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December 2009 Meeting Minutes

Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Durham Station, Durham, NC
December 12, 2009 Open - 1:24 P.M.
Present: Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, Ed Locklin, Dan Gurley, Ernest Robl, Art Peterson, Bill Graves, Ken Davis, Bill Muller, Jack Stein, & Phil Astwood.

Action Items:
  • Gene will collate and mail the Resolution and SC Brochure to cities, counties & COGs
  • Phil will present the Resolution and Brochure to the Newberry City & County Councils
  • Martin will notify Don Stewart about the results of the election for NC vice president
  • Martin will work with Bob Bischoff on the ‘sample service’ brochure for SC
  • Phil will mail a signed copy of the GO21 resolution with a cover letter to NC & SC delegations
  • Martin will notify Don Stewart about the Board’s desire to have the Brochure complete in the next 90 days
  • Martin will send a disc with a copy of the SC Brochure to John Bobinyec for the website
  • Gene will serve as editor of the CAPT newsletter and will mail next copy in January
  • Martin will notify newsletter firms that we have decided to try producing one in house
  • All Board Members agreed to help Gene collect information for the newsletter
1. Secretary's Report - Phil Astwood distributed the minutes of the October 10 meeting to Board members via e-mail, and as hard copy at this meeting. The minutes were accepted as written. Phil reported that address labels and individualized cover letters had been printed from Jim Frierson’s list of mayors, county council chairs, and councils of government representing communities with 10 miles of an active rail line in South Carolina. The labels and cover letters were sent to Gene Kirkland who will collate them with copies of the resolution and SC brochure, and mail them. Phil said that he would present the Resolution and Brochure in person to the Newberry City and County Councils. Phil also reported receiving contact from Ralph Ward and Jim Frierson who were interested in running for reelection to their current positions. Don Stewart sent a note indicating that he did not want to continue past the end of his current term on the Board.

2. Treasurer's Report - Gene Kirkland distributed copies of the treasurer’s report to members of the Board earlier by mail and handed out additional copies at the meeting. The report stated that the Association has $6,831.01 is its operating account and $6,535.00 in the CAPT Challenge account for a total of $13,366.01. The association currently has 192 members. The report was accepted as distributed. Gene also reported that he is sending out renewal notices. He has the envelopes to send out copies of the resolution and the brochure. These will be in the mail by Wednesday and will cost about $300 for postage and materials. He requested debit cards on the new checking account for Martin Wheeler & Phil Astwood, and these have been received.

3. Election of Officers and Members of the Board of Directors: Directors - Martin Wheeler, Jim Frierson, Gene Kirkland, Bill Cole, Art Peterson, Jack Stein and Ralph Ward are ending two-year terms as directors. All have expressed a willingness to serve another two years in their positions. Bob Bischoff, Ed Locklin, Ralph Massera and Don Stewart have served the first year of two-year terms. Nominations from the floor were called for. There being none, the slate of candidates was accepted as listed. Officers Martin Wheeler – president, Jim Frierson – SC vice president, Gene Kirkland – treasurer, and Phil Astwood – secretary wished to run for reelection to their offices. They were reelected unanimously. Don Stewart had not expressed a desire to run for reelection as NC vice president, but as he was not present and had not specifically declined to run, an election was held between Don Stewart and Art Peterson for the position. Art Peterson was elected. Martin will notify Don about the results of the election.

4. Update on SC Resolution Drive – Gene reported that approximately 300 packets containing the resolution, the SC brochure, and a cover letter will be mailed next Wednesday (12/16). Though the original of the resolution is printed in color, it was decided that the packets should contain black & white copies. Martin offered to continue work with Bob Bischoff on a brochure for SC that would describe potential service between Charlotte, Columbia and Charleston indicating proposed stops and estimated running times.
Dan Gurley prepared a cover letter for the GO21 “Resolution in Support of Increased Rail Capacity” that was recently adopted by CAPT. Phil agreed to send out the cover letter on CAPT stationary with a copy of the signed resolution to SC & NC senators and house members in Washington.

5. Status of Efforts to Produce new CAPT Brochure - In an e-mail to Martin and Phil, Don Stewart said he planned to continue work on the brochure. However, as it has been several years since this project began, the Board requested that Martin notify Don that if he is not able to complete work on the brochure in the next 90 days, the project will be passed on to someone else.

6. Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website -
Website - The website is now operating on John Bobinyec’s server. Martin has received the disc containing the SC brochure and will send a copy to John to put on the website.
Newsletter - Martin has talked with a couple of firms (Mark Wright at NC Business News and Brian Sherman in SC) who can prepare a good looking newsletter based on information we provide. Three problems were noted: 1 – This approach would be expensive ($500 for an 8-page newsletter, for example), 2 – An outside editor would not understand the terminology or be aware of our interests and priorities, and 3 – We would still have to collect the information and write it up in rough form. Gene Kirkland volunteered to assemble a newsletter every two months consisting of 4-pages plus a 1-page equipment list insert if he is supplied with sufficient information to fill the space. If this becomes a problem he will change to three month spacing. Gene has one newsletter approximately 50% complete that he will mail out in January. Suggestions offered were: Call Kat Christian at NC RR for information, look at the AAR “SmartBrief” on line, check Amtrak and NARP. Ernest gave Gene permission to use anything from his site. All of us must feed stories to him. Martin will let the newsletter firms know we are going to try it again in house

7. Update on Rail Developments across the Carolinas including Start of 3rd Charlotte/Raleigh Frequency – (Included in Gene Kirkland’s report below)

8. Reports by Officers & Directors

Gene Kirkland – Data indicate that passenger boardings increase when old stations are rebuilt or replaced. Durham is the most recent example of this. The stations in Charlotte and Raleigh remain the only major stations in NC that have not been redone. It would really help ridership if this were done. NCDOT does a great job with station design and restoration. Unfortunately, Ellen Holding who does all of the art work is about to retire. Ridership on the Piedmont set a record on Thanksgiving weekend with 431 in 5 coaches and a combine. All seats were filled. The Carolinian is doing well also. Ridership figures for these trains will be in the newsletter if available. Southbound trains are doing best. Double tracking from High Point to Greensboro is complete. The old track is currently closed for bridgework, but will reopen soon. All cars are back from the shop. The food service car #400201 (Pamlico Sound) will include vending machines and complimentary snack service will end The second food service car #400102 (Catawba River) and the new F59s (City of High Point #1859 and City of Greensboro #1810) from GO Transit in Toronto will be back in February. The City of Raleigh has had problems recently that required towing. The 3rd frequency may be delayed another month or so. When it begins the current Piedmont running north will be #73 and #76 running south. The new service will have #74 running from Raleigh and #75 running from Charlotte. Trains #73 & #74 will use 56- seat cars, and #75 & #76 will have 66-seat cars. All other work is waiting for Stimulus money in January. Remodeling and enlargement of the Cary station will be first. It will have an attendant when finished and will be 50% larger with 100% more parking. Other projects will be the Burlington & Kannapolis platforms, additional double and triple tracking, and work at the High Point station. More information about this will be in the newsletter.

Jim Frierson – (As Jim was unable to attend this meeting he sent the following report via e-mail) There is really very little to report from SC regarding passenger rail activities.....there is going to be a passenger rail companion study to the already completed statewide rail study done by our Department of Commerce.  I know that I have spoken to the group about this before.  Mr. Roy Tolson is trying to get a rail preservation plan underway in the new year.  A couple of our state legislators (not Rep. Walt McLeod) are backing an initiative to move all rail activities in the state, including operation of our state's port/terminal switching lines and all rail planning activities, into a new rail division to be created within the SCDOT.  Our secretary of transportation, Mr. Limehouse, supports the idea of creating such a division.  However, our state department of commerce, which supports moving rail planning to the DOT, wants to keep on operating the short switching lines serving our state's ports and terminals through its Public Railways Division.  We will see what happens with this in the new year.  

Ernest Robl – Attended the dedication of the new food service car and will send Gene some photos. There were two fatalities in Durham recently when a car stopped between crossing gates was hit by the Carolinian. Commuter rail in the Triangle area is not being discussed much anymore. The entire project would be quite expensive, but it could be done in parts. Currently they are studying possible ridership. Freight rail is beginning to focus on short haul intermodal service in containers as is done in Europe. This will be successful if they can offer on time delivery. The cost is already significantly less.

Dan Gurley – Has been working to secure cosponsors on Capitol Hill for the rail tax incentive bill (House Bill 272/1806). This legislation might be included with legislation to increase jobs. CSX ran the first double-stack container train to Wilmington along one of the two possible passenger routes. Any improvement made for freight service will aid possible future passenger service. There is a lot of interest in rail on Capitol Hill. The National Rail Plan (found on Ernest’s site) is worth having a look at. It makes the point that rail pays its own way while other are subsidized. More regionalized service. The Asheville excursion trip was well covered in the newspaper with a strong favorable editorial in the Asheville paper. The mayor of Asheville does not seem to know a lot about rail, but Asheville has historically been the weakest link in attempts to establish service from Salisbury to Asheville.

