Meeting minutes – Executive Committee — Williamston– January 12, 2013

JANUARY 12, 2013


Members Present:     Larry Krieg, Hugh Gurney, Jim Wallington, Kathleen Newell, Kay Chase, John Langdon, Bob Tischbein, Jim Hinkins

Also Present: Steve T. Sobel, Kaz Fujita, Julien R. Wolfe, Rich Vavra-Musser, Bruce Becker, Phillip Mange, Jim Roach, Kris Wisniewski, Jerry Becker, Clark Charnetski, Dianne Patterson, Robert Patterson, Martha Benedict, Richard Pekarek, Michael Frezell, Tim Fischer, Dan Platz, Doug Wilson, Kim Powell, Ron McClain, Dave Patterson,  Eric Newberg, Thomas Breeding, Tim Hoeffner

Call to Order:  Vice Chair Larry Krieg called the meeting to order at 10:05.  A roll call of members established that a quorum was present.  Those present were asked to introduce themselves and their place of residence.

Order of Business:  Newell moved that we approve the order of business.  Langdon seconded and the motion was approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

Minutes:  Chase’s corrections were noted.  Newell moved approval of the Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting in Lansing on December 15, 2012 with corrections.  The motion was seconded by Langdon and approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

Treasurer’s Report:  Langdon presented the Treasurer’s Report on behalf of Treasurer Dave Randall.  As of December 31, 2012, the checking account had a balance of $25,743.55, which included $17,141.26 of Pratt Fund proceeds awaiting transfer to a Vanguard account.  Because of a mix up at the post office, December receipts were not posted.  Even so, income for 2012 exceeded expenses by $2,328.00.  Langdon noted that a $4,000 grant from TRANS4M was received yesterday.

 Chase moved acceptance of the Treasurer’s report.  The motion was seconded by Newell and approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

Chair Assumes Gavel:  At this point, Chairman Tischbein accepted the gavel from Krieg.

Future Meetings:  Wallington reviewed upcoming meetings scheduled.  Our next meeting will be on February 9 at the historic rail station in Capac.  T. J. Gaffney, former director of the Michigan Steam Railroading Institute will be the speaker.  March 9 will find us at the historic rail depot in St. Johns.  On April 20, the meeting will be in Niles.

Wallington urged members to make plans for a festive meeting in Manistee August 9-11, when we will be meeting aboard a former rail ferry, the SS City of Milwaukee.

Resignation of Lawrence Bancroft:  Langdon moved to accept the resignation of Lawrence Bancroft as Chair of the Western Region.  The motion was seconded by Newell and approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

Recess:  Chairman Tischbein recessed the Executive Committee meeting at 10:20 a.m. for the Monthly Membership Meeting.  The Executive Committee meeting resumed at 11:50 a.m. 

Detroit Metro Regional Report:  Hinkins noted that U. S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is scheduled to be in Detroit on Friday, January 18.  It is expected that he will announce a grant of $25 million toward the M-1 streetcar project connecting downtown Detroit with the New Center area.  Private donations will cover the majority of expenses, with donors such as Wayne State University owning the various stations along the route.

Hoeffner added that the $25 million was a TIGER grant toward the total project cost of  $137 million.  The M-1 project will be totally compatible with future light rail proposals extending the line further out Woodward Avenue.  The M-1 streetcars will go no faster or no slower than 85% of the traffic on Woodward.  Planning for a new Amtrak station in the New Center area of Detroit will await finalization of plans for M-1 so the projects are fully coordinated. 

TRU’s offices have moved to 2929 Russell Street in the Eastern Market area. 

Hinkins has been photographing progress on the Troy and Dearborn Transportation Centers on a monthly basis.  Dearborn is further ahead.

Associate Detroit Metro Chair Patterson noted that he had attended the very successful groundbreaking ceremony for the Troy Transportation Center back in November.  In the midst of the program, train # 353 breezed through.  Patterson has also attended three sessions dealing with Woodward Avenue projects including light rail and bus rapid transit.  BRT stations will probably be at the mile roads.

