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Welcome to ProRail Nebraska

Dedicated to supporting and advocating for railroad service 
in the State of Nebraska.

Supporting

Commuter Rail - Light Rail - Intercity Rail

We're Helping Get Nebraska On Track!

ProRail Nebraska Meetings  

Next Members Meeting: Fall 2016

Next Board Meeting: Check back for date and location

All ProRail Nebraska meetings are open to the general public!

May 2016 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online

Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.

Midwestern College Students & Staff Show Support

for Intercity Rail Passenger Service

The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) recently conducted a survey of students, staff, and faculty at 30 Midwestern colleges and universities. The institutions reside in nine states, and are all along current Amtrak routes.

The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission in an interstate compact organization consisting of the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. The compact for the Commission is to advocate for and create a modern and expanded interstate passenger rail system, as a clean and efficient alternative form of transportation for Midwestern residents. The Commission’s membership consists of two appointees from each state’s legislature, each state’s governor or the governor’s appointed designee, and one private sector appointee per state.

Some of the results highlighted by the MIPRC:

·         68% of all respondents consider passenger rail service ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to the United States’ transportation future

·         56% of all respondents said they would be more likely to utilize passenger rail service if it were made more frequently available

·         The top incentives that would increase train usage are:

1.     A station close to my permanent residence (44%)

2.    More/better discounts (pricing) (35%)

3.    Better information from college/university about how to take the train (29%)

4.    Transportation to nearest station provided by college/university (28%)

  • 51% of students, faculty, and staff said they were ‘not at all aware’ of the role that state and Federal governments play in funding passenger rail.

That more than half of respondents said they would be more likely to use rail transportation if more frequently available is significant. Only 8.5% of respondents said they have used rail service to or from school more than once in the past 12 months. If even one quarter of university students and staff used rail multiple times in a year, that would mark a huge increase in utilization.

Besides the fairly evident reason of not owning a car (32%), the top reasons for taking the train were that it is convenient and comfortable compared to driving or flying (57%) and cheaper than alternative modes of transportation (49%). Only 11% of respondents cited the environmental benefits of rail. It is unclear whether this is due to apathy or ignorance towards the environmental benefits. If the latter, better marketing of these benefits could have a strong impact on ridership.

It seems that transportation to and from nearby stations and improved information can be quick wins in improving passenger rail usage. The survey was conducted during the most recent, 2015-2016 academic year, and received nearly twenty thousand respondents. More results and recommendations from the study can be found at the MIPRC website. More information about rail and other transportation infrastructure can be found on MuniNet’s Transportation page.  (Posted 5/11/2016)

ProRail - Your Voice Before the Nebraska Legislature

Our ProRail Lobbyists, Matt Roque and Bob Kuzelka, have been busy this winter presenting ProRail's position on several transportation bills and issues before the Nebraska Legislature. At its January 16 meeting, the ProRail Board decided to take positions on the following bills:

  • LB 735 - Provide a length limit exception for an articulated bus vehicle operated by a transit authority -- ProRail supports this bill because it would authorize transit agencies to use articulated buses up to 65-ft. in length like those planned for Omaha's new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). This bill was signed by the Governor and became law on March 9, 2016.

  • LB 799 - Include capital acquisition costs in the Nebraska Public Transportation Act's assistance program -- PRN decided to support this bill because we believe that improved public transportation is vital to the economic viability, health, and environment of both urban and rural Nebraska. Many Nebraskans don't have access to motor vehicles for their transportation needs, especially the elderly and young, and must rely on public transportation, family and friends, or charities to meet their transport needs. LB 799 would extend State assistance to public transportation to capital investments like new vehicles and maintenance facilities. The bill remains in committee and was "indefinitely postponed" for this session. 

  • LB 977 - Original LB related to operation of implements of husbandry on highways was amended to become an omnibus transportation LB which included the provisions of LB 799 in Sections 1, 2 and 3. PRN did not have a position on the original LB but supported it in its amended form. The bill became a priority bill for the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, was advance by that committee to the General File on March 2, was passed in its amended form to include PRN supported provisions of LB 799 by the Legislature on April 12 and signed by the Governor on April 18.

  • LB 960 - Adopt the Transportation Innovation Act -- This bill would divert $150 million from the Cash Reserve Fund to the new Transportation Infrastructure Bank Fund and divert over $28 million from the Cash Reserve Fund to the new Nebraska Capital Construction Fund. Since funding would primarily go to build and maintain roads, PRN was opposed to this bill unless more money was guaranteed for other modes of transportation. The bill was Sen. Brasch's priority bill, advanced by Appropriations Committee to General File on March 9, was passed by the Legislature and was signed by the Governor on April 18.

