Minutes – March 10, 2007 – Kalamazoo

Minutes of General Member Meeting

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Kalamazoo Metro Transit Office, Kalamazoo, MI

Attendees who signed in: Robert Patterson, Hugh Gurney, Dwight Phillips, Richard Pekarek, John Langdon, Joe Moran, Phil Chamberlain, Gary Tasha, Andrew Kent, Gus Swenson, Burton Ten Brink, David Randall, Christopher Quaill, Jim Hinkins, J. R. Valderas, John Guidinger, Timothy Backhurst, Kay Chase, Aylene Goddard, Keith Martin, Steve Sobel, Clark Charnetski, Mike Whims

Call to Order: Chairman Whims called the meeting to order at 11:20 a.m. and declared that a quorum was available for a general membership meeting. As there were some new faces, those in attendance were asked to introduce themselves. On behalf of MARP, Whims thanked Burt Ten Brink for providing the meeting space and the abundant refreshments.

Minutes of the February 10, 2007 Executive Committee meeting were reviewed and, after minor corrections, unanimously approved

Presentation on the Intermodal Tansit Center Operation: Cancelled due to the illness of Kalamazoo Metro Transit Customer Services Supervisor Heather Stiver.

Executive Director’s Report: In the absence of Executive Director John Delora, Mike Whims reported that Amtrak had decided not to reinstitute baggage service on any Michigan trains in April. Whims will continue to press for this enhancement. He will meet again with the Amtrak Central Division operations team in May.

Treasurer’s Report: Dave Randall passed out the Treasurer’s Report and stated that MARP had a balance of $2278.19 in the JPMorgan Chase checking account as of February 28, 2007. On the same date, the Pratt Fund investment was valued at $14, 564.97. Randall anticipates that most of the 400 people on the mailing list will renew in March. There are currently twelve life members. Acceptance of the Treasurer’s Report was moved by Phillips, seconded by Charnetski, and unanimously approved.

Regional Activity Reports:

• Eastern Region: Dick Pekarek reported that the latest 28 day Blue Water data shows on-time performance continues to worsen. Train #365’s average arrival time into Chicago was l hour 20 minutes late with a 3.7% on time performance. Train #364’s average arrival time into Flint was 1 hour 42 minutes late with a 7.7% on time performance. Delays are occurring in both CN and NS territory.

Lapeer City Parks and Recreation have notified Dick that there will be no rental charge for the use of the Lapeer Station for the MARP meeting on July 14, 2007.

Pekarek alerted the group to the fact that the Durand Union Station administration needs a decision on whether or not our September 8, 2007 Annual Meeting will be at their facility. Mike Whims responded that MARP needs to verify whether or not we will be charged for use of the station ballroom before that decision can be made. Whims agreed to investigate.

• Metro Detroit Region: In the absence of chairman John DeLora, Clark Charnetski reported that, since Amtrak cannot operate commuter trains unless all costs are covered, the proposed service between Ann Arbor and Detroit will be labeled “Regional Service.” Up to ten trains daily each way are anticipated and the proposed new service would be integrated into existing service.

The proposed Ann Arbor North service would operate from a station near Eight Mile Road in Whitmore Lake south to near the intersection of Plymouth and Barton roads in Northeast Ann Arbor with six trains each way during rush hour and four trains operating in the reverse direction during the day. Connecting busses will operate from each terminal. MDOT will pay for track work and Great Lakes Central will provide ex-METRA Gallery cars. UM has agreed to cover the fares for its employees. Service may be extended to Howell in the future.

• Northern Region: Andrew Kent reported that several excursions are scheduled in Northern Michigan during the upcoming summer and fall by Blue Water and Lake Central. Work continues on the restoration of the station in Standish with more work scheduled to get underway in June. Unfortunately, work on the Clare station remains up in the air. The city wants to move the structure to the community’s main street and use it as a community center. Windows would be added which would alter the structure’s historic appearance. The other option is to move the building somewhat north of its present location, put a basement under it, and use it as a ticket office for Lake Central. Both options call for the relocation of the station from its current location at the diamond.

• Western Region: John Langdon reported that MARP is working with MDOT and Amtrak to assure that enough equipment is added to the Pere Marquette trains during the heavy Spring break period. Platform improvements at Holland are stalled because of the lack of final FRA regulations. Amtrak would like to put a tactile curb down now, but MDOT wants to wait for final FRA regulations.

Westrain will be bidding for a new ad agency as required by the state grant. MDOT continues to pay for the MI Train website. The Michigan Day promotion at Chicago Union Station will be chaired this year by the Benton Harbor CVB. Langdon is on the committee. He is looking for volunteers to help. Whims agreed to represent the Blue Water route unless another member from that route area volunteers.

Nominating Committee: Andrew Kent reported that at least three current officers have decided not to stand for election in 2007: Chair Mike Whims, Vice Chair Michael Frezell, and Eastern Regional Chair Dick Pekarek. The current by laws were distributed indicating that nominations are due by the end of June. A mail ballot goes out during the summer and results are announced at the annual meeting in September. Kent asked that people let him know of their interest in serving in the near future. Valderas agreed to put a notice about nominations in the upcoming issue of Michigan Passenger. Charnetski indicated that he would be willing to continue serving on the Executive Committee and Langdon affirmed that he would like to continue as Western Region Chair.

