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Nebraska Board Meeting
Saturday, January 26,
2019 - 9:00 am to Noon - Lincoln, NE
at St. Mark's on the Campus, 1309 R Street, Lincoln
All ProRail Nebraska members are invited to attend.
If you can't attend in person, a conference phone line may be available.
If interested, please contact Bob Kuzelka 402-417-9424 email@example.com
November 2018 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online
Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.
Executive to Visit Nebraska Mayors in December
Richard Schmeling - ProRail District 1 Director - November 26, 2018
James, Director - Government Affairs at Amtrak for the Greater Chicago Area,
is coming to Nebraska December 10th. Derrick accepted my
invitation to speak at a meeting of ProRail Nebraska members and allies in
Lincoln on the evening of Monday,
December 10th, 7:00 PM.
The meeting will be at the Gere
Public Library, 2400 South 56th Street (SE
corner - 56th St. & Normal Blvd.) Questions? Please contact Richard at
will be in Omaha Monday morning, December 10th to meet with Omaha
Mayor Jean Stothert to get her
support for continued operation of Amtrak's California Zephyr across Nebraska. She will be asked to contact
Nebraska Senators Fischer and Sasse and District 2 Representative Don Bacon
encouraging them to fight against any cutbacks in Zephyr
will then travel west across Nebraska visiting the mayors in Lincoln,
Hastings, Holdrege, and McCook asking them to take action to support the California
Lincoln's StarTran Moving Ahead with Technology
By Clyde Anderson, December 1, 2018
One of our guest speakers at the ProRail Nebraska meeting this morning in Lincoln was Michael Davis, Transit Manager for the City of Lincoln's StarTran. Although StarTran doesn't have wifi installed on its buses yet, it already has several innovations we can only dream of in Omaha. Click here for details.
The new StarTran Get On Board
System allows you to track the location of your bus on a map, get an
estimated arrival time, and set up alerts using StarTran's AVL website.
Also, you can download bus passes on your smart phone and pay your fare
onboard using the Token Transit ap.
StarTran has increased its order for electric buses from 2 to 4 thanks to a grant from the VW Mitigation Settlement Fund. The buses, which were ordered from New Flyer, are scheduled to be delivered next Fall. Click here to view an informative StarTran Fact Sheet.
StarTran's criteria for placing a bench
at a bus stop is a minimum of 15 passengers per day. A bus shelter must have
at least 25 passengers/day, and several additional shelters will be
installed next Spring. Many bus stops have trash cans, and StarTrans has a
contractor that empties them and cleans up litter around the stops.
Richard Schmeling with CFIT (Citizens for Improved Transit) also made a brief presentation. They are about to launch a program of giving free bus passes to needy Lincoln Public Schools students.
Brightline has turned passenger rail in the United States upside down by doing one seemingly obvious thing: defining what it wanted to do
- its ideal scenario - then finding a way to make that happen.
Brightline, instead, started with its advantages, like an existing rail corridor, and real estate development possibilities. It then set out goals, like frequent service on modern trains, and did what was necessary to make it happen. In some cases, they weren't sure how they were going to achieve their goals, but they proceeded with confidence nonetheless.
The end result is outstanding. The trains themselves are comfortable, quiet, and smooth. The hyper-modern stations and trains are part of the "wow" factor, luring people out of their cars. (The new coaches we're getting in the Midwest will be the same basic design, so we've got good things to look forward to.)
Brightline began service with many trains every day, which is crucial. Often, new services plan to start with only one or two trips a day, hoping to scale up in the future. Instead, they see underwhelming ridership as a result of the limited schedule. Brightline understands that the convenience of a frequent schedule is a major part of the "will I take the train?" equation. Proving that point, I noticed that even mid-day, off-peak trains were busy.
Click here to read full article and view photos.
Join or donate to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association today!
Progressive Railroading, October 9, 2018
Editor's Note: More cities are following Kansas City's example and converting their streetcar operations to fare-free. It not only encourages ridership but also speeds up the operation by not having to collect fares. Hopefully the proposed Omaha Streetcar will be fare-free. However, even with Tampa's increased hours of operation, only operating from 7 am to 7 pm is not very good coverage. 5 am to Midnight would serve the public much better.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, Florida, has eliminated fares and expanded service for its TECO Line heritage streetcar.
