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ProRail Nebraska -- Nebraska's Association of Railroad Passengers and Supporters













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Dedicated to supporting and advocating for railroad service 
in the State of Nebraska.


Commuter Rail - Light Rail - Intercity Rail

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ProRail Nebraska Meetings  

Members Meeting: Our meeting Saturday, April 8, at the Univ. of Nebraska - Omaha included an agenda of excellent presentations focused on improvements to public transit in Omaha and the State of Nebraska. With the speakers' permissions, we will post their presentations soon on our web site.

April 8 Meeting Agenda with Links to Presentations

9:00 - Welcome & Introductions (Matt Roque, PRN President)

9:10 - UNL Student Passenger Rail Studies

9:40 - Omaha Dodge St. Bus Rapid Transit update (Jason Rose, Omaha Metro Transit)

10:10 - ModeShift Omaha (Liz Veazey, ModeShift Board)

10:40 - Break

10:50 - NE Mobility Management Study (Kari Ruse, Transit Liaison Manager, NDOR)

11:20 - Nebraska Railroad Museum Update (David Fachman, NRM President)

11:35 - NE Legislature Activities: 

  • Support LB339 NDOR --> NDOT (Bob Kuzelka, PRN Vice Pres.)

  • Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission Briefing (Matt Roque, PRN Pres.)

11:50 - PRN Business - Secretary & Treasurer Reports

11:55 - PRN Officers and Board Member Elections   (Bob Kuzelka, PRN Vice Pres.)

                     Proposed Slate:

                                                President - Matt Roque

                                                Treasurer - Ralph Hayden

                                                Dist. 1 Director - Richard Schmeling

                                                Dist. 3 Director - Dave Purdy

                   No nominations from the floor. Candidates elected by acclimation.

Noon - Adjourn

Next Board Meeting: In Lincoln, date to be announced

April 2017 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online

Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.

How should Nebraska spend its $11.5 million share
of the VW Environmental Mitigation Trust?

By Richard Schmeling, Director, PRN District 1

What is the VW Settlement? For nearly 500,000 model 2009 - 2016 motor vehicles, Volkswagen knowingly incorporated cheating computer systems that run emissions controls during testing, but do not run during normal vehicle operation. In 2014, an independent research study revealed that the emissions from Volkswagen cars were 15 - 40 times above the U.S. EPA compliance level. In September 2015, the U.S. EPA filed a complaint against Volkswagen, with other parties soon following suit.

Volkswagen agreed to settle by spending up to $14.7 billion for remediation of nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions. A majority of this money is going to vehicle buyback and modification programs ($10.03 billion) for affected consumers. Consumers had until September, 2016 to identify as an "eligible owner" and therefore qualify for the vehicle buyback/modifications programs.

$4.7 billion of this settlement money is going towards NOx reduction programs: the Environmental Mitigation Trust ($2.7 billion) and the ZEV Investment Commitment ($2.0 billion). The remediation programs to be funded by this money are still being planned. Advocates have a great opportunity to influence these green transportation programs to 1) make sure their states apply for the funds; and 2) ensure that the funds are spent wisely. 

Nebraska's share of the Settlement is $11,528,812.23. ProRail Nebraska must help make sure this settlement money gets used for legitimate mitigation purposes and not somehow diverted to highways or other undesirable investments.

I have had several conversations with officials in the Nebraska Governor's Office and the Nebraska Dept. of Environmental Quality (NDEQ), the agency that will likely be assigned responsibility for seeking and allocating Nebraska's share of the VW Settlement Mitigation funds. As recently as late May I had a conversation with Brian McManus, the Information Officer at NDEQ, about possibly utilizing some of the funds for testing battery-powered electric buses on the transit systems in Lincoln and Omaha.

Battery Electric bus in Reno, NV recharging at transit center

Note automatic charging device at rear of bus roof

What happens to the funds if Nebraska doesn't use them? Unused trust funds will be redistributed as supplemental funding among states that have used at least 80% of their allocated trust funds. Such states will be given five more years to use the supplemental funding. Let's make sure Nebraska uses its funds and that at least some of the funds go to clean, electric transit vehicles!

