Today is an auspicious occasion, marking a new beginning for a group of advocates whose shared history can be traced back more than 45 years: The Texas Association of Railroad Passengers.
On May 1st, 1971, the recently formed Amtrak issued its first national timetable. That schedule book included a system map, clearly indicating intercity passenger train service to Dallas was to be restored "as soon as possible." After several feeble attempts and false starts, the date finally arrived: Thursday, 14 March '74.
During the planning stages, a cadre of citizens teamed with a few politicians to create the Dallas City-County Amtrak Committee. The late Dr. Dan Monaghan was the de facto leader of this group. Among his many accomplishments was the purchase and refurbishment of Dallas' Union Terminal building (and associated facilities) by the city in preparation for Amtrak's arrival.
It was this committee that became the nascent Texas Association of Railroad Passengers.
Dr. Dan went on to establish MobilityDallas. He played an important role in the eventual formation of DART and served two separate terms on its board.
The Texas Association - in cooperation with, but independent of, other advocacy groups (such as the National Association of Railroad Passengers) - continued to stand on the front lines, along the way celebrating a few victories (new routes and new equipment) and bearing the burden of some soul-crushing losses (the death of Amtrak's Lone Star and the bankruptcy of Paradise, Union Terminal's restaurant operation).
It was during the late 1990s that a good friend of the passenger train came forward with some fresh ideas and an abundant source of energy: Tim Geeslin. The Texas Association of Rail Passengers (as it was known at the time) was officially incorporated as a non-profit group and adopted a new set of goals, generally coincident with the arrival of DART and the Trinity Railway Express. Around the turn of the century, Texas was blessed with several newly built and refurbished station facilities, as well as a restored interest in rail-based transit services.
Now, with the official launch of our new web site, TEX-ARP enters the modern era!
The second decade of the 21st century has brought with it a whole new set of challenges: Amtrak's effective stagnation; the lack of any substantive progress toward a national transportation policy; talk (and more talk) regarding true, dedicated high-speed services; well-entrenched (and even better funded) opposition to railway initiatives. It is in this atmosphere that today's Texas Association of Railroad Passengers must operate. It is during this time in history that TEX-ARP must succeed!
Many have wondered if our group's work is even necessary, given the presence of other associations like Texas Rail Advocates and its well established record of success (including the annual Southwestern Rail Conference). Certainly, TEX-ARP will continue to work along side T.R.A. as we strive to meet common objectives.
Still, there is a way in which this association can serve Texas and Texans with distinction, providing a unique service to our membership and to all those who benefit from TEX-ARP's efforts:
We have been, are now and will continue to be a unified voice for the railroad passenger.
Those who currently ride trains - and those who wish they had trains to ride - cannot best be served by groups whose primary objectives mesh with existing and would-be train operators. The companies and agencies which plan, develop and run various rail-based passenger services, along with the many players in today's for-profit railway industry, often do not share the railroad passenger's sincere desire for "more trains to more places." That fact, in itself, is not good or bad; it simply is.
Yet, given that fact, the solution seems straightforward: an independent voice is not only desirable, but required!
So, who will represent the railway passenger? Who will stand up for the best interests of those already advocating both multi-modalism and true intermodalism? Who will be the voice for the people that are simply looking for an alternative to the transport disaster this state, nation and continent has created for itself?!
The Texas Association of Railroad Passengers - TEX-ARP - wants to be that voice! With your help, we can be!
Won't you join us?
Garl B. Latham