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Welcome to ProRail Nebraska

Dedicated to advocating for improved passenger rail and all forms of surface public transportation serving Nebraska.

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ProRail Nebraska Membership Meeting

In Omaha  

Saturday, November 13th - 9:00 am to Noon  

We had a great meeting with 18 attending in person and several more online via Zoom. Thanks to our wonderful and very informative presenters! After the meeting several attendees took advantage of a ride on Omaha Metro's new ORBT bus service to Westroads and back using tokens provided free by O-Metro's Jason Rose.

Click here to read Jim Hanna's Rail Passenger Association Report from Saturday's meeting.

Photos from the meeting will be posted here soon.

Agenda:

  • 8:30 - Registration (no fee) and refreshments
  • 9:00 - Welcome (Matt Roque - PRN President)
  • 9:10 am - Nebraska Dept. of Transportation - John Selmer , Director
  • 9:50 am - Omaha's MetroNEXT Study and ORBT Update - Jason Rose, Customer Relations Mgr.
  • 10:20 am - Greater Omaha Chamber's ConnectGO - Stephen Osberg Director, Transp. & Urban Development
  • 10:50 am - Break 
  • 11:00 am - Mode Shift Omaha - Liz Veazey
  • 11:10 am - Presentation of Lutz Advocacy Award to Sen. Dan Quick Dist. 35 (2017-2020) - Matt Roque
  • 11:20 am - Plans for Nebraska Legislation 2022 Session - Matt Roque, Bob Kuzelka, Richard Schmeling  
  • 11:30 am - Midwest Regional Rail Plan - Final Report - Dave Purdy, Richard Schmeling
  • 11:40 am - Reports on Amtrak and Rail Passengers Association - Jim Hanna
  • 11:25 am - Mode Shift Omaha - Sarah Johnson
  • 11:50 am - ProRail Business - Reports and Elections
  • Noon      - Adjourn and Optional Free Pass to ride ORBT to Westroads Shopping Center for lunch

Bob Kuzelka (left) and Matt Roque (right) presenting the Lutz Advocacy Award to Sen. Dan Quick (center). Photo by Cindy Tefft

After the meeting several participants walked across Dodge St. to the 62nd St. westbound ORBT station and rode ORBT to Westroads Shopping Center for lunch. This view shows several waiting for the bus which operates every 15" on Saturdays. Omaha Metro's Jason Rose provided riders with free bus tickets.  Photo by Cindy Tefft

Ready to board the ORBT bus. Photo by Cindy Tefft

Click here to view a PDF copy of the minutes for our November 13th meeting.

October 2021 ProRail Postcard Newsletter Posted Online

Click here to view a PDF copy of the postcard.

October 2020 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online

Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.

ProRail Presents Award to Morrie Tuttle 

Richard Schmeling - November 4, 2021

Presentation of the Dan Lutz Award to Mark Tuttle, son of Morrie Tuttle. From the left: Ralph Hayden, Bob Kuzelka, Mark Tuttle, Jim Hanna and Richard Schmeling.

On October 22 we presented a plaque for the Dan Lutz Rail Advocacy Award to Mark Tuttle, son of Morrie Tuttle, recognizing Morrie's longstanding contribution to ProRail Nebraska. This was done at a luncheon at Stauffers Restaurant in Lincoln.

Morrie passed away on April 22, 2021. Click here to read Morrie's obituary. ProRail is deeply gratefull for the many years of service Morrie provided to our organization and his dedication to the survival of railroad passenger service in America.

ProRail Signs onto Solutionary Rail's letter 

of support for STB Chairman Martin Oberman

Clyde Anderson - September 30, 2021

"Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Martin Oberman recently spoke out about a variety of public goods that intersect with the proper stewardship of US Class 1 railroads. As quoted in this article, Chairman Oberman is bravely standing up to Wall Street's short-sighted business model that extracts profits without regard for the public's multiple interests in an accessible, robust, reliable and electrified interstate rail system."

"After nearly five decades of deregulation to the point of underregulation, we finally have a champion who is willing to use his position to stand up to these private corporations entrusted with stewarding this critical national infrastructure. It is time to clarify, update, and enforce Common Carrier Obligations that align with 21st Century public interests."