  • LB192 - Require a train crew of at least two individuals -- This is a carryover bill from the 2015 Session, and ProRail decided to support the bill if a hearing is scheduled. No action was taken on this bill, and it will likely be reintroduced in the 2017 Session.

Although there is no legislation this session dealing with Nebraska's membership in the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC), ProRail sponsored an informational luncheon for senators at the State Capitol on February 23rd. The event was hosted by Nebraska's two Legislative Appointed Compact Commissioners, Senators Burke Harr (District 8) and Brent Lindstrom (District 18). SMART/UTU (United Transportation Union) was a co=sponsor for the event with PRN.

Senators and staff attending were provided the current status of the State of Nebraska in the MPIRC, and Laura Kliewer, MIPRC Director, gave a brief history of the Compact. Kansas State Senator Carolyn McGinn told how Kansas and other member states benefit from the MIPRC. Senator Harr also related his experience at the MIPRC spring 2015 federal delegation meeting in Washington, D.C. ProRail President Matt Roque then presented our Position Paper on the State of Nebraska and MIPRC. Click here to view this document (PDF).

The luncheon was attended by 6 senators and staff members from 17 State Senators' offices, and their responses were generally favorable towards the MIPRC.

Kansas City streetcar to open in May 

Progressive Railroading, February 26, 2016

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority yesterday announced that the KC Streetcar system will open May 6. The two-mile route will primarily run along Main Street in downtown Kansas City and connect the River Market area to Crown Center and Union Station. The KC Streetcar has 16 stops spaced every two blocks for both northbound and southbound travel, according to the project's website. "This is the first step of what I believe will be a truly historic transformation of the entire city," said Kansas City Mayor Sly James in a press release. "Building owners and developers have completed, started or announced more than $1.6 billion in construction in the KC Streetcar district since the route was announced three years ago."

Amtrak: STB's proposed policy change would prioritize freight trains 

Progressive Railroading, February 26, 2016 

Amtrak is objecting to the Surface Transportation Board's (STB) proposed "policy statement" that the railroad says would reverse a current federal requirement that gives preference to passenger trains on tracks that are shared with freight trains.

In a Feb. 22 statement filed with the STB, Amtrak said that current preference law gives Amtrak trains the priority to travel first on shared track. But the STB's proposed policy change would allow freight trains to have priority over passenger trains, Amtrak officials said in a statement.

Amtrak officials believe that if the policy change is adopted, passenger trains running on tracks owned by freight railroads will experience a substantial increase in delays. Nearly 97 percent of the passenger railroad's route miles operate on host railroad tracks not owned by Amtrak.

In its Feb. 22 letter, Amtrak argues that the STB should withdraw its proposed policy statement in part because it "ignores the plain and unequivocal language of Amtrak's statutory right to preference, creates a new definition that eviscerates the right to preference, and draws broad, erroneous conclusions about relevant evidence based on that fundamental misinterpretation."

Also pending before the STB is a proposed rule on the definition of on-time performance of freight railroads with which Amtrak shares tracks. The proposed rule would measure OTP with freight trains only at the end points of train routes, which Amtrak has stated would result in delays at train stations along its routes operated on tracks hosted by freight railroads.

The STB announced its "Policy Statement on Implementing Intercity Passenger Train On-Time Performance and Preference Provisions" on Dec. 28, 2015. The board is currently soliciting public comments on the proposals.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) also advocated for the STB to withdraw its new policy statement on the preference change, saying the statement "overreaches federal law" and would cause passenger rail-line delays, hinder on-time performance and lead to a costly toll on the rail-riding public.

"The STB issued this 'policy statement' behind closed doors and without any input from any outside parties and outside the formal rule-making process that is required," said NARP President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Mathews in a press release. "As a result, regulators will change how intercity passenger services like Amtrak will be treated by host railroads which have legal obligations to give passenger trains right of way."

NARP filed its objections with the STB on Feb. 22.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) filed its response to the STB rule and policy statement in favor of the freight railroads. The AAR's statement can be found here.

Omaha Bus Rapid Transit to Start October 20, 2018

On Friday, February 19, Mode Shift Omaha's monthly Coffee Chat forum in Downtown Omaha featured Lauren Cencic, Omaha Metro Transit's Project Manager of Bus Rapid Transit. Lauren provided the following updates on Omaha's BRT Project:

  • The BRT will use 60-ft CNG (compressed natural gas) articulated buses, but the buses haven't been ordered yet. The infrastructure to support CNG (i.e., fueling stations) is being subsidized with grants from the Metropolitan Utilities District and the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

  • The BRT route on Dodge Street east of 30th St. will included dedicated transit lanes on both sides of the street. Only buses, not cars, will operate eastbound on Dodge on this segment.

