The annual Fall meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers was held last weekend in Salt Lake City. I should say first of all that it’s an impressive city, wide streets, nicely maintained, and wonderful new light rail and TRAX transit systems. The city itself is set in a broad valley surrounded by spectacular snow-capped mountains. (Be warned, however: when a native tells you the restaurant you’re looking for is seven blocks that-a-way, a “block” in Salt Lake City is two or three times longer than in any city I’ve ever visited.)
Featured speakers at the meeting were Joseph Szabo, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration and Thomas Hall, Amtrak’s Chief of Customer Service. These are two heavyweights in their respective arenas and it was gratifying that they felt the NARP meeting of sufficient importance to travel that distance to be with us.
For me, however, the star of the show was Ralph Becker
, Salt Lake City’s mayor. Most mayors show up, thank us for visiting their city, and leave …. but Mayor Becker spoke to us extemporaneously for more than 30 minutes. He is intelligent, articulate, witty and extremely well informed on transportation issues. He is also extremely popular with the electorate. Consider this: in an otherwise solidly conservative Republican state, Mayor Becker is a Democrat who was re-elected two years ago with more than 70-percent of the vote. Believe me, these days, that is a very big Wow!
There was the usual amount of internal business with which to contend, and it was the first opportunity for NARP members to see and hear our new President and CEO, Jim Mathews. Jim is a thorough professional … experienced, competent, decisive … and he articulated his vision for NARP in the future. Trust me on this: NARP is on the move!
Also of interest, I think, the NARP Council voted to approve a set of standards which we will provide to any communities building new railway stations or renovating existing facilities. Not every community will need stations that incorporate all the recommended standards, but the approved NARP list will certainly be helpful and, in the long run, rail passengers will benefit.
NARP’s next meeting will be in Washington beginning Monday, April 20th, and concluding on the 23rd. Details to come.