MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS
MONTHLY MEMBERSHIP MEETING
THE OLD DOG TAVERN, KALAMAZOO
FEBRUARY 11. 2012
Those Signing In: Hugh Gurney, Dave Randall, Robert Tischbein, Larry Krieg, Dan Platz, Tom Post, Steve T. Sobel, Mike Whims, Clark Charnetski, John Langdon, Archie Lhamon, Jim Hastings, Thomas Stegink, Diane Patterson, Robert Patterson, Cheryl Ten Brink, Burton Ten Brink, Kay Chase, John DeLora, Jim Hinkins, Don Monteith, Tim Hoeffner, Richard Pekarek
Also Present: John Conor, Mike Madil, Chris Nozicka, J. J. Meddaugh
Call to Order: Chairman Tischbein called the meeting to order at 12:05 p.m.
Speaker: Chase introduced Mike Madill and John Conor, who discussed the history of theChicago,Kalamazoo and Saginaw Railroad, portions of which are used today by the Grand Elk. As early as the mid 1870’s, businessmen inKalamazoo conceived of a second railroad through town to break the stranglehold of the Michigan Central. A narrow gage railroad was surveyed fromKalamazoo toHastings, but a downturn in the economy halted further progress. Construction of the CK&S began in 1883. It connected with the Grand Trunk south of town, proceeded north throughKalamazoo, then northeasterly throughBarryCounty toHastings. It was a boon to the development ofBarryCounty and brought vacationers to the many lakes in the region. It never reachedLansing, its planned destination. Little by little, the northeasterly section was abandoned, the last section betweenKalamazoo and Ridgeland being torn up in 1974. The Grand Elk continues to use the section between the connection with the Grand Trunk at Pavilion andKalamazoo.
Madill and Conor are working to assure that the CK&S is not forgotten, putting up markers along the old right of way and at several bridges and depots. A Festival is planned for July inKalamazoo. Members were invited to view the various display boards mounted around the room after the meeting.
Regional Chapter Reports:
Northern: Monteith reported that approximately 10,500 people attended theTraverse City “Festival of Trains”, December 15-January 1, the largest attendance ever. People in that area keep asking, “When do we get our passenger trains back?’ and “When are we going to get a decent bus connection to the trains going East and South?”
Monteith handed out statistics showing that Amtrak is the most energy efficient method of transportation, beating out even motorcycles. He urged members to point out the success of the North Star commuter line inMinnesota, which now connectsSt. CloudwithMinneapolis, as an example of what we can do inMichigan.
MichiganTechnologicalUniversityis putting together a group to support the rail industry.
Metro Detroit: Hinkins noted that the M-1 light rail project appears to be back for reconsideration. Work continues on the Michigan Central Station inDetroit and windows are being replaced. This is mainly a public relations venture for Matty Maroun, who is under the gun for his lack of progress on the Gateway Project, designed to connect theAmbassadorBridge directly to I-75. Responding to criticism from the business community, the Troy City Council reversed itself in January and voted to proceed with a scaled down regional transportation center.
Hinkins urged all to push for passage of the Southeast Michigan Regional Transportation Authority. Charnetski noted that the proposed legislation requires a unanimous vote by the counties affected for rail projects to proceed.
Gurney reported on a visit that he, Fischer, Langdon, Wallington, Monteith and Krieg had made to Great Lakes Central inOwossoon January 18. Work is underway on refurbishing twenty three of the twenty four ex-Metra cars under contract with MDOT. Twelve of the cars appear to be ready. The group was able to inspect both a coach and a cab car. Each car has room for four wheelchairs. Bicycles can use this space if not needed for wheelchairs. Krieg reported that Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has put out a Request for Proposals for station design along the proposed WALLY, but does not plan to go any further until it sees more support fromLivingstonCounty.
Charnetski very recently learned that theUniversityofMichiganwas pulling out of the proposedAnn ArborTransportationCenterand would build its parking structure elsewhere. FRA has determined that the parking structure could not be used as a match for the transportation center.
As for when we might see commuter rail in theAnn Arborarea, Hoeffner noted that passage of the Regional Transportation Authority must come first. This is the governor’s highest priority. We have a good shot at the RTA now as the key players are committed.