Click here for more information about the VW Settlement.

Mix of BRT, light rail is what Omaha needs

By Curtis Bryant, Nebraska Sierra Club Member

Those who claim that buses could replace Omaha's proposed rail system may have forgotten the 2013 Central Omaha Transit Alternatives Analysis. It studied three options: more buses, bus rapid transit, or BRT, and modern rail, or streetcar.

After much research and public input, the study recommended a combination of BRT and modern streetcar as likely to be most used and to give the greatest economic benefit.

The BRT would run along Dodge Street between downtown and Westroads Mall, and the rail system would connect north downtown, downtown and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

BRT is a service that operates like express trains, such as waiting on a nice platform, paying the fare before boarding and making fewer stops than a "local." The vehicle runs on tires, not rails.

The rail or streetcar part is important for two reasons. It would attract new transit users because many people who don't use buses would use rail, and it would encourage growth of housing and commercial development. Although it would cost more per mile than BRT, the investment is likely to pay off in economic opportunity and growth.

What I like best about the BRT-rail plan is the freedom it offers. In addition to regular Metro service and Omaha B-Cycle, I could use BRT and/or a streetcar for some or all of a trip instead of having to park. (Posted June 6, 2017)

Union Pacific continues PTC progress
June 5, 2017

We had hoped to have a speaker at our April 8 meeting provide an update on the status of the installation of Positive Train Control on the U.S. railroad network, especially those routes used by Amtrak. Unfortunately we couldn't find a speaker, but here is a recent status report about Union Pacific's progress on PTC that appeared in Railway Track and Structures. Click here to read the article.

Kansas City Streetcar marks first anniversary, surpasses 2 million rides

Progressive Railroading, May 8, 2017

The Kansas City Streetcar logged its 2 millionth ride on May 5, one day before the system's first anniversary. The system's leaders originally expected to reach 1 million rides by the first anniversary, The Kansas City Star reported late last week.

In 2016, the streetcar had a daily average ridership of 5,860, Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) officials said in a press release.

The agency has expanded Sunday hours to meet ridership demands. In addition, KCSA officials plan to purchase two additional vehicles to keep up with the growing number of passengers.

Rides on the Kansas City Streetcar now are free; the streetcar district's property and sales tax revenues cover operating expenses, according to the Star.

Minnesota DOT, FRA unveil environmental review of NLX project

Progressive Railroading - April 25, 2017

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Federal Railroad Administration have released an environmental assessment for the Northern Lights Express (NLX) higher-speed passenger-rail project.

The NLX would run on 152 miles of existing BNSF Railway Co. track between Minneapolis and Duluth. Trains would make four daily round trips at speeds up to 90 mph.

The assessment addresses specific project-related issues and likely environmental effects associated with proposed track infrastructure, stations and layover and maintenance facilities. The assessment also includes measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate those impacts.

The "Tier II" assessment builds on a previous assessment prepared in 2013 and will enable MnDOT to advance the project into further design and development, according to a press release from the department.

The latest assessment was developed in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation since the line could include a stop in Superior, Wis.

MnDOT is holding three public meetings next month to provide local residents with more information on the assessment.

Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study

By Laura Kliewer, Director, Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission

The 12 Midwestern state DOTs and MIPRC are the "lead stakeholders" for the Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study. The person representing the Nebraska DOR is Abe Anshasi, the DOR's Rail Section Manager. The FRA also selected the Omaha - Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) to be on the Stakeholder Planning Group (Greg Youell, the MAPA's Executive Director, is the person representing that agency). Lastly, NARP is representing the state passenger rail advocacy groups. Jim Mathews is the designated person representing NARP, but Sean Jeans-Gail was the one at the 1st workshop in March in Chicago.

The FRA now has a website up that provides an overview of the project, meeting materials, stakeholder information, etc. It is at and I encourage everyone to take a look at it. I would also encourage anyone who wants to follow the project to email the FRA's project manager for the study (Peter Schwartz, FRA Project Manager at and ask to be added to the interested party list. You'll then get periodic information from them, as well as information on how to call in to listen in on the stakeholder planning workshops (the next workshop is planned for June 7).

