Martin Wheeler, Jim Frierson, Gene Kirkland, Bob Bischoff, John Bobinyec, Ed Locklin, Don Yehle, Ralph Messera, Charles Gossett, Kirk Schneider (visitors) and Phil Astwood
The minutes of the May meeting were distributed by e-mail and read at this meeting. They were approved with no corrections.
Gene Kirkland’s report is attached.
Update on Resolution Drive in SC in Support of Expanded Rail Passenger Services:
Phil Astwood reported that our materials had been sent to the members of the SC House and Senate committees dealing with transportation, but as the SC legislature is not in session until January, no response is expected until next year. Martin Wheeler worked with the printers to make about 10 changes to the brochure and inserts. These are on a flash drive. John Bobinyec will put these onto the copy on the web site. Changes to the brochure are to pictures on the front, to the transit options for Charlotte, and the address was changed to Gene’s address. On the inserts corrections were made to suggested commuter option in Columbia and Charleston, and Amtrak connection times were updated. The cost to make the changes was about $400. The next decision is about how many of each item we should reprint. Martin will check on prices. Last time we spent about $750 on printing.
Update on NC On Track:
David Robinson was unable to attend the meeting, but sent a request that we provide more input on items on the website and newsletter and offer suggestions. He pointed out that we are at the halfway point in our one-year effort to establish NCOT and we need to decide if we want to push forward or not. He has done a great deal and collected a lot of information on North Carolina rail activity. One current question is what is apt to happen with the request that a “light rail” (probably better if it is commuter rail) connection be built between Charlotte and the Panthers’ training facility in Rock Hill. The site is right next to the rail line south of I77. If NS cooperated, it would be very convenient since the stadium in Charlotte is right next to the station. The Panthers’ owner also would like to see higher speed service to Raleigh and Winston Salem.
Update on News in NC and SC Affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Service:
Gene Kirkland – So far the Raleigh station has no food or retail vendors renting space. All spaces are being taken for office space. There will be an architectural firm on the first floor, the City of Raleigh will have offices on the second floor and the corporate headquarters for a wine company will be on the third floor. The local restaurants objected strongly to food sales in the station. There does not appear to be plans for meeting space. Construction on the fist and third floors has already started. As has been mentioned before, there is still a real need for additional signage in and around the station. Ridership is very strong on the Piedmonts. So far no changes in schedule, but some Piedmonts will stop at Lexington for the barbeque festival. Bids to redo the circus cars were too high so they are going to be rebid.
Don Yehle – I was able to meet with every Carolina congressional office. Information was well received by staff members who generally knew very little about passenger rail. The visit to the ‘Hill’ next year will be March 29-April 3 and all CAPT members are encouraged to take part. Items discussed this year were Amtrak funding, safety, and freight train interference. This group has a lot of ideas about things that should be done to improve service in the area. Should we try to arrange a meeting with SCDOT to discuss them? If so, whom should we meet? Perhaps we should also meet with Columbia mayor Benjamin again. Don is on the RPA committee to select the winner of the Ross Capon Award. He suggested we think about whom we might want to see nominated for next year. Perhaps someone active in rebuilding the Raleigh Station or the North Charleston Station.
Jim Frierson – There was a public meeting scheduled for this spring to consider solutions to the rail congestion problems on Assembly Street in Columbia, but it was canceled for some reason. Next scheduled step is completion of the final environmental document by this fall. There will be a public meeting (no date given) and a decision on the environmental document is expected early in 2020. Possible solutions are grade separation or rerouting some or all of the rail traffic. Earl Eargle is trying to generate interest in a ‘Volunteer Station Host’ program for stations in SC that are not staffed.
Ralph Messera - A new food service system will be coming to eastern trains. Meals will be pre-packaged and available for sleeping car passengers only. They can come to the dining car to eat, or have the meals delivered.
Charles Gosset – We need to turn to social media to increase meeting attendance as that is where younger people get their information. Also important to remember there are two other transit-oriented organizations in South Carolina: Best Friends of Low Country Transit in Charleston and The Upstate Transportation Coalition in the Greenville area. Right now SCDOT has a survey on line for South Carolina residents asking about priorities for transportation in the next 20 years. Unfortunately most responses ask for additional lanes on the interstates, but there is an area to comment on transit and passenger rail.
Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website Issues:
John Bobinyec - Nothing to report.
Gene Kirkland – Would like to have meeting information about a month before the meeting so as to get the newsletter out.
Gene Kirkland – Apparently there is some question about what will happen to the new dining cars on the eastern train. I have been told they will be removed, others say they will stay as a place for sleeping car passengers to eat.
Martin Wheeler – There is a plan to reinstate service between New Orleans and Mobile with 4 trains per day. CSX is selling part of the line between Jacksonville and Mobile so it is probably unlikely that service will be restored there.
Reports by Officers and Directors:
Martin Wheeler – On a brief vacation to Tennessee I rode the Music City Star and also rode the commuter service from Lebanon to Nashville. They run 3 trains per day operated by R.J. Corman using Amtrak F-40s in push-pull arrangement. CATS is discussing the Silver Line which will be a light rail line from Belmont to Matthews. New street cars are arriving for the Gold Line in about a month. The new Greyhound station is complete, but not yet in use.
Planning for Future Meetings
September 21 – Charlotte
November 16 - Landrum