ProRail Nebraska -- Nebraska's Association of Railroad Passengers and Supporters
Dedicated to supporting and advocating for railroad service
We're Helping Get Nebraska On Track!
Next Members Meeting: Late Fall 2016
Next Board Meeting: Saturday, October 8, 9:00 am to Noon
at St. Mark’s on the Campus, 1309 R Street, Lincoln
All ProRail Nebraska meetings are open to the general public!
If you can't attend in person, a conference phone line may be available.
If interested, please contact Bob Kuzelka 402-417-9424 firstname.lastname@example.org
May 2016 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online
Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.
ProRail to Represent Nebraska at MIPRC Annual Meeting
ProRail's Vice President, Bob Kuzelka, will represent our organization at the MIPRC (Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission) Annual Meeting in St. Louis September 28 & 29. Click here to view the Agenda for MIPRC's 2016 Annual Meeting.
Nebraska should have four official MIPRC Commissioners -- two appointed by the Legislature and two appointed by the Governor. Neither Senators Harr or Lindstrom can attend. The Governor hasn't made his two appointments. So Bob will be our only representative from Nebraska!
The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission is a ten-state interstate compact commission that promotes, coordinates and supports regional improvements to passenger rail service. Member states include Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. In the past few years Iowa and Ohio withdrew membership. Thanks in part to the lobbying by ProRail Nebraska, Nebraska in 2014 resumed paying its MIPRC dues.
NE DOR Prepares New State Rail Plan
By Clyde Anderson
The Rail Section of the Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) is in the process of preparing a 2016 Nebraska Rail Plan. Since Nebraska is the only state in the Union that doesn't have a Department of Transportation, we are doubtful that NDOR will prepare a plan as well done as some other states.
Win Critical STB Decisions
High Speed Rail Association
Newsletter - Aug. 3, 2016
passengers came out ahead in two important regulatory decisions made by the
Surface Transportation Board last Thursday, which will affect the
reliability of Amtrak service. The proposals introduced a revised definition
to passenger train on-time performance and preference over freight
federal law created in 1973 has granted Amtrak preference over freight
trains when running on freight owned tracks. In Amtrak’s view this means
that freight railroads must always prioritize passenger rail by pulling over
freight trains to grant Amtrak preference. The proposed policy
statement by the STB would have effectively removed passenger train's
preference by siding with the freight trains view of the law, which is that
preference means balancing passenger train needs with that of the freight
railroads while prioritizing OTP.
the public comment period there was an overwhelming response from passenger
rail advocates, which included many MHSRA members. Advocates were well
equipped due to the hard work the Environmental Law & Policy Center put
into drafting a
detailed response. These efforts led to the STB decision to withdraw
their proposal. The board claimed they were unable to resolve the
disagreement and will refine its approach towards preference as specific
other important decision made last Thursday regarded the measurement of
on-time performance. Amtrak has a right to file a complaint if OTP falls
below 80% on a given route. The proposal released for public comment only
included final destinations when tracking OTP. The final decision released
includes intermediate stations as well, and will deem a train on-time if it
arrives or departs from a station no more than 15 minutes after its
scheduled arrival or departure.
We are thrilled and motivated by these decisions in favor of passenger rail. It goes to show that passenger rail advocates are having their voices heard at the highest levels and that we must continue to be vocal to make significant progress.
Progress on Minnesota High
Speed Rail Slows
HEATHER J. CARLSON, POST-BULLETIN
/ JULY 28, 2016
A company seeking to build a high-speed
rail line from Rochester to the Twin Cities with private dollars needs more
time before deciding whether to push ahead with the project.
"We simply need more time to collect
information," said North
American High Speed Rail Group's Chief Manager Wendy Meadley.
Earlier this month, the rail group
requested the Minnesota Department of Transportation extend the deadline for
two work permits set to expire at the end of the month. MnDOT granted the
request, setting a new deadline of Dec. 1 for the permits.
The miscellaneous work permits allow the
company to do non-invasive activities in the right-of-way along U.S. 52 and
U.S. 63. Those permits enable the company to complete a preliminary study of
the potential high-speed rail route. The rail group did not request an
extension for a third work permit in the metro area.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton issued an
executive order, establishing the Governor’s Council on Freight Rail,
which will bring together state officials and railroads in a public-private
working group to improve communication and enhance safety and economic
development in communities.
