TARP News Winter 2020
Newsletter of the Tennessee Association of Railroad Passengers
Rail Passenger Field Team Headed South!
The Rail Passengers Association is putting boots to the ground for more and better trains in the US Southeast!

Field Coordinator Joe Aiello and Grassroots Organizer Madi Butler will promote the economic incentives passenger rail has brought to towns along the City of New Orleans and Crescent routes. They will also address the potential benefits of restoring Gulf Coast passenger rail and other potential services and improvements.

Virginia infrastructure investment may benefit Tennessee
Dec. 19, 2019: The Long Bridge, a railroad bridge that connects Washington, DC and Northern Virginia, is a critical piece of infrastructure that supports the movement and freight and passengers to and from our nation's capital.

Strained capacity at this bridge is a barrier to passenger rail expansion to the Tennessee/Virginia state line at Bristol in the foreseeable future.

TARP is very pleased to learn that the Commonwealth of Virginia is moving forward with a $3.7 billion dollar transportation plan that will include a new bridge over the Potomac River.

Here are a few articles for further reading on this very important development:

Resolution from Bristol, Tennessee City Council on Passenger Rail
Dec. 3, 2019: The Bristol, Tennessee City Council crafted a resolution supporting the extension of Virginia passenger rail service south into Tennessee.

The resolution will go before the Tennessee General Assembly in early 2020 requesting the establishment of a passenger rail department within TDOT to work with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Media outlets in East Tennessee are expecting similar resolutions to make their way through other city councils in the region, including Jefferson City and Kingsport.

We encourage TARP members and other passenger rail advocates in Upper East Tennessee to reach out to city and county mayors, county commissioners, city council members, chamber of commerce members, and others to voice your support.

A broad coalition of local officials will undoubtedly get the attention of the state legislature and hopefully open the door for future action on passenger rail.

Click on the following links to read further:

Parking Situation at Memphis draws complaints from rail passengers
From Jarod Pearson, TARP President:

We have tried to follow the massive redevelopment of Memphis Central Station.

We greeted the news of an upscale hotel, theater, improved transit access, and so on, with optimism. However, early in the project we were concerned about how the Amtrak passenger rail station would fit into the master plan.

Our ability to get timely information has been limited, at best. In recent months especially, I received several inquiries about the availability of parking.

As the project has neared completion, I reached out to the Amtrak Station Master (based in Atlanta) in late August. Then, in late September I met with a representative of the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA).

It appears that both Amtrak and MATA were unclear on how the lease agreement would effect the parking situation. They were, in fact, just as unpleasantly surprised by the steep parking rates and lack of available long-term spaces as Amtrak passengers have been in recent months.

My concern, as I expressed to MATA, is that the development project carefully considered Amtrak passengers who arrive in Memphis as visitors and tourists, but did not account for the thousands of Amtrak passengers who live in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi and utilize the station as well.

My latest report, from fellow TARP member Todd Merkel, is that 8 long-term spaces are available and are priced at $24/day!

I'm fully aware of the need to charge for space in a valuable downtown space. At the same time, I don't see how a scarcity of parking space with a high price will benefit the rail passenger aspect of Central Station.

I will continue to follow this issue and reach out to management. Hopefully all parties can resolve our concerns over parking so that Central Station can remain a popular place to catch the train.

If any of our members have thoughts on this issue or would like to get involved in finding a solution, please send me a post at tarprail@gmail.com .

Join us in DC!
Every year we take our voices for passenger rail to the halls of Congress in Washington!

RailNation DC is an annual gathering of rail passengers from all across the United States.

This year's RailNation DC event will take place from March 29 through April 1. The most important part of the program is Day on the Hill, which takes place on Tuesday, March 31st.

Members of TARP have done an excellent job connecting with our US House and Senate members over the last several years. So, let's do the same in 2020!

We encourage you to consider making the trip and participating with us. Complete information, including registration and hotel rooms, is available at the link below.
WeGo Transit Star Riders see changes, upgrades and revisions
The Music City Star, Tennessee's only commuter train, is undergoing a number of changes, upgrades and revisions in 2020.

The first and most visible change is the re-branding of service into the WeGo Transit system. Under the new brand identity, the train will be known simply as "the Star".

Admittedly, there are benefits to operating the train under a consolidated brand of transit services. The integration of ticketing and fares is one of those. The introduction of reloadable smart cards and account-based fare collection (for smart phone users) are others.

However, cuts in transit funding and the elimination of several bus routes while the area population is growing causes transit advocates like us to scratch our heads.

Fortunately, there's plenty of other good news to ponder as well. The 32-mile commuter rail line is receiving four newly-overhauled locomotives for reliability, track improvements for a smoother ride, and a vastly improved and expanded Mt. Juliet station.

We are also pleased to hear that new passenger cars are expected to arrive in 2020 with a fresh look, new safety features, and more amenities.

We anticipate a bigger and better year for the Star in 2020! Let's hope that the Star's growth and the loyalty of its riders will fuel the conversation for expanded rail service in the greater Nashville area.

Click here for additional information: www.rtarelaxandride.com/
A few extra miles
By L. Jarod Pearson, TARP President / RPA Southern Division Leader

Passenger rail is something I love. Being a lifelong Tennessean, I'm passionate about passenger rail service in our service and the role it could and should play in our state's future.

In 2020, I'm going a few extra miles for rail passengers in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, as well as my home state. In October 2019, my colleagues in the Rail Passsengers Association encouraged me to step into the role of Southern Division Leader.

The potential to boost passenger rail in our region is enormous. The Southern Rail Commission is working to restore Amtrak Gulf Coast Service between Mobile and New Orleans. At the same time, Tennessee has the Bristol Rail Coalition working to expand Virginia rail service to upper east corner of the Volunteer State.

In between we have the Memphis Trolley and WeGo Transit's Star commuter train (a.k.a. the Music City Star). And there are other proposals in the pipeline, such as local rail service in the Chattanooga area and commuter rail service between Montgomery and the Gulf Coast.

The possibilities give us hope and give us motivation. The four states in the Southern Division represent a growing regional economy that can truly benefit from passenger rail service.

I truly look forward to ways we can work together across state lines.


L. Jarod Pearson
TARP President / RPA Southern Division Leader
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