Rail Users’ Conference Calls for More “Southern Comfort” in Travel

RAILGRAM Nov-Dec 2022v3

The Rail Users’ Network (RUN) held an online conference on Saturday, October 29. The event focused on Amtrak, private-sector passenger rail, and rail transit in the South. It was the latest in a series of semi-annual conferences that placed the spotlight on rail in different regions across the country. Presenters included advocates in the South and managers there who are developing new rail services.

Topics included expansion of Amtrak services in Virginia, construction of a new line by Brightline (a new private-sector passenger railroad) to expand service to Orlando Airport and later to Tampa, the ongoing battle to establish Amtrak trains between New Orleans and Mobile, and expanding rail in Texas.

I delivered the closing remarks, stressing the importance of the role of politics regarding both local transit and the way a state (or in-state region) deals with Amtrak. Both Amtrak and rail transit are weak in the South, which can be explained in large part by politics. Virginia is the only truly “purple state” in the region, with Republicans dominant elsewhere. Although RUN is a nonpartisan organization, effective advocacy requires knowledge of state and national political scenes and how politics can affect trains and transit.

RUN hopes to return to in-person conferences soon; maybe even next spring in Newark, to focus on rail–transit connectivity in the area. Before SARS-CoV-2 struck, RUN was planning such a conference for the spring of 2020, with help from the Lackawanna Coalition and NJ Transit.

If you would like to learn more or to join RUN, they are online at www.railusers.net. RUN advocates for more rail transit, an improved Amtrak, and better connectivity between the two. The Lackawanna Coalition is an organizational member of RUN.

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