Please read Solutionary Rail's letter. ProRail's Board voted to sign on to this letter. Chairman Oberman deserves our encouragement and support. This is a moment of opportunity to sound the alarm, raise awareness, and increase pubic aspirations for a US rail system that has the potential to draw people and freight off the roads and onto the tracks. Click here to read the letter.

ProRail's Bob Kuzelka and Richard Schmeling

Featured on Climate Change Nebraska Podcast

September 29, 2021

Want to know more about the upside of a commuter railroad connecting Omaha and Lincoln? In this podcast recorded August 29th, two longtime proponents of this proposed linkup make the case for why it makes sense. 

Among the many reasons: the railroad line already exists, 41,000 daily commuters endanger lives and traffic that generate both a potential health risk and substantial pollution, according to Bob Kuzelka and Richard Schmeling. Both Kuzelka, a former UNL environmental studies professor, and Schmeling, a retired Lincoln attorney, are members of ProRail Nebraska, an organization that advocates for commuter trains. 


Click here to listen to the 30-minute podcast.

Many Railway-Related Webinars Recorded for On-Demand Viewing

By Clyde Anderson - July 22, 2021

Rail Passengers Association Webinars - Click Here for a list of recorded RPA webinars.

High Speed Rail Alliance Webinars - Clich Here for a list of recorded HSRA webinars.

Virginians for High Speed Rail Webinars - Click Here for a list of recorded VHSR webinars.

ORBT fares to begin Oct. 1 

with the introduction of contactless fare payment system, Umo

From https://www.ometro.com/metro-news/umo-launch/ - Sept. 3, 2021

Metro is preparing to introduce a new, contactless option to its fare payment system called Umo. With Umo, riders will board and manage accounts with a mobile app, or board with Umo smart cards and manage accounts online. The Umo system will be made available for public use on all bus and MOBY paratransit trips on Monday, September 20th. ORBT fare collection with the Umo system will begin on Friday, October 1st.

Metro will continue to sell paper fare tickets and passes, which can be purchased at Metro's office, online, and through a variety of retail outlets. Fareboxes, which will remain on Metro buses and MOBY vehicles, will continue to take paper tickets, passes, and cash, and will continue to honor and dispense value cards for cash overpayment.

ORBT prices will reflect Metro bus fares at $1.25 with 25-cent transfers. Metro fare prices will not change at this time.

Instead of paying for individual ride tickets, riders will be able to manage and load money into wallets online or with the Umo app. They will board by holding the Umo app or smart card to the recently installed Umo readers, which will deduct fares from a rider's wallet. When enabled, an auto-load feature will re-load funds when an account reaches a low balance.

Umo cards will be available at Metro's office and ticket vending machines, which are being installed at all ORBT Stations and the Westroads and North Omaha Transit Centers. Metro is in the process of adding retail outlets, corporate partners, community organizations, and other groups that are interested in expanding access to the transit system to the Umo network.

Umo will utilize "fare capping," which means the system will recognize the amount a rider with a Umo account pays in a calendar month and "cap" payments when Metro's monthly ride cost is reached - currently $55 for full-fare riders and $27.50 for half-fare riders.

With the Umo app, riders will be able to plan bus trips and explore bus routes and stops. Additional mobility features, such as real-time bus tracking and rider alert notifications, will be made available soon.

While paper passes and tickets will continue to be accepted at fareboxes on Metro buses and MOBY vans, ORBT will remain without fareboxes and rely on Umo for fare payment. Riders will use Umo readers at any of the ORBT doors, and periodic fare inspectors will check for proof of payment.

School pass programs - including UNO's MavRide, UNMC's TravelSmart, MCC's Pass to Class, College of Saint Mary's CSM 2 Go, and Metro's K-12 Rides Free pilot program - will continue to use fareboxes on buses and MOBY vans. On ORBT, they will board without swiping their cards and must have IDs available for periodic fare inspection.

When transferring between ORBT and bus while using Umo, the system will recognize boarding activity and automatically grant a rider a transfer. If transferring to ORBT from a Metro bus and not using the Umo system, riders should bring paper transfers for potential fare inspection.

