Minutes – July 14, 2007 – Lapeer


General Membership Meeting

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lapeer Railroad Station

Lapeer, Michigan


Those Signing In:  Hugh Gurney, Mark Buckley, Steve T. Sobel, Duke Van Til, Vi Van Til, Jim Hinkins, Don Monteith, Clark Charnetski, Robert Patterson, Mike Whims, Dave Randall, Tim Backhurst, John Langdon, Rich Vavra-Musser, Kaz Fujita, Larry Sobczak, Bob Tischbein, Diane Patterson

1) Call to Order:  Chairman Whims called the meeting to order at 10:01 a.m, and declared the meeting to be a General Member Meeting; there being a quorum of members present. He thanked Dick Pekarek for making the arrangements for the meeting in this beautifully restored station which is used today for community meetings as well as a waiting room for Amtrak.  Whims particularly welcomed MARP member Mark Buckley from Amtrak and asked all in attendance to introduce themselves.

2) Minutes of the June 16, 2007 meeting were reviewed.  After clarification as to why Kaz Fujita’s name was not listed among Nominations, acceptance was moved by Duke Van Til, seconded by Steve Sobel, and approved.

3) Executive Director’s Report:  Mike Whims reported that Executive Director John Delora was temporarily ill and could not attend.  John plans to work on research for his talk at the Michigan Railroad History Conference while he is recuperating.

4) Treasurer’s Report: Dave Randall reported that MARP had $4,741.48 in the checking account on June 29, 2007 and $15,749.94 in the Pratt Investment Fund.  We currently have 292 paid members and 15 life members.  Dave will be following up with those who have not renewed.  As requested by Chairman Whims, Randall agreed to assemble the e-mail addresses of all members.  In response to a question from Robert Patterson, Randall indicated that Regional Chairs are given a list of members in their region sorted by Zip code.  Whims urged Regional Chairs to make more use of these lists.  Acceptance of the Treasurer’s Report was moved by Robert Patterson, seconded by Montieth, and approved.

5) Regional Activity Reports:

a) Eastern:  Reporting for Dick Pekarek, Mike Whims reported that Blue Water On Time Performance, though still less than acceptable, had been better during the last month than in any previous reporting period in 2007. Unless requested, Pekarek does not plan to report on this subject at future meetings.

b) Metro: Reporting for Delora, Whims stated that progress was being made on the Howell-Ann Arbor commuter line.  The state has pledged $1.4 million, which comes out to $14.00 per train mile, which Whims thought should be sufficient for operation.  State-funded Amtrak trains receive about $10.00 per train mile from the state.  Depending on when federal funds are approved, service may start in late 2007 or early 2008.

2008 is still the estimated time frame for Ann Arbor-Detroit regional trail service.

MDOT is currently constructing a temporary station at Pontiac to replace the current transportation center which is being torn down.

Clark Charnetski reported that plans for a new station in Dearborn west of the present site are still on track.

c) Northern:  Don Monteith has been checking out bus stations and signage at these stations along the Amtrak Thruway bus lines in Northern Michigan.  Addresses for these stations are correct in the Indian Trails schedules but not in the Amtrak schedules.  Whims indicated he would contact Amtrak and request corrections. After some discussion, it was agreed that MARP should promote Indian Trails service in Northern Michigan, encouraging the state Welcome Centers to stock Indian Trails schedules and working with Indian Trails President McKay on better connections between Amtrak and Indian Trails service.  Whims will invite McKay to a future membership meeting.

Montieth expressed fear that the closing of a paper mill at Gaylord could lead to the ripping out of the present rail line to that community.

d) Western:  John Langdon reported that ownership of the Amtrak station in Holland is up in the air.  He also indicated that the New Buffalo Welcome Center is stocking the Amtrak National schedules, but not the Michigan timetables.  Each Welcome Center can order National and Michigan Amtrak schedules and Indian Trails schedules if they have the correct fulfillment codes.

6.  Committee Reports 

a) Outreach Committee:  In the absence of Michael Frezell, Chairman Whims reviewed the Outreach schedule for the coming months.  The National Model Railroad Show will be in Detroit July 27-29 with setup on the evening of Thursday, July 28.  We have about 100 boxes of material to move into Cobo Center that evening.  Several people will be helping but more help is needed.  Bob Tischbein indicated he could help out.  We have enough people staffing the NARP/MARP table on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The following weekend, August 4-5 is the Crossroads Village/Huckleberry Railroad show.  Gurney & Whims are staffing the MARP table on Saturday, with Fujita & Pekarek working on Sunday.  

