Minutes – April 14, 2007 – Royal Oak

General membership meeting

Saturday, April 14, 2007, Woody’s Diner, Royal Oak


Attendees who signed in: Executive Committee – Michael Whims, Michael Frezell, John Langdon, Jim Wallington, Clark Charnetski, Dave Randall, Dick Pekarek, Kay Chase, J.R Valderas, John DeLora and Kaz Fujita.

Members – Dwight Phillips, Jim Hinkins, Hugh Gurney, Larry Sobczak, David Williams, Robert Patterson, Bob Tischbein, Ren Farley, Steve Sobel and Don Monteith.

Also – Jeff Godshall (he joined following the meeting) and Roger Webster.

Call to order. Chairman Whims declared there was a quorum for conducting a General Membership meeting and called the meeting to order at 10:07 a.m. He welcomed members to his home city of Royal Oak and to Woody’s Diner, which afforded a full view of the CN Durand-Detroit rail line. He asked each attendee to introduce himself or herself.

Minutes of the March 10, 2007, general membership meeting in Kalamazoo were approved following the deletion of the phase “in the Fall,“ which referred to a proposed display at Greenfield Village by the Ride the Train Committee.

Executive Director — DeLora presented a report that showed that business class was frequently selling out on the Wolverine line, leading to a suggestion that the service be expanded with exclusive business class cars. He also reported that Amtrak CEO Alex Kummant is in favor of boosting service on the Wolverine route.

Financial – Treasurer Randall reported a March 1, 2007 balance of $5,226.29, a significant increase over the $2,238.29 report for February thanks to a $3,008.00 influx of dues. Lone expenses were $20 in bank charges. He also said the AIVSX American Funds investment showed 437.149 shares at $33.70 for a NAV of $14,731.92. His report was accepted.


Eastern: Pekarek lamented the continuing poor on time performance of the Blue Water since it replaced the International service three years ago. He said the westbound Blue Water was on time into Chicago only 28.5 percent in March and April, averaging 55 minutes of tardiness. Eastbound the Blue Water was on time into Flint 20.5 percent, averaging 49 minutes tardiness. Fujita said the Blue Water often loses as much as 30 minutes between East Lansing and Flint because of freight congestion.

Pekarek also handed out an editorial from the Flint Journal supporting passenger rail; it stated that proposed state gasoline tax increase should help finance the state transportation network, including rail.

Metro: DeLora said despite roadblocks that the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter project is still moving forward.

Western: Langdon said the Pere Marquette’s on time performance has been miserable lately with signal problems a main culprit along with Norfolk Southern freight congestion. He also reported on frequent sellouts on the Grand Rapids-Holland-Chicago service, which indicated more seats are needed. He said Amtrak should add a full coach and not a business class/snack car; he said an aisle food service cart would better serve passengers. He said Westrain does not expect any state funds soon because of the budget crisis.

Northern. No report as Andrew Kent was absent.


Nominating. No report as Andrew Kent was absent.

Outreach. Frezell said many Amtrak timetables were given out at a recent show in Mt. Pleasant. And he was looking for a volunteer living in the Detroit area to accept, store and deliver 30 boxes of timetables for the 2007 National Model Railroad Association Convention in Detroit in July. He had no immediate takers.

Ride the Train. Patterson said he had opened communications with the Greenfield Village board about hosting Amtrak equipment for a public display but had no official response. The Ford and Durand are sites the committee cited for equipment displays.

Route Enhancement. Gurney said the report was finalized since the last meeting and was ready for voting later in the meeting.


Newsletter/Newspaper. Valderas reported that software problems delayed the spring newsletter but were overcome with the help of fellow MARP members; he expected distribution in late April. He put out a call for news stories for upcoming issues and asked for help in distributing the newspaper in Petoskey while the Michigan Arrow special train is there this summer. He asked whether newspapers should be distributed at History Days in Howell and on excursion trains throughout the state. It was suggested that copies be placed in the student unions at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Printing of 1,000 additional papers bringing the total to 5000 papers was discussed.

Michigan Day. Langdon and Wallington will be in Chicago for the Michigan Day tourism promotion among commuters at Union Station.

Passenger Rail Funding.  Whims provided a handout that summarized the current status of federal Amtrak funding for FY 2007 and FY 2008, as well as Michigan state funding for the same time periods.




Norfolk Southern Lease. Whims reported that Norfolk Southern has announced intentions to sell or lease its Michigan line from Ypsilanti to Kalamazoo, which is the home of three daily Amtrak round trips. Apparently it would be taken over by one of the shortlines, which are known to maintain track for slower speeds. He said the state has expressed opposition through a letter and the introduction of legislation. Whims said he would write a letter to Norfolk Southern expressing MARP’s concern about the impact on passenger service.

Route Enhancement Program. Gurney presented the final program developed by the Route Enhancement Committee. DeLora moved and Phillips seconded that the program be approved. It passed by voice vote. Gurney was congratulated for his work on the 10-page document on expanding rail service in the state and integrating inter-city buses.

Patterson Proposal. Member Robert Patterson presented a proposal to include a local or state official, or spokesperson from a local agency on each meeting agenda whenever feasible to speak on legislative or other issues pertinent to passenger rail. It is understood that any appearances by elected officials would comply with MARP’s non-profit IRS status.  The members unanimously approved the proposal.

ELPC Meeting. Whims said he and Langdon would be meeting with The Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago April 18 to discuss the successful strategies they used to add new state passenger rail service in Illinois.

The meeting adjourned at 11:54 a.m.

Submitted by James Wallington, Secretary



Michael Whims, Chairman


FUTURE MEETINGS (no meeting in August)

5/12/07 10 a.m. Holland – Padnos Transportation Center, 261 E 8th St
6/16/07 10 a.m. Durand – Durand Union Station – Conference Room
7/14/07 10 a.m. Lapeer – Amtrak Station meeting room
9/8/07 10 a.m. Annual meeting – Durand – Durand Union Station – upstairs Ballroom