Meeting minutes – January 9, 2010 – Lansing



Monthly Membership Meeting

Capital Area District Library, Lansing

 January 9, 2010

 Those Signing In:  Hugh Gurney, James Wallington, Richard Pekarek, Steve Sobel, Clark Charnetski, Andrew Kent, Kaz Fujita, Dave Randall, Rich Vavra-Musser, Barney Whittier, Dale Gachner, Kay Chase, Larry Krieg, Michael Frezell, Diane Patterson, Robert Patterson, Jerry Becker, Jim Roach, John DeLora, Tim Fischer, J. R. Valderas, John Langdon, Dave Landis, Larry Sobczak, Dietrich Bergmann, Bob Tischbein

 Call to Order:  Chairman DeLora called the meeting to order at 10:04 a.m.  All present were asked to introduce themselves.

 Guest Speakers:  DeLora then introduced Jim Roach and Jerry Becker, both retired from the Michigan Department of Transportation and now working as contractors on MDOT and State of Michigan projects.  They reported on a project titled Michigan Passenger Rail Station Community Benefits Study which they prepared as subcontractors to Grand Valley State University in 2008.  The study was published in July, 2009.  It looked at each of the 22 Amtrak stations in Michigan in terms of ridership, adjacent land use, amenities such as the availability of coffee nearby, and identified 350 city pairs to and from which passengers were travelling.  They reviewed a 2000 University of Michigan study which indicated that 99% of travelers intended to return at some point to their residence and utilized interviews done in 2007 by UM students with over 2300 Amtrak passengers.  The costs of travel by private automobile, train, bus and air were analyzed.  Looking at savings to travelers by using Amtrak, local business revenues as a result of the Amtrak station in that community, and actual Amtrak expenditures in each community, the study found that total community benefits for all Michigan communities served by Amtrak came to $62, 012, 441.  The complete study is available on both the MDOT and MARP websites.

 Treasurer’s Report:  Treasurer Randall reported that the balance in the checking account on December 31, 2009 was $2,694.39 and the value of the Pratt Fund on that date was $13,436.00.  A Budget Performance Report and a Proposed 2010 Budget were presented and discussed.  Langdon moved acceptance of all three reports.  The motion was seconded by Vavra-Musser and approved by those present.

 Minutes of the November 14 meeting in Bangor were reviewed.  Langdon moved acceptance with corrections.  The motion was seconded by Charnetski and approved by the members present.

 Coordinator Reports:

 Meetings:  It was announced that the next meeting would take place in Jackson on Saturday, February 13.  Plans for future meetings were discussed including a summer or fall meeting in St. Ignace.

Public/Government Affairs: Langdon reported that Amtrak is now asking for $8.1 million to operate the Pere Marquette and Blue Water routes during Fiscal Year 2010, far more than the $5.3 million appropriated by the state legislature.  A supplemental appropriation will be needed if service is to continue.

An Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus is being established in the legislature under the leadership of Senator Jason Allen of Traverse City.  Tim Fischer is helping with the process.  The idea is that one Democrat and one Republican in each house will send out invitations asking other legislators to join the caucus.  Fischer will advise members as to when they should contact their legislators urging them to join the caucus. 

Fischer reported that former legislator Hopgood is now working with MDOT on a committee analyzing transit options.  MARP needs to be part of the study group and maintain positive relations with it.

 Langdon recalled that we planned to present an award to Congressman Fred Upton at the Annual Meeting for his work on behalf of passenger rail. DeLora offered to make the presentation in Washington in conjunction with an upcoming NARP meeting.  If that doesn’t happen, Vavra-Musser and Whittier will see that Upton receives the award when he is in the district.

 Langdon has distributed copies of the RFP for the Michigan Rail Plan via e-mail.  The Rail Plan, which is required by the stimulus,  calls for rider input.

 Langdon also suggested that MARP be involved in the effort to fund the Pure Michigan effort.  We have some good talking points to bring to the attention of our legislators.

 Chase mentioned a free Webinar coming up with suggestions on how communities can push funding for transit.  She suggested that members participate.

 DeLora expressed confidence that the legislature would fund the difference between the current Amtrak appropriation and Amtrak’s requested subsidy.   

 Membership: Vavra-Musser reported that our 2009 membership was 4% below the 2008 figure.  He urged that the renewal notice go out as soon as possible.  Chase will review and utilize portions of DeLora’s last appeal.

 Communications:  Chase has sent out thank you letters to those who spoke at the Annual Meeting.  A donation has been sent to TRU in honor of its tenth anniversary.

Newsletter: Valderas will check with the printer to see if they could mail The Michigan Passenger to members rather than have the Treasurer do it.

Website:  Sobczak is in the final stages of redesigning the MARP website.  The new look can be previewed at marp/blog.  A discussion ensued on the feasibility of  soliciting and renewing memberships through the website.  Bergmann will explore the possibility of renewing memberships through the MARP website.

 Outreach:  Frezell reported that we are on the waiting list for the Troy Train Show on Sunday, January 17.  Tischbein has agreed to staff the MARP table.  Charnetski and Sobel are on tap to staff the table at the Ann Arbor Train Show on Sunday, February 21.

 Regional Chair Reports       

            Northern:  Kent foresees rail excursions in Northern Michigan in August and again during the first weekend in October.

             Western:  Langdon noted the passing of longtime rail advocate Ray Hammaker on November 18 at the age of 87.  Amtrak, Westrain and MARP are collaborating on a plaque in his honor.

 Vavra-Musser reported on plans to have bus shuttles connect Pere Marquette stations with resorts on Lake Michigan.

 Both Vavra-Musser and Leatz reported problems with snow removal at St. Joseph and at Dowagiac.  The city has assumed responsibility at St. Joseph.

             Metro:  DeLora reported that Regional Chair Hinkins is progressing well after a mild heart attack.  SEMCOG is still holding to October 2010 for start up of Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail service. 

Hinkins has suggested a commuter rail subcommittee consisting of himself, DeLora, Charnetski and Gurney. 

Charnetski continues his work with the WALLY station and operations committees.  The burning issue at the moment is quick and efficient unloading of wheelchair passengers at the Ann Arbor station.  The earliest possible start up date is mid 2011.

Bergmann reported that the West Detroit junction improvements are still in the design stage.

Bergmann discussed the Detroit River International Crossing and why it is unnecessary at this time.  As much as 44% of present truck traffic could be diverted to rail and double tracking  rail lines would be much less expensive than the proposed $4-$5 billion cost of a new bridge.  Much of the cross Ontario traffic from New York State is now going via Ohio because of stricter border crossing regulations.  Bergmann will work on a response to the latest  MDOT report.

DeLora explained that intermodal rail service must be maintained and enhanced if we are to see rail passenger service restored.  Charnetski pointed out that the current rail tunnels cannot handle all double stack loads. 

Executive Committee Meeting:

DeLora reported that Barney Whittier has offered to fill the vacant position of Vice Chair.  Whittier then gave a brief overview of his qualifications including being a professional sales person, running his own business, and years of experience in motivating volunteers.  Whittier responded to the notice in the Fall Michigan Passenger.

Vavra-Musser moved that Whittier be appointed as Vice Chair.  The motion was seconded by Sobel and approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.


The meeting adjourned at 12:55 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted:                                                         Accepted:

Hugh D. Gurney, Secretary                                                    John DeLora, Chair