Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
City Range Steak House, Greenville, SC
August 13, 2011 Open - 1:30 P.M.
Present: Martin Wheeler, Jim Frierson, Ed Locklin, Gene Kirkland, John Bobinyec, Bob Bishoff, John Wagner, David Hill, Peter Strub (TranSystems) and Phil Astwood.

Action Items:
  • Jim will identify SC legislative committee chairs to receive the SC brochure and insert
  • Jim will check list of municipal leaders in cities/towns along routes proposed in insert
  • Phil will prepare a cover letter for mailing insert to municipalities along proposed routes
  • Martin and Bob will complete the schedule for the proposed Greenville-Myrtle Beach route
  • David will prepare a letter inviting NARP members to join CAPT
  • David will send the invitation with a new CAPT brochure and appropriate SC material
  • Gene will print 20,000 copies of the new brochure and send a copy to each CAPT member
  • Bob, Martin and Ed will work on designing and sending a bimonthly newsletter
1. Peter Strub (TranSystems) While serving on a Greenville County Council rail subcommittee, several of us became interested in rail preservation. The result was that about $1 million was spent to acquire 13 miles of abandoned railroad. The northern 11 miles of which is now called the Greenville County Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail. Three and half miles on the southern end connect with the Central Carolina Piedmont RR which is a short line owned by Rail America. Because the County was not allowed to own a railroad, the Greenville County Economic Development Corporation was created and a study was begun to see how the corridor could be used in some way to tie the “Golden Strip Communities” (Maudlin, Simpsonville, and Fountain Inn) to downtown. The RR ran right through these communities. The study looked at all types of transit (even bikeways and pedestrian walks) and also considered the location of stations and station-oriented-development (residential as well as commercial) along a corridor that was about18 miles long. The route runs at a right angle to many major streets in Greenville and thus could tie in well with Greenville Transit buses on those streets. The study also looked at connections to Amtrak and ways to get through downtown Greenville from the end of the corridor to the current Amtrak station. An old G&N line runs through the area, but some of the right-of-way has been lost to development. The overall project is needed because there is a lot of development (such as Clemson’s ICAR) along the route and there is a need to connect the Golden Strip area to downtown. The greater Greenville area is expected to grow 43% in the next 20 years. Widening roads is not going to be enough to deal with congestion and air quality is going to be a problem as well. Even if nothing is done immediately, it is still important to preserve as much right-of-way as possible. All methods of transportation were considered: light rail, commuter rail, BRT (bus rapid transit), and heavy rail. It would be preferable to use rail as much as possible, but in some areas (such as downtown) there is not enough connected right-of-way, and in other areas it is expensive relative to BRT. Several types of BRT were considered (on existing highways, or on dedicated right-of-way). A chart showed the calculated statistics for the various methods. Capital costs ranged from $2.5 million to about $12 million, operating costs from $1 million to $1.7 million. Travel times extended from about 30 to 60 minutes. All costs, expected revenues, and usage figures were evaluated and showed the BRT option to be lowest in cost. Overall this study has become part of the Greenville Pickens Transportation Study and it has become a part of their 20 year transportation plan.

Answers to Questions: “Will tracks be removed?” - The tracks will not be removed from right-of-way where they exist today even if a portion of right-of-way is used for a bus road. “Charlotte found labor costs to be much higher for BRT than rail” - According to our estimates the labor cost for BRT is not very different from rail. “How many rail frequencies?” – Thirty minute lead times in rush hour, sixty minutes for the remainder of the day 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM Monday-Friday. “What is projected ridership?” – Between 2,100 – 2,700 riders per day. “What would be difference in fare light rail to bus?” – About $1.50-$2.00 each way on BRT. Fare would be related to parking costs so that a ride will cost about the same as parking. “Running times of 6AM-7PM will not help with Amtrak connection” – This schedule really relates to currently possible routes which do not connect with Amtrak. That would be in the future when the station might be in a better location. “How about expansion of BRT vs light rail?” – Current thinking is that BRT would only be a temporary solution. Rail will be the eventual method. “Is it possible for the ‘Toll Road’ right-of-way to be used for a rail line?” – Yes, it has a 300’ right-of-way and has only two interchanges. Overall, the purpose of this program is to find a way to get people from the Golden Strip area into town for work and entertainment, and to get downtown people out to take advantage of the surrounding communities.