NDOR to Host Meeting on Intercity Bus Usage

Posted Tuesday, April 4, 2017

 The Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) in collaboration with the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) will hold a series of public information open houses regarding a study of Nebraska Intercity Bus Usage. All meetings are 5-7 P.M. The meetings are scheduled between April 10 and 27 at locations across the state. Click here for a list of the meetings.

KC Streetcar Authority to buy more vehicles, increase service

Progressive Railroading - April 3, 2017

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) is negotiating with CAF USA Inc. to purchase two additional vehicles to meet ridership demands, The Kansas City Star reported late last week. 

The agency now operates a four-vehicle fleet. Including parts and warranty, each new vehicle could cost $5 million, according to the newspaper. 

It may take two years to build the units.

KCSA also is expanding Sunday hours as ridership grows. The agency plans to run streetcars from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday instead of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

KCSA has logged total ridership since the system opened in May 2016 at 1,787,746 rides. The authority expects to reach 2 million total rides by the system's first anniversary.

Trump budget ends funding of Amtrak long-distance trains, TIGER grants

From Progressive Railroading, Thursday, March 16, 2017 (with edits)

President Donald Trump's proposed federal budget blueprint would cut the U.S. Department of Transportation's budget by $2.4 billion, or 13 percent, to $16.2 billion, according to the document.

Regarding rail, the budget calls for terminating federal support for Amtrak's long-distance service; eliminating the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant program; and limiting funding for the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Program (New Starts) to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only. Omaha's Dodge Street Bus Rapid Transit Project is funded in part by a TIGER grant.

The budget request streamlines the department to focus on "vital federal safety oversight functions and investing in nationally and regionally significant transportation infrastructure projects," the document states. "The budget reduces or eliminates programs that are either inefficient, duplicative of other federal efforts, or that involve activities that are better delivered by states, localities or the private sector," it says.

For Amtrak, the budget would restructure and reduce federal subsidies to the national intercity passenger railroad to focus on services within regions. It eliminates federal support for long-distance Amtrak services, "which long have been inefficient and incur the vast majority of Amtrak's operating losses," according to the document. "This would allow Amtrak to focus on better managing its state-supported and Northeast Corridor train services," it states.

Amtrak's 15 long-distance trains offer the only Amtrak service in 23 of the 46 states the railroad serves. Eliminating funding for long-distance routes could impact many of the 500 communities served by Amtrak, the railroad's President and Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman said in a prepared statement. Nebraska would be one of the 23 states losing Amtrak service.

"These trains connect our major regions, provide vital transportation to residents in rural communities and generate connecting passengers and revenue for our Northeast Corridor and state-supported services," said Moorman. "Amtrak is very focused on running efficiently - we covered 94 percent of our total network operating costs through ticket sales and other revenues in FY16 - but these services all require federal investment."

Moorman said Amtrak officials look forward to ensuring that Trump, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Congress "understand the value of Amtrak's long-distance trains and what these proposed cuts would mean to this important part of the nation's transportation system."

The $2.4 billion cut in transportation spending will help fund the $54 billion increase in defense spending to help make America great again!

The real welfare Cadillacs have 18 wheels 
Posted by Clyde Anderson, March 12, 2017

I'm often asked why so much truck traffic is on the highways instead of moving by rail. My answer? It's mostly economics. For short to medium-haul traffic, especially high-value commodities, movement by truck is faster and often cheaper. This essay by Joe Cortright explains why trucking is often cheaper than rail -- trucking is heavily subsidized. If railroads enjoyed a larger share of short to medium-haul traffic, they could often offer lower rates than trucks while providing reliable service. 

Link to Joe Cortright's essay

Omaha streetcar financial assessment completed
Written by Dan Templeton - Wednesday, March 01, 2017 -

OMAHA City Council has received a final financial assessment of the proposed Omaha Urban Circulator, which is estimated to cost $US 156m and scheduled to open in 2022. The assessment estimates that the running costs will increase from $US 7.4m in the opening year, to $US 8.9m annually by 2041.

