MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS
Monthly Membership Meeting
W.K. Kellogg Airport, Battle Creek
August 21, 2010
Those Signing In: Hugh Gurney, Jim Hinkins, Dianne Patterson, Robert Patterson, Clark Charnetski, Don Monteith, John Langdon, John DeLora, Rich Vavra-Musser, J. P. DesCamp, Kay M. Chase, Tom Post, J. R. Valderas, Gus Swenson, John Guidinger, Dale Gartner, R. F. Pekarek, Michael Frezell, Jim Wallington, Roger Webster
Also Present: Bruce Quinn, Operation Lifesaver
Call to Order: Chairman DeLora called the meeting to order at 11:10 a.m. Those present were asked to introduce themselves.
Guest Speaker: Langdon introduced Bruce D. Quinn representing Operation Lifesaver, which is funded by the railroads, MDOT and the federal government. Quinn started by showing a chilling video of what happens when motorists ignore the signs, warning lights and gates at railroad crossings and when pedestrians walk or jog along railroad tracks. Operation Lifesaver works to alert the general public and school children about the dangers inherent around railroad tracks through educational talks and through literature. Each member present received a packet of Operation Lifesaver literature. Their efforts have reduced accidents and fatalities, but more needs to be done. In 2009, there were 12 fatalities at railroad crossings in Michigan and 8 fatalities by people trespassing on the tracks. So far in 2010, there have been 2 fatalities at crossings and 7 due to trespassing. Quinn reminded the group that it takes a train 5,280 feet to stop and trains can’t swerve. He advised that, if your car stalls at a crossing and a train is coming, run at a 45 degree angle toward the train to avoid being hit by debris. Reflectorized strips on trains have cut accidents where people run into the side of a passing train. Within two years, we should see standardized signs at all railroad crossings which include a phone number to call in case a gate or lights are operating improperly. Anytime you see a gate malfunctioning, he urged members to call 911 immediately. MARP members were asked to take Operation Lifesaver materials and distribute them in local schools. Members were also invited to an Operation Lifesaver Conference in Durand on November 5.
In response to a question, Quinn agreed that communities demanding no horns on trains are doing a disservice to their citizens. We also need more secure crossings where four gates or pylons totally block access to the crossing and stiff fines for those caught walking on railroad tracks.
In conclusion, Langdon asked Chase to see that Operation Lifesaver material was posted on the MARP website and included in The Michigan Passenger.
Minutes of the July 10 meeting were reviewed and approved.
Treasurer’s Report: As of July 31, 2010, the checking account stood at $4,057.63 and the Pratt fund was valued at $13,161.02.
Public & Government Affairs: Langdon reported that the Michigan By Rail Forums were going well and they are getting good input from the public. Last Wednesday, a session was held in New Buffalo and one is scheduled for Jackson on August 26. Public officials and candidates have been invited and Vavra-Musser has been sending notices to members when a forum is scheduled in their area. Partners including Chambers of Commerce are assisting. The idea is to gather information and present it to the incoming administration.
Approximately 100 attended the forum in Traverse City, including MDOT Director Steudle, who stated he recognized the value of rail and that now we must find to money to support it.
The Michigan By Rail Forums, headed up by Tim Fischer of the Michigan Environmental Council, hope to influence the Michigan State Rail Plan being prepared under the direction of MDOT. PRIIA, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, mandates that each state must have a State Rail Plan before it receives any federal funding. MDOT will hold only five public hearings, so the Michigan By Rail Forums will reach far more stakeholders.
Section 209 of PRIIA mandates that states fund corridor trains operating for distances of 750 miles or less. For Michigan, this means that the state must fund the Wolverine Service, currently funded by Amtrak. With all states strapped for cash, Section 209 could mean a severe reduction of rail service just when the public is asking for more. Chase urged all members to work with their legislators to see that Section 209 is repealed. According to DeLora, fear that Section 209 would come into play is the reason that Amtrak scratched plans for the Kalamazoo-Chicago service.
The fifteen states involved are required to come up with a coordinated plan on how charges will be assessed by October, 2010, an impossible target to meet. If the state agreements are not complete by that deadline, FRA is charged with imposing the standards.
The law exempts Northeast Corridor trains from the Section 209 mandate, resulting in a split in the NARP Board of Directors. Unofficially, Amtrak opposes it. So Michigan must work with the other fourteen states impacted to see that the law is repealed. A first step, according to Chase, is to personally contact each member of the Michigan delegation. She plans to send all MARP members a link with talking points to assist when they talk to their legislator.
