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CAPT October 2011 Annual Membership Meeting Minutes

Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Annual Membership Meeting
Travinai Italian Kitchen, Asheville, NC
   
October 8, 2011 Open - 12:35 P.M.
 
Present: Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, John Bobinyec, Bob Bischoff, Art Peterson, Dan Scallen, Linda Riddle, Helen Morrison, David Hill, Ralph Messera, Ken Davis, Elaine Raynolds, Arthur Raynolds and Phil Astwood.

Action Items:
  • Jim will identify SC legislative committee chairs to receive the SC brochure and inserts
  • Jim will check list of municipal leaders in cities/towns along routes proposed in inserts
  • Martin will send a file with the completed schedules to John to put on the web site
  • Gene will prepare a newsletter article about the proposed new Raleigh station
  • Gene and John will check on ways to collect payments through the web site. PayPal(?)
  • Dan will contact Jim about putting framed railroad maps at SC rest stops
  • Gene will call Jim about handing out brochures at the SC State Fair
  • Gene will send the newsletter masthead to Martin
  • Art will write a newsletter article about his Amtrak trip this past summer
1. Secretary's Report - Phil Astwood distributed the minutes of the August 13 meeting via e-mail to Board members and as hardcopy at the meeting. Several typos were noted and corrected along with train speeds in item 5 and engine numbers in item10. The minutes were accepted as corrected.

2. Treasurer's Report - Gene Kirkland reported that the CAPT Brochure is finished. It cost $3,421 to print 22,000 copies and an additional $1,100 for the final changes. The CAPT challenge account is now spent down to 0 and closed. Overall the preparation and printing of the brochure cost $6,000. This is money that was donated several years ago specifically for this purpose. We saved a significant amount of money because the printer did not charge tax on this work. The printer said that if we were to reorder a significant number, he would print them at the same price. A copy of the brochure was included in each notice for this meeting, so each CAPT member should now have one. It turned out the brochures were printed on heavier paper than expected and thus mailing costs 64 cents rather than 44 cents. The final balance in the Associations account after several small expenses for mailing and printing is $11,875.47. The Association currently has189 members. The report was accepted. Art Peterson pointed out the most effective way to distribute the brochures is one-on-one. If at all possible, make some sort of contact with the person receiving the brochure even if its merely "You might be interested in this".

3. Election of Officers and Directors for 2012 - Directors - Members of the CAPT Board of Directors are elected for two-year terms. Bob Bischoff, Ed Locklin and David Hill are completing their first year and will continue in their positions. The following directors are completing two years and are eligible to be reelected if they wish: Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, Bill Cole, Jim Frierson, Art Peterson, Phil Astwood, Ralph Messera, and Ralph Ward. All expressed an interest in continuing except Ralph Ward, who due to a recent stroke, is not in a position to continue. A notice was put out asking about others who might be interested. Jim Frierson responded saying that he was interested in being reelected to the Board and to his position as SC Vice President. John Bobinyec was nominated to fill Ralph Wards place as a North Carolina director. It was moved, seconded and approved that the slate of directors be elected. Officers - Current officers are: Martin Wheeler President, Art Peterson NC Vice President, Jim Frierson SC Vice President, Gene Kirkland Treasurer, and Phil Astwood - Secretary. All agreed to run for another term and were reelected.

4. Update on Past Legislation in North Carolina affecting Transit and Rail Passenger funding - Gene Kirkland, Art Peterson and Ralph Messera On the national level, Rep John Mica (FL) has changed his position. He no longer favors cuts to Amtrak and is looking for a source of funding. Apparently he is concerned about the loss of jobs that would result if Amtrak funding were cut. We still need to watch OK senator Tom Coburn who is concerned about funding any enhancements such as sidewalks bikeways, or station refurbishing. The problem bothering many in Congress is the difference between Amtraks income and its expenditures. On the state level not much is happening in NC. There will be a special legislative session in November with no set agenda so anything can be considered that earlier passed one branch and not the other. Bill 865, which would cut any state funding of the DOT Rail Division that is paid to Amtrak, did not pass either body so it cannot be considered in this session. The City of Raleigh is currently considering a bond issue to fund a street work project that also would include money for a new station. The station would be located in the triangle across the tracks from the current one. It would be in an old warehouse and be designed like the new station in Durham. This will be a multimodal station. Gene will put information about this in a newsletter article.