2. Secretary's Report - Phil Astwood distributed the minutes of the June 11 meeting via e-mail to Board members and as hardcopy at the meeting. The minutes were accepted as amended including typos submitted at the meeting.

3. Treasurer's Report - Gene discussed expenditures of $939.40 for design and printing of the SC Brochure, a $100 contribution to Operation Lifesaver and additional costs for food and office expenses. He expects to spend about $500 more for changes in the CAPT brochure and $3,400 for printing, so the total will be close to the $4,400 in the CAPT Challenge account which he will then close out. At present, the Association has $12,035.31 in the operating account, and $4,484.58 in the challenge account for a total of $16,519.89. The Association currently has189 members.

4. Update on Legislation from the past Session in NC affecting Transit and Rail Passenger funding – Gene - There were two actions. 1) The legislature passed a bill that requested DOT collect money to cover the cost of water provided on trains so all tickets prices will rise by fifty cents. 2) Bill #865 was introduced in the House that would end subsidy of Amtrak service in NC. This will raise fares by 20%. Such a rise will cut ridership and force additional raises in fares. It is in committee right now. “If approved it will be deadly”. It is interesting that the fare box collection for the Piedmonts and Carolinian is currently 75% of operating costs, one of the highest in the country. This is over the entire route, in NC alone the trains cover 95%. Martin – It would be good to have a piece in the newsletter about how to respond to legislators about situations like this. The General Assembly website is very good with easy ways to send messages to legislators and find information about bills.

5. Update on Resolution Drive in South Carolina in Support of Expanded Rail Passenger Service - Copies of the most recent inserts were given out at the last meeting. Phil is still going to compose a letter to be sent with the insert to cities and counties along the proposed routes. The letter will include a list of those who have submitted a resolution, and it will contain an offer to come and speak about the project or send additional information. Phil will send a copy to the Board for approval. This cannot be sent until we get a new address list showing changes during the last election. Jim will get this list together. Martin and Bob are working to complete the Myrtle Beach-Greenville insert with a new schedule which utilizes information gained in the last meeting about available space along proposed interstate highway 73. The schedule is conservative, based on current conditions. Track upgrades would allow higher speeds. Now the speed is assumed to be 45 mph in some curves up to a maximum of 79 mph. The inserts will be on the website when complete.

6. Mailings to NARP Members in the Carolinas - David Hill has received a mailing list of NARP members in the Carolinas that contains slightly over 400 names. Of these, 314 are not CAPT members. He has obtained permission to contact these NARP members with an invitation to join CAPT and he would like the Board’s permission to do this. He would like to know who would pay the postage and what sort of insert could go in the invitations. Gene - CAPT would pay the postage and he will have copies of the brochure ready to send in about 3 weeks. Martin – The SC invitations should also have the SC brochure and schedule inserts. Gene – Need to be careful how this is sent so as not to spend too much on postage. David – The second part is that there are 74 CAPT members who are not NARP members. Is it OK to contact these and ask them to join NARP? Yes. Local rail organizations should certainly support NARP even though there are times when the national and local aims differ. Maintaining right-of-way into Atlanta was an example in which NARP and GARP disagreed. David will draft a letter for Martin to sign.