Update on the Lincoln-Omaha Intercity Bus Project

By Richard Schmeling - August 2, 2021

I recently talked to Kari Ruse at NDOT to get an update on the proposed commuter bus service. She reported that things have been delayed because the time on the consultant's contract ran out and NDOT has had to find funds to rehire the consulting firm which has been done.

Kari indicated the next step is to negotiate a series of local match funding for the new service which is in progress. Depending on federal, state, and local funding available, NDOT may have to scale back the proposed service (i.e. the number of proposed trips per day and intermediate stops served).

Service implementation is likely several months off, probably during the first half of 2022.

Omaha officials sought $8 million for streetcar

but didn't get federal earmark

By Nancy Gaarder and Reece Ristau - Omaha World Herald - June 30, 2021

Omaha business leaders unsuccessfully tried to secure federal funding for the long-discussed streetcar project earlier this year.

The move is the latest sign that Omaha's business community is continuing to push for creation of a streetcar.

"We are extremely serious about this," said Jay Noddle, the developer who heads the public-private group focused on Omaha's urban core. "We've never been more serious. It's one of the more important and therefore more impactful things that can happen in the core of the city."

This spring, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, along with City of Omaha and local transportation officials, attempted to get an $8 million federal earmark to fund the design of the long-discussed streetcar project that would connect downtown and midtown Omaha.

However, the earmark, requested by U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., was not included in a federal transportation bill currently making its way through Congress, his office said last week.

Click Here to read the rest of the article and view more photos and a video.

Lincoln to receive $2.7 million grant, StarTran plans to buy new electric buses

By Kamri Sylve - TV Station KOLN - June 23, 2021

The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding Lincoln with an almost $2.7 million federal transit grant, and all of that money is heading to the city's bussing system.

With this grant, Lincoln's StarTran will get 3 brand new electric buses and two new charging stations. These new electric buses will replace three 2006 diesal buses. The company says this grant will ultimately help the environment and the thousands of people who use Lincoln's bus system everyday.

These buses give off little to no emissions, which StarTran says makes them healthier for the city and provides a more quiet and smoother ride for passengers.

According to StarTran, these new electric buses go hand-in-hand with Lincoln's climate action plan. The city was able to purchase its first electric buses a couple years ago, upgrading the bus system to be more sustainable. Now, StarTran tells us using this grant to take three diesel ones off the road will help even more.

"Electric buses do cost more initially, so having this grant offset the initial cost will bring a lower cost overall when looking at the total bus life cycle," said Mike Davis, StarTran Transit Manager. "Having new buses does reduce breakdowns, and that improves reliability overall. That's an improvement for passengers and the system as a whole," he added.

The company said these electric buses require lower maintenance and should last between 12 and 16 years. In the next five years, StarTran will continue to work toward having all electric buses or using alternative fuel options.

The new electric buses should make their way to Lincoln roads within the next nine months to a year. To spot them, you can look for the new green scheme with a yellow cord painted on the side. The company is also hiring.

To view the video, Click Here.

Amtrak resumes daily service through Lincoln

By Nick McConnell, Lincoln Journal-Star, June 13, 2021

As daily life returns to normal during the nation's COVID-19 recovery, Amtrak trains are once again rumbling through Lincoln on a daily basis. 

The California Zephyr, the Amtrak train that runs from Chicago to San Francisco, has resumed its pre-pandemic schedule of one eastbound and one westbound train stopping in Lincoln in the early hours of each day.

ProRail Nebraska, a group of citizens that supports the continuation of passenger train service in the state, met the westbound train at the Lincoln Amtrak station on the first day of resumed daily service, May 24. According to ProRail's District 1 director, Richard Schmeling, ProRail opposed the pause in daily service, lobbying Nebraska's federal representatives to support Amtrak through the pandemic. 

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said daily service was halted on many routes after the Senate declined to pass funding for the service during the pandemic. Now that legislation providing the funding has been passed and signed by the president, he said, Amtrak has resumed service at full capacity. 

"It enables us to be a better service in the 500 places we serve," he said. 

It also enabled Amtrak to recall over 2,000 workers nationally that it put on furlough while service was decreased, Magliari said, including conductors, engineers and service people. 

Click here to read the full article and view photos.