Communications Coordinator:  Chase asked for assistance in promoting the TRANS4M video contest.  We would like people who are savvy with video cams to submit their transportation stories, good or bad.  In addition to prizes for the winner, the sponsoring organization will receive $1,000.  She will coordinate with Larry Sobczak on submissions.  The contest closes on February 24.

Fischer added that it would be great to have some good stories about rail transportation that could be shown to legislators.  Check details at >

Chase urged as many members as possible to attend the Michigan Environmental Council Legislative Breakfast on January 30 at the House of Representatives Office Building in Lansing.  We need to give MEC as much support as we can.  They are the ones that got us involved in TRANS4M.

Route Enhancement Committee:  Gurney asked both members of the Route Enhancement Committee and all concerned to review the report of accomplishments in 2012 and make comments and corrections.  The committee will meet over lunch to discuss recommendations for 2013.  Again, we welcome suggestions from all.

Membership:  Newell reported that we are getting very close to a comprehensive membership list.  Treasurer Randall will date stamp all membership applications before turning them over to her. 

Outreach:  Tischbein has recently added several new entries to the Outreach Schedule.  Please review.

MDOT:  Hoeffner reported that MDOT now has 8,000 ties plus rails on hand to begin work on upgrading the Dearborn-Kalamazoo section to 110 mph speeds.  Amtrak has acquired a warehouse in Jackson.  The plan is to stabilize the center portion of the route while reconstructing simultaneously eastward from Kalamazoo and westward from Dearborn.  Grading for the Dearborn-Ypsilanti double tracking will take place in 2013.

Because of PRIIA 209, state support to Amtrak will triple from $8 million to $25 million in FY 2013. 

New York State Update:  Bruce Becker, President of the New York State Association of Railroad Passengers noted progress on many fronts in that state.  Due to PRIAA 209, state support for Amtrak is expected to jump from $4 million to $45 million.  Recently, Amtrak leased the line from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady from CSX.  This will permit a number of improvements including signal upgrades and double tracking between Albany and Schenectady.  Grand Central Station will be 100 years old in February, 2013.

Adjournment:  Langdon moved adjournment, seconded by Newell.  This was approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.  The meeting adjourned at 12:25 p.m.


Respectfully submitted:                                                          Accepted:




Hugh D. Gurney                                                                     Robert Tischbein

Secretary                                                                                 President



Addendum:  East/Central Regional Report:  A family obligation prevents me from giving this report to you in person at the meeting Saturday.  In the last month, my priority has been to create a job description as the new committee chair for the East/Central Region.  Two things are in my favor:  there hasn’t been a full-time chair in a while and my copy of the Michigan Passenger, Winter 2009, advertises for a volunteer to come forward to serve.  And thanks to the MARP chairman at the time, John DeLora, the ad includes a job description.

“The regional chair tracks issues along Amtrak’s Blue Water route from Battle Creek east through East Lansing, Durand, Flint, Lapeer and Port Huron and attempts to resolve them, either directly or by reporting to MARP’s Executive Committee, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) or Amtrak.”

DeLora goes on to say issues include “on-time performance of passenger trains, cleanliness of passenger trains and stations, and promotion of Amtrak’s Blue Water train service.  The chair also is on a committee that deals with funds allotted by MDOT to market the Blue Water and coordinates distribution of MARP’s quarterly newspaper.”

I’ve promoted both MARP and train ridership all along, so no problem there.  Haven’t received any material to learn about MARP budgeting process.

 Kay Chase provided a membership list for East/Central.  Only a handful of paying members expressed interest in being active, but after sending emails or calling them only one person remained interested.