Iowa approves funding loans and grants for five rail projects
Railway Track &
Structures, October 09, 2018
Iowa Transportation Commission last week approved more than $3.1 million in
funding for five rail infrastructure and related rail development projects
under Iowa's Railroad Revolving Loan and Grant Program (RRLG).
Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) said the projects are intended
to support the creation of 136 jobs within three years of project
completion. The proposed developments are expected to leverage millions in
new capital investments throughout the state.
rail network improvement projects approved by the commission include the
targeted job creation projects were awarded grant and loan funding as part
of the announcement, Iowa DOT said.
The recommended funding awarded included a total of $1.5 million in loans and $1.6 million in awarded grants, according to Iowa DOT.
KC Streetcar Seeks Funding for Extension
RailwayAge.com - September 12, 2018
The KC Streetcar recently applied for $151 million in federal funding for its planned Main Street Extension to University of Missouri-Kansas City.
RPA Board Resolves to Save Long Distance Trains
Friday, September 7, 2018
In response to the
recent controversial service changes from Amtrak--including proposed changes
to the National Network service levels--the Rail
Passengers Association Board unanimously adopted a new policy resolution
to place conditions on its support for Amtrak's 2019 budget
recommendations and appropriations request to Congress, insisting that
Amtrak maintain the integrity of the current interstate rail transportation
network of trains and routes. Additionally, our leadership is encouraging
Amtrak's board and management to be timely and transparent in its strategic
plans for expansion of train service, improved passenger amenities and
re-fleeting of the entire passenger rail network.
In addition, the House voted on a motion to go to conference with the Senate on the second minibus spending package (H.R. 6147), bringing the Rail Passengers' Southwest Chief campaign to a critical juncture. This bill will shape not only the next twelve months of transportation spending, but the future of the national passenger rail network.
Schmeling on his book The Trains of
ProRail Nebraska Director, Richard Schmeling, was the guest speaker at the Preservation Association of Lincoln's (PAL) June 12th Brown Bag lunch talk. Dick's presentation was based on his new book "The Trains of Lincoln Station" which he co-authored with Michael Bartels.
Click here to view the 47" video of Richard's presentation.
Hearings Scheduled for LR 399
Updated August 4, 2018 By Clyde Anderson
Here is the latest
from Trevor Fitzgerald, Legal Counsel - Urban Affairs Committee on the
hearings for LR
399 (Wayne) - Interim study to examine issues related to metropolitan
Tuesday, August 28th (North Omaha)
Lied Life Center
N. 70th Plaza
Trevor Fitzgerald speaking at the ProRail Annual Meeting on June 9th about LR399 (Dick Schmeling photo)
September 4th (Bellevue)
University Hitchcock Humanities Center
Citizens living in the Omaha Metropolitan Area are encouraged to attend these hearings and encourage Nebraska legislators to pass legislation expanding the role of the Metropolitan Omaha Transit Authority (O-Metro). For example, O-Metro's charter should be expanded to include Sarpy County, and O-Metro should be allowed to provide regular bus service between Omaha and Lincoln serving intermediate communities like Gretna, Ashland, and Waverly.
At the present time, O-Metro is responsible for the operation of fixed route, express / commuter bus downtown weekday rush hour and Americans with Disabilities Act Complementary Paratransit Service within the city limits of Omaha, Douglas County, NE.
the LR399 study might recommend legislation enabling an expanded transit
authority that would encompass both Omaha and Lincoln that would then enable
the agency to offer regular transit service between Nebraska's two largest
cities. Initially service would be provided by buses, and if patronage grows
enough to justify it, rail service. If ProRail ever wants to accomplish its
Omaha - Lincoln commuter rail service goal, it better support an agency to
build and operate it. It won't be Amtrak or BNSF!
