Minutes of Meeting
Washington Association of Rail Passengers
Dec. 4th, 1999 in Seattle, WA
12:15 Call to Order, Tony Trifiletti, President
Minutes of 11-13-99 were approved with the correction by Stuart Adams of less than quality service on his latest Amtrak ride.
Treasurers Report: Hans reported income for Nov. of $5,368.33, expenses of $2,532.39, with a closing balance of $4,461.02. 12 members were added, 12 deleted, for a total membership of 506.
Tony and Lloyd introduced our guest speaker, and fellow member, Aubrey Davis, Chair of the Transportation Commission.
Aubrey Davis spoke on the effects of I-695, focusing on priorities and strategies for dealing with the massive loss of revenues for transportation projects. Priorities for limited spending until replacement revenue sources are approved by the voters will be safety, preservation of infrastructure, and congestion solutions. Through a series of overheads, Aubrey explained how VMT has been growing twice as fact as population. The DOT has been ringing the budget for years to save money, with administrative costs down over 19% . Our roadways are now among the safest in the nation. I-695 cuts nullify Referendum 49 projects, and force the DOT to lay off 500 highway engineers by mid next year, as there will be very few new projects.
The TC has proposed a bare-bones budget until the legislature and voters find a way to support transportation at higher levels, expected by 2001-2002 at the soonest. Whatever the solution, it must begin to directly link usage of transportation facilities with costs to the user. Most of today’s costs are buried in fixed or hidden fees, like property taxes and one time user costs, like vehicle purchase.
Mr. Davis thinks that existing train service will be maintained, but all of the proposed increases have been shelved for the time being. He then answered a series of questions from the audience ranging from sales tax on gas, fare increases, and environmental permit processes.
Robert Lawrence reported on the membership and marketing committee. They are exploring ways to streamline newsletter costs using e-mail for some. Hans has had the database updated for better file handling and sharing of information to others. Talgo is now a Corporate member, accompanied by a gracious donation to help the cause.
Mike Skehan, Warren Yee, and Jim Hamre gave a very brief review of the last commuter rail meeting, which focused on the effects of I-695. The group is working on a larger section meeting for January, by inviting all PMT (People for Modern Transit) members. Mike auctioned off his ‘Sounder’ special ticket for $25
David Sherrod reported on the policy and fund raising activities. He is asking again for volunteers to work on the committee as they narrow down the direction the organization will likely take, and budget requirements to achieve those priorities. David noted that WashARP members posses many consultant skills needed by DOT, and could produce products at half the cost of in-house staff.
Stuart Adams detailed a list of shortcomings found during recent travels on the Coast Starlight, including no onboard Chief, as well as removing cars, on sold out trains.
Steve Anderson, (Dep. Dir., WSDOT Rail Office) introduced himself. Steve comes from DSHS, but has worked in managing positions with Class 1 RR’s in operations. He designed the existing software used by BNSF for block runs. His duties currently are holding the line on Cascades cuts, while expanding mail-express and perishable contracts with Eastern Washington shippers. He handed out a series of white papers on rail programs in our state.
Lloyd Flem reported our need to intensify our efforts to save the gains made thus far in rail service. He is actively asking those companies that directly benefit from rail expenditures to help us financially in this worthy cause. Talgo immediately answered the call. Others should follow. Lloyd gave a good picture of the Olympia scene with D’s and R’s positioning themselves for a battle royal over I-695 issues. He is now full time in Oly and is already twisting ears, arms, and any other parts that will save the rail program.
He said our calls and letters to legislators are being heard, and asked that we do more; much more.
On other issues, he is on a ticketing, pricing, boarding issue taskforce and would like to hear from us as to needs.
In DC, the Bonding Bill for Amtrak (SB1900) has 33 sponsors, while the ‘Choice Bill’ allowing states to decide to spend TEA-21 funds on rail programs (SB1144) has been put back until next spring. Both bills need our support.
Chuck Mott also reported on I-695 impacts to the workings of the Blue Ribbon Commission. Obviously it’s a whole new ball game, but the commission will have to look at all modes for solutions in a more critical light. Chuck also reported on Wyoming efforts to ensure cars would be available by acting as agent/broker between shippers and providers. (too bad Chuck can’t bill Amtrak for the services rendered. Ed.)
Leroy Chadwick reported on Transportation Choices meetings and upcoming events. Although not officially a member of the coalition anymore, we are still on the letterhead.
Noel Hancock reported on Amtrak Citizen Advisory Committee (ACAC) events, and planning for the Feb. 3rd meeting in Portland. These are public meetings, and anyone can attend. He also reported on some serious shortcomings in service and staffing here in Washington state. The agent in Edmonds has worked 35 days straight, which is typical of staffing these days. Several cars were pulled from a Bellingham-Seattle run, leaving many passengers stranded in Everett. He will detail these items, and send to Amtrak management, as well as to Jim for inclusion in NARP discussions.
Tony Trifiletti discussed the mechanics of combining three meetings in one weekend on Feb 4,5,6 in Portland. (The Summit, Joint AORTA/NARP/WashARP, and ACAC) It looks like all this could work out to be a mega-weekend in Portland. Tony made various assignments to accomplish planning and communication, with a final decision to be made within a week.
Hans Mueller requested help staffing the Edmonds open house next week, with several members answering the call.
The meeting was adjourned at 3:20 PM, with a special Executive Board meeting to immediately follow.
Michael Skehan, Secretary
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