TARP News Spring 2022
Tennessee Association of Railroad Passengers
Bill to study Amtrak expansion up for discussion in Tennessee!
February 23, 2022 - Members of Tennessee State Legislature are advancing the idea to study the expansion of Amtrak service to include Nashville and other cities in the Volunteer State.

State Representative Jason Powell is putting together a Train Travel Caucus to provide advocacy and support.

Tennessee Association of Railroad Passengers is very pleased to hear this encouraging news. We hope that our home state will develop a timely and sustainable plan to improve mobility in our state. With our growing population and our vibrant tourism industry, passenger rail can provide an efficient and convenient travel option while providing traffic relief on our highways.

Here are some news links for further reading:

Action Requested!
TARPs efforts to expand rail service in Tennessee are moving from the federal level to the state level. We are now focusing our efforts on contacting state lawmakers to express support for passenger rail. 

The first step in expanding passenger rail in Tennessee will be for the state to conduct a study that would project ridership and possible routes. Bills in the House and Senate HB 2278 & SB 2602 are currently in committee. We need to contact our elected officials to express our support for Amtrak service in Tennessee. 

Here is a page from the legislature about effective communication with your Representative. Here is a link to find your Representatives. 

Passenger rail in Tennessee has bipartisan support. We are asking for support from our Representatives to study Amtrak expansion. 

IMPORTANT UPDATE! On March 8, 2022 we heard that the bill to authorize the study received a bi-partisan vote of approval in committee! That's a small and crucial step in the right direction!
Memphis Trolley Testing New Cars
MATA in Memphis will begin testing a “modern streetcar” (compared to MATA's existing rail fleet) on the long-shuttered Madison Avenue trolley line in the next 90-120 days. The upcoming test could lead to the Madison line reopening.

A spokesperson for MATA confirmed the transit service plans to test new electric streetcars on the route to see if the existing infrastructure will support them. If testing is successful, it would still be a long process to get those streetcars up and running

“The first time it goes down the line it will be at walking speed so that we have a whole team of people walking around the car, looking at every aspect of it and looking at how every turn of the wheel is affected by the condition of the track,” MATA CEO Gary Rosenfeld said in a press release.

MATA currently provides service on the route using rubber-wheeled trolley buses, but MATA said the new electric streetcars would run on the existing tracks. Compared to historic trolleys, the streetcars would have a modern interior, heating and air conditioning and larger passenger capacity. 

“The integration of modern streetcars is a cost-efficient method to provide high frequency service on intensely developed corridors, increase ridership, inspire economic development, and expand energy-efficient transportation options,” MATA said in a statement.

Trolley service on the Main, Madison and Riverfront lines was suspended in 2014 after two historic trolleys caught fire. Service using historic trolleys has since returned to Main Street, but not to the Riverfront or Madison lines.

The Madison line runs east from Main Street to Cleveland Street. It was built in the early 2000s following old trolley lines that were removed decades earlier.

It has also been reported MATA has purchased three trolleys and is looking to rehabilitate them to restore service on the Riverfront line.

*Submitted by Mark James, TARP Member, Memphis, Tenn.
A few updates from WeGo Nashville
There are several new bus-related projects going on with Nashville's WeGo transit system.

The new spring schedule will show several new or realigned bus routes. Some of the routes with heavier ridership will also see added frequency.

We will see some additional cross-town routes and a few more regional transit centers in places where the various routes come together. The transit centers at Green Hills and also Nolensville are under construction, while the one near Bordeaux will begin as soon as funding is in place.

There's nothing new to report this year with the Star. The "Game Day" Titans trips are still in operation, but ridership is lower than in the pre-Covid days. The same is true for ridership overall on the regular schedules as well.

It appears for now that talks of a new Northwest corridor commuter train Nashville to Clarksville) are on hold, as are all proposals for light rail service in the greater Davidson County area. The political fallout from the failed 2018 transit referendum took a noticeable toll, and the timing of Covid-19 could not have been any worse.

TARP, and especially our members in and around Nashville, hope that practical proposals will re-enter the conversation and help provide the traffic relief, mobility, livability, and overall appeal of our capital city.

*Special thanks to Ralcon Wagner for pulling together the information for this article.
Virginia bringing passenger rail 35 miles closer to Tennessee
Residents of Upper East Tennessee are getting closer and closer to passenger rail service with progress being made in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

TARP and a number of rail advocates in Bristol have waited with great anticipation as state-supported Amtrak service gets extended deeper into Western Virginia.

In January 2022, Amtrak and the Commonwealth announced a plan to extend existing Amtrak service at Roanoke to Christiansburg by the Year 2025. That bring Amtrak service 35 miles closer to the state line at Bristol!

Slowly, but surely, Upper East Tennessee will find itself on the map of our national rail passenger system!

Here are a few articles for further reading:

A few quick updates
In other passenger rail news for Tennessee:

>The Newbern, Tennessee Amtrak station (near Dyersburg) was fully repaired and restored to service following truck/train accident that damaged the building. We appreciate the hard work on behalf of the city to get the job done!

>The city of Fulton, Kentucky, which is near the Tennessee/Kentucky state line, is working hard to advance the proposed new Amtrak station to replace the existing dilapidated structure. Getting a finalized and approved design is taking much longer than anticipated.
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