ProRail Presents Dan Lutz Passenger Rail Advocacy Award to Senator Burke Harr
Senator Harr (left) receives award from Matt Roque, PRN President
At the June 9th Annual Meeting of ProRail Nebraska, Senator Burke Harr was given the Dan Lutz Rail Advocacy Award for his many years of service in the Nebraska Legislature supporting rail and other transportation legislation furthering ProRail's goals. Because of term limits, Sen. Harr will be retiring from the Legislature after eight years in office. ProRail looks forward to working with Sen. Harr on future transportation endeavors.
The Annual Meeting was attended by 26 members and supporters and featured presentations on passenger rail and transit topics including the presentation by Jay Lund described in the article below.
Lund - Modern Omaha Streetcar Advocate
Speaker at PRN's June 9th Annual Meeting
Clyde Anderson, PRN Director -
the leading advocate for a modern streetcar line in Omaha, Jay Lund believes
streetcars would be the catalyst for Omaha to become a world-class city. Jay
will be our keynote speaker at ProRail's June 9th meeting.
knows development and techniques for spurring urban growth. The Lund family
as played a major role in commercial real estate development in Omaha. For
example, Jay and others transformed a series of unused and underused
buildings into the hip mid-town Blackstone District.
Lund is the lead spokesman for Modern Streetcar Advocates, https://modernstreetcaradvocates.org/, an organization that promotes streetcar transportation in Omaha and believes that "Omaha's future is riding on the streetcar."
streetcars utilize clean, energy-efficient all-electric vehicles utilizing
overhead trolley wire or battery-electric hybrid vehicles that only have
overhead wires transit stops for charging the batteries eliminating most of
the cost of erecting the network of overhead trolley wires.
new QLine Streetcar Line utilizes articulated streetcars with a unique
hybrid design using power from overhead wire and on-board batteries.
In the photo note the short overhead wire at the trolley stop. The vehicles
are also unique in that they are American made by Brookville Equipment Corp.
provide a much smoother, quieter ride than buses, and there are no exhaust
emissions. Streetcars are also more reliable than buses and have much longer
don't have to go far to visit a streetcar success story.
Kansas City's Downtown Streetcar has provided more than 4 million
trips since its opening day two years ago. Since the streetcar began
operations, at least 20 new businesses have popped up along or near the Main
Street route. More than $2.1 billion has been invested in the greater
downtown Kansas City area since the streetcar opened. "In two short
years, downtown residents, employees, and visitors have embraced the KC
Streetcar and have ridden at record numbers," said Kansas City
Streetcar Authority Executive Director Tom Gerend. "The transformation
of downtown and the excitement it generated is nothing but remarkable."
accommodate ridership growth, the KCSA has ordered two more streetcar
vehicles to expand its existing four-vehicle fleet. The new units are slated
to arrive next year. The authority also plans to extend the streetcar route
to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Berkeley Riverfront area.
to Kansas City's success is operating expenses are paid for by a tax paid
by businesses and property owners along the streetcar route which allows the
streetcar to be fare-free. This not only encourages ridership but also
speeds operation by not having to collect fares and inspect for fare
It's interesting that streetcar opponents often promote buses as a more cost-effective alternatives, but these opponent are rarely existing transit users who ride Omaha buses regularly and have to deal with the discomforts of bus travel.
Click here to read other articles in our May 2018 newsletter.
Schmeling on his book The Trains of
June 12, Noon to 1:00 p.m.
Historical Museum Auditorium at P and 15th
Street - Lincoln, Nebraska
Nebraska Director, Richard Schmeling, will be the guest speaker at the
Preservation Association of Lincoln's (PAL) June 12th Brown Bag lunch
talk. Dick will present on his new book "The Trains of Lincoln Station"
which he co-authored with Michael Bartels.
It will be held at noon in the auditorium of the State Historical Museum at P and Centennial Mall North - free and open to the public. All the PAL brown bag lunches are videotaped and shown often on public access channel 5. ProRail is providing a grant to co-sponsor the event and help fund the video coverage.
