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January 2009 Meeting Minutes

Carolina Association for Passenger Trains
Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC
   
January 10, 2009 Open - 1:00 PM
 
Present: Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, Jim Frierson, Jack Stein, Malcolm Kenton, Don Stewart, Ed Locklin, Ralph Messera, Lil Mood, Jerry Croll, John Bobinyec & Phil Astwood.

Action Items:
          Martin and Jim will write a cover letter to accompany the Resolution
          Jim will compile a list of organizations that will receive the Resolution
          Don will work to complete revision of the CAPT brochure
          Jim will send Don corrections to the SC maps in the brochure
          Martin will send Don corrections to the Charlotte maps in the brochure
          Martin will work on abbreviated SC focused brochure to accompany Resolution
          Malcolm will search for images for a new brochure cover
          Phil will send minutes only to Board members prior to approval at next meeting
          John Bobinyec will put links on the website to SC commuter rail studies
          Jim Frierson will send links to John
          Gene will reserve a room for the February meeting at the Burlington station

1. Guest Speaker - Representative Walt McLeod, SC House District #40 (Newberry & Chapin) talked about his life-long interest in rail travel and reported that he has been a frequent and strong advocate for all forms of mass transit in South Carolina. He distributed information from the Central Midlands Council of Governments (CMCOG) and discussed several feasibility studies that examined the possibility of commuter rail connections between Columbia and nearby communities such as Chapin, Newberry, Sumter, Camden and Batesburg/Leesville. There has also been interest in a rail connection between Columbia and Charlotte and a connection between Columbia and the proposed "Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor". According to Mr. McLeod, progress on any of these projects is unlikely at the present, but a pioneering bus service "Smart Ride" has been quite successful providing commuter service on Newberry-Columbia and Camden-Columbia routes. Mr. McLeod pointed out that one of the impediments to progress on mass transit in the Midlands is the rapid growth of population and concurrent increase in governmental representation in communities along I-85 in the north and northwest, and along the coast in the southeast. If any funding becomes available for mass transit infrastructure it will be divided with 1/3 going to the Greenville area, 1/3 to Myrtle Beach and the remaining third for the entire rest of the state. According to Mr. McLeod, funding for new mass transit is unlikely in the current financial environment, but the government is interested in mass transit as evidenced by the fact that the SCDOT has a mass transit division with 15 employees. However, Mr. McLeod said, the legislature's interest is still strongly focused on highways and bridges and thus any available funding is likely to be applied to these. At present of one cent of the state's gasoline tax is set aside for public transportation. This is about $6,000,000 yearly and the majority goes to fund regional transportation authorities which provide bus transportation from rural areas to areas with greater employment opportunities. For example, buses carry workers each day from rural Hampton and Jasper Counties to jobs on Hilton Head Island. Mr. McLeod and others would like to see more of such funding and for more counties to have transportation committees that could develop plans and expend funds for mass transit systems. Mr. McLeod was given a copy of CAPT's Resolution in Support of Transportation Options for the State of South Carolina and promised to help distribute and publicize the Resolution in any way he could. He agreed with the consensus of the meeting that the Resolution should be distributed to local entities such as City and County Councils and Chambers of Commerce. Once signed, copies of the Resolution should be compiled and presented to legislators in the House and Senate.

2. Kick-off Resolution Drive in South Carolina - Martin Wheeler read the Resolution in Support of Transportation Options for the South Carolina. Discussion led to a plan that copies of the Resolution be sent to local political entities such as city and county councils and COGs in significant cities and towns within 10 miles of major rail lines in the state. The Resolution should be accompanied by a cover letter written and signed by Martin Wheeler CAPT President, and Jim Frierson SC Vice President. The mailing will also include a CAPT brochure (see #3 below). Local groups would be asked to sign the Resolution, send it to local legislators with a copy returned to us. It was suggested that we might need to make a pitch for the Resolution as it is presented, but Don Stewart said that a similar North Carolina resolution was successful without being formally presented to local political bodies. Jim Frierson will use the SCDOT map of potential passenger rail lines to compile a list of entities to receive the Resolution. The Resolution, letter and brochure will be sent via US mail in flat 9"x 12" envelopes. The mailings will be staggered so that there is an opportunity to respond to questions and comments concerning the materials.

3. Brochure: Don Stewart has the revision nearly ready, but needs to update the maps and would like to get a new cover. Jim will send corrections to SC maps. Martin will look at Charlotte. Martin suggested we put together something smaller to go with the Resolution. Martin knows a company that can do this. Martin listed the following items to be included: map of proposed commuter lines, existing interstate service, and proposed high speed service. The map should be printed on an 8.5 by 11 two-sided sheet that is easy to mail flat with the Resolution. The Board approved Martin and Bob to work on this with input from Jim and Malcolm. Don will continue on the regular brochure with help from Martin, Gene & Malcolm. We all should view the existing brochure on the website and send suggestions and possible photos to Don. Malcolm will look for images for a new cover.