The 5.1km line would run from the University of Nebraska Medical Center on 42nd Street and Farnam Street east to TD Ameritrade Park, linking north and south Omaha to the city centre. The financial report proposes a range of funding sources including: federal grants, donations, bonds, tax-increment financing and parking fees. Omaha mayor Jean Stothert says she does not expect to raise taxes to fund the project.

The $US 181,000 financial assessment was funded by a federal grant plus with contributions from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Mutual of Omaha, Omaha Public Power District, Metropolitan Utilities District, Metropolitan Area Planning Agency and Downtown Omaha Improvement District. Investment in public transport is seen as necessary due to the continued growth in Omaha. Around 5000 housing units will be built within the study area by 2035 while the number of offices and retail buildings is expected to increase by 35%. Three major hotels are also planned, almost doubling the number of hotel rooms available within the city.

Stothert says that no decision will be made without public meetings but an advisory committee of business people, real estate developers, and city experts will now be appointed to explore potential funding options suggested by the assessment.

Megabus to resume Omaha-to-Chicago route, add Lincoln stop

Omaha World Herald - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Megabus typically loads at sidewalk stops like along

the west side of 72nd St at Crossroads Mall in Omaha

Megabus is back, by popular demand.

The bus line will restore service to Chicago from Omaha and cities across Iowa, and will for the first time add service from Lincoln. It's doing so by partnering with Carroll, Iowa, bus operator Windstar Lines.

Service will begin March 1, with one trip daily in each direction between Lincoln and Chicago, with stops in Omaha, Des Moines, Iowa City and Moline, Illinois, another new city on the route. Additional trips may be added on weekends and holidays.

Windstar will manage bus operations, but passengers will book tickets at New Jersey-based Megabus, which touts low prices, said it would celebrate the launch by selling 500 seats for $1 apiece in the first week of service. One-way ticket prices will typically range from $1 to $75 between Lincoln and Chicago, and from $1 to $69 between Omaha and Chicago, Megabus said.

From Chicago, travelers can make connections to the larger Megabus network, serving more than 120 cities.

The bus will leave Lincoln from near the Amtrak station, on the west side of Pinnacle Arena Drive at Q Street. In Omaha, the bus will leave from Crossroads Mall at 72nd and Dodge Streets, the same stop served before. The bus departs Lincoln at 11 a.m.; return trips arrive at 9 p.m. It departs Omaha at 12:05 p.m.; return trips arrive at 7:55 p.m. The bus arrives in Chicago at 8:50 p.m. and departs at 11 a.m.

Click here to view the full article.

ProRail - Your Voice Before the Nebraska Legislature

Testimony in Support of LB 339

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee

Submitted on Behalf of ProRail Nebraska

January 30, 2017  

TO: Members of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee

RE: LB 339 - Merge the Department of Aeronautics into the Department of Roads and rename as the Department of Transportation

First, I want to thank Senator Friesen for introducing LB 339. My appreciation is also extended to the rest of this committee for their work on behalf of the citizens of Nebraska.

I am here today representing ProRail Nebraska and have just a few short comments. This non-profit advocacy group focuses on increased passenger rail services as well as other public transportation options within the state.

For some time, one of the objectives of our organization has been advocating for the creation of a Nebraska Department of Transportation. This has been one of our objectives because we recognize that fully integrating all forms of transportation into one department benefits the citizens of Nebraska. Transportation by road, air, rail, and river all play a part in ensuring the future success of our state, but currently there is no agency in Nebraska tasked with coordinating all of these transportation modes to assure the best mix and greatest value to our citizens.

Please vote to advance LB339 from your committee.

Thank You.  

Matthew Roque, President

ProRail Nebraska

Informational Session on the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact

for Nebraska State Senators and Staff

January 11, 2017 - By Bob Kuzelka

The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) Information Session today with Nebraska Legislators at the State Capitol went very well. Click here to view the agenda. A total of 21 persons attended from 17 senators' office and the Business and Labor Committee. Thirteen senators were there. Thanks to Matt Roque for helping and speaking effectively.