"The Trains of Lincoln
Station" is available in softcover from South Platte Press for $24.95.
the past several decades, the railroad presence in the downtown area of
Lincoln, Nebraska, has been significantly diminished. This pictorial looks
at the many changes that have taken place around the city's former
Burlington and Amtrak station between the early 1960s and 2012. The authors,
noted Lincoln area rail historians, recount the history of Lincoln's "Burlington box," various steam and football excursions that operated,
and changes to local passenger train service during the Amtrak era. Photos
by a number of local rail photographers show the equipment, area facilities
and special events that supported depot operations. This is a visual
document of how the trains of Lincoln Station were gradually replaced by
what is now a vibrant retail and event district for Nebraska's capital
Kansas City Streetcar marks two years of service
Progressive Railroading - May 9, 2018
The 2.2-mile Kansas City Streetcar in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, has provided more than 4 million trips since its opening day two years ago.
Since the streetcar began operations, at least 20 new businesses have popped up along or near the Main Street route, Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) officials said in a press release.
ProRail Opposed to New Amtrak Policy
Posted April 11, 2018
Photo by Tom Jurgens of the Sept. 2014 Omaha-Lincoln Husker Football Special at Melia Siding.
Amtrak recently announced a new policy for private passenger cars and special trips. This change will likely eliminate special trains in Nebraska like Husker Football Specials between Omaha and Lincoln. ProRail Nebraska opposes this new policy and encourages our members and allies to contact their Representatives and Senators expressing their opposition.
Click here to read more about the new Amtrak policy.
UP's Fritz to STB: "Stabilize service, reverse downward trend"
Written by William C. Vantuono, RailwayAge.com April 4, 2018
Union Pacific has responded to the Surface Transportation Board's March 16 blanket letter requesting information on Class I railroad 2018 service outlook.
Click Here to read the details in the rest of the article..
ProRail Supports Legislative Bill 769
Retain Nebraska's Membership in the MIPRC
On January 23rd ProRail President Matt Roque testified before the Nebraska Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee in support of LB 769. This bill would retain Nebraska's membership in the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC).
You may recall that during the 2015 Session Sen. Kintner introduced LB 317 that would have withdrawn Nebraska from the MIPRC. ProRail opposed LB 317, but a compromise was reached where Nebraska would remain a member only until July 1, 2018.
At the beginning of the 2018 Session Sen. Quick from Grand Island introduced LB 769 that would eliminate the July 1, 2018 deadline and keep Nebraska in the Compact indefinitely. LB 769 is co-sponsored by Senators Walz, Harr, and Kolowski.
The Compact created the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission which brings together leaders from nine Midwest states (Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) to promote, coordinate and support improvements to passenger rail and connecting bus services. Nebraska's withdrawal from MIPRC would put our state outside this planning process. Senators Quick and Walz represent Nebraska on the Commission. The Governor hasn't appointed the other two NE representatives to the MIPRC.
In addition to retaining our state's membership in the MIPRC, LB 769 would also allow non-government parties to help pay the annual MIPRC dues which are $15,000 annually.
Click here to read Mr. Roque's testimony (PDF).
Kawasaki gets $1.4 Billion MTA subway car order
Much of the work to be done at Lincoln, NE plant
Railway Age - January 24, 2018
New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to spend more than $1.4 billion to purchase 535 new subway cars to replace the oldest cars operating on its lettered lines.
The initial order with Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. was approved by the agency Board's Transit Committee Jan. 22, and the Japan-based company could eventually design and build a total of 1,600 cars for more than $3.6 billion over the coming decade. They will be built at Kawasaki's facilities in Yonkers, N.Y., and Lincoln, Neb.
The first new R211 test cars are scheduled to be delivered by mid-2020, part of an order that includes 440 standard closed-end cars and 20 open-gangway test cars with through vestibules for NYC Transit, and 75 new cars for the Staten Island Railway. The design for the new cars features wider doors, closed-circuit surveillance cameras, new lighting and color schemes, and improved digital displays.
Reports said that under the terms of the contract to be voted on by the full board Jan. 24, the MTA has an option to have Kawasaki build about 1,100 more cars for $2.2 billion by the end of 2027.
Click here to view more details in Progressive Railroading article Jan. 25, 2018.
Minnesota ends Twin Cities-to-Milwaukee high-speed rail study
Progressive Railroading - January 11, 2018
An environmental study exploring the viability of a high-speed passenger-rail service between Minnesota and Wisconsin has been halted after two Minnesota state lawmakers objected to its funding.