b) Ride the Train Committee:  Robert Patterson reported that Amtrak has indicated in their response to his request that they don’ have any extra equipment for a fleet display at this time.  Patterson remains hopeful for the future.  Mark Buckley reported that Amtrak still has equipment that needs to be repaired, including equipment from the Sunset Limited wreck back in 1993.  They are working to get all equipment on line.

c) Route Enhancement Committee:  Several goals have been met or are in the process of being met.  We already have links on the MARP website to Amtrak, VIA, Indian Trails and Greyhound schedules as well as the Lansing-Detroit Metro service which is operated by Indian Trails   We are currently working on adding links to the South Shore line and the Algoma Central Railway.  The committee will meet after lunch to draft a Vision statement.

d) Beautification Committee:  In John Delora’s absence, there was not report.

7) Old Business

a) Newsletter: Whims reported that the Summer, 2007, Michigan Passenger would be printed within the next week and would be available for the National Model Railroad show in Detroit.

b) NorfolkSouthern Michigan Line:  Mike Whims indicated he had sent a letter to the President of NorfolkSouthern urging the company to protect its Michigan assets and expressing concern about passenger safety and service if the rail lines are sold.  He did receive a response stating that NS recognized and respected its obligations to Amtrak.  Within the past week, a new press release was issued announcing a proposed joint venture between NS and Watco Companies of Kansas to be known as Michigan Central Railway that would take over operation of the NS lines running between Ypsilanti and Kalamazoo, Jackson-Lansing and Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo.  Amtrak was mentioned in the press release.   Unspecified track improvements were promised.  The new line will also take over NS trackage rights over Amtrak’s Kalamazoo-Porter line.

In reponse to a John Langdon’s question about sending a letter to the interim president of Michigan Central, Whims said he thought we should wait on that until we see what gets filed at the Surface Transportation Board.  Whims thought it may be good to invite this person to the Annual Meeting. 

8)  New Business

a) Annual Meeting:  The Annual Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, September 8, at the Durand Union Station.  Michigan House Transportation Chairman Hoon-Yung Hopgood has been invited to speak.  Buckley suggested we also invite the head if the new Michigan Central Railway.

b) Member Meetings – Remainder of 2007:  We will meet either October 13 or October 20 in Howell if Gurney can book a meeting room at the Howell Carnegie Public Library and in Kalamazoo on November 17. Failing that, we could swap locations. There will be no meeting in December. The January meeting will be on January 12 at the Lansing Public Library.

c) Detroit Terminal Railroad Trail:  After discussing the proposal for a Rails to Trails trail along the abandoned Detroit Terminal Railroad through Highland Park, Langdon moved that MARP support this proposal with the caveat that if ever needed, the right of way would be available again for rail service in accordance with the Rails to Trails program. The motion was seconded by Buckley and passed.

d) MARP Membership in NARP:  Up until this point, John Delora has paid the NARP membership dues on behalf of MARP.  John  Langdon moved that MARP pay for a membership in NARP.  The motion was seconded by Fujita and passed.

e) Station Photo File:  In John Delora’s absence, no report was made.

f) MARP Vision Statement:  Chairman Whims asked the Route Enhancement Committee to do a Vision Statement for MARP.  NARP has recently done a Vision Statement and wants us to do something similar. The statement needs to be short and precise and focused on passenger train service.  The Vision Statement should be something MARP can share with people who don’t have a lot of time to go into details, but need the big picture, such as legislators or members of chambers of commerce.  The Route Enhancement Committee will meet after lunch today to take up the Vision Statement.

9) Other Business: Whims handed out information on Amtrak funding to date.  Langdon urged that we press for more equipment to be provided by Amtrak in the 2008 Fiscal Year state contract.  Whims agreed, stating that each train should have a full business car where seats would be sold at a premium.  Business cars could be quiet cars as well in Buckley’s opinion. 

Charnetski expressed concern with the connections between the Lansing-Ann Arbor-Dearborn-Detroit-Toledo Thruway bus and eastbound trains out of Toledo and connections out of Washington to other routes.  Buckley recommended two Thruway busses, one Lansing-Ann Arbor-Toledo and the second Saginaw-Flint-Detroit-Toledo. 

Vavra-Musser alerted the group of a Berrien County-Chicago high speed rail meeting on August 20 at the Twin Cities Airport in Benton Harbor.

In reponse to a question from Robert Patterson, it was agreed that MARP would encourage members to take the Owosso-Cadillac Fall Color Train on October 27.  Members would be asked to book directly with Lake Central.

10)  Adjournment:  The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.

Respecfully submitted:

Hugh D. Gurney for Secretary Jim Wallington



Michael Whims, Chair