Happening Now

Hotline #1,091

November 9, 2018

Midterm Election Takeaways; NJ Officials Urge USCG To Keep Portal Bridge Closed; NJ Transit Light Rail Funding Stalled; Brightline Submits Orlando To Tampa Proposal; Rail Passengers Association Launches New Photo Contest; Station Volunteer Program Launches in Niles, MI

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, [email protected], and we will share it with members. 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 them on the website, here. Please follow Rail Passengers Association on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on all things passenger rail.

Midterm Election Transportation Takeaways

The Rail Passengers Association closely watched the midterm elections as they related to public transportation, especially in California, Colorado and Florida. After the votes were counted we prepared several key takeaways on the results:

Transportation Ballots

In the biggest win for transit infrastructure of the night, CALIFORNIA voters rejected an attempt to rescind a 2017 state gasoline tax. Through their overwhelming rejection of the repeal initiative, which failed 55 percent to 45 percent, voters protected $54 billion in additional infrastructure investment for roads, rails, transit, and ferries. It’s yet more proof that—when shown a clear, convincing plan for how the money will be invested locally—the public is willing to put its money behind infrastructure.

Though that was not the case in COLORADO where voters shot down two infrastructure initiatives: roads-only Proposition 109 and road-and-transit Proposition 110. Proposition 109 lost 61 percent to 38 percent, while Proposition 110 performed better at 59 percent to 40 percent. The law which put the propositions before voters requires Colorado’s secretary of state to propose another transportation measure for voters in 2019; we hope legislators can develop a more inspiring, future-looking transportation vision by then (i.e. include 21st century rail transit options).

With the passage of Amendment 11, FLORIDA voters struck a constitutional provision requiring the state to develop high-speed rail (while simultaneously reforming criminal sentencing rules and expanding the rights of foreign-born persons to own property, due to the bundled nature of voter initiatives in the state). The so-called “requirement” to develop high-speed rail is a hold-over from a voter initiative in 2000, repealed by voters in 2004. The private-sector Brightline will do just fine without any constitutional backing, so passengers shouldn’t worry about this.

General Transportation Takeaways

The Democrats convincingly took the House of Representatives. However, despite being outvoted in aggregate, Republicans saw gains in the Senate—partially due to a favorable set of contests, partially due to a structural advantage in the Senate for low-population rural states. Analysts predict that whatever happens with the House and the White House, this trend in the Senate is likely to ossify.

It also appears that national trends are intensifying: metropolitan areas are becoming a deeper shade of blue, while rural areas turn even more red. That means from a rail transportation perspective it is even more important that Amtrak continue to operate a robust and efficient National Network. If America is to have a sustainable federal program for rail transportation, it must have a rail network that serves urban and rural communities, Red and Blue states. Policymakers—and railroaders—would do well to keep this fact in mind during next year’s surface transportation reauthorization.

It's a good sign that Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell both (very briefly) mentioned an infrastructure bill this week.

Following on years of malfunctions that have caused massive delays for passengers, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) requested that the U.S. Coast Guard immediately cease openings of the Portal Bridge for maritime traffic during rush hours. The bridge is more than 100 years old and is not supposed to be open during rush hour, but maritime traffic can request the bridge to be open as long as a one-hour advance notice is given.

"Given the problems posed to commuters by the frequent Portal Bridge malfunctions, we urge you to revise your regulations to eliminate these loopholes and to end the opening of the Portal Bridge during the morning and evening rush hours," the officials wrote in the their letter to Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz.

The trio also called out the Trump Administration for stalling construction and delaying the funding of a new bridge to replace the current one.

Murphy, Menendez and Booker also wrote to the Coast Guard, “We continue to fight to convince the Administration to provide the necessary federal funding for a new bridge, including through the release of more than $250 million in federal rail funding the Administration has needlessly withheld. As we continue these efforts, we write to request that the Coast Guard work with us to explore short-term solutions to mitigate this ongoing commuter crisis.”

