Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
via Zoom
September 19, 2020  

Present: Martin Wheeler, David Robinson, Ralph Messera, John Bobinyec, Ed Locklin, Bill Cole, Don Stewart, Bob Bischoff & Don Yehle

Secretary's Report: Phil Astwood distributed the detailed minutes of the January meeting via e-mail. These were approved as sent.

Appointment of Acting Treasurer: Since Gene Kirkland has resigned as treasurer, Ralph Messera has agreed to accept the position temporarily pending election to the position at the annual meeting. For the present Ralph is planning to meet Gene tomorrow (Sept 20) for a transfer of the records. Until that time he will not know how much is in the treasury. Ed Locklin moved that Ralph Messera be appointed as acting treasurer, the motion was seconded by Don Yehle and approved by the Board.

Status of 501c3: As we had not filed appropriate paperwork, our status was revoked in 2011. Martin Wheeler - According to the IRS, it is possible to reinstate the status and we need to decide if we want to do that.

Update on NCOT: David Robinson – Although CAPT focuses on individual members, we should consider ways to involve organizations such as city governments, businesses and tourist organizations. Many of these groups are unaware of the extent to which rail travel affects their activities. David was asked to put together a list of possible actions and we will consider these at the next meting.

Implications of new Federal Grant(s) to NCDOT Rail Division: In May of this year it became known that NC would receive 2 grants totaling $168 million which would allow the NCDOT to purchase 7 locomotives and up to 21 passenger cars. Much of the current equipment has recently been refurbished and is in good condition so Martin suggested that we consider how all of this equipment might best be used in the future. This also might be the time to consider how North and South Carolina could cooperate in the use of equipment that might become available. For example a ‘Capital Cities’ train could run from Raleigh through Charlotte to Columbia. Extra equipment could also be used in commuter service. Ralph Messera mentioned another grant had recently been awarded to Lexington to construct its rail station.

Update on Resolution Drive in South Carolina: Nothing has happened recently and we really are not yet prepared for expansion since we have not had the funds to reprint the brochure and inserts.

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Start – Meeting Part 2

Update on Resolution – Continued: In addition to what we have done, David believes we need to contact organizations in SC such as chambers of commerce. He will contact Jim Frierson and put together a list.

Update on News in NC and SC Affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Service: Don Stewart – There were studies in the early 2000’s of a possible route from Raleigh to Fayetteville. Nothing came of this, but a more recent study in the past year was supposed to look at commuter and regular passenger service. They considered two routes; The Eastern Route via CSX, NS and NCRR through Selma, and the Western Route on NS through Fuquay-Varina and Lillington. The route via Selma is about 78 miles but on high class track with PTC while the route via Lillington is about 62 miles but on class 2 track with speed restrictions. It is currently difficult to estimate the running time on either route. Cost estimates seemed high. A better choice might be to extend one of the current Piedmonts on to Fayetteville. According to Don, a second more comprehensive study is planned. If this is done, the study will likely address several of the questions or problems that Don discussed such as: Routing, Frequency, Equipment, Incorporation of Commuter Service and Crew Costs.

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Start – Meeting Part 3

Bill Cole asked about the status of the Gateway Station project – Martin – I don’t know anything about that that has not been published, but recent Silver Line meetings have discussed its route into the station. It appears that one or two development partners for the project have been selected. Current information indicates that it will be about a year before plans for the light rail line are complete and several years before the station is constructed.

Update on NC and SC Rail News Continues: Don Stewart – Deciding on a route for the line is going to be difficult because the communities on each route need the service and their estimates of potential ridership are very similar. One possible solution to the number of curves in the Selma route would be to lay a portion of the track in the median of a widened section of US 401 if they are planned simultaneously. This sort of thing has been done in several other places. However decisions on a great deal of this are probably going to have to wait until after the election and the seating of the new state and federal legislatures and even the president if that changes.

RPA-Amtrak Virtual Forum: There is an opportunity to sign up for this event but all space may be taken. They will discuss the rail study which will include the southeast as well as the rest of the country. Martin will send some questions that Don Yehle may be able to submit.

Amtrak Update: Martin – RPA is pushing to get the funds to maintain daily service on the long distance trains. Amtrak claims it needs $5 billion just to maintain a tri-weekly schedule. This is important and we need to do all we can to keep what we have. RPA has pointed out that the states are going to lose billions of dollars if the tri-weekly schedules limit the number of people who can visit the cities and towns along the routes. Ed Locklin - We also still need to fight for better on-board food service. Martin – Allan Paul had recommended that the Carolinian schedule be changed to leave one hour later south bound. This has not yet occurred.

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Start – Meeting Part 4

Amtrak Update Continued: Don Yehle asked how a tri-weekly schedule will affect connections. Responses – The Silver trains run 3 days a week for the Star and 4 days a week for the Meteor, but they all come in the same part of the week leaving 3 days with no trains. The Carolinian will remain daily as long as the state is willing to pay for that. The Piedmonts will also remain daily. Several people take the Carolinian to Cary to connect with the Star, (Note: In a correction to the minutes, John Bobinyec said that prior to Covid the connection to 91 is from 76 at Raleigh.) so that will only be possible 3 days a week. Some trains are running “sold out” which means they have sold every other seat. In some cases this results in 60% ridership since couples sit together. Don Stewart asked about the extension of the Carolinian to New Haven. Apparently this is being held up by Connecticut authorities.

Western North Carolina Rail Alliance Membership: Whenever we get our treasury straightened out, we need to pay a membership fee so that we can have a seat on that committee. David would be happy to represent us with that group, but feels we must specifically vote to take this action. David will determine the fee and we will vote on it at the next meeting.

Update on Newsletter and Website: Nothing at this time.

Planning for Future Meetings and Appointment of Nominating Committee: John Bobinyec moved to empower the CAPT Board as a nominating committee for directors and officers to be selected at the annual meeting in November. Don Yehle seconded and the motion was passed. It was decided that the annual meeting would have to be on Zoom. John could send out the necessary information to any members for whom we have an e-mail address. We will have to see what list Gene has and in what form. The meeting is scheduled for November 21.

Reports from Officers and Directors: Several people stressed that we all need to do whatever we can to support Amtrak and support adequate funding from Congress. There was discussion about the fates of Linwood Yard and the Charlotte Yard that might be sold and put to alternate uses, but it seems unlikely that the railroads could do without the Charlotte Yard. Martin – There are additional meetings coming up concerning the Silver Line. The streetcar project is coming along; most of the cars have been tested. They still claim a start time early next year, but that looks unlikely due to problems with construction materials. Fares should be comparable to light rail or bus fares.