5. Update on Resolution Drive in South Carolina in Support of Expanded Rail Passenger Service - Phil reviewed the project to date including earlier mailings of the SC brochure and resolution to communities along existing rail lines in SC. He circulated copies of a proposed letter to accompany a mailing of the new inserts to all communities mentioned on the proposed schedules. Jim Frierson will prepare a list of appropriate addresses. Martin Wheeler reviewed the proposed times and station stops on the completed Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston schedule and mentioned ways that the equipment might be used for commuter service in the Charlotte and Charleston areas. He also discussed the second insert which will be complete soon. This insert shows potential Greenville, Columbia, Florence, Myrtle Beach service. It was suggested that Martin consider where the trains would be serviced and how, or if, they would be turned. There should soon be a new station in Charleston. Martin will send a file containing the schedules once they are complete to John Bobinyec who will place them on the web.

6. Mailings to NARP Members in the Carolinas - David Hill reported that there are slightly over 300 members of NARP who are not members of CAPT. He has a mailing list for these people and will send them a CAPT brochure, a membership application, and a letter inviting them to join. He hopes that up to 25% will respond. He has already sent NARP membership information to the 77 members of CAPT who are not NARP members. Several people suggested that it would be nice if it were possible to pay CAPT dues on line, but John Bobinyec pointed out that handling payments on line is complicated. Gene and John will discuss this.

7. Update on recent Push by Central Midlands Coalition for Charlotte/Columbia Connection to the High Speed Rail Network According to the minutes of the last CAPT meeting, two studies have been planned, but there is not yet sufficient funding to undertake either one. Jim Frierson was not able to attend this meeting, but sent the following report via e-mail: "There is nothing new to report on the Central Midlands coalition in SC and I dont really have anything else on any new developments concerning passenger rail in SC..The SC State Fair starts on October 12 and, if Operation Lifesaver has a table or booth there, that might be the perfect 'venue' to use to distribute the (new) brochures. If the membership thinks this might be a good idea, I would be willing to look into this and, if it can be done, Gene could rush me a bunch of the brochures on Monday or Tuesday."

8. Status of Efforts to Produce New CAPT Brochure Gene Kirkland has finished the new brochure and printed 22,000. He believes it is important to distribute it in a one-on-one situation at organized meetings. He has distributed it at meetings of Ruritan, the Optimists, and the Train Hosts association. We should encourage each CAPT member to present the brochure to a group. Gene has brochures to distribute and will get them to anyone who needs them. Helen Morrison - Asheville provides information booths for tourists. Brochures could be handed out there, also through the Chamber of Commerce and business groups. There is plenty of railroad news to talk about in the Asheville area. Land has been bought for the Asheville station and many stations along the route have been refurbished. Phil will take some brochures to the SC Railroad Museum. Gene will call Jim about handing out brochures at the SC State Fair. Dan Scallen pointed out that rest areas have framed highway maps; perhaps they should also have a framed copy of the railroad maps in the brochure. Dan will contact Jim about doing this in SC.

9. Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website - Website John Bobinyec - It is time to renew the website for another year. It will cost less than $20 Newsletter - Gene, Martin, Bob Bischoff, and Ed Locklin are planning to collaborate to produce the newsletter. Ed will assemble it; Bob and Martin will supply articles, but request all members submit material. The newsletter will come out every two months and contain at least four pages. Gene will send them the masthead. They will look for the best place in Charlotte or Raleigh to get it printed. The plan is to include more information from Board Meetings, but minutes will not be included word for word. Art is preparing a program on his Amtrak trip and will write an article on that. John can select material from the newsletter to put on the website.

10. Amtrak Update - Bob Bischoff - Sen. Dick Durbin (IL) has opposed cuts to Amtrak funding and has managed to restore $100 million in funding for high speed rail. This is encouraging, but these funds will not go very far. Dan Scallen - One of the best books I have read recently concerning passenger rail is "Waiting on a Train" by James McCommons. He has an acute idea of what is going to happen. For example, in California by 2030 over 100 million people will use Amtrak or other railroad transportation. California has been successful in obtaining funds for rail development because of the severe congestion around Los Angeles and other cities. The author points out problems as well and freight railroads vary in their willingness to cooperate in trying to find solutions. Union Pacific has been very uncooperative until recently when things have improved a good deal. For example, the Sunset Limited has recently been within 30 minutes of on time. Improvements have been seen in Missouri and Illinois as well. Dan - Much of this is due to the freight lines recognition that a partnership with Amtrak helps everyone. The recession has helped as well because of a drop in the amount of freight being moved. Gene - The first round of federal railroad funding that NC received was funding for equipment renovation, double tracking, and sidings. The second bond they sought was money for the stations in Raleigh, Charlotte, Lexington and Hillsboro and some signal changes. This funding has been held up for a number of reasons. Martin - In Charlotte nothing can be done about the new station until they move Greyhound. This project is being held up by plans to develop the area around the station as a unit project. However, some renovation should be done before the Democratic National Convention next year.

