WASHINGTON ASSOCIATION OF RAIL PASSENGERS - Meeting Minutes
May 11, 2002
Meeting Place: The Grand Chinese Buffet, Ballard
OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS PRESENT: Hans Mueller, Eleanor Stewart, Dr. Ron Sheck, Tony Trifiletti, Rocky Shay, Jim Hamre, Charles Mott, Warren Yee, Stuart Adams, Robert Lawrence, Jim Cusick
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Lloyd Flem
OTHERS: Brendan Read, Zack Willhoite, Steve Spear, Dale Menchhofer, Bev Maier, Dr. Hal Cooper, Ray Allred, Susan Sauer, Darlene Flem, Jim Longley, Paul Cory, Paul Beatty, Joe Gates
President Tony Trifiletti called the meeting to order at 1:11pm and reviewed the agenda..
SPECIAL GUEST: Brendan Read of British Columbia reviewed his Transit Alliance background and updated us on the E & N situation, which is now month-to-month. A private group is working with CP, Rail America and VIA to save the line.
Reed said there’s no money in the British Columbia budget to extend a second Amtrak train to Vancouver, BC, but Canada’s federal government is interested.
Also, BC Rail passenger service is to end in October…so far.
Mr. Mott suggested that loss of rail service means higher truck rates. Mr. Allred offered to help Mr. Reed’s group make the point to people along BC Rail.
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS & PUBLIC RELATIONS: Chairman Ron Sheck passed out literature on the King Street Transportation Center & showed drawings by J. Craig Thorpe. He said he has taken the project on and it is now State Transportation Department-wide, at high priority. He added that private-public financing couldn’t produce the third-busiest station on the West Coast. But 17 million dollars of the money so raised will buy a temporary expanded waiting room and new restrooms, ticket counter, baggage area and a food service facility. Consultant OTAC is negotiating station acquisition with BNSF. The waiting room fix-up starts this fall, with re-done station signs. Parking will take a year or more. Phase 2 will involve intermodal conversion, with private development involved. Stub tracks 5-7 will extend through the current waiting room to add capacity. A new Greyhound terminal will be built on air rights over the tracks. BNSF wants to join Nitze Stagen in the development. They may lid from South Weller to Royal Brougham, in cooperation with First and Goal. Phase 2 will cost around 150 million dollars. There may also be a monorail station and expanded Waterfront Streetcar. Multi-year planning will start soon.
Dr. Sheck then answered questions about overhead and underground connections to Union Station, the temporary waiting room work, temporary arrangements for restrooms, baggage handling, legal problems than sank the public-private partnership funding
approach, and connections between the bus and the train station. He said signage could be improved immediately.
Mr. Hamre said there soon will be four bike stations in the region.
There was a discussion of problems with handling Mariner crowds at the current station. Dr. Sheck also said pressure to expand Sounder to DuPont and Marysville is growing. Mr. Mott mentioned restoring trains to Olympia. Mr. Allred said the St. Clair corridor, through Lacey, is the best way to do it.
Dr. Sheck then suggested inviting new Sounder boss Lee Bullock to a meeting and inviting Transportation Secretary Doug McDonald to the August picnic again. He praised WashARP and Executive Director Lloyd Flem for this year’s work. Dr. Sheck was then praised as a fine public servant with a great plan for King Street. Dr. Sheck said Secretary McDonald is moving the King Street project forward, along with Deputy Secretary Okamoto. Dr. Cooper said McDonald’s picnic familiarization last year was helpful.
Mr. Spear asked about the third Sounder train. Dr. Sheck said Sound Transit is in talks with BNSF now. Mr. Hamre said Sound Transit Chairman Ron Sims is committed to it.
WASHINGTON FRUIT EXPRESS: Mr. Allred said there’s now a survey to see how apple growers will use the service. WashARP member Duane Curley is helping. We are now 15 thousand apple trucks short. Stores on the East Coast are also being surveyed. But smaller cars may be best for apples. There will be a decision soon on 50 cars.
Mr. Allred also discussed the rehabilitation of the Morton line and the Mt. Rainier tourist train. He updated us on rehabilitation of other short lines, like the Meeker Southern.
Mr. Mott recommended UP-CSX Railway Age article promoting 3-truck loads.
Mr. Allred then gave an update on branch line abandonments in the Northwest, and at Mr. Mueller’s request, an update on restoring the Ballard Terminal Railroad.
NEW MEETING PLACE: Mr. Menchhofer asked how everyone liked the Grand Chinese Buffet. Answer: great, except music should be turned off during meetings.
Mr. Mott then circulated and asked that we sign a condolence card for George Benson, whose wife died recently.
TRIP REPORT: Mr. Adams said he used the Empire Builder and Capitol Limited to get to the recent NARP board meeting. He found most people using the trains for regular travel, not cruising. His Builder hit a hi-rail car, which was on the wrong railroad.
He said paperwork and melon cars delayed the Capitol, but the Builder was on time. He urged us to keep in touch with Congress. He also said the National Park Service will be taking over the on-board guide program.
MEMBERSHIP AND MARKETING COMMITTEE: Chairman Robert Lawrence said membership is dropping off, but he did sell 15 fund-raising hats at a fan meeting. He also attended the NARP meeting in DC, and found Acela Express a great service. Prince Edward was on his train.
