MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS
Monthly Membership Meeting
Indian Trails Garage, Owosso, MI
July 25, 2009
Those Signing In: Hugh Gurney, Clark Charnetski, Don Monteith, Kay Chase, Archie Lhamory, Jim Wallington, John Langdon, Dick Pekarek, Dan Matz, Ken Henry, Andrew Kent, Rich Vavra-Musser, David G. Common, Leonard D. Barry, Tom Carroll, John DeLora, Jim Hinkins, Michael Frezell, Dave Randall, Roger Webster
Also Present: Phil Randall, Tim Randall
Call to Order: Vice Chair Don Monteith called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m. Those present were asked to introduce themselves and state the community they resided in.
Treasurer’s Report: Dave Randall presented the Treasurer’s Report. As of June 30, 2009, the checking account amounted to $5,557.33 and the Pratt Fund was valued at $11,160.05. Langdon moved acceptance of the Treasurer’s report, seconded by Vavra-Musser. The Treasurer’s Report was approved by those present.
Secretary’s Report: Hugh Gurney distributed copies of the minutes of the June 13 meeting in Port Huron. Langdon moved acceptance with one correction. Vavra-Musser seconded. The minutes as corrected were approved by those present.
Annual Meeting: Kay Chase announced that the Annual Meeting will be held at the Public Library in Kalamazoo on Saturday, September 12 at 11:00 a.m. Rail history will be the speaker’s topic. An excellent catered lunch was promised.
October Meeting: Clark Charnetski informed the group that the October meeting would take place in Ann Arbor on Saturday, October 10. The meeting will start at the Amtrak station at 10:00 a.m., then move across the street to Casey’s Tavern at 11:00 a.m.
Indian Trails: MARP Chair John DeLora took the gavel at 10:20 a.m. and introduced our host, Ken Henry of Indian Trails. Henry noted that Indian Trails will have been in business for 100 years in 2010. He then shared a potential plan for Indian Trails to serve Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, without adding to the mileage that MDOT will support. To do that, the western UP route would be cut back to Iron Mountain or Iron River rather than running all the way to Ironwood on the state’s western border. Indian Trails might also cut service to Calumet, which accounts for one or two passengers a week. Henry
projects that 2,000 passengers would board at Sault Ste. Marie, which is a terminal on the cross Canada Greyhound service. Canadian Greyhound would cross the bridge from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, for connecting passengers. Indian Trails has been encouraged to extend service to Sault Ste. Marie by Harry Gow of Transport 2000 and by Lake Superior State University. Henry plans to present his proposal to MDOT officials on August 17. The present limousine service between St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie is not a conflict because it runs infrequently. He asked for any support MARP could give.
Langdon asked if there was a possibility of extending Amtrak Thuway Service to Sault Ste. Marie. Henry responded that Brenda Cheney of Indian Trails was pursuing this with Amtrak.
Charnetski suggested that IT use the publicly owned Menominee airport rather than Marinette as a stop in that area. He also recommended that IT serve the Green Bay airport rather than the bus station and that IT drop the stop in Pestigo when the new highway opens.
Henry stated that with the change in Amtrak schedules, IT will hold the connecting bus in Battle Creek for up to 30 minutes for passengers from Amtrak train #350. The connection with Amtrak #354 cannot be tightened because IT needs to also make connections in Benton Harbor and Holland.
Michigan Flyer service is still not profitable, but growing. Currently, they are transporting 270-300 passengers on 8 daily round trips. Henry would like to see this number over 300 on a regular basis. They are seeing lots of students traveling between East Lansing and Ann Arbor and vice versa.
Detroit Metro Airport has made no recent moves against the service, but still will not permit signage. Their attitude has softened, but they still won’t offer a welcoming hand. Checker sedan, which had served Ann Arbor, has withdrawn from this service and Metrocars is in bankruptcy. Regional air carriers out of Lansing may adjust fares downward which could affect Michigan Flyer. Schedules will be modified on August 19. Indian Trails is adding new equipment with more luggage space.
In response to a question from DeLora, Henry responded that the stop in Mount Pleasant is at the Casino because staffing has been available there. To date, there has not been a lot of traffic from the students at Central Michigan, although two stops in Mount Pleasant are not out of the question. DeLora will contact city officials to see if they can be of assistance.
There have been 89 Amtrak Thruway passengers this year to date on the Calumet-Milwaukee line. To promote UP service, Indian Trails has purchased several billboards, plus 15 second TV commercials. For students, they are promoting the service on U-Tube.
Indian Trails is no longer printing timetables. Their website is being redesigned so people can print off a schedule.
Regional Chair Reports
East/Central: Kent reported that Norma Ward was gathering petitions urging restoration of Amtrak funding at Durand during the period that Southern Pacific #4449 was passing through. The train was at Durand for several hours.
Northern: No charters have been scheduled so far this year according to Kent.
Western: Because of track work, Pere Marquette #371 inbound to Chicago will be operating one hour earlier on weekdays through mid September, according to Langdon. The train will adhere to its published schedule on August 5, its Silver Anniversary. A lounge car will be added on that day and the train will carry the MDOT Director and other officials including Ron Jelinek, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Ceremonies are planned at each station on the line. Congressman Vern Ehlers will be among those greeting the train at Grand Rapids.
