Hotline #1,046: Moorman To Transition to Amtrak Advisor; Amtrak Celebrates Record Month; NJ/NY Pledge to Pay for Gateway Tunnel; Suicide Bomber Targets NYC; Consider End-of-Year Donation
December 15, 2017
We Need Your ‘Nose For News’! When you see rail-related news stories, op-eds, editorials, or letters to the editor in your communities, send them along to us! We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Send your news items to Bob Brady, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will continue to share it with the membership. Are you holding a rally, a community meeting, or another kind of rail-advocacy event? We can help spread the word if you send them to us. We can put on the website here. And please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.
Amtrak’s Wick Moorman is stepping down from his current role as co-CEO with Richard Anderson, transitioning to senior adviser at the start of the new year. Moorman was hired by Amtrak in September 2016 as a transitional CEO, but has helped the company focus on achieving three main objectives: “improve operations, streamline the organizational structure, and find his successor.” Under Moorman’s tenure as CEO, Amtrak has achieved record ridership, revenues and earnings.
“I have greatly enjoyed my time at Amtrak, and firmly believe that the company is well positioned for the future,” said Moorman in a press release. “I look forward to continuing my work with Richard and the entire Amtrak team to further advance passenger rail in this country.”
“Wick has done a great job leading Amtrak to its current position - a transportation service that people want to use and are using more and more throughout the country,” said Rail Passengers Association President and CEO Jim Mathews. “We look forward to continuing our work with Wick in his new position at Amtrak, as well as Richard Anderson when he fully transitions to Amtrak’s CEO on January 1.”
Anderson was hired by Amtrak in June 2017, and has acted as co-CEO with Moorman since that time. Anderson will take over full responsibility of Amtrak as CEO, as well as President.
Coming off a record year for revenue and reduced operating costs, Amtrak achieved its best month ever for record revenue. The company, which started service in 1971, hit $204.7 million in system-wide adjusted ticket revenue during November.
“It is remarkable to see the regular and continued growth for Amtrak over the past few years,” said RPA President and CEO Jim Mathews. “As Amtrak continues to set records, it will be hard for the White House in future years to deny that there is growing demand for better, faster and more passenger rail service throughout the country. Continued federal support for Amtrak can help with repairs and upgrades, and continue this success forward.”
Amtrak said that the Thanksgiving holiday was again the busiest week of the year for the passenger service. Amtrak provided service for a record 777,897 passengers, which generated $61 million in gross ticket revenue.
“More customers are choosing Amtrak as it is simply the smarter way to travel. We look forward to providing the Amtrak experience to more customers over the December holidays,” said Amtrak Co-CEO Wick Moorman in a press release.
On Monday, a suicide attacker attempted to bomb the New York City subway near Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Fortunately, the homemade bomb by Akayed Ullah failed to fully detonate, and only resulted in serious harm to himself, with minor injuries to five others and mass confusion as commuters tried to escape the explosion in the subway.
“We are truly fortunate that the attack in New York was a failure, and that no bystanders were seriously hurt,” said RPA President Jim Mathews. “Passengers should remain alert of their surroundings when traveling, but know that passenger rail is still a safe mode of transportation.”
Following the attack, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) to double its police presence at all facilities. Ullah’s attack is the third one in New York City since September 2016, and the second in two months. The most recent attack occurred when eight people were killed in a truck attack along a Hudson River bike path.
To help prevent future terrorist threats in rail stations and other public transit hubs, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been testing a new screening technology with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to detect suicide vests. The explosive screening system is known as a standoff explosive detection unit, and the TSA has been working with five passenger rail and transit agencies to test the security equipment since 2004. Agencies TSA has partnered with include: Amtrak, NJ Transit, WMATA in D.C., BART in San Francisco, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the LA Metro.
“Along with industry partners, we are committed to identifying, testing and deploying technology that addresses threats to transportation across the spectrum,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a press release. “We need to innovate and evolve faster than the adversary, and more importantly, deploy technology ahead of the threat-curve.”
The device can tell whether an individual is wearing a person-borne improvised explosive device by identifying any metallic or non-metallic objects that are blocking the naturally occurring emissions from a person’s body. If someone wearing a suicide vest walks by the unit, then an alarm is triggered.
End-Of-Year Donations Keep Advocacy Work Strong
In 2017, we launched the single largest campaign in the Association’s history—“Towns Without Trains,” which included rallies in 30 cities across America. The #Rally4Trains campaign reached an estimated 17 Million Americans, and promoted funding the national network’s service to 220 stations in more than 25 states. The campaign helped ensure funding into 2018, in the face of a disastrous, proposed White House budget that would have seen it cut to zero and destroyed the network.