ProRail Welcomes Back Daily Service on Amtrak's Calif. Zephyr

By Bob Kuzelka, ProRail Vice President

Effective the week of May 23, operation of Amtrak's California Zephyr will return to daily operation after operating tri-weekly for almost a year. To celebrate, Richard Schmeling and I had a large banner made with the image above that will be displayed at the Amtrak station in Lincoln. We also had ProRail flyers printed to hand out to Amtrak customers and supporters. The CZ not only serves Omaha and Lincoln, but also the Nebraska communities of Hastings, Holdrege, and McCook.

May 25, 2021 - ProRail Leaders Bob Kuzelka and Richard Schmeling with outbound CZ conductor Paul pose by PRN's Welcome Back banner at the Lincoln Amtrak Station.

Dollar General Building Huge Distribution Center in Blair, NE

May 25, 2021 - Clyde Anderson

Big economic news for the Omaha metro area -- Dollar General is building a distribution center in Blair. The warehouse will serve more than 1,500 Dollar General stores across the midwest. Construction is underway on an 800,000 square foot warehouse and distribution center on the southside of Blair. Dollar General is building the $85 million complex on 85 acres just off Highway 75. In the rendering of the new facility above, which is looking east, that's the Union Pacific support yard for the Cargil's huge Blair Plant. It presumably will also serve the new warehouse. Click here for details.

Nebraska Legislative Update

Updated Wednesday, April 28, 2021

ProRail supported three bills and took a neutral stand on a fourth railroad bill. None of the four bills were designated as priority bills, and none were advanced from the Transportation & Telecommunications Committee to the floor.

LB 12 Require NE DOT to conduct a feasibility study for Omaha/Lincoln commuter rail service (Introduced by Senator Blood, Dist. 3 at the request of PRN.  PRN provided pro testimony at the March 1 hearing)

LB 575 Allow NE to readopt MIPRC (Introduced by Senator Bostar, Dist, 29 with Senators Brandt, Dist. 32 and Flood, Dist. 19 at the request of PRN.  PRN organized pro testimony at the March 1 hearing.)  

LB 486 Require two-person train crew (PRN has taken a neutral stand on this bill but testified in support at the March 1 hearing.) Update: April 28 Sen. Slama introduced a motion to indefinitely postpone this bill.

LB 539 Limit to length of trains (PRN supported this bill and testified at the March 1 hearing.)  

ProRail Secretary Morrie Tuttle Died

April 23, 2021 - Mark Tuttle, Caroline Carlin (Morrie's son & daughter)

We wanted to let you all know that Dad passed away last night.  His dear friend Natalie had stopped by with dinner for Caroline and she & Caroline were reminiscing about him and her late husband, and how they'd connected over the years.  Amidst that laughter and tears, he peacefully breathed his last.

Click here to read Morrie's obituary. ProRail is deeply gratefull for the many years of service Morrie provided to our organization and his dedication to the survival of railroad passenger service in America.

A look back at streetcar era inspires leaders of today

Omaha World Herald - March 1, 2021 by Marjie Ducey

Excellent article about Omaha's streetcar era and what today's leaders like Mode Shift Omaha's Liz Veazey are proposing for Omaha's future. Click here to read the article.

Move Forward With Rail
Guest editorial by PRN Director Richard Schmeling
February 25, 2021 - Lincoln Journal-Star

Click here to read the editorial.

Nebraska Legislative Update

By Bob Kuzelka - ProRail's Vice President

Updated Wednesday, February 17, 2021

PRN Director & Lobbyist Richard Schmeling has been doing lots of work at the Capitol:

Public hearings have now been set by the NE Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee for four bills of interest to PRN as follows:

Monday, 1 MAR 2021, 9:30 am, Capitol RM 1113

LB 486 Require two-person train crew (PRN has taken a neutral stand on this bill but will testify in support)

LB 539 Limit to length of trains (PRN supports this bill and will testify)

Monday, 1 MAR 2021, 1:30 pm, Capitol RM 1113

LB 12 Require NE DOT to conduct a feasibility study for Omaha/Lincoln commuter rail service (Introduced by Senator Blood, Dist. 3 at the request of PRN.  PRN will support and organize pro testimony)

LB 575 Allow NE to readopt MIPRC (Introduced by Senator Bostar, Dist, 29 with Senators Brandt, Dist. 32 and Flood, Dist. 19 at the request of PRN.  PRN will support and organize pro testimony)

 NOTE:  Rules for Testifying have changed for this session.  Check them out at https://nebraskalegislature.gov/committees/public-input.php.

