MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS
MONTHLY MEMBERSHIP MEETING
WITCH’S HAT MUSUEM, SOUTH LYON
JUNE 11, 2011
Those Signing In: Bob Tischbein, Hugh Gurney, John Langdon, Steve T. Sobel, Norma Ward, Barney Whittier, Kathleen Newell, Clark Charnetski, Rich Vavra-Musser, Jim Hinkins, Dan Platz, Diane Patterson, Robert Patterson, John Guidinger, Doug Wilson, Kay Chase, Jim Wallington, Don Monteith, Kim J. Powell, Dave Randall, Bob Weinburger, Larry Krieg, Larry Sobczak
Also Present: Patricia Tischbein, Eli Cooper, Ann Arbor Transportation Coordinator, Jennifer Redfern, South Lyon Area Historical Society
Guest Speaker: Charnetski introduced Eli Cooper, Transportation Coordinator for the City of Ann Arbor. Cooper noted that 110,000 people work in Ann Arbor each week day and rail is a component for getting these people to work each morning and home each evening. When he arrived in Ann Arbor, SEMCOG was already working on the Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail proposal. At some point, he picked up the original CATA commuter rail study which included a north south component from Howell to Ann Arbor. A meeting with the owner of Great Lakes Central Railroad revealed that Cooper’s Howell-Ann Arbor commuter rail vision coincided with the Great Lakes Central Traverse City-Ann Arbor vision. Out of this meeting came the WALLY proposal.
The concept of a new rail station off Fuller Road evolved from the plans of the University of Michigan to build a new women’s and children’s hospital as part of the University Hospital complex. Part of the UM proposal was a new 550 car parking garage off Fuller Road. Realizing that the present Amtrak station was inadequate and a larger facility would be needed for the Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter line, Cooper proposed that the parking garage be expanded to include additional parking for rail passengers and for an intermodal transportation center on the ground level. Amtrak has provided letters of support for this proposal.
Cooper foresees no legal encumbrances preventing construction. Though owned by the City of Ann Arbor, the site has been used by UM for parking for years.
Phase I will be primarily construction of the parking facility, with UM paying most of the cost. In the most recent High Speed Rail Grant, $2.8 million was set aside for Phase II including both environmental analysis and preliminary engineering for the rail station.
The station will include separate westbound and eastbound platforms with a layover track near the current Amtrak depot. The federal grant requires no match, but the city will be providing $20-$30 million in planning and oversight. Ann Arbor is ready to go with the Environmental Impact Statement. Cooper anticipates that ready to build drawings will be completed within the year.
In response to a query from Vavra-Musser, Cooper explained that WALLY passengers will detrain at a station near Plymouth Road with dedicated buses transporting people to the new Fuller Road station, the various UM facilities and other points in the Ann Arbor area. UM will be subsidizing operation of these 10-15 buses. At a future date, the WALLY line can be extended south into downtown Ann Arbor and beyond. A connection with the East-West line is feasible.
Purchase of a Digital Projector: Chase recommended against purchase of a digital projector at this time due to the cost and logistical considerations.
Indian Trails Committee Update: Wallington reported that he is still pushing for Indian Trails to add a Thruway stop in Durand for rail passengers returning later than the Blue Water. Indian Trails has concerns about a stop at the station. Wallington is pointing out the revenue possibilities.
Indian Trails is now stopping at Chicago Union Station on several inbound trips. MDOT is holding up acquisition of new motor coaches until October.
Connections Between Intercity Trains and Intercity Buses: Gurney pointed out that unless Amtrak designates an intercity bus as a Thruway Bus, Amtrak shows no connection with that bus or other buses that connect with the Thruway Bus. Operators of intercity bus service show no connection between one of their buses and an Amtrak train unless that route has been designated as a Thruway bus line. Bus operators are actually forbidden to sell Amtrak tickets. Gurney suggested that MARP take the lead in developing some kind of matrix that would help the Michigan traveler figure out how to connect between the two modes of transportation.
Wallington noted that part of the solution is to have Amtrak designate more bus routes as Thruway routes. Langdon suggested putting the suggested matrix on the MARP web site. He also suggested asking Amtrak to add more text boxes on their timetables showing possible connections. Gurney agreed to work on a sample matrix.
Route Enhancement Committee: Gurney asked that the Route Enhancement Committee be resurrected. The consensus was that the committee remained a valid MARP committee. Tischbein agreed to include reports from REC on the agenda.
Durand Union Station Damage: Ward reported on water damage to Durand Union Station due to the failure of a sprinkler system pipe. Three hundred gallons of water came through the ceiling of the Board Room, damaging that area and the gift shop below. The damage is not as bad as that caused by a similar problem in January, 2010, but insurance will not cover all the damage. Ward offered information on how people can help.
The extra expense comes at the same time as the rain out of the annual Railroad Festival, one of the organization’s major fundraisers. The monthly expense to maintain and operate the station is around $12,000.
Langdon moved that MARP donate $400.00 to Durand Union Station immediately. Added to a $100.00 donation earlier in the year, our annual donation would total $500.00.
The motion was seconded by Sobel and passed by the members present.
Langdon suggested that the Treasurer include a $500.00 donation to Durand Union Station each year when he prepares the annual budget for that year.
Ward also reported that the City of Durand has yet to move ahead on improvements to the station parking lot. Funds for this improvement have been allotted by MDOT.
Reimbursement of Expenses: Newell asked about expenses while members are on the road staffing MARP exhibits, such as the recent National Train Day show in Toledo. Langdon suggested a committee be established to come up with a policy. Tischbein agreed and appointed a committee consisting of Newell, Langdon and Randall to study the issue and report back to the Executive Committee.
Visuals of All Amtrak and all Amtrak Thruway Stations and Stops: Langdon reported that John DeLora is compiling information about all Amtrak and Amtrak Thruway Stops as a NARP project. Members are asked to e-mail visuals from all angles, particularly from the street side in jpg format to DeLora.
Adjournment: Gurney moved adjournment. The motion was seconded by Sobel. The formal meeting adjourned at 11:53 a.m.
Witch’s Hat Museum: Jennifer Redfern, a member of the Board of Trustees of the South Lyon Area Historical Society, then discussed the history of the Witch’s Hat Depot Museum complex. The property consists of the Witch’s Hat Depot, moved to its current location in the 1970’s, the freight house, a caboose, a one room school and a church. It is owned by the City of South Lyon, overseen by the South Lyon Historical Commission and interpreted by the South Lyon Area Historical Society.
South Lyon came into existence with the construction of the Detroit and Lansing Railroad through the area in 1871. That railroad became part of the Pere Marquette Railroad, and later the C & O Railroad. It is now part of CSX. In the 1880’s, the Grand Trunk Western built its Airline Division through the area. The two railroads crossed at South Lyon. The Witch’s Hat Depot was built in the early 1900’s at the diamond where the two lines crossed and served passengers using both routes. After passenger service ceased around 1970, the depot was moved to its present site as the city’s major Bicentennial project. The other structures have been added in the intervening years.
The Ann Arbor Railroad was built north from Ann Arbor on a route parallel to Pontiac Trail and served South Lyon for about ten years. It was then moved to a more westerly route through Whitmore Lake because the owners felt that would be more profitable.
The Grand Trunk Western ceased operations in the 1980’s. The Lakelands Trail now utilizes its right of way.
Respectfully Submitted: Accepted:
Hugh D. Gurney Robert Tischbein