Iowa Pacific withdraws from Hoosier State Train service

Progressive Railroading - January 31, 2017


Amtrak's Hoosier State at Dyer, IN Aug. 9, 2015

(Photo: Russel John Sekeet)

Amtrak will take over the Hoosier State passenger-rail service from Iowa Pacific Holdings starting March 1, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announced yesterday.

Iowa Pacific has operated the state train under an agreement with INDOT and Amtrak since July 2015. The railroad company "notified INDOT that it would soon be unable to continue providing passenger train equipment and onboard services under the terms of the existing contract," INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said in an email.

"INDOT and Iowa Pacific came to mutual agreement to transition the service between Feb. 28 and March 1," he said.

Ridership and revenue have exceeded Amtrak's projections for the Hoosier State, which operates between Indianapolis and Chicago, Wingfield said.

The service will transition to Amtrak rail cars, locomotives and onboard services starting March 1. Amtrak crews will continue to operate the service, Wingfield said. He told the Lafayette Journal & Courier that Iowa Pacific wanted more money than was budgeted under the contract.

"We are certainly grateful to INDOT for providing the opportunity to demonstrate that service enhancements can drive improvements in customer satisfaction, revenue and ridership, and we wish INDOT well as they transition to a different service model," said Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis in a prepared statement.

Iowa Pacific chose to end its involvement in the Hoosier State service because the company is "reducing marginal business units to focus on its core business," Ellis said in a subsequent email.

Webmaster's Note: It will be interesting and educational when more information becomes available why Iowa Pacific chose to end its relationship with Indiana's Hoosier State operation. Will it affect other proposed non-Amtrak operators providing corridor services in the Mid-West? 

So far none of the articles mention the stiff bus competition offered by MegaBus in the Chicago - Indianapolis corridor. While Amtrak offers one train each way daily taking 5' 5" and costs $31 to $38 for a "Value" rate ticket, MegaBus operates 6 buses each way daily, 3' 30" schedule and $19 fare. However, Megabus serves no intermediate stops. No wonder the Hoosier State can't compete! (Clyde)

ProRail Receives Results for Nebraska Railroad Survey  

ProRail requested UNL's Bureau of Business Research to add four passenger rail-related questions to its Nebraska Annual Social Indicator Survey (NASIS) which was conducted last Fall. Responses to the four questions were favorable indicating a strong support for rail passenger service by Nebraska residents.  Click here to view the summary.

Results will be available for use in our legislative work in the 2017 Unicameral Session.

Posted 2/2/2017.

Denver RTD's R Line to open in late February

Progressive Railroading - January 31, 2017


The Regional Transportation District of Denver's (RTD) R Line light-rail route will open for service Feb. 24, the agency announced yesterday.

The line includes 10.5 miles of new track from the Nine Mile Station to the Peoria Station in Aurora, Colo. R Line trains will operate on existing track from the Lincoln Station in Lone Tree, Colo. to the Nine Mile Station.

The entire route runs 22 miles, RTD officials said in a press release. R Line trains will serve 16 stations total, including eight new ones.

"The R Line is a signature project for RTD, the city of Aurora, and our region," said RTD General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Dave Genova. "The line is significant in that it completes another important connection and mobility opportunity on the eastern side of the metro area, connecting commuters to important destinations throughout the line."

The R Line is part of RTD's "FasTracks" expansion plan, which voters approved in 2004.

Kiewit Infrastructure built the line, which cost $687 million, the Denver Business Journal reported.

Growing amenities draw more dwellers downtown

Kansas City Star, Sunday, November 20, 2016

When Alex Walter and his girlfriend Carolina Holden decided to get an apartment together, they knew they wanted to be downtown. Walter was living in an old building a few blocks west of their current home in the brand-new 1914 Main building, but it wasn't close enough to the action.

"I felt like I wanted to be closer to First Fridays, and closer to the streetcar line," Walter said.

Walter and Holden are part of a growing number of people choosing life downtown to be near its growing arts community, creative venues and great restaurants. It is a style of living attracting native Kansas Citians, like Walter, who grew up in Lenexa but likes urban living. It is also providing a spot for transplants, like Holden, who has lived in many cities around the world, to feel at home.