PASSENGER RAIL INFORMATION SESSION
FOR NEBRASKA STATE SENATORS

February 8, 2021 by Zoom
Hosted by Nebraska State Senator Carol Blood, Dist. 3

By Bob Kuzelka & Richard Schmeling

On Wednesday, February 3rd, Nebraska State Senator Carol Blood, Dist. 3 hosted a Passenger Rail Information Session by Zoom and Box Luncheon for State Senators and their staff. A total of 29 persons participated in the Zoom session including 7 senators and staff from 15 senators' offices.  Click here to view the program for the session and the listing of senators who were provided with box lunches.

ProRail Nebraska (PRN) worked with Senator Blood in the development of the program for the session. PRN Board Members Richard Schmeling and Bob Kuzelka helped organize the program, logistics and box luncheons for the event. Dee Austin of Senator Blood's office provided invaluable assistance by handling invitations, responses and box lunch orders. Richard, Bob and Dee delivered 34 box lunches to 14 Senators' offices. PRN and the Nebraska SMART Transportation Division Union provided the box lunches.

Senator Blood opened the session with a welcome and discussion about her interest in passenger rail development in Nebraska. She briefly discussed LB 12 which she has introduced to require NE DOT in the next year to study establishing a commuter rail service between Omaha and Lincoln.

PRN President Matt Roque served as moderator for the remainder of the session. In his introductory comments he referred to a recent PRN survey which indicated support for improved and increased rail passenger service in Nebraska. The younger respondents were highly in favor of an Omaha/Lincoln commuter rail service. (NOTE: Complete results and analysis of this survey will be available soon on the PRN website and in the next newsletter.)

Eric Thompson, Ph.D., Director, UNL Bureau of Business Research, spoke on "Economic Impacts to Nebraska from a Robust Passenger Rail System". He explained how good rail service can attract new talented workers to our state and help retain them.

Lisa Henning, Executive Director, NE Safety Council, spoke about "Highway Safety Benefits from a State Multi-Modal Transportation System". She pointed out that traffic accidents take a terrible toll on people and the Nebraska economy. Despite the drop in highway travel during 2020, accidents were up substantially over 2019.

Using data from a recent trip to the Bay Area in California PRN Board Jim Hanna did an excellent presentation on the Sonoma-Marin Area (CA) Rail Transit (SMART) as a prototype for commuter passenger rail. The SMART technology using diesel multiple-unit bi-directional passenger trains would be a good fit for an Omaha - Lincoln commuter service. You can view Jim's presentation at "Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit - Prototype for Commuter Passenger Rail". 

During the Q&A session following the presentations, Sen. Dorn (Dist. 30 - Beatrice) pointed out that the new state correctional facility planned for somewhere in the Omaha - Lincoln area should be located nearby an Omaha-Lincoln commuter rail service to provide a public transit option for workers, prisoners, and visitors. Sen Murman (Dist. 38 - Holdrege-Superior) asked about the reputation that Amtrak's California Zephyr has for often running late. Jim responded that the Zephyr is a long-distance service between Chicago and Emeryville, CA (near Oakland), with a 48 hour schedule for the trip in excess of 2,000 miles that traverses both the Rocky and Sierra Mountains. With such a long journey, there are many factors that can affect on-time performance -- weather, freight traffic interference, track maintenance, and many more. The short 55-mile run between Omaha and Lincoln should experience few if any delays.

PRN greatly appreciates Senator Blood for hosting this event and for all the assistance provided by her staff in making it a big success!

Canadian Pacific's Fantastic Christmas Train Video

Click here to view the video

Photo credit - Awesome Rail Fan via YouTube 

Amtrak Relocates Holdrege Nebraska Stop

Posted - December 25, 2020

Until July 2020, Amtrak's Holdrege stop for the California Zephyr service was at the old CB&Q depot seen in the background in the above photo. Shane Westcott, the depot owner, said Amtrak chose not to renew the lease on its depot space citing the need for ADA platform upgrades. There wasn't adequate space at the depot site, so Amtrak relocated the stop and constructed a new ADA-compliant platform about 200 feet east of the depot.