William Seck of Haslett offered to forward any news of the Blue Water etc. he hears of.  A frequent Blue Water, and sometimes Wolverine, train passenger to Chicago, he joined MARP after spotting a passenger newspaper at the station that peaked his interest.  His father and grandfather were railroad men.  He and family sometimes ride the Pere Marquette out of Grand Rapids.  He may very well be in the audience Saturday to hear the guest speaker.  Seck expressed disappointment train service to Toronto ceased following 9/11, something that has yet to make sense, he said.  Although it hasn’t happened lately, there have been times online purchases of train tickets were impossible, even though he tried a month in advance.  The website said trains were sold out, but he believes the real reason was that Amtrak didn’t have enough rolling stock to accommodate all who wanted tickets.  He also questions why riders are huddled together in 2 cars, for example, when the other cars are empty.  Lately, however, he said, “Overall, Amtrak has gotten a lot better.”

 He does wonder why more cars weren’t added to the Blue Water during the 2012 holidays.  Only the Wolverine benefitted.  He always wanted to know why the wolverine, once in Pontiac, isn’t made to go to Port Huron and loop around to Chicago.  He may have these questions answered if he’s in the audience.  He and his wife have another commitment Saturday, but he will try to attend the meeting.  I referred him to the MARP website to read minutes from the meeting.


Seck referred me to a recent Lansing State Journal article Jan. 3.  The $10.5 million allocation from USDOT   Federal Transit Administration has been promised but not yet released.  Anyone following the shenanigans among House Republicans can guess that dollars are caught up in the fiscal cliffhanger that may never be settled.  Amtrak funding may also be cut.  The situation in D.C. compounded by the appropriation to rectify the monumental damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, also handing in limbo, is enough to wonder if the East Lansing station well be replaced anytime soon.  Will follow-up on the status next week.


Contact has been made with Mary Stone, Executive Director of Durand Union Station Inc.  Thanks to John Langdon, I forwarded a link to the Great American Stations website for her to search.  Mary said the city received a grant several years ago to expand the parking area but lighting was not addressed.  The city manager gave her authority to pursue grants which she may find through the GAS program.  Acquiring lighting is determined by the Downtown Development Authority because the station is part of the DDA district.  Mary was very friendly and appreciative of MARP’s interest and helping hand.  She is definitely on of my contacts.  As Norma Ward, MARP member and DUSI  volunteer, will be.


Doug Wilson, another MARP member, has been very helpful.  He is a good contact for the Port Huron/St. Clair County, Sarnia area as well as a person very active in the Canadian rail movement.


On the heels of the December announcement of the ownership transfer of NS railroad to MDOT, I contacted a friend and reporter for the Leader Publications based in Niles.  John Eby has been editor of the Dowagiac Daily News efore all the newspapers withing the company were combined on one website.  I referred John to John Langdon and the MDOT news releases.  To my surprise, John’s story about the transfer and improvement to wolverine and Blue Water passenger services included by off-the-cuff- comments I stated in an e-mail to John Eby.  You can’t trust those reporters!!  Actually, I believe John got another story out of it by including me as I once worked for Niles Newspapers, and he tied in a local angle.  I probably would have done the same thing.  At least Langdon was contacted for some worthy quotes.



Please let me know if I am to arrange for MARP to set up at CMU March 24 for the Mid Michigan Model Train Show.  I noticed my name and that a “Frezell” a person I don’t know, as working at the show.  I didn’t notice the February 116 train show at Middlebury of the March 16 train show in Napanee mentioned.  I have volunteered to work at both shows.  The inability to get a decent printout of the spreadsheet may account for these deletions.



Sorry for such a lengthy report.  Reporting on my connections may not be necessary in the future unless something of major importance comes up. I will always promote train travel.  For example, I suggested to the director of the cable TV consortium for Gratiot-Isabella-Clare counties to videotape a train ride between East Lansing and Chicago to broadcast.  Maybe that will happen one day.


Rosemary Horvath

Chair, East/Central Region

Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers

Crystal, Michigan