - 2:20 P.M.
Present: Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, John Bobinyec, Bob Bischoff, Art Peterson, Ed Locklin, David Hill, Ken Davis, Leon DeBaer, Harry Clapp, Jim Stevenson, Jim Frierson, Ralph Messera, Bill Muller, Dan Bell, Ken Hall, Ernest Robl, Sarah Nuckles and Phil Astwood.

Action Items:
  • Phil will send a copy of the SC brochure & schedules to SC House & Senate committees
  • Gene will send newsletters to SC House and Senate transportation committee members
  • Phil & David will deliver copies of the SC brochure & schedules to committee chairs
  • Gene will mail CAPT brochures to NC & SC state & fed. Representatives and Senators
  • Jim will get addresses for SC mayors and county council chairs along insert routes
  • Gene will check on a CAPT banner for stations
  • Martin, Ed and Bob will get a newsletter out by the next meeting
1. Secretary's Report - Phil Astwood read a summary of the minutes from the February meeting. The Board agreed that this was a convenient way to deal with the minutes. Minor corrections were made, the members read over the longer version they had received via e-mail, and the minutes were approved as corrected.

2. Treasurer's Report - Gene Kirkland presented the treasurers report. Combining the checking and money market accounts for the period 2/7/12 to 4/13/12, the Association had an opening balance of $10,639.86. Expenditures for postage, printing & a copy of "Amtrak by the Numbers" were $177.36, and income from dues, contributions & interest was $891.26, resulting in a closing balance of $11,353.76.The Association gained 30 new members for a total of 221. Silas Frazer was reported to be suffering from severe Alzheimer's. The Treasurer's Report was accepted as information. From the printer, Martin Wheeler had received 2 CDs containing pdfs of the SC project. One will go to John Bobinyec and the other to Ed Locklin. Ed will send a copy to Martin.

3. Discussion of Volunteers for Train Day (May 12) - John Hall, the station agent at Kannapolis, has asked CAPT to provide volunteers at Kannapolis, and we have been told that we would be welcome at any station. Gene reminded us to be as courteous as possible so as not to resemble a rude NARP member at Raleigh last year. Every station in NC will do something except for Southern Pines and Hamlet which will not be open during the day. Amtrak will set up something at their stations that will run from 10-2. At Selma, Burlington, High Point, Salisbury and Kannapolis NCDOT will have something set up from 10-3. Ken will go to Salisbury. Ed Locklin and Bob Bischoff will go to Kannapolis. Gene will try to have two Train Hosts at each station to distribute NCDOT materials. SC brochures will only be given away at stations on the southern end of the route. Martin will go to Charlotte, Gene to Raleigh and Bill Muller to Durham. Gene will send CAPT materials to all stations whether a member plans to be there of not. There may not be much happening in SC since there are few day trains there. Gene will contact Dianne Cabot Miller at Amtrak to find out if anything is planned for SC.

4. Update on Legislation in North Carolina and South Carolina affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Funding - Sarah Nuckles presented information from a report by Doug Frate (SCDOT Deputy Secretary for Intermodal and Freight Programs). The SCDOT is required to develop a statewide multimodal transportation plan, a portion of which will be a stand-alone statewide rail plan. It will address intercity rail passenger needs along multiple corridors in multiple regions. For example they plan to use the existing Class I corridor in the Pee Dee area and develop a new intermodal facility in Florence that will house a new Amtrak station along with other transit facilities. It seems there is no money and no progress being made, but there is actually a lot going on. In the Myrtle Beach area, the Regional Transportation Authority is interested in exploring the prospects for intercity commuter rail along an existing rail corridor. As you may know, I (Sarah) have opposed interstate 73 believing there are some good alternatives such as intercity rail which would be a smarter use of money. The Berkeley-Charleston- Dorchester Council of Governments (BCD COG) is continuing with an alternative analysis of fixed guide-way transit along I-26 corridors to Summerville and the US-52 corridor to Monks Corner. A variety of options are being considered; focus is on the application of commuter rail to existing Class I freight rail corridors. The City of Columbia and the City of Rock Hill and their planning agencies have expressed an interest in intercity passengers between Columbia and Charlotte. In the upstate, they are discussing the use of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along existing but unused rail corridors in the Greenville area. BRT routes like this could eventually be converted to light rail. AASHTO (The American Association of State Highway and Transit Officials) provides informative updates on line such as a recent article on the cost of congestion. They provide material everyday and much of it might be useful to CAPT. Gene Kirkland added that the SC railroad into Myrtle Beach is in financial trouble and is selling off equipment. Martin Wheeler added that CAPT had previously opposed the building of I-73 until Roy Tolson told us that it would include a space for rail in the middle of the freeway. This might be a good way to get rail into Myrtle Beach. Sarah reported that her term on the SCDOT Commission is up and she does not know who will replace her. She cannot replace herself.