On October 8th Shane Westcott and Amtrak's Marc Magliari are pictured at the ribbon cutting for the new platform. Click here for TV coverage of the event. Amtrak resumed stopping at Holdrege on October 15th. 

Next year Amtrak will do some major improvements to this concrete pad and small building that holds the wheel chair ramp. "We are going to take this little platform and grow it another 100 feet or so and invest about two million dollars here in Holdrege between the platform, lighting, shelter, and parking," said Magliari. In the meantime, Amtrak patrons getting on and off trains, which are scheduled in the wee hours of the morning at Holdrege, must do so with minimal lighting. And there is no shelter nor nearby parking. Not a safe situation during a Nebraska winter!

The old remaining Amtrak depot space will soon be converted into offices like the rest of the building. 

Rail Passengers Association Applauds Emergency Funding for Amtrak, 

Remains Committed to Working for Full Restoration of Service in 2021

Rail Passengers Association - December 21, 2020

Washington, DC - Statement from Rail Passengers Association President and CEO on the unveiling of a bipartisan coronavirus relief package that includes $1 billion in emergency funding for Amtrak and $14 billion for mass transit systems.


"On behalf of the 40 million Americans that depend on passenger trains, we're pleased that the political logjam appears to have broken over the weekend and that emergency coronavirus aid for U.S. railroads and transit systems is finally on its way. We urge Congress to follow through on the final step and pass this bill into law. This funding will avert further job losses and cuts to essential transportation services, which would deal yet another blow to the U.S. economy."


"While this bill addresses the immediate needs of Amtrak and transit agencies, there is still work to be done to restore these systems to their pre-pandemic levels. We look forward to working with Congress and the incoming Biden Administration on additional legislation as soon as Congress returns to expand and grow rail service. With the widespread introduction of the vaccine around the corner, Americans are ready to get moving again; the federal government must take action to restore the nation's transportation network to promote a full economic recovery."

Posted December 14, 2020

A new publication, "The Trolley Car Era in Lincoln", printed by South Platte Press, gives an outstanding photo overview of the history of street rail operations in Nebraska's Capital. One of the authors, Richard Schmeling, is also a member of the ProRail Nebraska Board. Many of the photos were taken by the late Dick Rumbolz, a lifelong student of the Lincoln streetcar system.

Click here to read an excellent review of the book published in the December 11th Lincoln Journal Star.

The book's suggested retail price is $29.95. It is available in most Lincoln bookstores and at South Platte Press, Box 163, David City, NE 68632.

Omaha Metro Launches ORBT Bus Rapid Transit Nov. 18

November 22, 2020 - Clyde Anderson

After six years of planning and construction, procurement and training, Omaha Metro finally launched its new Dodge Street ORBT Bus Rapid Transit service on Wednesday, November 18.

"ORBT is an investment in our neighborhoods, our city, and our region. It's an enormous accomplishment on its own but - beyond that - an important signal about Metro's vision and commitment to the future," said Lauren Cencic, Metro Transit's new CEO.

I, like many other Omaha transit advocates, served as ORBT Ambassadors handing out ORBT literature and assisting riders with the new service at the 27 stations and stops. The 23 ORBT Stations have raised platforms, canopies and benches, and information computer screens providing transit information such as when the next ORBT bus will arrive. The four Stops just have shelters and benches. Eventually there will be ticket vending machines, but ORBT will be fare-free until mid-March 2021.

ORBT service is provided by new 60-ft articulated buses powered by clean CNG engines. Passengers can enter and exit through any of the three doors. Passengers with wheelchairs use the front door, and bikers use the rear door where there is a bike rack for 5 bicycles hung vertically.

The one complaint I heard from existing transit customers was the loss of the Local #2 bus service on Dodge St. with stops about every 1/8-mile. ORBT stops are much farther apart averaging about 1/2-mile meaning some customers must walk farther to their nearest stop.

