Minutes – January 13, 2007 – Lansing

Minutes of General Membership Meeting

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Lansing Public Library

Lansing, Michigan

Attendees Who Signed In: Executive Committee – Michael Whims, Michael Frezell,
John Langdon, Clark Charnetski, Dave Randall, Dick Pekarek, Kay Chase, J.R.
Valderas, Kaz Fujita, Andrew Kent. Members – Hugh Gurney, Don Monteith, Steve Sobel, Dave VanderBee, Samuel Chupp, Jim Hinkins, Robert Patterson

Others Present: Tim Hoeffner, Cecile Shoulders, Matt Marderosian, Celeste Shoulders

Call to Order: Chairman Whims declared there was a quorum for conducting a General Membership Meeting and called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Approval of Minutes of the November 18, 2006 Meeting in Ann Arbor. After correcting the spelling of Clark Charnetski’s name, approval of the minutes was moved by Langdon and seconded by Sobel. Approved.

Executive Director Report: None. John DeLora was absent.

Financial Report – Dave Randal gave the Financial Report. Balance in the JP Morgan Chase checking account was $1,845.04 as of December 31, 2006. Value of the AIVSX American Funds investment was $14,578.02 as of December 31, 2006. There was a net loss of $231.33 on the October Fun Train excursion, mostly due to the costs of promoting the trip to members. After a brief discussion, it was the consensus of the group that we should do something similar in 2007, but keep the costs of promotion down.

A motion to approve the Treasurers Report was made by Charnetski, seconded by Valderas and approved.

Randall continues to work on a donation of publishing software by Adobe, but fears MARP may not meet their criteria for donations.

Randall is having the Membership Renewal postcards reprinted for membership to our membrship base. Chupp offered to help with a grass roots effort to expand membership on a low key basis, mainly through sharing ideas in telephone conference calls.

(Guest) Michigan Department of Transportation comments – Tim Hoeffner from MDOT reported that ridership and revenue on both the Pere Marquette and Blue Water lines were doing well and should meet the requirements for continued state support during the 2007 budget year. MDOT is pushing FRA for approval of the proposed new platform at New Buffalo. Hoeffner feels there is a good chance that a commuter rail demonstration project may actually happen in Southeast Michigan and urged MARP and sister organizations to support such efforts. The recognition that commuter rail would have helped during the Super Bowl and the success of last summer’s Tiger Trains have business leaders and SEMGOG in a more positive frame of mind. Hoeffner alerted MARP members of an editorial that will be in the Sunday, January 14, edition of the Detroit Free Press, and positive comments to the paper are always welcome.

Hoeffner reported that no one from Michigan has yet been appointed to the Midwest High Speed Rail Compact, which the state of Michigan recently joined.

As for 2008, Hoeffner reminded the group of the large impending deficit in the state budget. How that will impact state support for rail transportation remains to be seen.

(Guest) Save Our Trains comments – Matt Maraerosian urged MARP to support the efforts of Save Our Trains to add a cafe car to the Pere Marquette trains, have the Grand
Rapids station staffed and improve conditions at the East Lansing station. He said that with up to 150 passengers boarding per train, plus Greyhound and Indian Trails passengers, the East Lansing station is far too small.

Regional Reports
>East Central Region –
Richard Pekareck reported that Blue Water ridership and revenue continue to increase. A very positive editorial last Thanksgiving in the Flint Journal titled “Reconsider Rail” noted the ever increasing passenger rail usage in the state and nation and suggested stronger financial support be considered.

Blue Water on-time performance is improving. Train #365 arrival times into Chicago in the past few weeks have generally ranged from 17 minutes early to 30 minutes late. Unfortunately, Train #365 was 55 minute late at Lapeer yesterday. Getting clearance onto the main line out of Port Huron continues to be a problem. The train arrived in Chicago 63 minutes late yesterday.

The February MARP meeting has been rescheduled to Durand. Ms. Marci Fogal, Executive Director of the Blue Water (Port Huron) Convention and Visitor Bureau, has accepted our invitation to update us on the 2007 MDOT Blue Water Marketing grant. She is the administrator of that grant.

