RUN to Newark on April 28

Written by David Peter Alan, Contributing Editor
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Several editors here at Railway Age, along with rail managers, planners and advocates from the Northeast Region and elsewhere in the country, will RUN to Newark, N.J on April 28 for a conference sponsored by the Rail Users’ Network (RUN).

The theme of the one-day conference will be Good Connections: Why the Northeastern Rail Network Is Important to the Entire U.S. The event will focus on connectivity between different rail services: Amtrak and local railroads in the Mid-Atlantic region, and plans to expand the region’s rail network during what many hope will be the near future.

RUN Chair Richard Rudolph told Railway Age this about the conference: “We are delighted to hold our annual conference on Friday, April 28 at the North Jersey Transportation Authority, located one block from Newark Pennsylvania Station. This is the first time since 2019 that we are holding an in-person conference. This exciting event will not only highlight the ongoing efforts of transportation officials and rail advocates to improve and expand passenger rail service in the Northeastern part of the country, but will also provide conference attendees an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas for improving existing services on Amtrak and other rail transit systems in the Northeast.”

Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono will be the keynote speaker. Also featured will be Arthur S. Guzzetti, Vice President for Mobility Incentive and Public Policy at the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), who plans to give us the latest information on what’s in store for Amtrak and rail transit projects under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL; also known as the Infrastructure Innovation & Jobs Act, IIJA).

The conference will also feature a panel on “Making the Case for Rail,” with pointers on how to promote new rail projects and improvements for existing services, including better funding. This writer will moderate that panel, and fellow Railway Age Contributing Editor and transportation economist Jim Blaze will discuss making the “business case” for passenger trains and rail transit. Andrew Albert, RUN Vice Chair and Chair of the New York City Transit Riders’ Council and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee (PCAC) to the MTA, will focus on “making the case” to managers with decision-making authority. Mark Magyar, Director of the Sweeney Center at Rowan University, and a former journalist and longtime legislative staffer in Trenton, will give us some ideas about how to make the case to elected officials; perhaps the most important constituency of all.

Other speakers will present updates on plans to bring more trains to Western Pennsylvania, Reading and Scranton under Amtrak’s ConnctsUS plan for new state services to be developed between now and 2035. Attendees will also hear about efforts to improve transit equity in Baltimore; the principal city in Maryland, where state-level officials make the decisions about transit on a statewide basis. There will also be updates from Amtrak and the Gateway Program Development Corp. The conference will conclude with a public forum; an opportunity for attendees to share their ideas with others present.

The conference will be held the offices of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), at One Newark Center, one block from Newark Penn Station. The event will also be presented in cooperation with New Jersey Transit and with the Lackawanna Coalition, which has advocated for better rail service in Northern and Central New Jersey since 1979. Its name is derived from lines of Lackawanna Railroad heritage in the region: the Morris & Essex, Montclair, and Gladstone lines, and the organization now advocates for better transit that connects with those Lackawanna-heritage lines.

Admission for in-person attendees is $50.00 for RUN members and $65.00 for non-members, which includes lunch and refreshments. There will also be an opportunity to participate on Zoom for $25.00 (members) and $40.00 (non-members). The fees for non-members will include RUN membership for the rest of 2023. Those costs will go up $5.00 for registrations after April 15. The best place to register is on the RUN website,

According to RUN, the conference is recommended for rail advocates, civic and business leaders, environmentalists, planners, real estate developers and members of the public who are interested in having more trains and better transit serving the region. It would be a good program for journalists, too, since a number will be featured as presenters.

There will be other events connected with the conference, as well. The biggest will be an all-day transit tour on Saturday, a feature of RUN conferences with in-person attendance. The morning part of the tour will feature the stations where NJ Transit’s regional rail and light rail lines connect: Newark Penn Station, Newark Broad Street Station, Hoboken Terminal, Secaucus Junction Station, and New York Penn Station. The tour will include a look at all these facilities, with rides between them on NJ Transit’s various rail services. Joseph M. Clift, former Planning Director for the Long Island Rail Road, will take the group on a walking tour of Penn Station, including the new Moynihan Train Hall.

On the New York side, the highlight will be a visit to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, with some subway rides and an early dinner at Junior’s, a well-known restaurant that has served downtown Brooklyn since 1950. After dinner, it’s back to Manhattan’s East Side for a look at the historic 1913-vintage Grand Central Terminal and the 2023-vintage LIRR Grand Central Madison deep-cavern terminal.

There will be other events. The Lackawanna Coalition is planning an informal dinner in Millburn, N.J., with dessert and coffee in the conference room at Millburn Town Hall, the room in which it has meet continuously throughout its 44-year history. A Friday highlight will be a post-session dinner in the Ironbound, a Newark neighborhood that is nationally famous for its Portugese and Brazilian restaurants. There might even be an additional train ride on Sunday, if enough attendees want one.

RUN originally planned a conference in Newark for the spring of 2020, but the COVID-19 virus struck and pushed many events onto “remote” status. Since that time, RUN’s on-line conferences featured how Amtrak and transit providers dealt with the virus, and then surveyed the passenger rail and transit scenes in four regions: New England, the Midwest, the West and the South. With RUN’s return to in-person conferences, it is time to focus on the transit-rich and corridor-rich Mid-Atlantic region.

So, for a look at Amtrak and transit in the post-COVID future, from both the capital and operating standpoints, and with a view toward expanding the region’s passenger rail network, RUN to Newark on Friday, April 28 and stay for the transit tour, with its focus on connectivity, on Saturday, April 29.

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