"Metro is working closely with the Greater Omaha Chamber and other local agencies through ConnectGO to define next steps for our region's transportation system. Make your voice heard at survey.ConnectGO.org."

Omaha Amtrak Station Umbrella Shed - New Lights Are On!

October 28, 2020 - Article & Photo by David Seidel

The new Amtrak platform lighting goes well with the lighting on the old Burlington Station which is now the home of TV Station KETV Channel 7

View looking southwest at the new platform canopy with station on the left.

Amtrak #5 w.b. Calif. Zephyr waits at the well-lit platform for its departure time.

These bright new LED platform lights at Amtrak's Omaha Station are really bright! This just about wraps up the platform improvement project. Too bad the California Zephyr service was cut to tri-weekly in early October. Scroll down for Aug. 27 article with a daytime photo.

Amtrak Service Cuts Will Cost Nebraska $9 Million Per Year

Rail Passengers Association - October 5, 2020

Washington, DC--The Rail Passengers Association released new research showing that Amtrak's plan to reduce service on its long-distance routes--a vital transportation link to the 40 percent of the nation's small and rural communities that it serve--will cost Nebraskans $9 million annually, driven by a loss of roughly 33 thousand passengers.

 

Last month, Rail Passenger testified before congress that Amtrak's impending cuts in service to America's Heartland will be devastating across at least 30 states, dropping "a $2 billion bomb on "Flyover Country."

 

Rail Passengers has done additional work to model the economic damage that could result in Nebraska. Further analysis is needed, but our first pass suggests that Amtrak's 3x service plan would cost Nebraska's economy $8.8 million annually, driven by a loss of roughly 32,646 passengers. That includes $3.5 million in direct losses (visitor spending, highway maintenance issues, car crashes and so forth) plus another $5.2 million in indirect losses, which accounts for job losses and economic disruption in those sectors supported by this travel (lodging, travel, shopping, the effect of job losses on the tax base, etc.).

 

Rail Passengers is asking Americans to contact their elected officials and demand that Congress provide financial relief for passenger rail and transit in the next round of coronavirus stimulus.

"We've already seen airports and air service receive $14 billion in this week's one-year extension of transportation law and airline CEOs are asking for another $28 billion in stimulus, but nothing for rail," said Jim Mathews, Rail Passengers President & CEO. "Congress must provide Amtrak relief funds and include protections for passengers, Amtrak-served communities and Amtrak workers." 

For more details, see the full list of states Rail Passengers has analyzed and Mathews' full testimony.

ProRail Surveys Nebraska Candidates

Do they support passenger rail in Nebraska?

By Bob Kuzelka, ProRail Vice President, Sept. 22, 2020

Fourteen federal and state legislative candidates expressed strong support for passenger rail service in a recent survey conducted by ProRail Nebraska. 

Five congressional candidates and eleven legislative candidates responded. The survey was distributed in August to all 12 candidates for Nebraska's four U S Congressional seats and all 44 candidates for 25 seats in the Nebraska Legislature. All seats will be decided in the November 3rd general election. No congressional incumbent candidates responded to the survey. Three legislative incumbent candidates responded to the survey. 

Fourteen of the sixteen responding candidates were in agreement with all survey issues. One congressional candidates and one legislative candidate expressed only limited agreement with the issues. The issues were supporting passenger rail service with state funds, establishing commuter rail service between Lincoln and Omaha, increasing from once daily the rail service through Nebraska between Chicago and Denver and participating in Midwest regional passenger rail planning and advocacy. 

Thirteen responding candidates had traveled by passenger rail train. Satisfied comments on their experiences included "We have enjoyed the relaxing travel to Chicago, Memphis and D. C. by sleeping car." and "Traveling with my son to Washington, D. C. and Florida was made a pleasure with the use of Amtrak sleeping and eating arrangements." and "Spent the trip with friends in conversation and relaxation without having to worry about driving."

Click here to read the Summary and Analysis of the survey responses.

Lincoln-Omaha Intercity Bus Feasibility Study Issues Final Report

By Clyde Anderson - September 10, 2020

The Nebraska Dept. of Transportation has been studying the feasibility of intercity commuter bus service between Omaha and Lincoln. Click here to read a description of the study.