“When the Governor and Senators say ‘needlessly,’ it’s an understatement. It is both disappointing and dysfunctional that New Jersey leaders have to plead their case to the U.S. Coast Guard about the need for a replacement of the Portal Bridge,” said Rail Passengers President Jim Mathews. “This Administration continues to conflate infrastructure of national significance with ‘purely local’ issues, to the detriment of the U.S. economy. When malfunctioning, the bridge prevents numerous Amtrak and NJ Transit trains from crossing the Hackensack River. This results in not only a breakdown of travel, but a breakdown of economic productivity that could be corrected easily with federal assistance.”

Funding for the replacement of the Portal Bridge is only one of the critical projects that the administration is currently delaying. The Trump Administration has said repeatedly that New York and New Jersey need to find more local sources of funding for the new Hudson River tunnel, and more recently they’ve walked back federal commitment for the NJ Transit Hudson-Bergen Light Rail extension. The 10-mile project is estimated at $2 billion and is expected to carry 12,000 daily riders.

State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) said that NJ Transit has not received federal approval to move forward with the extension. The agency will not be allowed to make any progress until the federal government approves the required environmental impact statement for the project. NJ Transit's board approved a draft environmental impact statement in February, and the state has $100 million in state Transportation Trust Fund money earmarked for the project.

“For the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail extension, the Portal Bridge replacement and the new Hudson River Tunnel, we have seen demand and need demonstrated for years,” said Mathews. “Thousands of people rely on just one of these projects every day, and the federal government delaying approval and funding for all of them puts the Northeast Corridor, as well as the entire country, at risk of coming to a complete stop should any one of them fail.”

Part of the problem is that under the Trump Administration, states are now required to fund a higher percentage of a project’s costs. For example, the existing light rail network from Bayonne to North Bergen was built with an 80/20 or 70/30 federal/state funding structure, Weinberg said. However, New Jersey may now have to come up with as much as half of the extension's $2 billion cost under the current administration (highway projects are covered under the 80/20 federal-state cost sharing agreement).

“The $100 million that New Jersey has set aside for the light rail extension will sit idle until the Federal Transit Administration approves the project,” Mathews said. “During his campaign, Trump promised movement on strengthening the country’s passenger rail infrastructure, but critical projects like the light rail extension are being left to live in limbo.”

NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder said that the agency has "continued dialogue" with the federal government and is "working with them to ensure we have a comprehensive document which meets all federal requirements."

Save the Dates! Rail Passengers Association's 2019 Washington Advocacy Summit, Day on The Hill And Congressional Reception - Sunday, March 31st through Wednesday, April 3rd

New Host Hotel for 2019! Westin City Center at Thomas Circle (3 1/2 blocks from the Metro)

Rail Passengers Association meetings aren’t just for Council and Board Members...they’re for YOU! Whether you’ve been a member for decades or you’re brand-new to Rail Passengers Association...or even if you aren’t a member at all...you should come to Washington in March to make sure YOUR congressional representatives hear directly from YOU about rail and transportation!

The event agenda includes:

  • Sunday, March 31 - Afternoon Committee & Board Meetings
  • Monday, April 1 - Advocacy Summit Speakers, Presentations & Day on The Hill Prep
  • Tuesday, April 2 - Day on The Hill Visiting Congressional Offices & Rail Passengers Association’s Annual Congressional Reception
  • Wednesday, April 3 - Rail Passengers Association Council Annual Business Meeting & Elections (Concluding After Lunch)

Watch for more information online at www.railpassengers.org.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today Joe Lhota has resigned as the CEO and Chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) effective immediately.

Lhota was named chairman last year as repeated subway breakdowns became a major issue. But he agreed to do the job on a part-time basis, while remaining chief of staff at NYU Langone Medical Center, a decision that came under fire from ethics watchdogs. Lhota stressed as recently as two weeks ago that he was not planning on stepping down, despite rumors to the contrary.