The inaugural Urban Homes Tour, on Dec. 10, will offer a glimpse of downtown living. The free self-guided tour, part of the larger Downtown Dazzle event, will feature 20 properties with holiday cookies, seasonal cocktails, raffles and contests. Guests are encouraged to ride the KC Streetcar between properties.

Downtown Dazzle takes place the first three weekends in December and includes family-friendly and adults-only festivities in Crown Center, Power & Light, City Market and Union Station.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Attending the NARP Advocacy Symposium and Meeting in Denver

By Jim Hanna, ProRail Nebraska Director, District 4 & Liaison to NARP

I was approached in early August by Jim Souby, the president of ColoRail and the Mountain and Plains Division Leader of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), about the possibility that I might become the Nebraska representative on the NARP Council, replacing Roger Clark, who moved to Arizona and has become their state rep.  This posed a small problem, as I was not a NARP member at that time.  He suggested that I attend the fall NARP Advocacy Symposium and Meeting in Denver, scheduled for October 14 through 16, 2016.  After careful consideration I decided to attend, so I joined NARP, which can be done rather conveniently online, and began planning the trip.  

Aerial view of Denver Union Station - 2016 (RTD Photo)

NARP always schedules their meetings in cities with Amtrak service, so I decided that the event would be a good excuse for a train trip and that my wife and I would get there a few days early and do some sightseeing.  It turned out that this meeting attracted a larger turnout than expected, and by the time I got registered the discounted rooms at the downtown Embassy Suites, the conference hotel, were all booked.  Initially we were afraid that this would pose some problems without a car at our disposal, but through some web searching and verification by Google Earth and phone calls, we found a Marriott hotel that was only two blocks from the Southmoor light rail station.  One of the three lines that serve that station terminates at Denver Union Station where Amtrak also stops, which was convenient.  Two of the other lines make a loop through the downtown area with a stop at the Convention Center, which is just across the corner from the Embassy Suites.  Our transportation quandary was solved.

View of Denver Union Station's modern train shed - 2016 (RTD photo)

We boarded the California Zephyr in Omaha on the evening of October 10.  The train was actually a few minutes early arriving, so we pulled out at precisely 11:05 p.m., the scheduled departure time.  The journey was comfortable and uneventful, with large reclining seats that make it possible to sleep relatively well.  I do recall waking briefly at each of the other four Nebraska stops.

Click here to read Jim's full report (10-page PDF including more photos)

Nebraska Railroad News

Dick Schmeling & Clyde Anderson - Nov. 7, 2016

BNSF's track laying machine began laying concrete ties and ribbon rail near Pleasant Dale Sept 1st building 5.7 miles of second  main track to Milford. Work was completed as of Sept 23rd but more time was needed for ballasting, surfacing and signal upgrades. It could be in service by Nov 3rd.

Effective November 1st, BNSF has eliminated Ravenna as an intermediate crew-change point for trains operating between Lincoln and Alliance, a distance of 367 miles. This is probably the longest crew district in the state! It will be interesting to see haw many trains complete this long run without having to be recrewed.

A westbound U.P. passenger train was seen in Omaha on the Lane Cutoff with two large G.E. units and 16 cars about 8:30 am on Monday, Nov. 7th.

Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) Annual Meeting

St. Louis, MO (originating in Chicago)

September 27 through 29, 2016

Submitted by Bob Kuzelka ( on October 15, 2015

The meeting began in Chicago with a brief tour of renovations underway at Union Station, and a ride on Amtrak's Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio, Texas) to St. Louis. Aboard the train, commissioners, partners and allies heard about - and saw - ongoing work to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis corridor to 110-mph service between Joliet and Alton by the end of 2017 or early 2018. They also received an update from Amtrak, with a special emphasis on state-supported routes.


