Minutes – February 23, 2008 – Durand

General Membership Meeting
Durand Union Station, Durand

February 23, 2008

Those Signing In: Hugh Gurney, Clark Charnetski, Michael Frezell, Don Monteith, Dick Pekarek, John Langdon, Rich Vavra-Musser, Philip Chamberlain, Norma Ward,

Bob Tischbein, Andrew Kent, Jim Hinkins, John Delora, Mike Whims, Steve Sobel, J. R. Valderas

1) Call to Order: Chairman Delora called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m.

2) Minutes of the January 12 meeting were reviewed, corrected, and approved.

3) Chairman’s Report: Chairman Delora alerted the group to the fact that the NARP Board of Trustees election was coming up. He moved that MARP’s organizational vote be for himself and for Dwight Phillips. The motion was seconded by Frezell and approved.

NARP REORGANIZATION: NARP has grown in recent years from 4,500 members to 24,500 members. For this reason and because of Board liability issues, a streamlining is being considered. It has been recommended that the current 80 member Board become more of an advisory Board of Delegates and provide the overall representation it currently does. The current Executive Committee would become the official governing body. Elections would be held on a state by state basis with at least one representative elected from each state to the advisory board. The existing regions would be abolished, possibly replaced by groups overseeing specific operations, such as the Northeast Corridor. Charnetski suggested an group organized around the Chicago Hub. NARP is looking for more coordination with the state ARP’s and regional organizations such as the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. Langdon reminded those present that it was the Environmental Law and Policy group that coordinated the successful push for a larger Amtrak presence in Illinois. He urged MARP to work with all advocating an expanded Midwest passenger rail net. Delora concluded by stating that all were welcome at the NARP Board meeting in Madison in July.

Delora reported that he had been keeping tabs on the on time performance of Train #354. Often this train is on time leaving Dearborn, but late into Detroit. Often when it is late, it is due to equipment problems. Snow gets into the engines on the Genesis locomotives. Sliding doors between the cars on the Horizon coaches freeze. Delora feels we should urge Amtrak to put Superliner equipment on all Michigan lines during the winter months as all run through the southwest Michigan snowbelt. Langdon confirmed that the Pere Marquette line has had Superliner equipment this past winter and avoided some of the problems Delora mentioned. The major drawback to the Superliners is that there is no business class.

Delora stated that it was time to set up regular meetings with the new Amtrak Central Division General Superintendent, Daryl Pesce. Pesce comes from the East Coast and has the reputation of being a no nonsense person. Discussion items would include on time performance, equipment, lack of checked baggage. Charnetski suggested that Amtrak test the California cars to see how they stand up to Midwest winter weather.

According to Delora, Amtrak has had one meeting with the state DOT’s about car designs. He feels MARP should meet with MDOT on this issue and urge them to listen to what the passengers are saying.

In response to Norma Ward’s question about Durand Railroad Days in May, Delora responded that MARP was hoping to have Amtrak bring an entire train set including a sleeping car for display. Whims and Delora will review possible locations in Durand for the display.

4) Executive Director’s Report: Whims reported that he had sent a letter on MARP’s behalf to the Surface Transportation Board concerning CN’s acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern, asking that CN not disrupt Amtrak service into Chicago. MARP is asking for the Grand Crossing flyover to be completed before CN abandons its track into Union Station. CN has already modified its position somewhat, saying it won’t disrupt service until 2010.

Whims plans to speak at an Energy and Environment Seminar at Alma College on March 5. He will be discussing the possibility of rail passenger service from Ann Arbor and Howell to Traverse City, passing through Alma. Vavra-Musser felt sessions such as this at colleges and universities would be an excellent means of recruiting more young people to MARP.

5) Treasurer’s Report: Randall reported that as of January 31, 2008, the balance in the checking account was $7,330.94 and the value of the Pratt Fund was $14,685.06. Total dues coming in January were $4,025.00. With an aging membership, some have not renewed. Whims moved acceptance of the Treasurer’s report, seconded by Sobel, and approved.

6) Regional Chair Reports:

East/Central: Pekarek reported that on time performance of the Blue Water remains inconsistent. Ridership is up. Delora noted that ridership is up on all Michigan lines, but less than the national percentage. Frezell noted that a new ticket counter is being installed at the East Lansing station and he is looking for volunteers to repaint the area on March 15.

Metro: Whims stated he had nothing to report.

Northern: Kent stated that the condition of the track between Bay City and Standish was so bad that it may preclude some of the Small City Excursions. Trains may have to start in Standish or Pinconning. Monteith reported that Northern Arrow is planning two trips to Northern Michigan in 2008, one in June and one in August. A Chicago-Grand Rapids excursion is also planned plus a train to Charlevoix with a tour to Beaver Island.

Western: Langdon reported on a planned tour with vintage railroad cars attached to the Hiawatha from Chicago to Milwaukee, with passengers then crossing Lake Michigan to Muskegon by ferry, then bus to Holland, then back to Chicago by train. Vintage cars may also be attached to the Pere Marquette during Tulip Time in Holland. Amtrak is promoting the Amtrak Classic, where football fans will ride the Pere Marquette to Grand Rapids on March 14 to see the Chicago Rush play the Grand Rapids Rampage. On April 20, Grand Rapids fans will take the Pere Marquette to Chicago to see the Grand Rapids Rampage play the Chicago Rush.

Langdon reminded the group that there are brochure racks in Chicago Union Station where Michigan brochures can be displayed.

The ski train will be affected this winter because Amtrak no longer shows an eastbound connection between the California Zephyr and the Pere Marquette. The club will have to charter busses from Chicago back to Grand Rapids. Langdon urged that MDOT fight to maintain this connection because it affects revenue. This should be an agenda item for the meeting with Daryl Pesce.

Langdon also urged that the New Buffalo station on the Pere Marquette line not be closed when the new station is opened on the Wolverine line. We need to be working with the new New Buffalo casino to promote Amtrak.

In response to a question from Pekarek about the wrecked Pere Marquette equipment, Langdon responded that it had not been repaired yet. Litigation often holds up repair. The accident is still under investigation and neither the conductor nor assistant conductor have been charged. The signals may have been confusing.


Committee Reports:

Ride the Train: No report

Route Enhancement: Gurney reported that a committee meeting would be held after the general membership meeting today to follow up on some of the ideas coming out of the November meeting with Gordon MacKay of Indian Trails and a subsequent meeting in Owosso in January.. In response to Delora, Whims stated that the MARP Vision should be on our web site.

Membership: Vavra-Musser introduced Philip Chamberlain to the group. He then passed out a sheet with membership statistics. Vavra-Musser stated that he feels we have an opportunity for growth by aligning with environmental groups and universities. Langdon reported that in the past, MARP has included Amtrak timetables and other materials to students at Western Michigan University during college orientation. Vavra-Musser promised to send updated membership data to regional chairs monthly. He plans to send a second notice to non renewing members in the near future. As to what counties should be in specific regions, Vavra-Musser stated that this should be decided by the regional chairs.

Valderas informed the group that he had membership badges made up for those attending meetings.

Communications: No report.