Fernando Ferrar will again assume the role of interim MTA Chair, a position he held following Tom Prendergast’s 2017 departure from the MTA’s top spot.

Brightline officials took a significant step forward in the development of a higher-speed passenger rail line to connect passengers between Orlando and Tampa this week, submitting a proposal for the route to Florida’s Department of Transportation. Brightline was the only company to submit a proposal in response to the state’s request for proposals, which was created after Brightline first suggested connecting the two cities.

“As anyone who has driven their roads can tell you, Florida needs an alternative to driving and Brightline’s expansion between Tampa and Orlando would be a great start,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “The company is setting an impressive example on how a private company can provide train riders a quality and reliable service.”

Brightline’s current route, which opened in January and runs between Miami and West Palm Beach, and has plans to extend to Orlando in 2021, has exemplified the economic and living benefits of developing real estate around a transit hub. Brightline’s MiamiCentral for example includes 1.6 million square feet of development, with two office towers, two apartment towers, 130,000 square feet of stores and restaurants and a train station.

This development is what caught the eye of officials from Tampa who visited Brightline’s stations in south Florida and are interested in a similar development.

Brightline proposed running trains along Interstate 4, leasing land owned by the state and the Central Florida Expressway Authority. The company has also looked into three possible sites for a station in Tampa, including near the Tampa Park Apartments, the old N Morgan Street jail, Tampa Union Station, and the 7.6-acre GasWorx property.

The sad tale of Elaine Miller’s terrible toilets on a two-day trip from Chicago to Emeryville, CA, on the California Zephyr quickly made the rounds on social media this week after it surfaced on a consumer-advocacy blog on Wednesday. Ms. Miller, who is elderly, has health problems and mobility challenges. She booked a disability-accessible bedroom on the Zephyr which turned out to have toilet problems -- problems not unlike those many of our members have experienced over the years. The toilet next to her bed would not flush, and its contents spilled out onto the carpet, making the entire journey intolerable. Nearby toilets outside her room were also malfunctioning.

Miller says in the consumer group Elliott Advocacy’s blog, “All the toilets in our vicinity were soiled and out of order. What this meant for me as a handicapped person is that I had to walk up the stairs and go to another car, walk down the stairs to use a toilet. Then to get back to my room I had to do it all again. Every time I needed to use the toilet I had to do this. The purpose of an accessible room for disabled people is to make using the facilities easier. That didn’t happen here.”

She sought help from Elliott to work with Amtrak to get her a refund for her $1,600 Zephyr trip, after the railroad only offered her $400. Since then, they’ve added $596 to their offer -- $1,196 instead of a full refund.

On Thursday, Rail Passengers Association took up Miller’s cause and has made contacts with Amtrak to see what else can be done.

“We all know that Amtrak faces terrible problems with its rolling stock, problems that are not all Amtrak’s doing,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “Decades of chronic underfunding have left passengers riding embarrassing equipment, despite paying first-class fares for the privilege. In this instance, however, the right answer for Ms. Miller was clear: write her a $1,600 check and apologize. It’s just a question of doing the right thing for the customer.”

Preserving the Great Dome

With recent policy changes by Amtrak management on unique equipment and services, discussions have flared up about the future of the Great Dome car on the Adirondack and Downeaster trains during the fall, in addition to other uses around the country. Anyone who has ever ridden in the Great Dome knows that it is an incredible journey with magnificent autumnal colors.

Despite its amazing views through the dome windows, the car dates back to 1955. Keeping the Great Dome in running condition, with modern amenities and safety systems, is neither easy nor cheap. The equipment is historic and beautiful, but refurbishing and fabricating parts is something that Amtrak management is taking into consideration when mapping out the future of the car.

Amtrak says it will also look at ticket sales on the Adirondack and Downeaster to determine if the sales make up for the cost of maintaining and running the Great Dome.