Passengers and crew will be offered a piece of anniversary cake and passengers will be given a gift bag with West Michigan treats including pickles, blueberries and Dutch mints. Charnetski suggested that a copy of Michigan Passenger be added.
The new New Buffalo station on the Wolverine line is almost ready. They are currently looking for a good location for a QuickTrack machine. MDOT claims that each stop a train makes costs them money, so are resistant to maintaining the current stop on the Pere Marquette line. A former mayor is looking into the possibility of the casino foundation funding the stop. Westrain would like to see stops in Watervliet and Fennville as well.
An appropriations set aside in the 2009 federal budget provides $3 million of a projected $8 million needed for a new station in Grand Rapids. This will become a reality eventually.
Metro: Jim Hinkins reported that there was a good attendance at the recent dedication of the new Rosa Parks bus terminal in Detroit, which will serve DDOT buses and Megabus. The new terminal seems to work very well.
MDOT has hired a consultant for the planned track improvements at West Detroit, but no date has been set for bids going out.
The Woodward Avenue light rail plan has hit a snag. DDOT has been planning a line running down the middle of Woodward Avenue, while the privately funded line from New Center to downtown would run at curbside. Engineering studies have decided that the curbside alignment is not feasible because of drainage and conflict with parked cars. This issue must be resolved before further progress can be made.
Hinkins has been trying to get in contact with Preservation Wayne for an update on the status of the Central Michigan Depot.
Charnetski reported that the Ann Arbor Transportation authority has hired a consultant to develop a public information program for WALLY. Unfortunately, the Ann Arbor Railroad recently removed an interchange switch with the Norfolk Southern to prevent interchange of commuter equipment between WALLY and the Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter system. A target date of October, 2010 is still projected. AATA has hired a new CEO who has past experience with Greyhound and Portland Metro.
Wallington reported that he was surprised to see a very long freight on the Conrail Shared Assets line from West Detroit to Shelby Township late on a weekend night.
Government Affairs: Langdon reported that at a recent meeting in Fort Wayne, it appeared Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels would be supportive of the South of the Lake project. Nobody has seen the actual application, but it has been reported that Indiana will be requesting $47 million for South of the Lake, which will include an extra route to Fort Wayne. How far the proposed South of the Lake route and the Fort Wayne route coalesce remains to be seen. We also don’t know what priority Indiana is giving to the South of the Lake route. Additional money for CREATE in Chicago has been allotted.
MDOT has made seven applications for funding from the stimulus packets covering upgrades on the various host railroads, Amtrak owned trackage and Amtrak stations.
Al Johnson heads a new MDOT section which will coordinate stimulus funding. He will report to Tim Hoeffner. The goal is to have trains operating Chicago-Detroit in three hours and forty five minutes. Reduction in travel time, not speed, is the goal.
On the state level, Amtrak funding is still in conference committee, with the House of Representatives calling for $5.7 million and the Senate $3.7. A total of $7.3 million is needed to maintain the current level of service. Bake sales have been held in Detroit, East Lansing and Kalamazoo to focus attention on the issue.
Rich Vavra-Musser moved that MARP support seven day a week service on both the Blue Water and Pere Marquette lines until the money runs out. The motion was seconded by Monteith and passed by those present. Langdon asked the Communications Coordinator to prepare a press release supporting MARP’s position.
State Senator Jason Allen of Traverse City is interested in putting together a passenger train caucus. Although Tim Fischer has some doubts as to whether such a caucus would have a positive effect, Langdon feels we should
look into this. At one time we had an Amtrak caucus when Representative Hagen represented Port Huron. Randall shared that Livonia Senator Anderson’s son is a frequent Amtrak rider. Anderson serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and could be very effective.
MARP is urging individuals who visit our booth at Trainfest to sign a petition in favor of adequate Amtrak funding. We got a good start at a train event near Kalalmazoo.
Membership: Vavra-Musser passed out current membership statistics. He urged that another renewal reminder be mailed to last year’s members who have not renewed. He asked for help on the business/institution program.
DeLora discussed the need to raise funds to cover a MARP reception at the Amway Grand Plaza during the NARP meeting in Grand Rapids in October, 2010. Langdon suggested approaching the Grand Rapids CVB. A discussion ensued on whether the MARP sponsorship program and fundraising for the NARP meeting were getting confused. Vavra-Musser stated that the sponsorship program is a MARP activity, but that it could help with the NARP convention.
Communications: Langdon urged the Communications Coordinator to work with Valderas on the newsletter press run and distribution. Randall stated that he had approved the press run before the paper went to print.
Outreach: MARP will have a table at Crossroads Village next weekend. Langdon asked for help in moving outreach material out of Trainfest today and tomorrow.
E-Mail Phone Bank: DeLora has contacted both NARP and On Board Ohio and will continue to gather information. He suggests that on critical issues, we direct all calls to the committee chairpersons involved and really drown these individuals with our concerns. He would like to partner more with Ohio.
Pekarek suggested MARP take a look at what trains will be stopping at New Buffalo to assure that residents there are able to conveniently travel from New Buffalo to Chicago and back or from Chicago to New Buffalo and back in a single day.
Montieth will attend the dedication of the new transportation center in St. Ignace on Labor Day.
Gurney confirmed that the By-Laws call for election of officers in even numbered years.
Adjournment: The meeting adjourned at 12:00 p.m.
Hugh D. Gurney, Secretary
John DeLora, Chair