Hotline #954

Hotline #954

In an Op-Ed for USA Today, Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate and editor at large for National Geographic Traveler, called on American commuters to stop inventing reasons not to use public transportation. Elliot states, “The conflict between drivers and riders exists because the solution isn't easy. But here it is, nonetheless: Our buses, trains and subways will never be first rate until they become a priority, and they won't become a priority until we stop making excuses.”

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled in favor of California’s high-speed rail network, ruling that development of the train did not violate promises that officials made to voters who approved it. The lawsuit claimed that the state’s estimates for ridership, construction and operations were not reliable. Judge Kenny noted that the $64 billion rail system continues to evolve so it is premature for the court to intervene.

Rail travel between the U.S. and Canada will become more efficient as a result of an agreement reached during Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's visit to the White House. Mr. Trudeau and President Obama discussed plans for U.S. Customs preinspections at manufacturing facilities in Canada, in order to reduce waiting times for trains at border crossings. The agreement dovetails with a new bill announced last week by U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), which would significantly expedite trips on Amtrak’s Adirondack Line between New York City and Montreal.

Democratic Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both endorsed investing in a modern passenger rail system for America this week. Sanders spoke up for his signature trillion dollar infrastructure investment plan, arguing that the U.S. used to have the best passenger rail system in the world. Meanwhile, at a campaign event in Florida, Clinton criticized Republican Governor Rick Scott’s decision to kill a Tampa - Orlando high-speed rail project, saying “we know we’re going to have to do high-speed rail if we’re going to have a competitive economy in the 21st-century, and if we’re going to do more to fight climate change by getting more cars off the road and more passengers into high-speed rail.”

This follows last week’s announcement by Republican candidate Donald Trump that he supports developing high-speed rail systems in the U.S.

Ask Congress for A Connected America today!

The bipartisan FAST Act was passed overwhelmingly by Congress. Now, as Congressional appropriators consider the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, they need to hear from Americans to make sure this bold vision for passenger trains is funded!

Politico reported on Amtrak’s comments to the Surface Transportation Board’s proposed rules regarding on time performance and preference for freights and passenger rail. The story notes that Amtrak disapproves of the STB’s proposals, while the Association of American Railroads, which suggested “that a more holistic view of preference could lead to greater efficiency across the entire rail network.”

The Associated Press reported that negotiations between rail worker unions and New Jersey Transit ended without a deal this week. If no deal is reached, a strike would affect tens of thousands of commuters who travel to and from New York City each day. The Wall Street Journal reported that other transportation companies are prepared to schedule extra ferries, put more buses on the streets and add commuter shuttles to help commuters.

The U.S. Department of Transportation launched a new effort to create a "national transit map" that will display stops, routes and schedules for all participating U.S. transit agencies. To create the map, the federal agency is asking participating agencies to allow for the collection of transit data from their websites. The specific data defines a common format for public transportation schedules and associated geographic information, and once the data is analyzed, planning agencies and researchers will be able to identify and address gaps in access to public transportation.

Knox Ross, secretary for the Southern Rail Commission and mayor of Pelahatchie, MS emphasized the success of the Gulf Coast Inspection Train and that the success continues to resound in federal offices and Congress. Ross noted that “the crowds were there” and that the trip was in many ways valuable to the effort to restore passenger rail service along the northern Gulf.

In the past two years, passengers on Texas Eagle trains have experienced delays or been forced to ride on buses due to construction of a third north-south mainline track in the Fort Worth, Texas, Tower 55 project, the higher speed rail construction between Chicago and St. Louis and significant weather events on the route.

So to celebrate the completion of track upgrades and anticipated reduction in track delays in 2016, the Texas Eagle Local Revenue Management team, in conjunction with the Texas Eagle Route Director and Amtrak Central Division Marketing, will begin a special promotion for passengers between January and March 2016.

Passengers will receive a free companion rail fare when they buy one regular (adult) fare. The ticket must be purchased at least one day in advance of travel between January 5 and March 15, 2016, for travel between January 6 and March 20, 2016.

These fares may be upgraded to a sleeper after paying for an accommodation charge. The promotion is valid for travel only on the Texas Eagle. It is not valid for local travel between Chicago and St. Louis, or for local travel between San Antonio and Los Angeles. Fares are subject to availability, and seating is limited. Please use discount code V344 when booking the fare.

Monday evening, an Altamont Corridor Express train derailed northeast of Fremont, CA. The accident was caused by a fallen tree across the tracks, with the first car slamming into the tree before falling into a creek. The derailment resulted in 14 passengers being injured, but there were no life-threatening injuries.

A list of the newly elected state representatives serving on the NARP Council of Representatives for the two-year term starting March 1, 2016 is available here.

There are still openings for state representatives in some states. Check-out the full list of current vacancies here. If you are interested in being considered for an appointment to an open state seat by the Board of Directors please complete this Candidate Information Statement.