Participants in the MIPRC Annual Meeting at Kirkwood, MO Depot

The St. Louis portion of the meeting included a half-day trip on the state-supported Missouri River Runner to Kirkwood for a tour of that city's historic station (see photo, below) and presentations on how the city has embraced the station as both a gateway and popular civic space/downtown anchor; and on the success of the Missouri River Runner service and the Missouri Passenger Rail Advisory Committee (MORPAC).

 Commissioners spent Wednesday afternoon and all of Thursday at the St. Louis City Center hotel hearing and discussing presentations from the MIPRC states on the status of their passenger rail programs/activities, along with reviews of MIPRC's past-year activities and the pending Midwest regional rail planning project with the Federal Railroad Administration. They also reviewed the Universities and Colleges Passenger Rail Survey and discussed steps to follow up on its findings and recommendations. Other topics included updates on federal passenger rail-related legislation and rulings, the Next Generation Equipment Committee and the status of new equipment coming to the Midwest.

Commission business included election of commission officers for FY 2017: Tim Hoeffner, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation's Office of Rail (and Governor Snyder's designee to the commission) as MIPRC's chair; Joan Bray, Missouri Gov. Nixon's designee to the commission, as vice chair; and Kansas Sen. Carolyn McGinn as financial officer.

Click here to read the rest of Bob's report.

Reconnecting the Midwest Region

Midwest High Speed Rail Association - Nov. 7, 2016

High-speed rail will transform the Midwest by transforming the way we travel. Dramatic reductions in travel time, combined with increased flexibility and lower user cost, will mean that people travel more often. This increase in productivity and innovation, together with stronger family connections, will create a more vibrant and attractive region.

Join our community today and become a part of a movement to transform our region.

Recent studies have found that a four-spoke, 220-mph Midwest high-speed rail network would have a staggering economic impact on the region. By 2030 the benefits of such a network would include an annual reduction in 4.3 billion highway miles, 3 billion air travel miles, 26 million hours of time spent in roadway congestion, 127 million gallons of gasoline and 1.4 million tons of pollutant emissions.

Please join or donate today to support this vision for the Midwest.

NARP report on autonomous cars

NARP News Hotline, Friday, October 14, 2016

Webmaster's Note: The ProRail Nebraska Board at its meeting Saturday, October 15, passed a resolution to monitor the development and implementation of autonomous vehicle technology in Nebraska and oppose any proposals to reduce public transit services in anticipation of this new technology.

A report that NARP discussed last week on autonomous vehicles and their potential to change the future of rail transit, has garnered significant attention from media and readers. We noted that the report, "Will Autonomous Vehicles Derail Trains?" ignores new trends in resettlement patterns that have seen young and educated professionals moving to cities and walkable communities that has led to steady growth in passenger rail service, with cities and states looking to develop new rail lines and multi-modal stations. In addition, rail transit is technology that that readily available for the development of passenger rail networks, and it is a mode of transportation that people are familiar with, and can rely on.

This familiarity with rail its technology is something that autonomous vehicles don't have with the majority of the American public yet. The technology is not fully developed, and this poses a challenge for many developers as studies have indicated mixed feelings from consumers about self-driving cars. A report from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) found that 70 percent of respondents were ready to test a self-driving car, but a survey released by the Altman Vilandrie and Company last month shows that 64 percent of people indicated they would not buy an automated vehicle because they believe the technology is dangerous. In addition, a University of Michigan survey earlier this year found less than 16 percent of consumers were totally OK with having fully autonomous cars.

The mixed-bag of results could stem from inexperience with autonomous cars, but the technology could also face a series of regulatory hurdles before they are available for purchase by the masses. Currently, a patchwork of state regulations exist throughout the country. Guidelines for driverless cars unveiled by the White House last month sought to establish a uniform framework and clarify the state versus federal role, although it's a legally non-binding document. The guidance suggests that states be responsible for licensing human drivers, enforcing traffic laws and establishing testing requirement, while the policy plan envisions the federal government as having primary control over the actual automation software and recalls.

The council will be chaired by the governor, with State Rail Director Alene Tchourumoff serving as chair.