For many of us who enjoy the views from the Great Dome, it is worth preserving for its history and its grandeur. Maybe this means New York and Maine could work together to take over the Great Dome from Amtrak in the future. It could also mean that we find ways to work with Amtrak to preserve the train for future use.

There may be other solutions, but to keep it running we need to find one that is based on real dollars and provides the best outcome for all parties involved - Amtrak, New York, Maine, and the passenger.

Due to continued issues of packed cars and even CTrail ticket holders being asked to exit an Amtrak train in Connecticut, U.S Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has called on Amtrak to find a solution to relieve the overcrowding. Congestion has become a major concern for passengers on Amtrak and Hartford Line trains after the Hartford Line opened this summer and ridership between New Haven, CT and Springfield, MA spiked.

Blumenthal wrote a letter to Amtrak management and demanded that Amtrak work with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to develop a long-term plan to end overcrowding on trains. Blumenthal wants Amtrak to ensure that passengers can receive a reliable and timely service from the passenger railroad moving forward.

Rail Passengers Launch National Effort to Support Train Stations Abandoned by Amtrak

When Amtrak chose to remove paid staff from train stations across the U.S., passengers in Niles, MI began to organize an effort to fill the void that was left. This weekend dozens of passionate train and passenger rail advocates will volunteer to pick up where Amtrak once served -- guiding passengers, greeting inbound trains and providing the valuable information and support services that come de riguer in other countries with robust transportation systems.

“When Amtrak management decided to remove staff from 15 stations nationwide, there was serious concern from local city officials, rail advocacy groups and passengers about the future of the National Network and people's’ ability to easily travel between stations,” said Rail Passengers Association President and CEO Jim Mathews. “Our Station Volunteer Program is a response to the hole that Amtrak has created, and these volunteers have pulled together to provide as much assistance as possible.”

Community members in Niles, MI will be gathering at the city’s train station on Friday, November 9 and Saturday, November 10 to launch the Station Volunteer Program created by the Rail Passengers Association (RPA). The Association has been working with Niles officials and community members to create a pilot program that will see volunteers help Amtrak passengers and fill the void at stations that were de-staffed earlier this year.

Rail Passengers Association staff and city officials will be at the Niles station, at 598 Dey St, Niles, MI, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, and 11 a.m to 1 p.m. on Saturday to talk about the Niles Volunteer program and accept applications for the program. Staff will also be conducting in-person interviews so potential volunteers will able to to receive immediate feedback.

“Once volunteers have been accepted to the program, there will also be an important training process -- and it’s not optional,” said Mathews. “We want these volunteers to be knowledgeable about their roles and the Amtrak trains that will be rolling through the station in order to provide appropriate levels of assistance to passengers.”

In addition to Michigan, Rail Passengers Association has also partnered with officials in Alabama, Florida, Illinois and Texas to launch local volunteer programs. Rail Passengers Association has also planned rollouts of the program for Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and North Carolina in the coming months. In some cases we’re launching a brand-new program, while in others we’re working to support and expand existing volunteer programs like those we highlighted for attendees at our Spring meeting in 2016.

A station volunteer program may be coordinated at the city level, or have a broader state- or route -wide scope that addresses the needs of multiple communities along an Amtrak route.

If someone in a specific city would like to be trained and serve as a station volunteer, they can send an email to [email protected].

FrontRunner passengers took so many train rides this September that the railroad set a new record for boardings. Total ridership in September was 464,505, up from 433,137 in the same month last year. This equals an all-time high of 21,800 boardings each weekday.

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA), which operates the FrontRunner, said September is typically a high-ridership month for the agency due to students returning to school. The agency also said that the increase is also a result of riders utilizing the FrontRunner to attended events like college football games, the Utah State Fair, FanX and the Salt Lake Greek Festival. The UVX bus rapid transit line began service in August, and also helped passengers connect to FrontRunner service.

