Report by Robert Manning, RailPAC Director
It was suggested that I attend the TEMPO meeting which was held Saturday, September 26, 2009 in Temple, Texas. I had heard of this group, but their web site which I thought was rather bland did not give much detail or an agenda regarding this meeting. I was also told that this group saved the Amtrak train, the Texas Eagle, which was slated to be cut.
Well, I attended the TEMPO meeting and was very much impressed with this dedicated group of passenger train advocates. First of all, these folks couldn’t have been any nicer. They made certain that my transportation was provided and that I was invited to all of the venues. I met Dr. Bill Pollard the Chairman of TEMPO, and Bill went into great detail explaining the philosophy of this group. The TEMPO group, which was organized in 1997, recruited the mayors, city council members, convention and visitor’s members, chamber of commerce members and judges. In Texas, judges preside over the county supervisors.
Along the entire line from Chicago to San Antonio which is served by the Texas Eagle, this group came together and successfully saved this train! Mr. Pollard went on to say that they will keep the system running, improve service, equipment, and connections with other trains and they will expand the system. Bill also said the TEMPO group works well with Amtrak to accomplish their goals but, at times has taken an adversarial role in which to express their needs.
The TEMPO meeting was held in the museum portion of the former Santa Fe train station which also serves as an Amtrak station. This beautiful old two story structure has been completely renovated and is called the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum. This train station provided an excellent venue for this rail advocate meeting.
The meeting started with Temple Texas Mayor Pro Tem, Patsy Luna giving the welcome message. The speakers included a host of other city representatives served by the Texas Eagle, also including speakers from Union Pacific Railroad, Trails & Rails, National Park Service and Amtrak.
Some of the highlights of the meeting were given by Amtrak’s Brian Rosenwald, Chief Product Management and Richard Phelps, Vice President of Transportation. Brian stated the following:
The Sunset Limited will go before the Amtrak Board of Directors and they will in all probability approve daily service.
Dining car will be added to the Texas Eagle, with breakfast served from San Antonio. Congress mandated that Amtrak customer service must achieve a 90% goal in the next seven years.
Mr. Phelps stated that Amtrak is working closely with the states in order to develop a standard car shell to fund a continuing order for a domestic manufacture. Richard concluded his statement by saying Amtrak wishes to grow the system and improve connect ability.