As you notice, we have a new home – www.pioneertrain.org – courtesy of All Aboard Washington, the Evergreen State’s passenger-rail advocacy organization. Our former host, Visit Cheyenne (the Cheyenne Area Convention and Visitors Bureau) has retired from that role, which it fulfilled since the website’s 2009 inauguration. Thanks to their CEO and president, Darren Rudloff, and his staff for their long and able help in getting information about the Pioneer out to you these several years.
And likewise thanks to All Aboard Washington’s Zack Wilhoite and Charles Hamilton for their help with transferring the site, and with its ongoing maintenance. Such matters leave your technically challenged coordinator cowering.
A new and independent study of the feasibility of the Pioneer corridor continues to be our main focus. We have been discussing such a study with the National Center for Intermodal Transportation at Mississippi State University for some time, but our hopes got a major lift recently when Dr. Hugh Medal, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at MSU, expressed interest in performing the study. He has already put together a team from MSU and the University of New Orleans to help him with the work.
This represents major progress, but there remains the usual question: money. Some funds would be available through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Centers program, but this needs to be matched 50-50 by other sources. Dr. Medal has identified some matching money, but it remains for us to find roughly $50-75,000 to complete the funding.
So….Where do we get that kind of money?
Thus far the Pioneer Restoration Organization has run essentially on volunteer labor. I myself have done little fund-raising in my life, but am learning fast now, as I begin contacting potential backers. The Pioneer effort would benefit greatly from your help right now, as we face this crucial question – a challenge but also and an opportunity to get us to the next crucial stage. Congress, which as ever occupies the key decision-making role, will pay attention to credible academic research. All Congress has had to go on thus far, however, is the Amtrak service feasibility of 2009, which simply restated the old Pioneer’s shortcomings, without the keen eye for opportunities that can turn a good idea into a thriving enterprise.
The future’s Pioneer – or whatever it may be called – would be more than a train. It would from the backbone of an intermodal system that could bring more effective mobility options to an entire swath of the country. The potential public benefit of transportation in the nation’s less populated countryside continues to increase as pressures on the airline industry continue to translate into dismal air service prospects for rural America. As National Association of Railroad Passengers chairman Bob Stewart pointed out recently, more and more smaller communities across the map face a future in which rail could be the only intercity transportation option.
Such is our context, and I hope that we’ll rise to the occasion by renewing our efforts, and focusing them on the potential which an independent study of the Pioneer corridor’s possibilities presents.
All the best,
C.B. Hall, coordinator