  • In designing station stops (see the map above), O-Metro will favor far-side stops -- locating the stops on the far side of the intersection. This not only speeds up traffic, but eliminates the hazard of passengers walking in front of the bus to cross the street.

  • The BRT will have traffic light pre-emptive control to speed the movement of buses in the corridor.

  • The BRT will use a pre-pay fare system so passengers don't pay their fares on the bus. This allows fast "flood" loading and unloading at stations where passengers can board at any door on the bus. There will be fare card machines at the stations and fare inspectors making random fare payment enforcement.

  • Stations will be approximately 80 ft. long by 12 ft. wide, but this will vary with location. Stations will all feature shelters, and many will have facilities for bicycle parking/storage.

  • There will be bicycle racks inside the buses, and several designs are being studied.

  • Local non-BRT buses will probably not use the BRT stops but rather nearby local bus stops for easy transfers.

  • The Westroads Shopping Center has been favorable to expanded commuter parking near the Westroads Transit Center.

  • Mode Shift Omaha has representation on the Omaha BRT Stakeholders Committee.

  • Operations are scheduled to begin on October 20, 2018.

Clyde Anderson - posted 2/27/2016

ProRail Members Meeting December 5, 2015

at St. Marks Episcopal Church on the Campus in Lincoln

Members and guests enjoyed several informative presentations starting off with Dick Schmeling talking about Nebraska Dept. of Roads (NDOR) transit studies and Lincoln's Citizens for Improved Transit (CFIT). Clyde Anderson then gave a brief summary of the new federal Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST) and Omaha's Dodge Street Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project. Click here to view Clyde's slide presentation. Good public transportation services in Omaha and Lincoln are vital to feeding passengers to intercity rail services.

Bob Kuzelka gave an excellent presentation about the Midwest Intercity Passenger Rail Commission's (MIPRC) Annual Meeting in St. Paul in September. Bob was the only representative attending from Nebraska. See his article below.

Bob also talked about his recent meetings with several state legislators and ProRail's legislative agenda for the 2016 Session.

Dave Purdy gave a report about the Iowa Passenger Rail Advisory Committee meeting he attended on November 19.

The meeting concluded with PRN business reports from Secretary Morrie Tuttle and Treasurer Ralph Hayden.

ProRail Supports Transit Improvements

In Omaha and Lincoln

By Clyde Anderson - August 31, 2015

 

One of ProRail Nebraska's objectives is advocating for the expansion of the use and accessibility of the AMTRAK stations in the state as hubs for all surface public and private passenger transportation systems. 

 

Lincoln's StarTrans bus transit system has scheduled two public meetings in September to get public input possible transit service improvements for Lincoln. Click here for details.

 

Former ProRail President Dick Schmeling, with the blessing of the ProRail Board, sent StarTrans a letter suggesting that it relocate its Downtown Transit Center to the Haymarket District with easy access to the new Amtrak station. The City should also encourage Burlington Trailways and Arrow Stage Lines to relocate their joint inter-city bus terminal from the industrial area northeast of Lincoln to the new Downtown Transit Center. This would facilitate easy connections between StarTrans, Amtrak, and intercity bus services.

 

Dick has recently organized Citizens For Improved Transit (CFIT) to advocate for improved transit services in Lincoln.

Artwork by Paul Fell

Omaha's Metro Bus System did a similar study a few years ago, and it is presently in the design stage for its new Dodge Street Bus Rapid Transit. Clyde has attended most of OMetro's public planning meetings. Mode Shift Omaha serves as Omaha's advocacy group for non-car transportation (transit, pedestrian, biking), and it's web site has some excellent postings about Bus Rapid Transit.  executive told a Senate committee earlier this week.

Transportation for America is a coalition seeking to align our national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development. N.A.R.P. is a member of this coalition.


ProRail Nebraska advocates safe, environmentally-friendly, fuel efficient, affordable, comfortable, and all-weather mobility that rail transportation can provide.

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We think trains need more prominence in the U.S. because:

  • Trains provide more mobility and travel choices, especially in the post-2001 travel environment.
  • A wisely developed train network has great potential to accommodate future travel demand.
  • Trains are energy-efficient -- Intercity (Amtrak) trains are far more efficient than airlines (2441 Btu's per passenger-mile vs. 3999 for airlines in 1998, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory).
  • Increased use of trains reduces America's dependence on foreign oil.
  • Trains are safe, especially in bad weather.
  • Trains contribute to development which is more compact and less wasteful than auto-oriented development.
  • Trains pollute less than other modes of transportation.

(above courtesy National Association of Railroad Passengers)

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Updated 05/14/2016


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