Langdon passed around a sheet detailing the various projects MDOT has requested support for from federal High Speed Rail funding. In all, the projects cover the entire Wolverine route from Porter, Indiana to Pontiac, including the possibility of a change in ownership of the Kalamazoo-Dearborn section. Chase suggested that MARP write a letter of support for these projects addressed to Joe Szabo of the Federal Railroad Administration, routed through Congressman Schauer’s office with copies to all fifteen members of the Michigan federal delegation.
Communications: On behalf of MARP, Chase reported that she had written a letter in support of a Tiger II grant to rebuild the East Lansing Transportation Center.
Chase handed out copies of a briefing sheet entitled “Intercity Passenger Train Service in Michigan.” This is up to date and can be used as members talk to candidates this fall and can be sent to all candidates. She reminded the group that members as individuals can work on specific political campaigns but cannot imply they are representing MARP.
Robert Patterson suggested that the work “Intercity” in the briefing sheet be changed to “Statewide”.
Outreach: Tischbein reported that the outreach schedule is now posted on the website. Several additions were suggested including events in Delton, Hastings, and Grand Haven. Pekarek reported on his success in prepackaging material at the recent event at Crossroads Village in Flint.
Newsletter: Valderas called attention to the fact that the latest issue of The Michigan Passenger was printed on brighter paper. This added about $60.00 to the cost of the printing. He reported that the paper had been well received at a recent event in Coopersville. He suggested that the date of the Annual Meeting be posted on the website when it is finalized.
The fall issue is scheduled to come out around Thanksgiving, when the makeup of the new Executive Committee is known. He will try to get it out in time for the November train show in Ann Arbor.
Tischbein urged continuation of the “Chairman’s Corner”, suggesting that it be relocated to page 2.
Membership: Vavra-Musser noted that membership for 2010 now stands above the 2009 level. Unfortunately, over seventy members last year including two executive committee members have not yet renewed. We must keep members for more than one year if we are to grow the organization. He urged Randall to send out one more renewal notice. DeLora suggested a second notice to NARP members who do not belong to MARP. Chase urged that Regional Chairs follow up on non-renewals. Langdon agreed and asked that the names of delinquent members be sent to the Regional Chairs.
Vavra-Musser noted that the By Laws list classes and fees of membership that vary from what we report in the newsletter. To clarify the situation, he proposed
That Resolution #1 “Classes and Fees” of membership in the By Laws of September 16, 2004 be changed to read:
Senior (65+) 15.00
First Class 100.00
The resolution was seconded by Langdon and approved by the members present.
The resolution was seconded by Langdon and approved by the members present.
Meetings: Wallington urged all to attend the meeting on September 25 in St. Ignace and to bring family and friends. A primary purpose of the meeting is to honor the 100th anniversary of Indian Trails. For this reason, Indian Trails is offering a discounted round trip ticket at $35.00. This includes Wisconsin residents riding Indian Trails. Call Indian Trails at 800-3831 x217 for bus reservations and the Voyager Inn at 877-643-1530 for motel reservations.
In response to Wallington’s request for suggestions of individuals MARP might honor at this meeting, Langdon moved that MARP honor State Senator Jason Allen for his efforts in creating a passenger rail caucus in the statehouse. The motion was seconded by Vavra-Musser and carried.
Langdon added that MARP would also honor Indian Trails for extending Amtrak Thruway Service to Sault Ste. Marie. Local historian Judy Gross will speak on the history of passenger rail in the St. Ignace area.
Moving on to the NARP meeting in Grand Rapids, October 14-16, DeLora asked that MARP members transport NARP delegates from the Amtrak station in Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids on Wednesday, October 14. To make this more feasible, Langdon moved that MARP reimburse members transporting NARP delegates at .14 per mile as well as other expenses they might incur. The motion was seconded by Tischbein and passed by the members present. Chase offered to alert members in the Kalamazoo area to this opportunity.
After discussion, it was moved by Wallington that MARP reimburse Chairman-Elect Tischbein and Public and Governmental Affairs Coordinator Langdon up to $200 each for attendance at the NARP meeting in Grand Rapids including the meeting of state ARP’s on Wednesday. The motion was seconded by Vavra-Musser and passed by the members present.
MARP members are invited to participate in a bus tour on Thursday, October 15 that includes visits to the site of the Grand Rapids Intermodal Station, the Kalamazoo Transportation Center, the Holland Transportation Center, Muskegon, and a train ride on the Coopersville and Marne Railroad. Cost of tickets is $40.00.
The October MARP meeting will be held at the Grand Rapids train station on Saturday, October 23 at 10:00 a.m. It will include the dedication of a plaque in honor of Ray Hammacher. Langdon hopes to secure a speaker from the Grand Rapids RAPID to speak on the proposed intermodal station.
The November meeting is scheduled for Durand on November 13. Norma Ward is securing prices for food.