Mr. Lawrence also reported a donation of $1,000 from Bob Stevens of Montana.
TREASURERS REPORT: Treasurer Robert Lawrence reviewed WashARP’s cash position, which is thinning. He said an appeal is needed, as we are running slightly in the red. The University Plaza’s new, more expensive rates caused much of the problem.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Secretary Rocky Shay called the roll of the board, finding a quorum with ten members present.
Chairman Chuck Mott moved and Mr. Adams seconded a motion to approve the March and April meeting minutes. Approval was unanimous.
Mr. Mott reported he is now semi-retired and living at the moment in Arizona.
He then updated the Amtrak situation, saying he likes David Gunn. He said many wrecked Superliners can be brought back for only 17 million dollars. He thinks Congress will provide money while it debates the long-term future of Amtrak.
Mr. Trifiletti and Mr. Hamre suggested getting Mr. Gunn involved here.
Mr. Mott also said he is ready to be a NARP Director at Large, and will also get involved with the Arizona’s ARP.
Mr. Trifiletti suggested inviting new Amtrak President Gunn to a WashARP meeting.
Mr. Hamre urged that State Representative Ruth Fisher be given a WashARP award.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Mr. Flem reviewed his trip to Texas. He said the Coast Starlight is "dumbed down", but still the best. He said he found mostly cruise-type passengers in Sunset Limited sleepers, but regular travelers in coaches. He said office cars from Amtrak and UP attached to his Sunset kept it on time. He reported lobbying in the office of Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.
He mentioned Wendell Cox and Ronald Ott continue to lie to kill rail projects.
Mr. Flem said he and WashDOT’s Jim Slakey did a rebuttal paper for the Women’s Transportation Conference, in strong language.
Mr. Flem then reported on Centralia Days and WashARP’s Earth Day booth in Longview staffed by WashARP’s Ron Schauer.
He noted that Mr. Cusick sent an article to KIRO Radio talk host Dori Monson to counter Monson’s light rail opposition.
Mr. Flem then reviewed the Quinn hearing,
Dr. Sheck mentioned that the Senate Transportation Committee voted yes 20-3 on Hollings bill, and even Senator John McCain likes states rights in T-21.
Mr. Flem said Washarp urged the committee to support dollars but also insist on an accountable Amtrak and long-distance trains.
Dr. Sheck also urged WashARP to support Senator Murray as she questions NEC funding with no requirement for state support.
Mr. Flem then mentioned the cherry tree for the late Dan Snow at Centennial station. Mr. Mott declared that we will contribute. Mr. Longley said the project is cleared.
NARP MEETING: Mr. Hamre reviewed the national NARP meeting, but first reported an unsatisfactory meeting with an uninformed Murray staff member.
He said Representative Jack Quinn and Senator Ernest Hollings got the Golden Spike award. George Warrington said goodbye, and thanked NARP.
The meeting was told that more long-distance train revenue will be done locally, as on Eagle. Also the joint deal with Continental Airlines in the East is doing well, as they try to get rid of local flights in Newark.
Mr. Hamre said Amtrak’s Lee Sargrad briefed the meeting on mail and express, but that Mr. Sargrad doesn’t understand the problems in Chicago.
There was a review of Amtrak labor agreements, and problems with unions.
Announcement of David Gunn as new Amtrak president came during the meeting. After some skeptics spoke, Capitols Managing Director Gene Skoropowski and Illinois Rail President Dave Randall had some success in reassuring the board.
NARP may hire former Amtrak government affairs man Tim Gillespie to help in Congress for the rest of the year. They’re also looking for help from state organizations.
Mr. Hamre recommended a contribution of 500 dollars, for discussion at our next meeting. It could be connected to the coming fundraising letter.
Mr. Mueller offered more information on that.
Mr. Spear received clarification of what Mr. Gillespie would do.
Mr. Hamre said a meeting at UP in Omaha on on-time problems produced little progress.
Other items: The new car wash and with wheel-truing machine planned for the new Seattle maintenance facility are incompatible with Talgos.
In the NEC, Amtrak is hurting the Delta and USAir shuttles.
NARP finally approved 53-5 an official position on intercity passenger rail. Five NEC directors balked because it suggests the Northeastern states pony up some money.
Washington now puts out the second highest amount of state money on passenger trains.
No daily Sunset soon. Not enough equipment.
Mr. Adams praised NARP President Alan Yorker & noted that Mr. Hamre is now a voice for the Northwest on the NARP Executive Committee. Also Art Poole of Oregon and Barry Green of Montana are new Directors at large.
Mr. Mueller said Mr. Yorker has the NARP Board working more professionally.
TRANSIT AND COMMUTER RAIL COMMITTEE: Chairman Jim Cusick said the committee is still meeting at Andy’s Diner every other month.
He also said this was the last day for Issaquah’s borrowed trolley, with a ceremony tomorrow for the return to Yakima. Talks are on now for a replacement. He said J. Craig Thorpe is encouraged about finding a replacement this summer. Issaquah is supportive.
OPEN MIC: Dr. Cooper said there may be a high-speed rail vote in California soon.
President Trifiletti adjourned the meeting at 3:36 PM.
Rocky Shay, Secretary
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