KC Streetcar Get's FTA Permission to Begin
Proposed Extension Project's Development
Progressive Railroading - January 8, 2018
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority will develop
refined capital and operating costs, as well as ridership estimates.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has authorized the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) to move its Main Street streetcar extension into the project development phase.
Presentation By Roger Figard, Executive Director
Lincoln Railroad Transportation Safety District
December 9, 2017 ProRail Meeting in Lincoln
Click here to view PowerPoint slides
Click here to view map of conceptual plan to abandon Amtrak Route in Lincoln, NE
Click here to view map showing proposed Hobson Yard Bypass
ProRail Board Votes to Oppose Abandonment of Lincoln's Amtrak Line
Clyde Anderson - November 3, 2017
The ProRail Board met in Lincoln Saturday, October 28. After discussing the proposal by Lincoln's Railroad Transportation Safety District to abandon a segment of the Amtrak Line that extends from a point just west of the Amtrak Station 7.3 miles southwest to Cobb, the Board voted unanimously to oppose the abandonment. See the news article below for details. The Board opposes closure of the line to through traffic for several reasons:
We hope to have a spokesperson from the Railroad Transportation Safety District at our December 9 meeting.
StarTran has received a
$1.45 million federal grant to purchase two electric buses to replace
heavy-duty diesel buses. StarTran's project was one of 51 projects in 39 states selected for
$55 million in grants from the Federal Transit Administration's low- or
no-emission vehicle program.
Will Lincoln's Amtrak Line Be Abandoned?
By Clyde Anderson - October 3, 2017
According to an article in the September 10 Lincoln Journal Star, Lincoln's Railroad Transportation Safety District is concerned about grade crossing safety on BNSF's Hastings Subdivision between Lincoln's Amtrak Station and Cobb, a junction about 7.3 miles southwest of the City. This single-track line is used by the daily pair of Amtrak California Zephyr trains daily plus several BNSF freight trains.
The Safety District is concerned about accidents at seven grade crossings on this line within Lincoln. This concern was heightened when two 17-year olds were killed August 18 when they drove around the lowered crossing gates at the West South St. crossing and were struck by a westbound Amtrak train.
Although the Safety District has considered creating a quiet zone that would include the seven crossings on the Amtrak Line within Lincoln City Limits, it is also considering a second option: abandonment of part of the line and rerouting through trains on an alternate route.
Creating a quiet zone would cost about $5 million according to a recent study. This involves changes at each crossing including additional warning signals at and raised medians that prevent vehicles from driving around lowered crossing gates. This eliminates the need for engineers to blow train horns approaching the crossings -- thus the name quiet zone.
At Cobb there is a junction with BNSF's Freight Cutoff used by most freight trains to reach Hobson Yard. It's the green line in the map above. If part of the Amtrak Line is abandoned, the Safety District proposes to reroute the through trains off that line to BNSF's Ravenna Subdivision from Downtown west to Cushman, junction with the Freight Cutoff to Cobb. This proposal involves building a new signalized main track along the south side of Hobson Yard and upgrading the Freight Cutoff to Cobb to passenger train standards. Estimated cost: $25 to $35 million. Since BNSF sees no benefit to rerouting the traffic, the cost would have to be borne by the City, State, and Federal governments.
Abandoning the Amtrak Line as a through route is a bad idea. In addition to providing a more direct and faster route for the Amtrak and BNSF intermodal trains that use it, the route provides an alternate path when the route via Hobson Yard is blocked by a derailment, natural disaster, or maintenance. Our railroad network is already plagued by past abandonment decisions that eliminated route redundancy, something railroad managers often regret!
Click here to view the excellent illustrated Lincoln Journal Star article.
Results for Nebraska Railroad Survey
ProRail requested UNL's Bureau of Business Research to add four passenger rail-related questions to its Nebraska Annual Social Indicator Survey (NASIS) which was conducted last Fall. Responses to the four questions were favorable indicating a strong support for rail passenger service by Nebraska residents. Click here to view the summary.
Results will be available for use in our legislative work in the 2017 Unicameral Session.
We think trains need more prominence in the U.S. because:
(above courtesy National Association of Railroad Passengers)
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