RUNning in the Spring

The Rail Users’ Network (RUN) held their annual spring conference virtually on Friday, April 29. The theme was “Look West— here’s where advocates are fighting to restore/expand rail service in the Western U.S./British Columbia.” Seven advocates from the Rockies, Southwest, Pacific Coast, and British Columbia gave presentations on their specific region’s transit situation.

RUN Chairperson Richard Rudolph made opening remarks regarding RUN’s current activities and the latest challenges faced by rail advocates across North America; he included the fight with CSX in Alabama to restore Amtrak service on the Gulf Coast, the fight against Amtrak long-distance trains becoming triweekly, and the fight to remove the provision in the Passenger Rail Investment and that indicates Amtrak long-distance trains must have 750 miles on a route in operation since 2008. He also honored the late Dana Gabbard. A quick recap of the speakers:

  • Elaine Clegg of Boise’s City Council, also program manager of Idaho Smart Growth, spoke on restoring the Pioneer Passenger Rail Route from Seattle, Washington to Denver, Colorado. In 1997, the last passenger train ran to Boise.
  • Matthew Buchannan, a board member of Transport Action, British Columbia, presented information on the dismal rail situation in suburban and rural British Columbia, and the problems in the Vancouver area.
  • David Stohmaier, Chair of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, spoke on the restoration of the North Coast Hiawatha Route train service, which ended in 1979.
  • President Steve Roberts of California RailPAC, who worked at Amtrak on route planning, spoke on Valley Rail project, and upgrade of rail infrastructure in California.
  • L.A. Metro’s Senior Executive Officer, Project Management Oversight, Julie Owen discussed Valley Rail in the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles Metro’s major current construction projects.
  • Jim Souby, chairperson of Front Range Passenger Rail District, spoke on the proposed intercity passenger train service along the Front Range Corridor, starting at the Wyoming/New Mexico border and following Interstate 25 north.
  • J.W. Madison, based in New Mexico and president of Rails Inc, gave a presentation titled Rocky Mountain Flyer: Proposed Amtrak Superliner Service from El Paso, Texas to Shelby, Montana via Albuquerque, Denver, Cheyenne and Northern Montana.

The closing remarks were given by David Peter Alan, Esq., RUN board member, contributing editor Railway Age, and chairperson emeritus of the Lackawanna Coalition. Mr. Alan described the conference as continuing education for all. He noted that there were “14 trains in 1971, 14 trains today”, and closed with a quote from the late Joe Hill: “Don’t mourn for me. Go out and organize.” The next RUN conference will take place on Saturday afternoon, October 29, and will focus on the South.

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