Several from West Michigan lamented that none of the current proposals include a direct rail link betweenKalamazooandDetroitMetroAirport. Hoeffner responded that a bus connection from theDearbornstation to the airport was planned. Charnetski noted that
AATA has negotiated with Michigan Flyer for direct service between the downtownAnn Arbortransportation center and Detroit Metro. This service is scheduled to begin in April. Because of AATA’s involvement, Detroit Metro will not charge Michigan Flyer an entry fee, Krieg added.
East/Central: Robert Patterson commented on proposals he had seen of a new station inPort Huron near theBlueWaterBridge. Hoeffner replied that Amtrak is not enamored with this concept as it involves bringing trains along a route with many grade crossings and a swing bridge. A new station is needed as ridership is growing. Approximately 50%-60% is fromCanada, judging from the cars in the parking lot.
Pekarek reported that the Board of Directors room at Durand Union Station was still under repair. Winter weather has stalled completion of the new parking lot.
In response to Pekarek’s query aboutEast Lansing, Hoeffner noted that there had been some talk about a new station, but nothing definite. If built, it would be at the diamond where CN and CSX cross. Hoeffner hopes that spending a little money now may reap larger rewards in the future. Ridership is definitely up atEast Lansing.
Western: Langdon recently attended a Fennville DDA meeting, where a proposed Amtrak station was discussed. Amtrak has asked for a presentation.
Amtrak Thruway Committee: On January 18, Gurney, Langdon, Monteith, Fischer and Krieg spent several hours with Gordon MacKay, Chad Cushman, Ken Henry and Brenda Cheney of Indian Trails at their office in Owosso. Ridership is growing on the Michigan Flyer route which boasts a 99% on time performance. Four new buses have been purchased for this service replacing four aging vehicles. Ridership is also growing in Northern Michigan, where Indian Trails has achieved a 52% fare box recovery in a sparsely populated region. Sixty five new way finding signs have been installed on state highways. All agreed to work toward having more Indian Trails routes in Michigan designated as Amtrak Thruway routes listed in the Amtrak timetable. Linking Amtrak’s Thruway bus service between Toledo and East Lansing to Indian Trails’ Straits service up U. S. 127 to St. Ignace was discussed. A full report on this meeting will be in the winter issue of The Michigan Passenger.
Route Enhancement Committee: Gurney has assigned members to track various parts of the 2012 Route Enhancement goals and report back on a regular basis. Major tasks include finding funding for studies of additional frequencies and developing the proposed Getting Around Michigan by Train and Bus.
National Train Day in Toledo: Langdon reported that MARP will have a table at the National Train Day celebration inToledo on May 5. We will need volunteers to help staff this table.
MDOT Update: Hoeffner, newly appointed Director of MDOT’s Office of Rail, noted that he has worked for years for the consolidation of all rail functions in one MDOT office. He acknowledged that the budget for rail has a different look this year, with many rail functions rolled in to one package. There is no separate line for support of passenger rail, often a lightning rod for opposition in the past. The governor has clearly demonstrated his support for transportation by adding funds from the general fund. Support for the Wolverines will not be needed until the FY 2014 budget.
Amtrak is appreciative of MDOT’s support over the years. MDOT has been able to close a multitude of private crossings east ofKalamazoo. MDOT will be lengthening the lead time for crossing lights and gates as one way of promoting safety. Education is definitely needed. Safety remains the top priority.
The public announcement that speeds will be increased to 110 mph on the Kalamazoo-Porter stretch came up very suddenly. Trains have actually been running at that speed for about a week. The special inaugural train will departChicagoon February 15, stop for ceremonies in New Buffalo, then proceed toKalamazoofor more ceremonies. It will then return toChicago.
Outreach: Tischbein announced that he had copies of the current outreach schedule available.
NARP Website: Delora noted that Larry Sobczak had been working on www.newsconsultant.net/narp, a very impressive website with lots of ridership statistics. NARP received a grant of $15,000 to develop this project.
Recognition: A retirement card signed by all was presented to Archie Lhamon, who will be retiring fromNorfolk Southern. During his long career, Lhamon has worked the entire Detroit-Chicago line under Michigan Central and its successors.
Adjournment: The meeting adjourned at 1:20 p.m. The next meeting will be at the newPontiacTransportationCenter on Saturday, March 17, at 10:30 a.m.
Respectfully submitted: Accepted:
Hugh D. Gurney Robert Tischbein