Unfortunately, the fight is not over. Just as trains run 365 days per year, there is no rest for passenger advocacy. Not only do we need to continue to pressure Congress for long-term funding for the network, but we must keep pressure on on an array of issues including On-Time Performance (OTP).
In the past year, more than half of Amtrak passengers outside the Northeast Corridor were delayed by a freight train.Your association has petitioned the Supreme Court to review a case that would pave the way for enforcement of on-time performance standards for passenger rail. Without these defined standards, freight is systematically prioritized over passenger trains, leading to chronic delays for long distance riders. This is yet another dramatic chapter in our long standing fight for on time trains. Something that we need you to take part of.
There are so many ways to help your association. Donate to make sure that your legacy of a CONNECTED AMERICA becomes reality. Donations to Rail Passengers are tax deductible(!), so even if the Feds aren’t spending what they should on passenger trains, you can force the issue.
Directly, you can log onto www.railpassengers.org/donate, or send a check to our office. As a thank you for a great year of advocacy, we’re also offering double Amtrak Guest Rewards Points for renewals through the end of the year-- visit www.railpassengers.org/renew.
Does your company match donations? If you’re not sure, check with your Human Resources Department. Once you make your donation, all you have to do is fill out a form and Rail Passengers will receive matching funds from 2 to 4 times your donation amount, depending on your company’s policy.
You can also make the ultimate symbolic donation for Rail Passengers: Consider donating your old car, RV, or boat! Trading in one form of transportation to help promote trains is easy and a great way to give! Just go to www.railpassengers.org/cars. All the information you need is right there.
Feel free to contact us with any questions!
Thank you for everything you do. Wishing you a Happy Holiday Season--
Or, send your check to:
Rail Passengers ATTN: Sam
1200 G Street NW STE 240,
Washington D.C. 20005
With many local, regional and federal officials waiting to see an infrastructure bill, President Trump and transportation officials met this week to discuss the topic. The transportation leaders who met with the President include: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Chief of Staff John Kelly, Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short, and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.
“It’s great to hear that meetings are taking place, and that federal officials are discussing details of this important plan. We hope to see action soon that reflects the vital role passenger rail plays in this country,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “This plan has the potential to benefit public transit projects and the U.S. economy for years to come, so we are eager to participate in that conversation on behalf of the millions of train riders across the country.”
Job creation and economic growth is becoming a big part of Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s push for a $5.4-billion public transit development. Known as the Transit Improvement Program, Mayor Barry’s office estimates that the project will result in:
- $3.1 billion in local-labor income through construction jobs for the transit system,
- $548 million in local-labor income would be added by maintaining the system,
- 3,850 annual jobs created by the new transit system,
- $4.7 billion in gross regional product for the city's economy.
"Nashville currently has the lowest unemployment rate of the top 50 metro areas in the United States," Barry said at a news conference this week. "But not all of those jobs are really good jobs. Some pay minimum wage and can't sustain an individual, let alone a family in today's world."
The projections are based on the city’s proposed plans for 28 miles of light rail, as well as 25 miles of rapid and enhanced bus service. However, the free market think-tank Beacon Center of Tennessee says the mayor's plan and estimates are misguided.
"Like most government studies, the job numbers projected seem to be overstated and unable to ever be proven true or false," Beacon CEO Justin Owen said. "Is this a transit plan or a jobs plan? If it's a jobs plan, $5.4 billion would be the most ever spent on a single corporate welfare project in Tennessee history.”
Nashville residents will have the opportunity on May 1 to vote for the projects, which will involve raising four taxes, including a new half-cent surcharge on sales tax that would increase to one cent in 2023.
In Minnesota, the Metropolitan Council overseeing the development of the Southwest light-rail project, banned 36 firms from working on the project since they worked on the project’s design and engineering phases. The decision by the Council is said to minimize any conflicts of interest, but it has also raised opposition from two associations - the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota. The associations wrote a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton, the Met Council, the Hennepin County Board and the Minnesota Legislature to oppose the decision and referring to it as a form of “blacklist” in building the $1.9-billion project.
In the letter, the associations said, “This decision violates federal guidelines, contradicts established business operating procedures, upends Minnesota precedent, will cost Minnesota jobs, harms the construction industry, will increase the cost of this and other LRT projects, reduces legitimate and lawful competition in bidding, and slashes the ability of disadvantaged business enterprises from performing work.”