Ed Locklin – “Waiting on a Train” by James McCommons is recommended reading. He sounds like us.

Art Peterson – Will be co-host for National Railroad Structures convention on June 14-19, 2010.

Bill Muller – Virginia provides a good example of how well rail service can work. Ridership is good. As stations are improved by localities the State is having a problem providing with increased service. It would be nice if one southern capital had a good station.

Harry Clapp – Harry had to leave the meeting early, but left an excerpt from the Greensboro NRHS newsletter describing a recent meeting with Congressman Howard Coble to discuss the need for expanded freight and passenger rail service. Members of NRHS also met with Meredith Richards, Chair of Charlottesville Rail which is a consortium of governments, businesses and organizations that share an interest in providing citizens with more options for transportation. In particular they support a rail corridor from Charlotte through Greensboro to Charlottesville and north.

Jack Stein – NC State University will offer a course on railroads which might contain some interesting information.

Martin Wheeler –. Bill Gray had planned to revive a section of the Piedmont and Northern as the North Carolina Central Railroad. This has been delayed until next year. Gray has been withdrawn from the project and it will be offered for bids to other short line railroads. Track work on the three-mile section from Gastonia to Ranlow continues and it is expected to be ready for service by March 2010.

Gateway Station – The Federal Transit Administration issued a finding of “No Significant Impact” for the Charlotte Gateway Station (CGS). This completes the environmental review phase of the project. CATS intends to move forward with the acquisition of the Greyhound depot property located on the block where the CGS will be built. NCDOT plans to construct a new Greyhound terminal on the adjoining block between 3rd and 4th Streets. Greyhound will lease the current location until the new depot is complete. In a meeting on October 27, NCDOT announced its plans to advance the RFQ for a Master Developer for the CGS next year. This will be followed by an RFP for development of additional property owned by NCDOT along the NS tracks

Red Line - On September 26 the Metropolitan Transit Commission voted to change the name of the LYNX Purple Line to the Red Line. The current engineering phase has been completed. Work will continue on plans to accommodate a set of NS freight storage tracks at the Harris station. CATS will be working on a Red Line Work Plan over the next 18-24 months

Blue Line Extension - The project team continues to work on station alignment and location issues. The team has eliminated the 16th Street alternative station location from further consideration. The Parkwood and Brevard location will move ahead to 30% design. Work is underway to determine the capacity at the Vehicle Maintenance Facility to meet the needs of the BL Extension. Work is also underway to assess the potential of the NS Intermodal Yard site for light maintenance. STV reported a cost estimate (figure not given) to extend platforms for 3-car trains in the South Corridor, and upgrade the power supply for 6 minute operations. New model runs have confirmed that 2-car trains with 6 minute headways or 3-cars trains with10 minute headways can meet the projected ridership demands. CATS and NS legal departments have resolved all issues with the Planning and Environmental agreement. For the UNCC extension, the UNCC Board of Trustees authorized a perpetual easement to the City of Charlotte for the construction and operation of light rail at no compensation. The MTC unanimously approved moving the 27th Street station to 25th Street to provide better development opportunities. CATS estimates BL Extension daily readership in 2030 to be 23,800 with a daily total of 47,600 along the entire 20-mile line. These figures allow a cost effectiveness index between $16.01 and $20.45 which is in the “medium” range currently required by the FTC to qualify for federal construction funds. Light rail’s on-time performance continues to be very high averaging 99.4% in October with 18 days at 100%. There were no accidents or serious incidents. Supplemental rail service was provided for Panthers and Bobcats games, “The Race for the Cure”, concerts and events at Time Warner Arena, and the “Get Motivated” seminar. Ridership on the day of the seminar exceeded 21,300.

Charlotte Streetcar Project - On September 14 the Charlotte City Council awarded a contract for engineering services to the URS Corporation. Preliminary engineering will advance the design to the 30% level for the 10-mile project and enable the City to develop a reliable cost estimate and schedule for the project. The work will take approximately 12 months

9. Future Meetings – The next meeting will be in Spartanburg or Greenville on February 13. Phil Astwood will select a location. Future Meetings: April 10 - Charlotte, June – Columbia, August – Asheville, October – Myrtle Beach, December – Raleigh

Adjourn - 3:57 P.M.