Rail Passengers Association LAUNCHES NEW PHOTO CONTEST: #ViewsOnATrain

This time last year, we announced our rebranding, a move that formally took us from being The National Association of Railroad Passengers to The Rail Passengers Association. Our former name was a mouthful and didn’t succinctly get to the point of who we are, and what we’re about.

Our old logo always had a train in it, even though we’re not a railway. Our new logo is the very window you look out of as a passenger.

We started our #ViewsFromATrain photo contest because we wanted you, the rail passenger, to be a part of our new identity. We’ve been astounded by the quality of the photo submissions that we’ve received! From the ocean views of the Pacific Surfliner, to the mountain snow on the Coast Starlight, to the Chicago skyline on the California Zephyr, you all have wowed us with the views you’ve seen from the train.

The original parameters of the contest required photos to be of something that could be seen through a window. However, we’ve received quite a few submissions that, though they didn’t necessarily adhere to the rules, really inspired us and ultimately led us to the decision to expand the contest.

We are now asking you to submit photos of #ViewsOnATrain. This could be of you preparing for your train journey; of your children admiring the view from a moving train; of the crowd waiting on a platform; or of you standing under the departures board at Grand Central.

Photos can be submitted via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter depicting your experience as “The Rail Passenger”. Rail Passengers Association executives will be judging the photos, and the winners’ images will be used as part of our new visual identity on our website, in our monthly newsletter, on social media, and more!

Grand prize winners will receive of 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards® points.

Runner-Up photos will also be awarded, including Rail Passengers gear.

When submitting your photos on social media, be sure to:

  • Use the hashtag #TheRailPassenger, and
  • Tag @RailPassengers

Though these new images won’t be placed into our window logo, we still want to put your experience at the heart of our new identity and will use these images in other ways.

Feel free to get creative! Here are some tips for a great submission:

  • Use high-resolution, dynamic imagery
  • Tell a story through engaging content
  • Use travel-oriented imagery

We can’t wait to see your submissions!

Grand Prize winning photos and a list of runner up winners can be viewed, here.

El Paso, TX residents will have a new way to travel after the city inaugurated the El Paso Streetcar today.

“This is a step towards a historic transformation for El Paso,” Sun Metro Director Jay Banasiak said in a press release. “The city will be seeing a new mode of transportation system as the El Paso Streetcar adds another viable transit option for residents and visitors.”

The 4.8-mile streetcar service will be free throughout the grand opening weekend and every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until January 6, 2019. The streetcar will only service six stops over the weekend before expanding service to all 27 stations on November 12.

The six station are:

  • Santa Fe at Fourth
  • Franklin at El Paso
  • Stanton at Cincinnati
  • Glory Road Transfer Center
  • Oregon at Missouri
  • Kansas at Mills

New Discounts Add Value to Your Rail Passengers Association Membership!

Whether you are from Bakersfield, Bismarck or Boston, Rail Passengers and MemberDeals have you covered! Wherever you live, work or travel, MemberDeals has discounts available for all Rail Passengers Association members.

Rail Passengers Association’s new partnership with MemberDeals will give members access to exclusive savings on movie tickets, theme parks, hotels, rental cars, tours, Broadway and Vegas shows & more through the members only area of the Rail Passengers Association website. Be sure to check back often as new products and discounts are constantly being added! You must be a member in good standing and be logged in to the Rail Passengers Association website to have access to these internet only discounts.

Early morning Hartford Line passengers traveling to New York City will be able to leave Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT 15 minutes earlier in order to make transfers to New York City easier. The change will have passengers arriving in New Haven at 6:35 a.m., in time to transfer to Metro-North trains that will get them into New York at 8:35 a.m. This train will now leave Springfield at 5:15 a.m. and Hartford at 5:48 a.m.

In addition, Connecticut's Department of Transportation (CTDOT) is adding a trip between Hartford and Springfield to meet growing demand for Hartford Line service, made possible by the completion of a second track between Hartford and Windsor. With this work accomplished, there are now two main tracks on the route from New Haven to Windsor, with the exception of a small length of single track near Hartford’s Union Station.