"Minnesota's railways make important
contributions to our state’s economy and their operations in our state
have a major impact on both the vitality and safety of our
communities," said Gov. Dayton. "From the thousands of jobs they
support in our state, to shipping agricultural and other goods to market,
the capacity and safety issues on our railways affect all Minnesotans. The
new Council on Freight Rail will enhance coordination and partnership
between Minnesota and the railroads, for the benefit of communities across
Minnesota has more than 4,500 miles of
freight railroad connecting communities across the state, making it one of
the largest rail networks in the country and employing more than 4,500
Minnesota’s rail network currently
carries 25% of all freight movement in the state, with that share expected
to grow by 25-40% by 2040. The Governor’s Council on Freight Rail will
work proactively to foster safe and efficient freight rail operations, to
support the economy and benefit local communities across the state.
opposed to GOP's call to end federal funding of public transportation
Progressive Railroading, Wednesday, July 20, 2016
by Republicans on Monday, the GOP platform proposes to eliminate mass
transit dollars from the federal Highway Trust Fund. One-fifth of the fund's
money is spent on mass transit, "an inherently local affair that serves
only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big
cities," the platform states.
proposal would "undo more than 30 years of overwhelming support for
dedicated federal investment in public transit," APTA Acting President
and Chief Executive Officer Richard White said yesterday in a prepared
1983, under President Ronald Reagan, a portion of the federal gas tax
revenue has been dedicated to public transit through the Mass Transit
Account of the surface transportation legislation, White noted.
public transportation industry is currently underfunded," he said.
"Having no federal funds would be devastating, not only to the millions
of Americans who use public transportation and to the employers who depend
on it for their employees, but also for communities of all sizes that need
it for a thriving economy and quality of life."
addition, APTA is opposed to the platform's position against any increase in
the federal gas tax. Congress hasn't increased the tax since 1993, "and
consequently, its purchasing power has gone down by more than 37
percent," White noted.
2013, the annual capital spending on public transit from all levels of
government was $17.7 billion, according to White. Of that figure, $7.4
billion came from the federal government. APTA and the
the Federal Transit Administration has estimated the public transportation
system faces a one-time $86 billion backlog in deferred maintenance and
replacement needs, White added.
need a well-funded transportation system that includes public
transportation," he said.
other public transportation matters, the platform called for
same holds true with regard to high-speed and intercity rail across the
country," the platform states. "We reaffirm our intention to end
federal support for boondoggles like California's high-speed train to
Gov. Mark Dayton issued an executive order, establishing the Governor’s
Council on Freight Rail, which will bring together state officials and
railroads in a public-private working group to improve communication and
enhance safety and economic development in communities.
railways make important contributions to our state’s economy and their
operations in our state have a major impact on both the vitality and safety
of our communities," said Gov. Dayton. "From the thousands of jobs
they support in our state, to shipping agricultural and other goods to
market, the capacity and safety issues on our railways affect all
Minnesotans. The new Council on Freight Rail will enhance coordination and
partnership between Minnesota and the railroads, for the benefit of
communities across our state."
has more than 4,500 miles of freight railroad connecting communities across
the state, making it one of the largest rail networks in the country and
employing more than 4,500 Minnesotans.
rail network currently carries 25% of all freight movement in the state,
with that share expected to grow by 25-40% by 2040. The Governor’s Council
on Freight Rail will work proactively to foster safe and efficient freight
rail operations, to support the economy and benefit local communities across
The council will be chaired by the governor, with State Rail Director Alene Tchourumoff serving as chair.
Board OK's Funds for Nebraska Railroad Survey
ProRail Board members Dick Schmeling and Bob Kuzelka suggested that UNL’s Bureau of Business Research add four passenger rail-related questions to its Nebraska Annual Social Indicator Survey (NASIS). The Board allocated $500 to cover the expense of adding the four questions below to this Fall’s NASIS. Results will be available for use in our legislative work in the 2017 Unicameral Session.
Midwestern College Students & Staff Show Support
Intercity Rail Passenger Service
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.
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.
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
incentives that would increase train usage are:
close to my permanent residence (44%)
discounts (pricing) (35%)
information from college/university about how to take the train (29%)
to nearest station provided by college/university (28%)
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
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.
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:
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
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
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:
Clyde Anderson - posted 2/27/2016
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.
We think trains need more prominence in the U.S. because:
(above courtesy National Association of Railroad Passengers)
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