Omaha Bus Rapid Transit to Start October 20, 2018

On Friday, February 19, Mode Shift Omaha's monthly Coffee Chat forum in Downtown Omaha featured Lauren Cencic, Omaha Metro Transit's Project Manager of Bus Rapid Transit. Lauren provided the following updates on Omaha's BRT Project:

  • The BRT will use 60-ft CNG (compressed natural gas) articulated buses, but the buses haven't been ordered yet. The infrastructure to support CNG (i.e., fueling stations) is being subsidized with grants from the Metropolitan Utilities District and the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

  • The BRT route on Dodge Street east of 30th St. will included dedicated transit lanes on both sides of the street. Only buses, not cars, will operate eastbound on Dodge on this segment.

  • In designing station stops (see the map above), O-Metro will favor far-side stops -- locating the stops on the far side of the intersection. This not only speeds up traffic, but eliminates the hazard of passengers walking in front of the bus to cross the street.

  • The BRT will have traffic light pre-emptive control to speed the movement of buses in the corridor.

  • The BRT will use a pre-pay fare system so passengers don't pay their fares on the bus. This allows fast "flood" loading and unloading at stations where passengers can board at any door on the bus. There will be fare card machines at the stations and fare inspectors making random fare payment enforcement.

  • Stations will be approximately 80 ft. long by 12 ft. wide, but this will vary with location. Stations will all feature shelters, and many will have facilities for bicycle parking/storage.

  • There will be bicycle racks inside the buses, and several designs are being studied.

  • Local non-BRT buses will probably not use the BRT stops but rather nearby local bus stops for easy transfers.

  • The Westroads Shopping Center has been favorable to expanded commuter parking near the Westroads Transit Center.

  • Mode Shift Omaha has representation on the Omaha BRT Stakeholders Committee.

  • Operations are scheduled to begin on October 20, 2018.

Clyde Anderson - posted 2/27/2016

ProRail Supports Transit Improvements

In Omaha and Lincoln

By Clyde Anderson - August 31, 2015


One of ProRail Nebraska's objectives is advocating for the expansion of the use and accessibility of the AMTRAK stations in the state as hubs for all surface public and private passenger transportation systems. 


Lincoln's StarTrans bus transit system has scheduled two public meetings in September to get public input possible transit service improvements for Lincoln. Click here for details.


Former ProRail President Dick Schmeling, with the blessing of the ProRail Board, sent StarTrans a letter suggesting that it relocate its Downtown Transit Center to the Haymarket District with easy access to the new Amtrak station. The City should also encourage Burlington Trailways and Arrow Stage Lines to relocate their joint inter-city bus terminal from the industrial area northeast of Lincoln to the new Downtown Transit Center. This would facilitate easy connections between StarTrans, Amtrak, and intercity bus services.


Dick has recently organized Citizens For Improved Transit (CFIT) to advocate for improved transit services in Lincoln.

Artwork by Paul Fell

Omaha's Metro Bus System did a similar study a few years ago, and it is presently in the design stage for its new Dodge Street Bus Rapid Transit. Clyde has attended most of OMetro's public planning meetings. Mode Shift Omaha serves as Omaha's advocacy group for non-car transportation (transit, pedestrian, biking), and it's web site has some excellent postings about Bus Rapid Transit.  executive told a Senate committee earlier this week.

Transportation for America is a coalition seeking to align our national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development. N.A.R.P. is a member of this coalition.

ProRail Nebraska advocates safe, environmentally-friendly, fuel efficient, affordable, comfortable, and all-weather mobility that rail transportation can provide.


We think trains need more prominence in the U.S. because:

  • Trains provide more mobility and travel choices, especially in the post-2001 travel environment.
  • A wisely developed train network has great potential to accommodate future travel demand.
  • Trains are energy-efficient -- Intercity (Amtrak) trains are far more efficient than airlines (2441 Btu's per passenger-mile vs. 3999 for airlines in 1998, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory).
  • Increased use of trains reduces America's dependence on foreign oil.
  • Trains are safe, especially in bad weather.
  • Trains contribute to development which is more compact and less wasteful than auto-oriented development.
  • Trains pollute less than other modes of transportation.

(above courtesy National Association of Railroad Passengers)




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Updated 06/20/2017