“The new Hartford Line schedule includes an additional trip extended to Springfield every day. We will now offer 24 daily weekday trips between Hartford and Springfield,” CTDOT Commissioner James Redeker said in a press release. “Less than six months after the launch of the Hartford Line, we have increased service on the line and are closer to reaching the 2030 vision of rail passenger service in New England.”

The new train arrives in Springfield at 9:47 a.m., departs Springfield at 10:40 a.m. and arrives in New Haven at 12:12 p.m. On weekends, it arrives in Springfield at 10:58 a.m., departs Springfield at 11:30 a.m. and arrives in New Haven at 1:10 p.m.

Upcoming Regional Rail Passenger & State Association Member Meetings and Other Events:

Please contact Bruce Becker to have a state or regional event or meeting added to the Rail Passengers Association calendar of upcoming events!

Riders will have two additional opportunities to travel to and from Freeport and Brunswick, ME on the Amtrak Downeaster starting next week. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) is increasing Downeaster service on November 12 to provide five daily round-trips from Boston, MA on weekdays.

The Authority said that a goal for increasing service is to open new opportunities for travel to local residents in Maine. The NNEPRA also said a second goal of the additional service it to boost tourism in Maine and draw in additional economic benefits.

The additional weekday service includes trains departing Brunswick at 4:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 11:10 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 5:25 p.m., with the final train arriving at Boston’s North Station at 8:45 p.m. The Downeaster will reach Freeport 13 minutes after it leaves Brunswick.

Passenger Rail Service Notices

Current and upcoming service notifications that could affect affect upcoming train travel include:

Mount Joy, PA Station Boarding on Track 1 Due to Construction

Through April 2019 Amtrak passengers at the Mount Joy Station will board all trains at the Eastbound Track 1 due to construction. Boarding from Track 1 will occur Monday through Friday between 6:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Once construction is complete, the new station will be ADA accessible and include two full length high level platforms and a new pedestrian overpass.

East Lansing Amtrak Station to Lose Staffed Ticket Window

The Amtrak station in East Lansing, MI will no longer have a staffed ticket window as of October 29, 2018. Amtrak’s Blue Water trains will continue to serve the station daily. Customers will still have access to the station’s waiting area and restrooms for the following trains each day:

  • Westbound Train 365 — starting at 7 am
  • Eastbound Train 364 — starting at 8 pm

Track Work Affects Select Carolinian and Piedmont Trains

Track work being performed by Norfolk Southern and North Carolina Department of Transportation will affect Carolinian and Piedmont service from November 12 - 15

Carolinian Service

  • Train 80 will depart Charlotte at 5:45 am and operate one hour earlier at all stations between Charlotte and Cary. At Raleigh station, the train will hold for the normal scheduled departure time of 10:13 am.

Piedmont Service

  • Trains 75 and 76, which operate between Charlotte and Raleigh, are cancelled. Alternate transportation is not provided.
  • Train 74, which operates between Charlotte and Raleigh, will operate between Charlotte and Burlington only. Alternate transportation will be provided between Burlington and Raleigh stopping at Durham and Cary. Bus 3074 will depart Burlington, Durham, Cary and Raleigh at the normal times. Bus 3074 will remain at Burlington for Train 74’s customers.
  • Train 77, which normally operates between Raleigh and Charlotte, will operate between Burlington and Charlotte only. Alternate transportation will be provided on Bus 3077 for intermediate stops at Cary and Durham. Bus 3077 will operate 30 minutes earlier between Raleigh and Burlington, departing Raleigh at 2:30 pm.

Increasing safety and reducing grade crossing fatalities throughout the U.S. will be a major focus for federal transit agencies moving forward. U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Elaine Chao urged the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Federal Transit Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Operation Lifesaver to find new methods to increase safety at grade crossings.