4. Secretary's Report - The minutes of the October 11 meeting had been sent via e-mail to most members of the Board. Phil Astwood distributed paper copies to those who requested them and discussed the format of the minutes with 'Action Items' at the top as had been suggested. Some corrections to the South Carolina report had been sent earlier by Jim Frierson. Martin Wheeler corrected several typos. Phil agreed to make the corrections and the minutes were approved as corrected. In the future minutes will be sent in the body of an e-mail message as well as an attachment to members of the Board only until they have been accepted in the next Board Meeting. The minutes will then be sent to John Bobinyec to be placed on the CAPT website.

5. Treasurer's Report - Gene Kirkland distributed copies of the treasurer's report. The association has a balance of $6,535.00 in the CAPT Challenge account and $7,461.05 in the operating account for a total balance of $13,966.05. The Board approved the expenditure of at least $600 for postage related to renewals and the mailing of the Resolution. Membership currently stands at 172. The report was approved as distributed.

6. Newsletter and Website - Our website address is now www.CAPTrail.org, but this will presently just forward to the old site. Cost of the site will be $20 to register the name. There may be additional costs for space depending on the amount needed. Malcolm Kenton will start working on the newsletter with ideas and information from Gene. He will put the Resolution in the next issue along with selected items from the minutes. The goal will be to resume the schedule of publishing an issue every two months. We should send any items for the newsletter to Malcolm. Gene will continue to print the newsletter and mail it.

7. Update of Rail Developments in the Carolinas -

Jim Frierson - South Carolina Report - The State newspaper reported the completion of the upstate high speed rail study considering the feasibility of service from Charlotte via Greenville and Atlanta to Macon using existing Norfolk Southern tracks. The study assessed capacity, potential ridership and costs. The route would basically follow I-85. At speeds up to 150 MPH the train will provide a competitive alternative for travel up to 150 miles. Information can be found at www.sehsr.org . The commuter line from Camden to Columbia is still considered the best of several options based on existing rails, stations, and potential ridership. A study of possible commuter service between Summerville and Charleston has been completed, but there are no funds for a pre-implementation study. This would use an existing Norfolk Southern line. Reports are available on area COG websites. If funding becomes available to improve national infrastructure, it might help to fund some of these projects.span John Bobinyec will put link to these studies on our website. Jim and others will send John the necessary links. Lil Mood provided background information on the selection of a commuter link into Columbia describing the other routes (Newberry to Columbia, and Batesburg/Leesville to Columbia) that had been considered. A study expected to begin in August will examine a possible rail or bus connection between Columbia and Batesburg/Leesville. A Columbia to Sumter route is also needed and could be a rail link using existing rail. No contract has yet been awarded for this study. Don Stewart said that the long considered extension of the Carolinian to Columbia should still be considered feasible with about a 5:30 AM departure north and a 10:30 PM arrival from the north. He stressed that there are many businesses along this route. There is an excellent location adjacent to the route for a Columbia "Park and Ride" facility.

Gene Kirkland - The equipment for the third frequency of Charlotte/Raleigh service is expected to be ready for the May 25, 2009 start-up date. Platform work is under way at Salisbury and Durham. The double tracking between High Point and Greensboro is nearly complete. All ties are in place. This is the most critical area for passenger service as it will allow the Carolinians to meet and pass without delay. The DMV offices have moved out of the Cary station. Renovation work is underway to increase station size by 50% and parking by 100%. When the station is open there will be one agent at Cary and two at Durham. Boarding passenger at these two stations has been the source of significant delays. Ridership is good on both trains. The Sunday after Thanksgiving the Piedmont manifested 416 (an all time high). The "Santa Train" on December 6 also set a record. Carolinian's on-time performance has been improving significantly.

Don Stewart - There are $1 billion worth of "shovel ready" rail and public transportation projects in North Carolina. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission will move 40,000 troops and families into Fort Bragg and the surrounding area. Transportation of people and freight to and from the Fort will be a significant problem. Rail service along the old Yadkin Valley right away has been proposed. There have been many changes at NARP. "Directors" have become "Delegates" from whom a Board will be elected. Each state will receive at least one delegate with more being awarded based on population. SC will get one, NC will get two. "Regions" may be realigned. Ross Capon is president and CEO. George Chilson is chairman of the board.

8. Next meeting - February 28 at the Burlington Station. Gene will reserve a meeting room at the station. We will return to the regular meeting schedule in April.
Adjourn - 4:00 PM