The study was completed in June 2020. Click here to read the 29-page Executive Summary Report (2 MB PDF). The full 108-page report is also available. Click here to view the full Final Report. Warning: This is a 42 MB PDF.

The study examined current demand and work patterns and determined if a service plan could be developed that would result in a well-used service. The idea of an intercity bus service between the two communities is not a new concept. Early study efforts began in 2003 with the Nebraska Transit Corridors Study, also known as NTRAC. ProRail was a supporter of NTRAC. From there, four other studies were completed including: Nebraska Intercity Bus Concept Plan, Close the Gap Heartland 2050, Blueprint Nebraska and the 2016 Statewide Mobility Intercity Bus Concept Plan.

The Study developed three preferred route alternatives which are described in detail in the reports:

  • Red Route - I-80 Express Lincoln to Omaha Eastbound

  • Black Route - I-80 Express Omaha to Lincoln Westbound, and

  • Gold Route - U.S. Highway 6

The Study developed operating cost estimates for an operating plan incorporating the three route alternatives. An implementation plan was developed to continue the momentum from the study process into the next phases of the project. That plan anticipates a startup of operations between August and December 2021.

Omaha Amtrak Station Umbrella Shed Refurbished

August 27, 2020 - Article & Photo by David Seidel

The Omaha Amtrak platform shed project is moving right along. Can't believe how much work was done on the shed the last week of August - and in this 100 degree weather!!!! Those steel workers had to be HOT but their work is unbelievable. The shed will be most welcomed to the train passengers in bad weather; but I have to say how much it adds to the Burlington Station looks - the people of KETV Channel 7 who now occupy the old station should be pleased with the good look it gives their building now. [Scroll up to the top, and that Amtrak photo in the upper right shows the old platform shed at Omaha.]

Midwest Rail Rangers Offers Train Route Guide Books

By Clyde Anderson - April 12, 2020

 

Midwest Rail Rangers is a non-profit organization presenting onboard educational programs across the Upper Midwest. 

Like many businesses and other non-profit around the country, the Midwest Rail Rangers are also struggling to a degree during this uncertain pandemic. While their Interpretive Guides are not on the trains giving programs... and they are not able to do outreach events (which serve as their major fundraisers)... their bills continue to roll in. They must still continue to pay things like liability insurance, maintenance for speakers systems and other equipment, website hosting, and much more. To help Midwest Rail Rangers during this time, there are several options. Their website (http://www.railrangers.org) allows you to make a direct donation of any amount --- simply click on the button on the lower left-hand side of the screen. 

You can also show your support for the Midwest Rail Rangers by purchasing their railroad route guide books, PDF e-books, MP3 podcasts, wood depot signs, and much more. The Midwest Rail Rangers Store's online page can be reached by just heading over to http://www.MidwestRails.com. Check out their selection of train route guides. Some of the routes covered are shown on the map above.

Virtal Railfan now has cameras at Kearney, NE

By Clyde Anderson - March 25, 2020

Are you suffering from cabin fever cooped up inside during this coronavirus pandemic? If you have a good internet connection, you can do a lot of "virtual" train watching using your computer.

Last May, Virtual Railfan added a new railcam site in Kearney, NE allowing railfans to view trains on Union Pacific's busy triple-track main line between Omaha and North Platte. There are two cameras: one facing east and other facing west. Kearney is in a "quiet zone" where trains don't blow their horns for grade crossings. However, the cameras are located just east of a grade crossing. So the sound of the crossing bells and electronic horns to warn motorists and pedestrians warn railcam viewers when a train is approaching.

Right now you can view the cameras for free on YouTube using this LINK. Click here for a list of railcams available for free viewing. This list changes almost daily with some reverting to viewing only by paid Virtual Railfan subscribers. Better yet, Click Here and subscribe to Virtual Railfan for access to 79 railcans at 48 locations in 23 states plus railcams in 4 other countries.

ProRail Board Revises Mission and Objectives

At its October 12, 2019 Board meeting, ProRail Nebraska directors approved the final draft of its updated Mission and Objectives. Click here to view the updated web page. Click here to read the full ProRail Mission and Objectives (a one-page PDF).

Click here to read the full article.

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 12/02/2021