"The data indicates that only 32 of the more than 2,100 grade crossing collisions last year involved failure of automatic warning devices," Chao said during the FRA’s Grade Crossing Safety Summit last week. "That means every day, drivers, pedestrians and others are making dangerous, reckless decisions to try and 'beat' trains."

Chao praised the work that has been done by these agencies to reduce grade crossing fatalities to a third of what they were in 1989, to take additional steps as safety has leveled off over the last five years. For example, Chao encouraged communities to look into partnering with railroads to close risky grade crossings or to at least create grade separations.

Chao also said that technology can play a major role in reducing risks associated with crossings.

“The FRA is working with the Department’s Intelligent Transportation System Joint Program Office, other modes and the private sector to make grade crossings safer” through research into “intelligent and autonomous vehicles,” Chao said. “The FRA has committed $1.9 million to this project to date, with an additional $514,000 allocated for Fiscal Year 2019.”

The summit in its entirety can be viewed online.

November Newsletter Available Online

The Passengers Voice November Newsletter features an open letter from Rail Passengers Association CEO Jim Mathews to Amtrak’s Board. In it, Mathews calls on Amtrak management to “seize this moment” to shift from “an operating culture to an opportunity culture,” and lead the process of creating a U.S. surface transportation policy.

The November Newsletter also includes how the stalled transportation funding bill might affect the National Network, a recap of a successful RailNation:Miami, and several upcoming Rail Passengers Association and State Passengers Association events.

And in conjunction the RailNation Miami recap, the speaker presentations and session videos from the event are now available for viewing.

Fresno, CA, residents got a firsthand look at the Fresno Station District Master Plan, which includes more than just the downtown station for the California high-speed train. The city is looking into ways to develop a transit hub that also includes residential space, retail stores, entertainment venues and other cultural experiences.

The Master Plan focuses on a 14-block area that keeps people within a five-minute walk of the Fresno train station. With all the planned development Fresno city officials said that the station will help continue with the revitalization of downtown.

“However, having a high-speed rail station in Fresno does not alone create economic transformation,” Mayor Lee Brand said in a letter that was included the Master Plan. “The Fresno Station District is a blueprint to create a regional hub for economic and environmental innovation within the San Joaquin Valley.”

The Fresno Station District Master Plan is to be implemented in three phases - “Opening Day,” “Mid Build-Out” and “Full Build Out.”

  • Opening Day, which is set for 2027, will include the launch of HSR service between Madera to Bakersfield (with Amtrak connections to Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco) and the completion of the HSR Station in Downtown Fresno.
  • The Mid Build-Out includes the Silicon Valley to Central Valley line and HSR service is anticipated between Bakersfield to San Jose with the potential for a one-seat ride (no transfer needed) to San Francisco, or Caltrain transfer to San Francisco and peninsula destinations, including the future BART.
  • At Full Build-Out, HSR service should be complete between San Francisco to Los Angeles and Anaheim. Completion of all HSR Station facilities is envisioned for Full Build-Out with incremental station investments to be made over time (including for the Intermodal Transit Center).

The full 82-page Fresno Station District Master Plan can be viewed online.

Openings Available For Rail Passengers Association State Council Representatives

The following vacancies now exist for state representatives on the Rail Passengers Association Council of Representatives: Alabama (1 opening); California (6 openings); Idaho (1 opening); Illinois (1 opening); Louisiana (1 opening); Massachusetts (1 opening); Minnesota (1 opening); North Dakota (1 opening); Ohio (2 openings); Pennsylvania (1 opening); Washington State (1 opening); Wyoming (1 opening)

If you are interested in becoming more involved in passenger rail advocacy and serving in a Rail Passengers Association leadership role, this is your opportunity to be considered for an appointment by the Board of Directors to an open state representative seat. There is no deadline to apply and submissions will be considered on a rolling basis as they are received.

Please review the position responsibilities & required qualifications and complete & submit a Candidate Information Statement if you would like to seek a position.