Meeting minutes – Executive Committee — Essex, ON – November 10, 2012

NOVEMBER 10, 2012 

Present:  Robert Tischbein, Larry Krieg, Hugh Gurney, Dave Randall, Don Monteith, Rosemary Horvath, Jim Hinkins, Kathleen Newell, Jim Wallington, John Langdon

Also Present:  Morley Bowman, Harry Gow, Bill Gay, Charles Merckel, Jeanie Merckel,

Doug Wilson, Scott Holland, Ken Westcarn, Dixie Westcarn, Robbie Gibson, Julien R. Wolfe, Steve T. Sobel, Diane Patterson, Robert Patterson, Bill Shay, Michael Frezell, Ren Farley, Dan Platz, Connie Randall, Tim Hoeffner

Call to Order:  Chairman Tischbein called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Welcome:  Essex Town Council member Morley Bowman welcomed the group to Essex and to the historic Essex Railway Station.  Bowman stressed the value of the railroad to the development of the Town of Essex and emphasized the community’s determination to maintain the station as a symbol of rail’s contribution.  He expressed regret that the Canadian National had recently announced plans to rip up the historic rails that have served the town for 140 years and sell them to Mexico.

Chicago Union Station Task Force Report:  Krieg passed out a draft of the Chicago Union Station Passenger Action Taskforce Proposed Solutions and asked members, particularly those active with the taskforce, to review and submit their comments to him.  The taskforce has been working very constructively with Amtrak and has come up with this first draft of an action plan.  Once approved, it will take about a week for Amtrak to get word out to staff involved.  Krieg suggested that members of the taskforce present meet after lunch to discuss the draft.

In response to a question from Gurney as to whether additional trains scheduled over the Thanksgiving holidays were part of the action plan, Krieg noted that Amtrak was adding no additional coaches to existing trains.

Minutes:  Gurney asked members to review three sets of minutes: (1) Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting in Grand Rapids on July 28, 2012, (2) Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting in East Lansing on August 25, 2012, and (3) Minutes of the Membership meeting in St. Louis on October 13, 2012.

Langdon moved acceptance of the Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting in Grand Rapids on July 28, 2012.  Krieg seconded the motion and members of the Executive Committee present approved the motion.

Krieg then moved acceptance of the Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting in East Lansing on August 25, 2012.  This motion was seconded by Langdon and approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

Krieg then moved acceptance of the Minutes of the Membership Meeting in St. Louis on October 13, 2012.  Langdon seconded the motion and it was approved by the members present.

Treasurer’s Report:  Randall then passed out the Treasurer’s Report.  For the Calendar Year 2012, MARP shows a net income over expenses of $8,345 for an Operating Ratio of 62.48%.  The balance in the Chase Account stands at $31,661.34, including $17,141.26 of Pratt Fund proceeds awaiting the move to the new Vanguard account.

Randall then passed out a proposed budget for 2013, asking Executive Committee members to review for discussion at the January meeting.

Wallington moved acceptance of the Treasurer’s Report.  This was seconded by Krieg and approved by the majority of the members of the Executive Committee present, with one abstention.

Meetings:  Wallington distributed a proposed schedule of meetings for the Calendar Year 2013.  The next meeting is scheduled for Williamston on January 12, 2013.  Wallington pointed out that he August meeting in Manistee includes the opportunity to sleep aboard a historic Lake Michigan ferry for $25.00 per night.

Governmental Affairs: Langdon shared the Amtrak schedule for the Thanksgiving holiday period.  Amtrak has added two additional Wolverine trains on many of the days during the long Thanksgiving weekend, one departing Kalamazoo early in the morning and returning in the late evening and a mid morning Chicago-Ann Arbor frequency which will reverse at Ann Arbor and return to Chicago in the early evening.  Langdon is hopeful that this will be the start of additional frequencies on the Wolverine line. For this reason, MARP has printed 5,000 copies of this schedule and is overseeing seat drops on both the Wolverines and Blue Water, plus posters in each coach, and distribution to all stations.  The schedule is in the Amtrak computer and MDOT has sent a press release to all colleges and universities.  One additional train set, donated by Amtrak’s Eastern Division, will handle the enhanced schedule.  The early morning Kalamazoo-Chicago and late evening Chicago-Kalamazoo runs have been a MARP Route Enhancement Committee recommendation for several years.  The additional Chicago-Ann Arbor-Chicago frequency provides enhanced service on the most heavily used portion of the line.

Langdon agreed to follow through on Krieg’s observation that he saw no posters on train #354 the preceding night and only one crumpled black and white copy of the enhanced schedule.  Krieg noted that Amtrak will be comparing 2012 Thanksgiving holiday ridership with additional frequencies to 2011 statistics when they added more coaches to already scheduled trains.

Associate Detroit Metro Regional Chair:  Hinkins asked if Robert Patterson could assist him in his duties as Detroit Metro Regional Chair.  After discussion about how such a request could be implemented, Langdon moved that Robert Patterson be designated as Associate Detroit Metro Regional Chair with non-voting power on the Executive Committee.  The motion was seconded by Krieg and approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

Reduced Rate at Chicago Club Quarters:  In conjunction with the Chicago Union Taskforce project, Krieg has negotiated for a reduced rate at both Chicago locations of Club Quarters, 111 Adams Street and 79 E. Wacker. All MARP members qualify for the discount.  Check with Krieg for the password.  For the weekend rate, one must use the website to get the reduced rate.

Recess:  Chairman Tischbein recessed the Executive Committee meeting at 10:55 a.m. for the Monthly Membership meeting.  The Executive Committee meeting resumed at 12:00 p.m.

Detroit-Windsor Railroad Tunnel:  Responding to a question by Hinkins, Gow stated that the existing Detroit-Windsor railroad tunnels will be used for low level freight and could be used for passenger trains.  He believes the Detroit River International Crossing Bridge will be built before a new railroad tunnel. 

Wolfe informed the group that there will be a hearing on November 13 about the proposed new railroad tunnel.  Hoeffner reported that the environmental reviews for the tunnel project were moving forward, though the process was different on each side of the border.  The State of Michigan considers the tunnel an important project.  The State of Michigan supports both the tunnel and the Detroit River International Crossing.

Windsor-Toronto High Speed Rail:  According to Gow, technocrats in Canada are not placing high emphasis on high speed rail between Windsor and Toronto.  They are not considering the large population in Southeast Michigan that might use the service.  MARP needs to let them know that the world does not end at the Detroit River.

Support for Transport Action Canada:  Langdon moved that MARP appropriate $500.00 for the support of Transport Action Canada.  The motion was seconded by Monteith and approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

MDOT Update:  Hoeffner reported that the commuter equipment refurbished for use on the proposed Ann Arbor-Detroit and Ann Arbor-Howell (WALLY) lines would be tested at speeds of up to 79 mph on the evening of Tuesday, November 13. The train will go from Pontiac to Jackson, making stops at all proposed stations, then return to Pontiac the same night, making all the stops.   The exact schedule is subject to the whims of the dispatchers.

As to the transfer of the Dearborn-Kalamazoo line from Norfolk Southern to MDOT, the technical issues have now been addressed.  Expect an announcement soon.

Note of Appreciation:  Wallington thanked Wilson for putting an excellent meeting together.

Adjournment:  Langdon moved adjournment.  This was seconded by Sobel.  The meeting adjourned at 12:35 p.m.


Respectfully submitted:                                              Accepted:

Hugh D. Gurney                                                         Robert Tischbein

Secretary                                                                     Chair