Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Red Hot & Blue Restaurant, Raleigh, NC
December 8, 2012 Open - 12:55 P.M.
Present: Martin Wheeler, Ernest Robl, Rafe Royle Edwin Locklin, Ken Davis, Bob Bischoff, Bill Cole, Bill Muller, John Bobinyec, Joe Johurst, Donald Weld, Harry Clapp, Art Peterson, Gene Smallwood, Jack Robbins, John Faulk, Jim Frierson, Gene Kirkland, David Robinson & Phil Astwood

Action Items:
    Jim will continue to work on the mailing list for the SC brochure, resolution & inserts
    Martin will write to Mayor Benjamin about future Columbia – Charlotte rail service
    Martin will send John news to post on the website

Secretary's Report - The minutes recorded by Jim Frierson at the October 13 meeting were distributed to Board members via e-mail after the meeting and as hard copy at this meeting. Phil Astwood read the minutes to the meeting and they were approved as read.

Financial Report - Gene Kirkland distributed the Treasurer’s report showing a beginning balance of $10,659.99, expenses of $510.32 for printing and $135.00 for postage. Interest income was $2.49 giving a closing balance of $10,017.16. Gene tried to e-mail the newsletter to 31 addresses, but only 7 worked. The association has 217 members. He has ordered ten 18”x 24” posters based on the brochure maps to go into the NCDOT stations. The NCDOT requested this size because it matches the size used for other posters. This smaller size might go into Amtrak stations also. There is a new Amtrak brochure on bus service. The new buses are much nicer than the regular buses.

David Robinson - (Mr. Robinson from NC State University spoke in place of Alan Paul from NCDOT who was unable to attend) Rail Promotion - David has recently he has been under contract from the NCDOT Rail Division to promote rail travel within North Carolina. He did this by traveling by train wherever possible to speak to business and tourism groups about the existing passenger rail network and ways to incorporate rail service in planning for local events. New Raleigh Station – A feasibility study showed the current station to be clearly inadequate and identified the nearby Dillon Supply “Viaduct Building” as a reasonable replacement. The project would provide for current and expected passenger use as well as simplify passenger and freight traffic in the vicinity. For example there will be passenger train tracks at the station that will eventually allow several trains to dwell in the station without disrupting traffic on the main line. Modification of the spacious building will allow lower level entry from the parking area and floor level boarding from the platforms. The initial work will cost slightly over $60 million the majority of which will come from the Federal Railroad Administration. Surveying for the project has already begun. Construction should begin in January of 2015 and be complete by the end of 2016.

Final Note – David conveyed the concern of several in the NCDOT Rail Division that too much emphasis may be being placed on future high-speed rail development which could deflect attention from more current concerns to maintain and support the rail network that is in place today. The Rail Division would be very pleased if CAPT did what it could to support this view.

Update on CAPT Fundraiser - John Bobinyec explained the proposal from Earl Eargle in which CAPT would promote his rail music cd in return for promotion of CAPT and a donation of $3 for each cd sold. Based in part on legal advice, John suggested that we should not enter a joint venture with Mr. Eargle, but rather agree to advertise his cd in a supplement to the recently published newsletter using a flyer provided by Mr. Eargle. Earl found the cost of this approach to be too high. Since Earl has already set up a way to promote and sell the cd through the NARP website, John suggested that we really do not need to do any more with this since most CAPT members are NARP members and would have access to the cd that way. The Board agreed to discontinue negotiations with Mr. Eargle for the time being.

Update on Resolution Drive in South Carolina in Support of Expanded Rail Passenger Service - Phil reviewed the progress to date including the preparation and distribution of the original brochure and resolution, the preparation of the inserts detailing potential rail passenger routes in SC, and future plans to distribute the inserts to cities and towns listed on the potential schedules asking once again for local officials to sign and return the resolution. Jim Frierson is preparing a mailing list of appropriate mayors, county council chairs and COGs. Phil discussed an additional plan to eventually take the signed resolutions to appropriate committee chairs in the SC legislature. In response to questions Phil said there was really no trend to the location of municipalities that returned the resolutions. The suggestion was made that the next mailing also be sent to city, town or county clerks who might have more influence on what is discussed at meetings. Bill Muller said that a similar project in Virginia sent mailings to chambers of commerce as well as municipal officials.

Update on Recent Push by Central Midlands Coalition for a Columbia-Charlotte Connection to the High-speed Rail Network - As requested, Jim checked with one of the transportation planners at the Central Midlands COG and was told there had been no recent meetings of the coalition and that the last action was an attempt by Mayor Benjamin of Columbia to coordinate with other mayors along the proposed route to garner support for the project. As far as Jim knew, there has been no further progress. Jim was also told that Amtrak was supposed to conduct a study of improvements necessary to implement passenger service along that route. In addition, a feasibility study of the costs involved and an implementation study were supposed to be done, but nothing has happened yet. Jim also asked about any minutes that were taken at the most recent coalition meeting and was told that none were taken. Martin said he would write to Mayor Benjamin to ask what is happening.

Discussion of Ways to Distribute the new CAPT Brochure - Jim spoke to Mrs. Harris at SCPRT (Parks Recreation and Tourism) and sent her some information about distributing the brochure at SC’s six welcome centers. Martin said we have information about placing brochures at NC welcome centers, but the Board has not yet decided if this would be a productive use for the brochures. Perhaps it would be best to have them under the counter with a sign indicating they are available.

Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website Issues - Website - John Bobinyec had nothing new to report. Newsletter – The first issue is out and the next will come in late January or February to resume the original bi-monthly schedule. John will post this one on the website once the next one comes out. Martin will send John some “news” to post right away. The newsletter is available electronically in color if one sends an e-mail address to Gene Kirkland. Several Board members thought it was a good idea to include an opinion piece, but the article should be clearly marked as “opinion” and not necessarily CAPT’s position. Relating to the current opinion piece several members agreed that striving for higher speed and greater frequency on current lines might well be more effective than trying for new high-speed lines.

Amtrak Update - Martin read parts of an article on the Obama administration’s continuing support for high-speed rail projects around the country despite objections from some states that feel federal funding should not be used. Other states, particularly in the Northeast, supported any projects that led to high- or higher-speed rail service in their areas. (Washington Post - Dec 6 by Ashley Halsey). Martin - The “Downeaster” now runs past Portland to Freeport and Brunswick. There will be new buses in NC to connect to the “Palmetto”. In a week there will be a new train to Norfolk. The south or east bound schedule to Norfolk is very attractive, but northbound it leaves at 4:50 in the morning. Bob, Ed and Martin went up to Norfolk to look at the new light rail service and saw where the new Amtrak station will be built across the street from the light rail station. Art Peterson – the “Empire Builder” continues to be well patronized, but due to mudslides it often originates in Portland or Spokane. It is usually running late into Chicago thus not connecting with the “Capitol”. The “Coast Starlight”/ “Sunset” connection in Los Angeles is working well. There were many pro-transit initiatives in the US in 2012 and 79.3% of them passed. Great to see this in a time of financial uncertainty. Ridership is increasing in Canada also, up 3.2% this year. 90% of Canadians think transit is important. Ed Locklin – Amtrak has new tickets that are simply a sheet of paper containing travel information. Conductors simply scan this and it saves them a great deal of time and effort. Bill Cole - Ridership on the “Piedmonts” has amazed everyone with over 300 on each of the last two football trains. In Rocky Mount the new downtown streetscaping is wonderful. Gene Kirkland - Amtrak is now using a regular train for shows. Most recently 2 coaches, a sleeper and the new dining car. Ernest Robl – Took the “Piedmont” to Charlotte and back last month. Several passengers were disappointed there was no wi-fi. Bus was on time, but did not leave for 20 minutes. Gene – Bus is supposed to wait that long so all passengers can get their bags and board.

Update on News in NC and SC affecting Transit and Rail Passenger ServiceMartin - A new project will align 3.8 miles of NCRR and NS track from I-40 to Cremins Parkway and two grade crossings will be closed. This will increase safety and allow for higher freight and passenger speeds. Work begins December 31 and the whole project will be complete by July 2015. The Heinz Company in Atlanta has been selected to design and build the Gateway Station area. A new intermodal facility is to be built at the former navel yard in Charleston. Thus should be good for future passenger service because increased traffic means up-graded lines. They also will put positive train control on the line from Columbia to Charleston. No further progress on the new Charleston station. In Charlotte the Blue Line extension has been fully approved and funded. Demolition and prep-work are starting now. Actual construction should begin within one year. Should be complete by 2016/2017. Work is beginning on a mile and a half section of the streetcar line that should be finished by 2015. It will eventually go to the new Gateway station, but for now it will go from the light-rail station to Presbyterian Hospital. It would cost $119 million to get it all the way to the proposed station and City Council is not sure it wants to pay for that now. Work has begun on the new baseball stadium that will be next to the new Charlotte station. It will be on land that was once the PN passenger and freight complex. Martin would like to have a marker erected to commemorate the history of that area. Bob Bischoff – The Charlotte Trolley is waiting for final approval from the NCDOT to operate about a quarter of a mile on the Cedar Yard track of the PN. This is the first phase of a project that will eventually allow it to operate over several miles. They will put up a storage and maintenance building and start work on the track as soon as the project is approved. They hope to operate sometime this summer.

Reports from Officers and Directors -
  • Ernest Robl - My website is down and I need to work on it. I may look for a new provider.
  • Art Peterson - Portland, OR is putting a new trolley loop downtown and expanding trolley lines. Street car lines are better than bus lines because they are an indicator of permanency and thus a safe place to invest money. Many cities are building trolley lines including Washington, DC.
  • Harry Clapp - The C’ville Rail Group in Charlottesville has been instrumental in getting better service to Washington which has now been extended down to Lynchburg. I would like to see this extended down to Danville and Greensboro. This could provide intermediate speed alternative rail service to Washington.
  • Jim Frierson - Richland County passed a sales tax increase to 8% that will help support the Columbia bus service which has been losing ground. This money will pay for pedestrian and road improvements as well
  • Gene Kirkland - Over the next 3 years there may be commuter rail service in Raleigh during a major road construction project. The rail would run from Selma to Raleigh to get around the construction delays. The “Piedmont” got a new 60 seat coach in this week but it went back for repair. All football trains or other special trains will have two engines to deal with possible breakdowns. They also have permission to leave an extra engine in Charlotte. New coaches should come back about one per month after the first of the year. Parking at RGH and CLT seems to be limit to expansion. Train shows are very effective by letting people who have never been on a train see what it is like. The Lexington station has been approved and funded. Money has been set aside for the Hillsboro station also.
  • Martin Wheeler - We need to remember what David Robinson passed on from an “unknown” party that CAPT needs to mobilize in the current political environment to make sure we keep the rail service we have now.
Future Meetings - February 9 - Charlotte (perhaps a tour of streetcar construction and the light rail corridor), April 13 – Charleston, June 8 – Selma, August 10 – Aiken, October 12 – Asheville, December 14 – Columbia.

Adjourn - 3:45