11. North Carolina Transit Update - Gene - Not much new with Triangle Transit in Raleigh, but in Durham they will vote this fall on a 1/2 cent sales tax for transit. This is a test case and if it passes it will be put on the ballot in other areas. Martin - The Blue line extension is progressing. It is a 9.4 mile extension of the existing line from center-city Charlotte to the UNC Charlotte campus with 11 new stations. There will be a meeting next month on the final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement). About 65% of the design is complete. Original forecast for Blue Line ridership was 9,000 per day. It is much higher than that, about 15,000 today. It dropped to about 13,000 during the height of the recession and has been as high as 17,000. The agreed upon state funding of 25% is locked in. NCDOT Rail has selected a preferred alternative for the Sugar Creek road-grade separation. The road will now go over the railroad. NS, high speed rail, light rail will all be on the ground and the road will go over. This will save money. NS has withdrawn its request for the superstructure at 36th Street. CATS will now just put in retaining walls with later expansion if necessary. There are some bridge design issues at Craighead Avenue where the light rail will cross over NS. The Airport City Trains Office has negotiated to purchase the NS intermodal yard along Brevard Street. CATS may get early access to the site. They will not put maintenance there, but rather a storage and staging yard. There are no plans for light rail to the airport. It was considered along with a plan for a modified street car service, but it is now a rapid bus service which seems to work well. Work should be underway for the intermodal yard at the airport, but no real signs of progress yet except earth moving. The yard is expected to be complete by summer 2013. Planning for the Red Line from Charlotte to Mooresville now includes sharing the rails with freight. Presently there is only about one freight train per day, but this could increase. This is modeled on the River Line in New Jersey which successfully runs freight at night and passengers in the day time. CATS is requesting information from various vendors of fare collection systems to replace current system. The primary problem appears to be the printer. Portland and Seattle have good fare systems. The CATS fare system also should offer more options for seniors. CATS did detailed noise and vibration studies at 12th Street. Local residents did not feel there was a problem. A big problem during construction of the Blue Line was the flaggers that NS was obligated to provide when contraction was going on along the main line. There were not enough people qualified to flag and the project lost work days when there were no flaggers available. CATS and UNCC are having monthly meetings to deal with any issues that may arise when the Blue Line enters the campus. In relation to CATS Operations, one person was hit at Scaleybark when she walked in front of a train moving at about 18 MPH. She was hit by the coupler and is in the hospital with several broken bones. The light rail trains are still having trouble with loss of cab signal from the automatic train protection system. This causes unnecessary braking. This system needs to be replaced by positive train control. What is the most optimistic outlook for the Asheville train? All stations are ready, and all of the planning that can be done is complete. The only real problem is funding. For example, NS wants five years of payments for track improvement (signals and siding up grades) in advance. It would be very helpful if they would allow for payment over the five years. The Biltmore House is the largest US tourist attraction that does not have railroad service. Asheville is the most frequently requested destination that Amtrak does not serve. Raleigh has settled on a route for high speed rail access to the city. Norlina to Petersburg line engineering complete, all environmental studies have been done and they are ready to buy land. The Saluda Grade is in very good condition, but has been rail banked and no service is planned at this time.

12. Reports by Officers and Directors -
  • Ken Davis NC State Fair is October 14-23 and the Carolinian will carry a heavy load for these 10 days. The Lexington Barbecue is October 22 and all six trains will stop there that day.
  • Gene Kirkland Ridership on the Piedmonts is breaking all records. Three out of four trains on the weekend are sold out. They add as many cars as they can. Usually they run three 56-seat cars on the morning train and five 66-seat cars at night. On Saturday that is reversed. When four additional coaches arrive, they will have the cars they need.
  • Martin Wheeler CATS no longer prints a complete timetable. This information is only available at the website.
13. Planning for Future Meetings December 10 - Charleston. (Jim will set this up), February 11 - Cary, April 14 - Burlington, June 9 - Columbia, August 11 - High Point, October 13 - Spartanburg, December 8 - Raleigh

Adjourn - 3:00 P.M.