Northern Michigan Region – Andrew Kent reported that several rail excursions were planned in 2007 including a Standish-Gaylord trip in conjuction with the Alpine Festival and a rare southbound trip from Gaylord to West Branch. Don Monteith continues to promote MARP on the Beaver Island ferry which transports 60,000 passengers each year. He suggests a more colorful brochure which would be distributed at Clare and other state welcome centers. Tim Hoeffner reminded the group that MDOT manages a distribution center serving all the welcome centers and that Amtrak schedules could be sent to that center for statewide distribution.

Western Michigan Region – John Langdon reported that Westrain has received a 9/10 matching grant totalling $100,000 from the state to promote the Pere Marquette. A Michigan Day promotion will take place again this year in May at Chicago Union Station. MDOT plans a passenger survey in late March and early April. Langdon will be making a presentation promoting rail travel to a group from Freedom Village, a retirement communtiy in Holland. Langdon expressed his frustration at the failure of FRA to make a final decision on platform heights. This has stalled completion of the new station in New Buffalo and the efforts of Berrien County to establish commuter rail service to Chicago.

Committee Reports none. John Delora absent.

Beautification Committee-

Southeast Michigan Commuter Rail Study Committee – Michael Frezell reported that to date, no grants for this study have been forthcoming. With heightened activity on proposals for Ann Arbor-Detroit, Pontiac-Detroit and Ann Arbor-North commuter rail, Frezell suggested that MARP should disband this committee and concentrate on support of active projects for the coming year. Chairman Whims asked for a consensus of the members present. By voice vote, the members agreed to Frezell’s proposal. .

Outreach Committee – Frezell circulated a new list of promotional opportunities for 2007 including several not linked directly to model trail shows or railroad days. He asked assistance in staffing the MARP table at these events. A show is coming up later in January in Troy and the Ann Arbor show will take place in February. Clark Charnetski reported that he had paid for the table at the Ann Arbor show.

Route Enhancement Committee – Hugh Gurney distributed the recommendations of the Route Enhancement Committee for improvements in rail and intercity bus service in Michigan. The report was well received. Whims asked that a work program be developed to implement the recommendations.

Ride the Train Committee – Robert Patterson asked that those interested in serving on this committee meet at Clare’s following this meeting.

Nominating Committee – Andrew Kent asked that the present officers and members of the Executive Committee let him know ASAP if they plan to run again or not. John Langdon suggested looking beyond those who currently attend meetings for nominees.

Old Business Mike Whims distributed the proposed Goals for 2007. Based on the discussion earlier in the meeting, Item #4, dealing with funding for the Southeast Michigan Commuter Rail Study, will be dropped. After some discussion at was agreed that we would publish “at least” three issues of “Michigan Passenger”, leaving the door open to more issues if needed. Moved as amended by Langdon, seconded by Charnetski, passed.

Goals for 2007 –

Newsletter Planning and Distribution – Valderas reported that he plans a late Winter-early Spring issue to be released in mid-February. He asked that the paper be mailed to members before bulk distribution at depots, shows, etc.

Future Meetings –

February 10, 2007 -10:00 a.m. – Durand Union Station, Durand

March 10, 2007 11:00 a.m. – Kalamazoo Transit Office, Kalamazoo

April 14, 2007 Metro Detroit

May 12, 2007 10:00 a.m. – Holland

Mike Whims was asked to pick a location for the April meeting somewhere in the
metro Detroit area.

New Business- there was no new business

General Member Comments – John Langdon mentioned an article in the Grand Rapids Press encouraging day trips from Grand Rapids to Holland by train. He showed the group the new Amtrak Hat to be used to promote ridership. Langdon showed the group layout designs for new signs at the Grand Rapids station.

Clark Charnetski reported on a telephone conversation he had recently with a person at MDOT familiar with the state’s intercity bus system. He confirmed that Greyhound will be pulling completely out of Northern Michigan. In addition to current service, Indian Trails will operate intercity bus service north along U.S. 127 as well as service between St. Ignace and Ironwood. There will be a night service between Marquette-Green Bay-Milwaukee, but no day service on this route. MDOT will make up the difference between cost and revenue on these routes.

Kaz Fujita confirmed the earlier report that the Blue Water was maintaining its schedule into Chicago much better with 80% less delays. It is generally 10 minutes late or less getting into Chicago.

Adjournment – The meeting adjourned at 12:20 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted;

Hugh D. Gurney