Outreach Committee: In the absence of Michael Frezell, John Langdon handed out a schedule of shows where MARP plans to have a table and asked members to let Frezell know if they can serve. Several members expressed their interest in helping at specific shows. The big one this year is the National Model Railroad Show which will run for the better part of a week in July in Detroit. In addition to staffing the exhibit, MARP is looking for a volunteer to receive a large shipment of promotional materials from Amtrak.

Ride the Train Committee: Robert Patterson reported that the Ride the Train Committee was proposing several actions:

1) A display of Amtrak and other rail equipment in Durand during Durand Railroad Days in May and at Greenfield Village in the fall. Patterson has completed proposals and cover letters for these events to go to Governor Granholm.

2) Ask MDOT to add a map of Amtrak routes to the state transportation map.

3) Develop a new brochure to be handed out at tourist and travel centers around the state.

Route Enhancement Committee: Hugh Gurney handed out a draft of the Route Enhancement Recommendations including specific action items, timelines for each action item and individuals responsible. After the General Membership Meeting today, the committee will meet to refine the report further before presenting it for approval, hopefully at the April meeting.

Old Business:

1) Newsletter: J. R. Valderas reported that the Spring issue of Michigan Passenger should be out by the April meeting. It will include articles about the proposed commuter rail projects, the status of the high speed rail section, ridership statistics, the renewal of the Amtrak contract, and the possible rerouting of the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited through Michigan. Mike Whims has agreed to do the Chairman’s Corner and other articles.

Valderas urged members who want to distribute newspapers to make their requests through the Regional Chairs. He also asked that nobody distribute newspapers to a depot or at a show until the Spring issue has been mailed to members.

A discussion ensued concerning a possible winter edition in a reduced format to keep members abreast of what was going on. John Guidinger indicated he would like to see the winter edition in the existing format and offered to donate half of the possible $1,100.00 needed to purchase new software needed for quality color photos and headliners. It was agreed that MARP would pursue acquisition of new software, either through a donation from Adobe or purchase with donated funds.

At the present time, it costs $400.00 to publish 4,000 copies of Michigan Passenger and $485.00 to publish 5,000 copies, so there was general agreement that we should publish 5,000 copies. A $175.00 delivery charge tacked onto the last order needs to be investigated.

2) Future Meetings: Whims informed the group that future meetings are now scheduled for April 14, 2007 at Woody’s Diner in Royal Oak, May 12, 2007 at the Padnos Transportation Center in Holland, and July 14, 2007 at the Lapeer Station in Lapeer. After some discussion, Langdon moved and Gurney seconded a motion to meet on June 16, 2007 in Standish at a place to be determined by Andrew Kent. The motion passed. There will be no meeting in August. The Annual Meeting is tentatively set for August 8, 2007 at the Durand Union Station if the ballroom is available at no charge.

Whims discussed the joint Midwest High Speed Rail/NARP Regional meeting in Chicago on March 24, 2007, at which President of NARP George Chilson is slated to speak. Whims plans to attend. On the preceding day, Langdon and Chase will attend a National Rail Passenger Leadership Summit as well.

New Business:

1)Ride the Train Proposal: Robert Patterson asked the group to give formal approval to the Ride the Train marketing proposal he discussed earlier. The goal is to make the public more award of the existence of passenger rail service and its convenience. One part of this proposal is to assemble displays of Amtrak and other rail equipment at locations near Amtrak stations. Suggested initial locations would be Greenfield Village in Dearborn and Durand during Railroad Days in May. Equipment displays would build interest in passenger rail by showing contemporary equipment and letting people know what service is now available. By involving Amtrak, MDOT, Canadian National, Norfolk Southern, federal, state and local officials, Chambers of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureaus, municipal governments and the travel industry, these shows would build and cement long term relationships between all partners.

Charnetski commented that he had seen similar shows at Greenfield Village in the past and noted that visitors particularly liked the Superliner equipment. Patterson said he thought the Superliner equipment would be great, but stated the first priority would be display of equipment that operates daily in Michigan. Whims stated that MDOT’s $50,000 promotion budget was being administered by Durand Union Station and indicated we needed to begin working with Durand immediately.

Patterson continued by reminding the group that the second part of the Ride the Train proposal was to develop a new brochure to be distributed by Welcome Centers throughout the state. A third part of the proposal would be to update the MI Train website maintained by MDOT.

The proposal was moved by Whims and seconded by Valderas. In the ensuing discussion, Langdon stated that he thought the proposal would improve our relationship with MDOT and encourage them to do more promotion. Whims indicated he saw most of the manpower being provided by the host organizations, not MARP. He emphasized that we were voting on the concept. Actual funding would be voted on when specifics are laid out. A vote was called and the Ride the Train Marketing proposal was unanimously approved.

Member Comments:

Langdon informed the group that Amtrak now requires a permit to distribute non-Amtrak material at stations and on trains. The best policy is to ask the station agent before attempting to put out any material. He also stated that he has material on how much each state spends on Amtrak and the 2008 Amtrak federal budget proposal.

Charnetski expressed concern that a possible outcome of the upcoming Amtrak budget would be the requirement that the Wolverine Service become state supported.

Chase expressed her frustration about on time performance. Can penalties be assessed against freight railroads who hold up Amtrak trains? Tax credits to the freight railroads might be an option. Chase also suggested invitations to MARP members living in a community when MARP is meeting in that locale. She has a template she can share.

The meeting adjourned at 1:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Hugh D. Gurney for Secretary James Wallington