Saturday, May 12, 2007
Padnos Transportation Center
Those Signing In:: Clark Charnetski, Don Montieth, Kay Chase, Richard Pekarek, John Langdon, Steve Sobel, John Delora, Diane Patterson, Robert Patterson, Mike Whims, Burton TenBrink, Ken Ratzlaff, Hugh Gurney
Also Present: Jesse Auerbach, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Call to Order: Chairman Whims called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m. After thanking John Langdon for making the arrangements for the meeting, those present were asked to introduce themselves and where they were from. Whims welcomed Jesse Auerbach from the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago. In the absence of Secretary Jim Wallington, Whims asked Hugh Gurney to record the minutes.
Minutes: Approval of the minutes of the April 14 meeting was moved by Delora, seconded by Sobel, and approved unanimously
Executive Director Report: John Delora reported on the recent NARP meeting he attended in Washington, D.C., saying it was the most encouraging meeting he has attended since he has been on the NARP Board of Directors. Amtrak President Alex Kummant talked about how he wanted to build business, especially in corridors. He particularly mentioned the Chicago-Detroit corridor as one he wanted to target. At this point, Amtrak is looking to grow, not downsize.
A representative from FRA reported that the Lautenberg-Lott bill, currently being reviewed by the U.S. Senate, would help with On Time Performance as someone other than the Attorney General of the United States would have authority to sue the freight railroads for holding up passenger trains. Also, railroad CEO’s would be required to appear personally before Congress to defend their railroad’s performance.
Don Phillips of Trains Magazine predicted that congestion in all modes of transportation would hit the wall within two years. CREATE in Chicago must be done to avoid total gridlock. Electrification beyond the Northeast Corridor is inevitable. Phillips warned that the Transportation Security Agency may start checking trains in similar manner as they do airplanes He also warned of problems ahead as Amtrak equipment ages. There are particular problems with the Horizon cars, where the aluminum/steel contacts are experiencing galvanic corrosion problems. The Acela equipment is also wearing rapidly. Phillips said that the current issue concerning platforms is insane. It may take action by Congress to correct the situation.
Delora concluded by saying that Amtrak turned a corner when gasoline went over $2.00 a gallon.
Treasurer’s Report: In Treasurer Randall’s absence, Chairman Whims handed out the Treasurer’s Report. As of April 30, 2007, the JPMorgan Chase checking account had a balance of $5,239.86 and the Pratt Fund was valued at $15,300.22. It appears that 129 members have yet to renew their membership. With close to 400 members on the books, membership is up by about 30% in the past three years. Approval of the Treasurer’s Report was moved by Langdon, seconded by Charnetski, and approved. Richard Pekarek made a point of thanking John Delora for his decision on how to invest the Pratt Fund several years ago.
REGIONAL ACTIVITY REPORTS:
Eastern: Richard Pekarek reported that Blue Water Performance for the first three weeks of the past month was the best of the current calendar year. Chicago arrival time for Train #365 averaged 33 minutes late for an On Time Performance average of 28.5%. Flint arrival time for Train #364 averaged 3l minutes late for an ON Time Performance rate of 41%. Fewer very late arrivals improved the average considerably. However, the last week has been much worse, with average arrival times of 73 minutes into Chicago and 70 minutes late into Flint. On May 3, CN halted train operations between Flint and Durand for over five hours because of a fatality at Schwartz Creek. A freight train just ahead of Train #365 hit a woman.
Dave Lorenz of Travel Michigan spoke last month to an advertising group in Flint about his organization’s expanding promotion of Michigan tourism.
Metro: John Delora reported that planning for the Detroit-Ann Arbor regional service is continuing, but he fears that SEMGOG is slowing the schedule progress. Some planners are saying the service will require 5,000 passengers per day to be effective.
Northern: Don Montieth is setting up appointments with Chambers of Commerce in Traverse City and Manistee and Travel Centers in Northern Michigan to urge promotion of rail travel and distribute MARP materials. An August event is planned for Charlevoix. Don emphasized that he needs more brochures and newspapers.
Western: John Langdon reported that his immediate thrust is for quiet cars on the Pere Marquette. They have been very successful on the Hiawathas and Dave Johnson of NARP & Amtrak seems supportive. Ross Capon of NARP has asked Langdon to review his upcoming testimony before the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission, of which Mary Peters US Secretary of Transportations is Chairman, on platform height issue and plans to cite New Buffalo as a prime example of the problem. Langdon is forwarding information about Amtrak and its student rate programs to all college and university admissions officers along Amtrak lines in Michigan.
Nominating Committee: John Delora plans to send out a letter in the immediate future to all MARP members reviewing the election procedures and asking for suggestions on filling the upcoming vacancies for Chair, Vice Chair, and one member of the Executive Committee.