The project is an important one for job creation and the state’s economy. Current estimates for the construction of the 14.5-mile LRT include 7,500 construction workers to build the line, for $350 million in payroll related to the project.
Report from the Athens Ohio Train Show
By J. Charles (Chuck) Riecks
For the third year in a row, the Friends of the Cardinal, in cooperation with the Railroad Passengers Association (National Association of Railroad Passengers) and Operation Lifesaver (both Ohio and West Virginia) had a booth at the SE Ohio Railroad Show held at the State Street Mall in Athens Ohio.
Attendance at events held in venues such as this are always hard to gauge. FOC Co-Chair Bill Bartley discussed the issue with the manager of the Elder Beerman store (we were set up almost directly across from his establishment). He estimated this had been one of the most successful Train Shows the Mall has ever had and he estimated he had about 1000 more customers over the weekend of the show.
We estimate that approximately 700-800 of those persons stopped by our display.
In addition to trains, the Mall also had live music, a Christmas Carol Parade by a local Girl Scout Brownie troop, a live Santa for kids to talk to AND, on Sunday afternoon about 3:00 the local Animal Shelter sponsored a “Christmas with Santa for your pets”. Santa was there and the various pets came in and had their pictures taken with him. Some were on his lap, some at his feet, and a few. . . well they stayed in the general area and the photographer used a very wide angle lens.
Interestingly enough, Santa was set up right around the corner from our display.
So, in addition to the 700-800 human visitors to our display, there were 5-6 canine ones as well (Rep. Denham should be happy).
If you ever get lost and confused while traversing through New York Penn Station, Amtrak has released a new app to help you “find your way.” The app, which is called FindYourWay, can provide users, “real-time gate, train, and boarding information for Amtrak customers and also helps direct passengers throughout the station to find gates, exits, ATMs, and restaurants.” Future updates to the app may feature station deals, reminders, and rewards.
“From first-time visitors to veteran travelers, everyone can benefit from downloading FindYourWay and experiencing the new, digital-friendly New York Penn Station,” said Amtrak’s Chief Commercial Officer Stephen Gardner in a press release. “FindYourWay is more than just an interactive platform; it can also help prevent overcrowding in the station, delivering a measure of customer safety that other communication products and forms of travel cannot provide.”
The app is free to download, but is limited to New York Penn Station for now. However, Amtrak said it is considering offering FindYourWay in other major stations down the road.
New Jersey and New York have committed to pay 100 percent of their respective costs for the Gateway tunnel project, which totals $5.55 billion. When broken down, New Jersey will pay $1.9 billion, New York will pay $1.75 billion, and the Port Authority will fund $1.9 billion towards the total cost of the $12.7-billion tunnel.
The Gateway project would include the construction of a new, two-track tunnel under the Hudson River and repair the current 100-year-old two-track rail tunnel that was damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The corridor serves about 200,000 daily trips between New Jersey and New York and is considered the nation's most vulnerable major transportation link.
For New Jersey and New York, the states will pay for the cost of design and construction through federal loans. But how the states plan to pay back the loans varies. In New Jersey, NJ Transit will implement a per-trip fare increase for rail customers of 90 cents beginning in 2020. The cost would increase to $1.70 in 2028, and $2.20 in 2038. New York officials plan to pay back the federal loan with an annual appropriation from the state’s executive budget that would span 35 years.
Southern Rail Commission continues to move forward with Gulf Coast Restoration
The Southern Rail Commission (SRC) met on Friday, December 8, 2017, in Baton Rouge, LA. The SRC, a member of the Gulf Coast Working Group, is beginning the process of looking at the implementation issues that will be necessary for long distance service between New Orleans and Florida to be restarted and supplemented with a state supported frequency between New Orleans and Mobile. This is a huge step forward in the goal of restoration of service east of New Orleans that was suspended in August 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.
To learn more about the proposed plan to restore service to the Gulf Coast, check out the Amtrak Report for Gulf Coast Passenger Rail Restoration at southernrailcommission.org or click here.
The new Birmingham Amtrak station is tentatively scheduled to open in mid-January; stay tuned to www.railpassengers.org and Hotlines to find out more about grand opening activities.
