Martin Wheeler, Ralph Messera, Jim Frierson, Bob Bischoff, Ed Locklin, Rick LaBrecque, and guests Lil Mood who is a board member of the CMRTA; Ann August, who is the interim executive director of the CMRTA and Darrell Hudson who were all introduced by Jim Frierson.
Before the meeting began, Ms. Lil Mood further introduced Councilman Darrell Hudson, a member of the Lexington County, SC Council. He spoke of the great difficulties in getting local and state politicians to understand the value of passenger rail service to their constituents. This is because elected officials do not hear enough from them on this issue. Therefore, Councilman Hudson noted, grassroots support is most vital in getting political support. Politicians will take action when they see there is wide public support for an issue and when they hear from constituents. He stressed the importance of writing letters, sending e-mails, texting, etc. to keep an issue in the forefront of elected officials’ minds.
Secretary's Report -
In Phil's absence, Martin read the minutes from the previous meeting held on July 15, 2017 in Greensboro, NC. There were no changes other than a few grammatical corrections noted by Ed Locklin. Motion was passed to accept minutes with those corrections.
Treasurer's Report -
Treasurer Gene Kirkland was not present so the treasurer’s report could not be given. Martin said that Gene would be sending out the Financial Report (covering July 15 thru September 14, 2017) within a few days.
Update on resolution drive in South Carolina -
It was noted, for the benefit of our guests, that the resolution drive in SC had been fairly successful in getting a number of counties, towns, cities, and councils of governments (COGs) to pass local resolutions and submit them to CAPT. Martin explained that CAPT would again be contacting those cities and towns that had not yet submitted resolutions in order to encourage them to submit. He mentioned that CAPT also has contacted lawmakers in SC with letters and information and would be doing so again next year when the state’s legislature reconvenes.
Lil Mood asked if she could get a copy of the list of entities that have signed resolutions in SC. She was told to contact Phil Astwood, CAPT secretary, as he is the point of contact for these submittals.
Update on CAPT fostering creation of an association similar to Virginians for High Speed Rail -
Martin led a brief discussion about David Robinson’s five recommendations related to moving forward with a new passenger rail advocacy group for NC and SC. David agreed to study this issue and, with the input of a committee of five CAPT members, developed five recommendations he felt would assist CAPT’s board of directors in their decision-making.
It was generally agreed that the members present supported David’s submitted recommendations and that further discussion would take place at the next CAPT meeting when more board members would, hopefully, be present.
Update on news in North Carolina and South Carolina affecting transit and rail passenger service -
Ed shared information concerning the Piedmont putting into operation a third frequency after the Raleigh station is completed. Martin noted that some additional service improvements will be put into place after the Piedmont Improvement Program (PIP) is completed such as the extension of platforms at Kannapolis. Locally in Charlotte, Martin said that Blue Line extension testing of cars and signaling systems is still ongoing. Ralph informed the members that, on a recent trip back from Washington, DC on the Carolinian, he had talked to Bob Grabarek of NCDOT’s Rail Division who shared some insights and information with him. Jim related that he had attended the groundbreaking for the new North Charleston Intermodal Passenger Center. He said it will take about 18 months to build at a cost of around $15 million and will replace the old station serving Amtrak that was originally built in 1956.
Update on CAPT newsletter and website -
No information on these items as neither Gene Kirkland nor John Bobinyec were present.
Amtrak Update -
Martin noted that President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal may “zero out” funding for long-distance passenger trains but his budget would still have to get support from Congress next year. He also mentioned that there had been a number of train rallies held in NC and SC sponsored by NARP. The rallies were intended to show support for passenger rail service and to encourage riders and potential riders to contact their congressional representatives. It was also reported that Amtrak is supposed to start service to Roanoke, VA by October 31st of this year.
Reports by Officers and Directors -
Martin “went around the tables” to give officers and directors an opportunity to share any information but all said they had already shared their news and information during the previous update on news in NC and SC affecting transit and rail.
Planning for Future Meetings -
Martin suggested several locations for future meetings including places where we have not met in a long time such as Winnsboro and Asheville. Members were reminded that the next meeting would be the annual membership meeting in Charlotte on November 18th.