Outreach Committee: In the absence of Michael Frezell, Chairman Whims passed out the current schedule of meetings and shows where MARP has committed to having an exhibit. Durand Railroad Days is May 19-20. Whims indicated he would help staff the MARP table on Saturday and Gurney and Delora indicated they would be there on Sunday. Charnetski recommended that members hand out newspapers and other MARP material at transportation oriented meetings they attend, such as the one he attended recently in Ann Arbor. Langdon asked that members report attendance and participation in all such meetings, as such attendance is part of the Outreach effort.
Ride the Train Committee: Robert Patterson reported that he is waiting for a response from the Henry Ford relating to his proposal to have current rail passenger equipment on display at Greenfield Village. The Henry Ford has not had an official “Railroad Days” celebration for several years, but Patterson’s proposal would fit with many other events at Greenfield Village.
Route Enhancement Committee: Hugh Gurney passed out copies of the final Route Enhancement Report as approved at the April meeting. After a lengthy discussion, it was decided that the report would be considered a working document, and not be posted on the MARP website.
Beautification Committee: John Delora commented that the flowers he planted recently at the Detroit station have had many favorable comments. He plans to be in Ann Arbor on Monday to plant geraniums at the Amtrak station there.
Newspaper: In the absence of editor J. R. Valderas, Chairman Whims reported that the next newspaper will be printed in June. Regional chairs should determine how many copies they need and report that number to Valderas. When received, regional chairs will distribute newspapers to those distributing in their region of the state. Individuals distributing to Amtrak facilities should keep a copy of the Amtrak distribution permit. The original copy is retained by the station agent.
Michigan Day: John Langdon indicated he was all set for the day. Most of the support is coming from the West Coast of Michigan. Bottled water will be handed out on the Pere Marquette that day. Jim Wallington and Langdon will be staffing the exhibit in Chicago and Valderas will be present to do a story for The Michigan Passenger.
NorfolkSouthern Update: The Michigan House of Representatives has passed a resolution opposing transfer of the Norfolk Southern line Ypsilanti-Kalamazoo to a short line operator who may not be able to maintain the line to high-speed passenger rail standars. On May 11, the Norfolk Southern Board of Directors delayed approval of the transfer. They agreed to postpone sending notification to the Surface Transportation Agency for sixty days while they negotiate with Amtrak and MDOT. MARP will be asking what level of service the new operator can and will provide. If the line is maintained poorly, Wolverine service would be slowed considerably.
Jesse Auerbach from the Environmental Law & Policy Center advised the MARP Board to maintain vigilance and watch Surface Transportation Board filings, as NS is not bound to observe the sixty day delay. Kay Chase suggested that MARP communicate directly with our Congressional delegation. We should pressure Amtrak to be proactive and possibly take over the line. Amtrak President Kummant is scheduled to meet with Governor Granholm on May 23 and the NS issue should be on the agenda.
Meeting with Environmental Law & Policy Center and Midwest High Speed Rail Association Representatives: Chairman Whims reported on his recent meeting with representatives of the Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Midwest High Speed Rail Association in Chicago and asked Jesse Auerbach from ELPC to discuss successful efforts in Illinois to add more regional trains.
Approval of Support for a 9-cent Gas Tax Increase: Chairman Whims reported that the proposal for a nine cent per gallon increase in the tax on gasoline looked promising. At the moment, this proposal would follow the existing formula, meaning that mass transit and rail would receive a portion of the increase. For this reason, transit advocates are supporting this proposal. It was moved by Delora, seconded by Charnetski and approved unanimously that MARP also support the proposal as long some of the increased revenue would go to mass transit and intercity bus and rail.
>MARP/Amtrak Operations Meeting: On May 9, Whims and Delora meet with Don Saunders, Jeff Snowden and Dave Kuhn of Amtrak. On Time Performance was a major issue. Other issues discussed were additional service, business class expansion, reinstitution of baggage service, security at the Detroit station and overnight bus service between Detroit-Chicago.
Legislative Transit Caucus Presentation: Whims handed out copies of his presentation given on May 10 to the Legislative Transit Caucus in Lansing. This group of legislators interested in transit issues was pleased to learn more about MARP and interested in the idea of a second daily Pere Marquette. There is now an official Transit Subcommittee in the Michigan House of Representatives headed by State Rep. Marie Donigan.
Other Business: Auerbach noted that the Lautenberg-Lott bill was approved unanimously in committee. NARP is working to get a companion bill introduced in the House of Representatives.
Adjournment: The meeting adjourned at 12:00 noon.
Hugh Gurney for Secretary Jim Wallington
Michael Whims, Chairman