All Aboard: Florida’s Brightline received a notable victory this week after the Martin County Commission decided to drop its challenge of an environmental permit against the higher-speed rail line. The Commission had been pursuing the challenge against issuance of the South Florida Water Management District environmental-resources permit for Brightline for a year, but acknowledge that moving forward would not be a, "prudent use of the county's resources." In addition, the St. Lucie County Commission had challenged the permit, but withdrew its challenge last week.
Despite the withdrawal, both counties are happy with the change that resulted. Ruth Holmes, senior assistant Martin County attorney, said that Brightline amended its permit application over the last year in response to the challenge, and, as a result, the approved permit will do more to protect water quality than previously estimated.
Brightline is now testing service on its tracks in preparation for limited service to begin this month between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Service will expand to Miami early next year.
Amtrak officials celebrated the five-year anniversary of the return of passenger service in Norfolk, VA. It was five years ago in which the city and Amtrak reintroduced service through the Northeast Regional, which connects passengers to the national rail network, after service ended in 1977. Amtrak said that Norfolk was the highest-performing city pair in the Virginia state-supported system for Fiscal Year 2017. Overall, the route of Washington, D.C., to Norfolk served a total of 155,389 customers, with ridership for the Norfolk station at 47,493.
“The success of the Norfolk service testifies to the progressive vision the Commonwealth has brought to bringing real alternatives for residents to travel,” said Amtrak Vice President of State-Supported Services Business Development Joe McHugh, in a press release. “Increasing ridership for all the routes in Virginia speaks to how many people recognize trains as the smarter way to travel.”
Due to the ridership numbers, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) plans to add more trains. One train will be added in 2019, and another will be added in 2022. The DRPT currently supports six Northeast Regional trains that serve Norfolk, Richmond, Newport News, Lynchburg and Roanoke.
Gift Yourself This Christmas. Submit Your Best Photos and You Could Win 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards® Points and Other Rail Passengers Giveaways.
Throughout the past few weeks, we have received over 150 photo submissions to our social media contest, and we have crowned two grand prize winners and more than 30 runner up winners – and we’re getting ready to announce the next round of winners now!
We’re still looking for Grand Prize winners from the following regions: Southwest, Midwest, South Central, South, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
The Rail Passengers Association is asking passengers like you to be a part of our new identity. In return, nine lucky passengers will be awarded 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards ® Points, while dozens more will win other prizes.
To enter the contest, riders simply share your favorite train-view photos via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. The pictures should be your own, and should depict what you see outside your train window. Whether it’s a photo of countryside, oceans, forests or cities, we want to see what you see. Rail Passengers’ staff will be evaluating the photos, and selected images will be used as part of the Rail Passengers Association’s new visual identity on the web, and in print.
There is a rolling deadline for submissions. Submitting photos for consideration is easy. Just share them on social media and be sure to use the hashtag #RailPassengers and tag us @RailPassengers.
For additional information on how to enter, as well as guidelines for photo submissions, please visit https://www.narprail.org/news/blog/contest-your-view-from-the-train/
(Please remember, we can only use photo entries with permission. The best way to make sure you have the rights, is to share photos you took personally. Please don’t just grab a picture off Google!)
Amtrak has released its first ridership numbers since reintroducing passenger rail service to Roanoke, VA, at the end of October. For its first 30 days of service, Amtrak officials said that 2,770 people boarded in Roanoke, which equals 92 riders per day between October 31 and November 30. The numbers are strong to start, but are currently lower than projected for the entire year. Amtrak forecasted ridership at 38,000 riders for the first year, which would equal 104 riders each day.
Despite the lower numbers, Amtrak is still expecting to meet its goal. Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said that Amtrak expects that ridership will change with the seasons, and ridership often drops in January and February.
Amtrak ended service in Roanoke in 1979, but Amtrak, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and Norfolk Southern restarted service on October 31, 2017.
Drayton McLane, former owner of the Houston Astros, has been named the new Chairman of the Board for Texas Central Partners. McLane first joined the company’s board in January and is highly invested in bringing high speed rail between Dallas and Houston. McLane, a native Texan who owned the Astros from 1992 to 2011, replaces Richard Lawless, who remains as a board member and chairman emeritus.
“The more involved I have gotten with the Texas Bullet Train the more I realize its positive transformational impact on our state and our nation,” McLane said in a press release from Texas Central. “I am a businessman who is meticulous about what I get involved in, and I am excited to be leading this project that leverages the capital and spirit of entrepreneurs instead of relying on taxpayer dollars.”
The line developed by Texas Central would see trains travel at speeds of 205 mph, connecting Dallas and Houston in 90 minutes. The project is expected to generate $36 billion in economic activity over the next 25 years, according to company officials.
