Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Charlotte, NC
July 21, 2018 Open - 1:45

Present: Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, John Bobinyec, Bob Bischoff, Ed Locklin, Ralph Messera, Jim Frierson, Charles Hiatt, Thomas Warlick, Mark Gustafson, Sidney Halma (Guest) and Phil Astwood

Secretary's Report: In Phil Astwood’s absence at the May meeting, Jim Frierson took minutes. The minutes were distributed to the Board members via e-mail and approved as sent.

Treasurer's Report: Gene Kirkland reported an opening balance on May 19, 2018 of $1,196.79, expenses for postage, printing and use of the meeting room of $133.00, income of $150.00 for a final balance on July 20, 2018 of $1,213.79. The association currently has 188 members. The report was accepted as information.

Update on the Resolution Drive in South Carolina in Support of Expanded Rail Passenger Service: Phil Astwood reported that to date the drive has received 30 signed resolutions. Using information collected by Jim Frierson, Phil has prepared an up-to-date list of SC House and Senate members serving on committees related to transportation, and he has prepared a cover letter for Martin and Jim to edit and sign. At a time to be selected by the Board, the cover letter accompanied by our SC brochure and schedule inserts will be forwarded to the House and Senate members on that list. At this meeting the Board suggested that the cover letter should contain more specifics about what needs to be done now to begin the process, and it should describe what needs to be done in Charleston. The Board also suggested that the letter not be sent until late fall when the legislature is ready to begin its 2019 session.

Update on CAPT Fostering Creation of an Association Similar to Virginians for High Speed Rail: Martin explained that for several years CAPT has considered the development of an organization in North Carolina similar to ‘Virginians for High Speed Rail’ (VHSR). This name is a partial misnomer in that the organization’s purpose is to strengthen and expand all types of rail service in Virginia. More than a primarily educational organization such as CAPT, VHSR has members from business, industry, government and the public. Under the direction of a paid manager, VSHR raises money to support its advocacy for improved rail service throughout the state. This is more than a tax-exempt organization such as CAPT can do and thus our new organization needs to be separate from CAPT. In addition, CAPT believes that the new organization should serve only North Carolina since South Carolina is currently less well prepared to make significant advances in rail service.

David Robinson is currently leading CAPT’s efforts to establish the new organization. Though unable to attend the meeting, David sent a letter containing suggestions for action. He divided his suggestions into two ‘steps’: Step One - A representative from CAPT (probably Martin) should meet with Jason Orthner (Director of the NCDOT Rail Division) to solicit his support for an organization such as we envision. Step Two – Name the new organization, consider the structure and funding of a budget, and begin work on by-laws and a board of directors. David admitted that all of this would be a daunting task for an organization the size of CAPT and suggested that we might look for a partner or, perhaps, another organization that might wish to take on the whole project. One way or the other, David urges the Board to begin immediately.

In discussion members of the Board pointed out: 1. We need to clearly define our goals for the new organization, 2. We have to make sure that local government leaders are involved, 3. We are going to need outside help and Martin suggested approaching the Sierra Club, and 4. We should consider if it is wise to do any of this at this point when we must be concerned with protecting and improving what we already have.

Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website Issues: John Bobinyec requested copies of meeting minutes that have been approved so that they can be placed on the website. Gene Kirkland said his new computer is nearly ready and thus he can produce a newsletter in the next 3 weeks. Among other items, he plans to include an article on Raleigh’s four stations and information about the start of work for the Charlotte station.

Update on News in North and South Carolina Affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Service:
Gene Kirkland – The newly completed station in Raleigh is “something to see”, but it has some problems. Some passengers are missing their trains because of the long walk to the trains and the lack of signage. The parking garage is a problem as well since it is not close and it is expensive. Currently there can only be one train in the station at a time until the old station is removed and additional tracks can be built. Eight additional cars are coming from the circus train and additional locomotives have been acquired from GoTransit.

Jim Frierson – A consultant has prepared plans for a solution to the Assembly Street rail crossing problem in Columbia, but the requisite environmental impact statement may take 4 years to complete. An alternative would be to reroute the trains to the east, but this would require crossing an area that is prone to flooding. He will send Gene a newsletter article describing the progress and the problems. Construction of Charleston’s new intermodal station should be complete by October of this year. There is no information on progress at the Clemson station. Gene will invite Jason Orthner (NCDOT Rail Division) to speak at our next meeting.

Ed Locklin – The Charlotte Observer reports that ground has officially been broken at the site of the new Charlotte station and underground work is underway. Attempts are being made to set up ‘Public-Private Partnerships (PPP’s) for the new station. The bus station currently occupying the new station’s location will be moved across the street.

Bob Bischoff – ‘Brightline’ in Florida might be extended to Tampa and additional ‘Brightline’ routes may be established between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and Charlotte and Atlanta.

Ralph Messera - We had a great class of new train hosts at the last meeting.

Reports by Officers and Directors:
Ed Locklin – A group is establishing a website to support the ‘Empire Builder’ whose existence is currently threatened. The ‘Southwest Chief’ may also be threatened. There has been a slight upgrade in the food service on the ‘Lake Shore Limited’ and the ‘Capitol Limited’.

Martin Wheeler – Bridges and other infrastructure for the new Charlotte station should be complete in 2020. A PPP partner for the station should be selected by December. There is talk of extending one of the ‘Piedmonts’ to Selma.

Planning for Future Meetings: September 15 – Raleigh, November 17 - Durham, January 19, 2019 – Charleston (if the new station is finished) or Columbia. Other meetings in 2019, locations TBA- March 16, May 18, July 20, September 21, and November 16.

Adjourn - 3:45