5. 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 resolutions, a remailing, and the current plans to send the brochure including the new schedule inserts to towns and counties mentioned in the schedules. Jim has a new list of members of the SC House Committee on Education and Public Works and the SC Senate Transportation Committee. We had planned to send copies of the resolutions we had received to each member of each committee. Gene asked if each member should also receive a copy of the newsletter. It was agreed that this would be OK, so Jim will send a copy of the mailing list to Gene. Jim is working on an updated list of mayors and county council chairs that will be used in the mailing mentioned above. Phil will use the committee list to send a brochure and inserts to each member. Gene mentioned a couple of special tourist trains from Charlotte to Washington called "Cherry Blossom Specials" on which he will distribute the CAPT and SC materials. Phil and David Hill will work on a visit to deliver materials personally to the chair of each committee and his research staff.

6. Discussion of Ways to Distribute the New CAPT Brochure - Gene has obtained permission to distribute the CAPT brochure at the 9 welcome centers along NC interstate highways if we want to do this. Perhaps it would be best if they were kept under the counter and handed out on request. Gene is trying to get banners made for the NC stations which have a picture of the brochure on them. It is estimated that they will cost $50 each. Perhaps they could go in the welcome centers as well. Gene will ask about what we can do at welcome centers and report at next meeting. Gene had 20,000 brochures printed. That's 22 boxes; we have used 4 so far. Gene feels it is best if we concentrate on distributing these to rail passengers. Gene and Martin feel it is important to distribute them to legislators as well.

7. Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website - Website - John Bobinyec has a pdf file of the new brochure, but needs to find a way to get all parts of it right side up on the website. Gene will see if the two parts of the brochure can be made as separate pages. Newsletter - As mentioned in the last meeting, Ed Locklin, Bob Bischoff and Martin Wheeler will work together to publish the newsletter. They have plenty of material and promise to have a newsletter sent out soon enough to contain the next meeting notice. Martin described the planned layout of newsletter with "From the Cab" on the front page with short news items. The interior will include an 'Operation Lifesaver' article and Bob has written an article on Amtrak. Could it have a travelers advisory section for the Carolinas? Gene pointed out that it well be hard to keep something like this timely. Best to put this on the website. Gene mentioned that the new masthead was a good deal at a cost of $150. Martin assured all that contributions to the newsletter are welcome.

8. Amtrak Update - Martin said that the Senate has passed its own version of the transportation bill, and according to Speaker Boehner, the House is supposed to come up with a new bill. The Government is still operating on a continuing budget resolution due to the election and therefore significant changes in spending are unlikely. Until Congress settles the party loyalty issue, nothing is going to happen. According to Gene, a report in April said Amtrak ridership was up 3.7% in the first six month of fiscal year 2012 (October March). The leading increases were the new Virginia trains. The Lynchburg service was up 27.4% and the Newport News service was up 16%. Next in line were the Piedmonts up 15%. NCDOT now uses every available car on Sundays. Last Sunday the train was full out of High Point. 354 people rode #76 last Sunday night. Gene suggested that the increase is due to awareness and good service. This increase began before the rise the gas prices. There have been significant gains in 8 of the last 9 years. Plans for the Norfolk service remain the same as reported at the last meeting. An Amtrak analyst has put out a station by station ridership gain report for North Carolina showing that the small stations are beginning to add significantly to ridership.