Noting that nominations have been closed since the end of June and there are no contests for any position, Langdon moved that the September 25 meeting in St. Ignace be billed as the Annual Meeting and the November meeting in Durand be dedicated to honoring outgoing and incoming officers. This motion was seconded by Monteith and passed by the majority of those present. Wallington expressed fear that we might not have a quorum in St. Ignace to certify the slate of candidates.
The January meeting is tentatively scheduled for Willliamston. Wallington will send out a list of possible venues for 2011-2012 in the near future for members to consider.
Detroit Metro: The M-1 light rail project recently received an additional $25 million federal grant, Hinkins reported. This means that work can begin on the Environmental Impact Statement, a process that will take 12-18 months. One issue to be resolved is whether the trains will go down the center of Woodward Avenue or along the curbs. State Representative Marie Donigan has expressed concern that too much attention is being put on the M-1 project and not enough on getting a Regional Transportation Authority in place.
The Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail project will drop behind M-1. According to SEMCOG, work on improving the West Detroit junction will take place in December, 2010.
Charnetski reported that MDOT continues to upgrade tracks and crossings on the proposed WALLY line. Mike Bagwell of Great Lakes Central Railroad has invited MARP members to inspect work on the bi-level cars being refurbished in Owosso on September 12.
East/Central: Noting that Train #365 is experiencing increasing dwell time at stations at the eastern end of the Blue Water corridor, Pekarek speculated that Amtrak could schedule a later departure time from Port Huron, thus shortening total travel time. He asked who in the organization discusses such matters with Amtrak.
Western: Langdon reported that Ron Leatz is again in good standing with Dowagiac officials. The city manager has agreed to allow volunteers to open and close the station. With the additional trains stopping at New Buffalo, boardings are up 215%, and Blue Water ridership is up 49%. Trains are frequently operating with 6-7 coaches. Vavra-Musser stressed the need for the Owl.
Pere Marquette ridership has been adversely affected by the fact that those trains are running with only three cars, which are selling out fast. In August, 800 series locomotives were added to the service.
Northern: A meeting with Mike Bagwell of Great Lake Central Railroad is scheduled in Traverse City on August 25, according to Monteith. The discussion will center on building freight traffic and the prospects of passenger rail service.
The Northern Arrow excursion offers numerous options for side trips and point to point experiences on the train itself. The top class is sold out.
Nominations: Reporting on behalf of Whittier, Chair of the Nominating Committee, Langdon announced the slate of officers for 2010-2012:
Chair: Robert Tischbein
Vice Chair: Barney Whittier
Secretary: Hugh Gurney
At Large (Communications) Kay Chase
At Large (Public/Governmental Affairs) John Langdon
At Large (Membership) Kathleen Newell
At Large (Meetings) Jim Wallington
Regional Chair – Metro Detroit Jim Hinkins
Regional Chair- East/Central No Candidate
Regional Chair – West Michigan No Candidate
Regional Chair – Northern Michigan Don Monteith
All other positions are appointed by the Chair and the Executive Committee
Langdon then moved that Oakland County be moved from the Metro Detroit Region to the East/Central Region so that a potential candidate for East/Central living in Oakland County could be considered. The motion was seconded by Tischbein. After considerable discussion, the motion was defeated and it was agreed to leave the vacant position open for now.
Widgets: Vavra-Musser reported that the New Buffalo Widget is now receiving 450 hits a day and train ridership is soaring. Likely new sites include Grand Rapids, Toledo and Holland. NARP is looking at ways to expand coverage quickly.
He is trying to put ZIP cars and Amtrak together so rail passengers can get off the train at their destination, then pick up a ZIP car to drive to their lodgings, business meeting, etc. ZIP cars are proving very popular in large cities and on college campuses.
Brick for Howell Platform: Gurney asked if MARP would buy a brick with inscription on it to be placed on the new platform being built at the old Ann Arbor Railroad station in Howell. Langdon moved that MARP expend $100 for such a brick for the Howell station. The motion was seconded by Tischbein and approved by the members present.
Jackson Michigan Central Station Friends: Guidinger reported that a Friends of Michigan Central Station in Jackson had been formed, primarily to track plans for the restoration of the station and its development into an intermodal facility. The group would like a connection with MARP. After considerable discussion, Langdon suggested that a subcommittee including himself, Guidinger and Randall study how cooperation between the two groups could best be fulfilled. The motion to establish such a subcommittee was moved by Guidinger, seconded by Langdon and approved by the membership present.
Adjournment: Langdon proposed adjournment. The motion was seconded by Tischbein and approved by the membership present.
Respectfully Submitted: Accepted:
Hugh D. Gurney, Secretary John DeLora, Chair