7. Update on recent Push by Central Midlands Coalition for CLT/CAE Connection to the High Speed Rail Network – At the last meeting Roy Tolson reported that a cost study was planned. Jim Frierson has heard that they are planning two studies: a market analysis that would cost between $50-$70 thousand and a second more detailed study costing about $500 thousand. Mayor Benjamin has contacted most of the mayors in towns along the line to solicit support. Funding for these studies might come from SCDOT “Guideshares” (funds made available to COGs and MPOs for transportation projects). In the past these funds were only available for highway projects, but the DOT has said that they may now be used for corridor analyses which can include rail studies as well. Roy needs to get this started.

8. Status of Efforts to Produce New CAPT Brochure – Gene Kirkland has finished the brochure and had it approved by Amtrak, NCDOT, SCDOT, CAPT, and NARP. All suggestions have been included and it is ready to print 20,000 copies next week. The best price was in Raleigh. Gene has storage space available. A copy of the new brochure will be sent to each CAPT member and copies will be placed on NC trains and in Carolina stations. We will decide next time where else copies should be sent. John Bobinyec suggested that they be distributed at the NC state fair station in October. Other suggestions were chambers of commerce and libraries.

9. Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website - Website John Bobinyec had nothing to report. Newsletter - Gene, Martin, Bob Bischoff, and Ed Locklin are working on an idea to do the newsletter. Gene will send masks, calendar, members list, and NCDOT rail equipment list to Martin. They will try to get issues out on a bimonthly schedule. Each issue will go on the website only after the next one has come out.

10. Amtrak Update - The Cary station will be staffed Sept. 1 and dedicated later in month. It is not yet clear how baggage will be transferred to the CSX side. Art Peterson sent out a report on his summer trip. NCDOT – High Point will add 29 parking spaces by February. The Burlington platform will be doubled in length by the end of year. There will be a canopy built at Kannapolis next spring. Twenty six miles of double tracking (Lexington to Charlotte) will be complete by the end of next year. A site has been selected for the Raleigh station. It will use an existing building inside the triangle and be designed like the one in Durham. Parking may be a problem since passengers will have to cross tracks. Engines #1810, 1815 and 1869 are in service. The City of Burlington will be in in September. Engines # 1755 and 1797 are in Beach Grove and there are 7 cars in Wilmington. Two more foodservice cars should be in this fall or early winter. Two 60-seat coaches, two 56-seat coaches, and another food service car will follow later. Inspection car # 4000 is in the yard with no current plans. Two new sidings are on hold by the NC Rail Road. There will be no Santa Train this year due to lack of time in Greensboro.

11. NC Transit Update - Martin - Work continues on the Blue Line extension. There is $14.7 million to cover planning. The State is now obligated to pay 25% of the cost. NCDOT will have problems with planning at the 36th Street station to make it fit the CRISP (Charlotte Railway Improvement & Safety Program) plan. CATS will get early access when NS moves its intermodal site to the airport in 2015. It will be located between runways 2 and 3. The light rail line is having trouble with the fare vending machines. A new fare system will come with the extension. The final design for the extension will be complete within one year and then they can go to the federal government for full funding. Work should start in 2013 with service beginning in 2016. The Uptown Street Car line should be operating by 2014 or 2015. For now it will only go to the Transit Center, eventually it will go to the new Intermodal Center. CATS reversed its decision and will now allow ads on vehicles. Even “Whole Car Wrap” is approved. They expect to get only about $1 million from this. Does not seem worth it. Bob – We are negotiating with NCDOT to operate Car 85 on a mile and a half track near Bank of America Stadium. We hope to move the old station from Thrift.

12. Reports by Officers and Directors -
  • Ed Locklin – Those who take pictures of trains should note that there is news about police harassment of photographers. Amtrak offers a “Partners for Amtrak Safety and Security” membership that can be obtained from their web site. Having this might help.
  • John Wagner – In Clemson a railroad overpass needs to be replaced due to road repair. The new overpass will have space for double track for future high speed.
13. Planning for Future Meetings – October 8 – Asheville (Art has sent this out already), December 10 - Charleston. (Jim will set this up)

Adjourn - 4:35 P.M.