9. North Carolina Transit Update - Martin reported little change in the Charlotte area since the last meeting. The CATS Blue Line has a state full-funding agreement with $70 million in extra money up front. Federal funding will be coming soon. They have started buying up properties. There are about 60 properties currently on the list. The Red Line is trying to get going. CATS bus and rail ridership is still up. Rail usage is about 15-16,000 per day. NCDOT had a public meeting about the maintenance facility for NCDOT south of Bank of America Stadium that will handle Amtrak and high speed rail trains as well as possibly some light rail. Money for this project is part of the Stimulus funds that must be spent by 2017. A new 'Y' will be part of the airport intermodal project that will allow trains to go to Charleston and Columbia. This will be a place to turn trains coming into the new downtown station. The Blue Line extension should be done by 2016, the starter Streetcar line also in 2016, and the Red Line possibly by 2017. They have put out a request for developers for the Charlotte multimodal station. The auxiliary track work and double tracking needs to be done by 2017, but the money for the station is not part of the Stimulus funds and thus it does not have to be done that soon. Gene reported that a draft plan has been presented to Wake County by David Cook (Wake County Manager) and David King (General Manager for TTA - Triangle Transit) that includes a major bus service upgrade as well as the first part of a rush hour 37-mile commuter rail service between Garner and Durham. This includes park and ride lots, bus shelters, and sidewalks. A longer enhanced transit plan is to build light rail from Cary through downtown Raleigh up to Millbrook Road in north Raleigh along the old CSX line to Wake Forest. Bus service improvements will cost $138 million. Total capital and operating cost will be $344. Commuter rail service will cost $654 million. This will be paid for by a 1/2 cent sales tax in Durham and Wake County; no federal money. CAPT lost a good friend when Pat Simmons director of NCDOT Rail Division retired recently. There was a well-attended open house at the proposed Raleigh train station. They have applied for a $66 million transportation grant that will cover rail work, street work and the renovation of the new station building. Harry Clapp reports that they want to build an "Aerotropolis" in Greensboro and do everything by air. Basically, this is development centered on an airport.

10. Reports by Officers and Directors -
  • Jim Frierson - The draw bridge at Myrtle Beach is still in the open position. It appears to be in good shape. SCDOT fixed it a few years ago, but it is not in use.
  • Bob Bischoff - When was the last Amtrak fare increase? Air lines are making small increases and they keep adding fees for everything. Ralph - This is not easy to figure out because they do not announce increases. John - Also hard to see because of demand pricing that depends on day and expected load. There is nothing new on the Charlotte Trolley. We need to submit a business plan.
  • Ed Locklin - Like most of you, I got an e-mail from NARP with a "take action" notice about extending the Sunset to Jacksonville. I clicked the button and yesterday got a call from Chris Kelly in Rep. Larry Kissel's office. Does anyone know who this is? Apparently he's the congressman's railroad man. All of the towns in the Panhandle are trying to get that train reestablished.
  • Ernest Robl - I saw the Amtrak exhibit train in Raleigh and was disappointed. I doubt it would convince non-rail passengers to begin traveling by train. It would have been nice to show trains in nice landscapes, or show passengers enjoying their ride. They had a lot of travel posters, but I doubt these have much of an effect. It was focused on the past while they need to look toward the future. I have an essay on my website entitled "What's Wrong with American Passenger Stations?" It points out that most new or renovated stations have only one track with no room for display trains which are commonly used in Europe; not only at stations but also at fairs.
  • John Bobinyec - I have an e-mail note from local CAPT member, Thomas Hepner advising us that there is an NCDOT meeting April 24 about closing 2 road crossing at McCleansville. He wants to know our position on this. I believe we generally agree with the closing of crossings. The fewer crossings the better the protection at those that remain. Harry Clapp will give our position at the meeting. Engine 1893 lost its auxiliary generator and is on its way back to Beech Grove for repair.
  • Gene Kirkland - We got one new member today so the total is now 31. Most are from North Carolina.
  • Jim Stevenson - Have we gotten any refurbished coaches or food service cars back for the Piedmonts? Gene - Probably on the first of June there will be another coach and a food service car. John Currently there are 11 cars including the combine. This breaks down to: 2 food service cars, 8 coaches and the combine. On Sundays they use all of them. There are 4 coaches and 3 food service cars yet to be redone. They are trying to buy more.
  • Martin Wheeler - Buses are supposed to meet each train at the Charlotte station, but there is apparently no communication between Amtrak and CATS about timing. There is also no information for passengers. The freight service started on the Piedmont and Northern, but there is no business and thus they may pull out.
13. Planning for Future Meetings - Moved to June 16 Columbia (Jim will set this up), August 11 High Point, October 13 - Spartanburg, December 8 Raleigh

Adjourn - 5:00 P.M.