In Carlinville, IL, city, state and Amtrak officials gathered to dedicate a new, 1,200-square-foot Amtrak station. The station first opened to passenger rail service on November 16, and is part of a major repair and upgrade project for the rail corridor between Chicago and St. Louis. The goal of the upgrades is to increase Amtrak train service to 110 mph, but also allows for significant economic growth with new jobs. It is also estimated that about 15,000 passengers will use rail service on the corridor, with four Amtrak trains coming in and out of Carlinville daily.
“This beautiful new station provides an important connection to the thousands of commuters, students, and visitors who use Amtrak to travel to and from Carlinville,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn in a press release. “By modernizing this station and others like it along the corridor, we expect to see ridership increase.”
The new station cost $3.7 million, and was mostly covered by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The city of Carlinville only incurred around $36,000 for in-kind services. In addition, all stations along the corridor are being improved with the 2009 act.
Save The Date For RPA’s Spring 2018 Advocacy Summit, ‘Day on The Hill’, Annual Congressional Reception and Meeting - Sunday, April 15 - Wednesday, April 18, 2018
- The host hotel is the Hilton Old Town Alexandria, located adjacent to the King Street Metro & Alexandria Amtrak Stations. Discounted group rate room reservations are now available!
- RPA’s ‘Day on The Hill’ is Tuesday, April 17. The Annual RPA Congressional Reception will be held that evening from 5:30pm - 7:30pm.
Upcoming Regional NARP and State Passengers Association Member Meetings & Events
- Saturday, January 13 - Empire State Passengers Association Working Group Meeting - Schenectady, NY
- Friday, January 19 - Southwestern Rail Conference - Dallas, TX
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a local, state or regional meeting added to the NARP calendar of upcoming events!
Amtrak officials took a major step forward for the development of Baltimore Penn Station and the surrounding areas owned by Amtrak by selecting Penn Station Partners to negotiate a master development deal. Amtrak said in a press release that as part of the deal it is looking for help in, “modernizing and expanding station facilities and amenities to accommodate growth, renovating the station’s upper floors and supporting transit-oriented development that integrates the surrounding neighborhood’s unique vitality.” Penn Station Partners, which is based in Baltimore, is made up of Beatty Development Group, Armada Hoffler Properties, Cross Street Partners, Gensler, WSP USA, Network Rail Consulting and Mace Group, among others.
Amtrak also said that negotiations are currently taking place with Penn Station Partners on a proposed multi-phased, mixed-use development that could bring as many as 1.6 million square feet of development to the area. Preliminary concepts include a hotel in the historic station head house, as well as office and residential space to the north along Lanvale Street, connected by an expanded concourse with new retail opportunities.
“Baltimore Penn Station is the eighth busiest station in our national network and this important step underscores Amtrak’s continued efforts to significantly enhance the station experience and amenities for all travelers,” Amtrak Vice President of Real Estate Stations and Facilities Bart Bush said in a press release.
Videos from November’s RailNation Chicago Event are now available on-line!
- Amtrak President/CEO Richard Anderson’s presentation and following question & answer segment with Jim Mathews
- Amtrak’s Culinary Demonstration by Executive Chef Daniel Malzhan
Additional video segments from RailNation Chicago will be released in the coming weeks...
In Glendale, AZ, the City Council struck a blow to the development of a light-rail system to downtown. The Council voted 5-2 to withdraw from future planning of the rail system, and the vote was made two months after the city council told staff not to move forward with the light-rail line. The decision drew some criticism from former Glendale Councilman Gary Sherwood, who said that the city could have benefited from job creation and economic growth, similar to what Phoenix has experienced in recent years.
The vote reverses a 2016 council 4-3 vote that would have asked developers to prepare design details and cost estimates for the 7-mile line. Of the Council, Mayor Jerry Weiers, Vice Mayor Ian Hugh and Council members Ray Malnar, Joyce Clark and Lauren Tolmachoff voted against the light-rail line.
Renew your Membership by End of Year and get Double Amtrak Guest Rewards® Points!
That’s right. As a thank you for a great year in advocacy, and we couldn’t have done it without your support. Earn Double for renewing in 2017!
Amtrak Guest Rewards Points®
Whether it is raising awareness about the funding threat to National Network Trains, or our recent petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, your association has been punching above its weight. If you renew your membership today, not only do you continue to support this great work, but you can travel more too! #Rally4Trains