A plan to update the Chicago Transit Authority’s rail network was launched this week, and includes an effort to modernize half of the organization’s rail car fleet. Updating the fleet will cost $1.3 billion and is the largest car purchase in the Authority’s history. The new generation of 846 rail cars will be built by CSR Sifang America at a new manufacturing facility on the Southeast Side.

Registration for NARP’s Annual Spring Conference and Council Meeting being held Sunday, April 10 through Wednesday, April 13 at the Sheraton Silver Spring Hotel is now available on the event webpage.

Don’t delay...discounted ‘Early-Bird’ registration ends March 31!

The draft agenda for the meeting is now available and complete information on NARP’s ‘Day on The Hill’ can be found here.

Group-rate hotel room reservations at the Sheraton are now closed. Near-by hotel options with available rooms are listed on the event webpage.

In Washington, D.C., WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld outlined how the organization intends to move forward in an effort to increase ridership, and bring riders back to the metro system. In his plan, WMATA hopes to restore customer trust in the service’s ability to provide reliable transportation. Wiedefeld's plan focuses on three tenets: safety/security, reliability, and financial housekeeping.

With the opening of the new Asuza Gold Line station in Los Angeles, officials are looking to bring trains out to the Inland Empire communities of Claremont and Montclair. The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority has plans for the third phase of its light rail system, which would bring the line from Los Angeles through San Gabriel Mountain foothill communities to the train station in Montclair. To provide funding for the plan, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to place a tax measure on the November 2016 ballot to fund the Gold Line.

Manage Your Membership! You can instantly change your address, your phone number or any other important detail in your membership by yourself using the NARP website, at . Just enter your membership number, or create an account to get started.

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority announced its new five-year plan for transit, which calls for improving existing service and expanding service to meet demand, among other recommendations. In addition to improvement and expansion of existing service, the plan calls for developing a frequent transit network, premium services such as commuter rail, streetcar, bus rapid transit and creating outlying transit centers, and more. Transportation options are becoming more critical the area, as the region's population growth and traffic congestion will continue for years.

Amtrak has once again postponed the resumption of through coach and sleeper service to/from Boston on the Lake Shore Limited for an indeterminate period. Through service was originally curtailed in early 2015 to accommodate track construction at the busy Albany-Rensselaer station. While the new fourth track at the station is now in service, reportedly the new platform construction and additional switch installation over the coming months will once again take some tracks out-of-service periodically. Albany to Boston service is being provided by a connecting stub train, offering coach and cafe service. Passengers change trains at Rensselaer. Three sleeping cars are being operated on the New York to Chicago main section of the train, along with full dining car service.

Amtrak has activated ACSES (it’s version of a Positive Train Control system) on the west end of the busy Philadelphia to Harrisburg Keystone line. Effective March 5, all trains operating on the line (both passenger and freight) must be equipped with an operating ACSES system.

Attendees at the March 5 Annual Meeting of the Empire State Passengers Association (and the NARP NYS Regional Meeting) held in Schenectady, NY, learned that the testing of 2 each of the new CAF-produced dining cars, sleeping cars and baggage-dorm cars is expected to start within the next month. Some limited, in-service, revenue testing is expected over the coming several months. The cars are being manufactured by CAF at its Elmira Heights, NY plant. Amtrak has been taking initial delivery of the new CAF cars at its Albany-Rensselaer maintenance facility.

NARP is inviting members in good standing to consider running for 10 ‘At-Large’ seats on the Council of Representatives, the association’s volunteer governing body. ‘At-Large’ representatives will be elected at the upcoming April meeting and will serve a two-year term.

Any NARP member who has paid dues by the time of the April meeting, is at least 18 years of age and is a U.S. resident is eligible to run. The Council consists of 112 elected state representatives, plus the 10 ‘At-Large’ reps and the Officers & Directors. The Council of Representatives represents the overall NARP membership in setting and approving the overall policy and direction for the association. For more information, click here. For an 'At-Large' Representative Candidate Information Statement form, go here.

In addition, nominations are now being sought from those members interested and qualified in being elected as an Association Officer (Chair; 4 Vice-Chairs; Treasurer & Secretary) and for the 8 Director positions. The Officers and Directors are elected by the Council of Representatives at the April meeting. For more information on these positions including duties, responsibilities and required qualifications, go here. For an Officer & Director Candidate Information Statement form, go here.

The deadline for all submissions is 11:59 p.m. (local time) on March 31, 2016. Submissions by mail must be postmarked no later than March 31, 2016.

NARP thanks those members who have sent in industry-related news stories, op-eds, editorials or letters to the editor from your communities. We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Please send your news items to Will Hubbard,, and we will continue to share it with the membership. We also ask members to send events that we can put on the website, here. And please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.