Meeting Minutes – Manistee – August 10, 2013

AUGUST 10, 2013

Members Present:  Hugh Gurney, Steve T. Sobel, Bob Tischbein, Larry Krieg, Jim Hinkins, Kay Chase, Dave Vander Bee, Clark Charnetski, Burt TenBrink, Cheryl TenBrink, John Langdon, Jeannie Merckel, Chuck Merckel, Cathy Hart, Don Van Ulm, Christine C. Ballard, Ronald K. Johnson, Pat Tischbein, Tess Caven, Dan Platz, John W. McCloskey

Also Present: Ken Hart, Don Gottschaak

Call to Order:  Chairman Tischbein called the meeting to order at 10:26 a.m.  All in attendance introduced themselves.

Regional Chair Reports:

            East/Central:  In her absence, Regional Chair Horvath submitted a written report.  Highlights included her participation in efforts to reactivate the Blue Water Shore to Shore Coalition, which in former years promoted the Blue Water . Addressing recent ridership declines on that train is another concern.  She also reports that the schematics we have seen for a diminutive East Lansing station are not the final plan.  The new station will be twice the size of the current facility and provide more seating.

Langdon confirmed Horvath’s report on the East Lansing station, noting that construction is on hold until the design of the new station is finalized.  Langdon agreed to contact MDOT on the size of standard Blue Water consists, which appear to be shorter than those of a year ago. In response to a question from Chuck Merckel, Langdon explained that the Blue Water Shore to Shore Coalition had been a promotional effort financed in part by MDOT. 

            Southeast Michigan/Detroit Metro:  Hinkins reported that John Hertel, a former state representative and currently CEO of SMART, the Detroit suburban transit system, has been appointed the first CEO of the Southeast Michigan Regional Transportation Authority.  As a supporter of light rail in the past, Hinkins believes he will support commuter rail.  Krieg noted that there were five applicants for the position.  Three were interviewed including one with a successful track record in St. Louis.  He    rtel’s appointment may continue the friction that has existed between the city of Detroit and the suburban areas surrounding it.

Charnetski reported that the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is reviewing proposals from four firms to determine which will be best to design the proposed Ann Arbor Transportation Center.  The Ann Arbor City Council will approve a contract on September 3.  Charnetski is concerned about the successful candidacy of an anti rail advocate in the recent primary.

Gurney noted the formative meeting of the Friends of WALLY, a support group for the Howell-Ann Arbor commuter train.  The presence of several elected officials was an encouraging sign.

West Michigan: Langdon reported that the City of New Buffalo has again applied for a TIGER grant to study a possible connection north of that city between CSX and Amtrak tracks, which would permit the Pere Marquette to serve New Buffalo and provide a rail connection with Wolverine and Blue Water trains serving the eastern part of Michigan.  The grant would also provide funding for a long passing track between Dowagiac and Niles. Langdon expressed concern that Amtrak is not putting enough cars on the Pere Marquette to handle the numbers wanting to book passage.

Work is underway on the Grand Rapids Rail Station, Dave VanderBee reported.  A concrete shaft has been poured and the future parking lot is being graded.

Coordinator Reports;

            Public Affairs:  Langdon has been chasing down procedures on how to apply for a grant for a study of the Michigan By Rail, a concept which would link Holland, Grand Rapids and Lansing to Detroit by passenger rail.  Chase and Krieg will prepare the application which will go to the MDOT Office of Rail.   

Meetings: The October meeting is now scheduled for Bangor on October 12, Langdon reported.    For those coming from the eastern part of the state, transportation will be provided from the Kalamazoo station.

A tour of Chicago Union Station is in the works for either November 9 or November 16.  Langdon is hoping to get a group rate for those travelling by Amtrak.

Chase reminded the group that MARP’s 40th Annual Meeting will take place on Saturday, September 14, at the Durand Union Station.  Kevin Keefe, the editor of Trains magazine, will be the keynote speaker.  Reservation cards will be in the mail soon.

Communications:  Minutes of all MARP meetings are posted on our website for all members to review, Chase noted.

                     Outreach:  Merckel continues to look for opportunities to promote  MARP at colleges and universities as well as with railroad clubs.  He would like to see the grand opening of the new Dearborn Transportation Center take place on National Train Day 2014.

Merckel asked what MARP could do to get publicity about extra holiday trains out early enough to be effective.  Langdon agreed to contact Amtrak.

            Membership: Chase reported thatMARP membership currently stands at almost 300 members, including 23 life members, 234 who renewed their membership in 2013 and 16 new members.  She is getting membership cards out as quickly as possible.  Let her know if you don’t receive one.  Also let her know the date you joined MARP, as that data is missing.

Committee Reports:

            Route Enhancement:  Langdon reported that Horvath will be helping distribute materials about existing Indian Trails service to students at Central Michigan University and Alma College.  Indian Trails hopes to get approval for a stop in Alma adjacent to the college.  Gurney noted that more way finding signs are being installed along Indian Trails routes.  Indian Trails is finally waking up to the value of public opinion, Langdon commented. 

Krieg stressed the need to help students coordinate travel using both Amtrak and intercity buses.  What about a tri fold brochure listing such connections. does show connections between Amtrak and Amtrak Thruway buses, Chase noted.

Krieg urged the formation of coalitions with community groups like the Michigan Suburbs Alliance to stand up and say they need more trains and better intercity public transportation. He recently talked with the Washtenaw County Commission Chair about this. 

Merckel again urged that Amtrak get the schedules for extra holiday trains out in time for MARP to promote them.  Langdon explained that Amtrak frequently doesn’t get clearance from host railroad Norfolk Southern in a timely fashion. 

            By-Laws: Gurney noted that he had done one thorough review of the current By-Laws and will get his thoughts out to the Executive Committee.  Overall, they look very solid.  Charnetski suggested that something less than a quorum could be required to approve simple matters like minutes.

            Chicago Union Station Task Force: The upcoming Amtrak reorganization has stymied review and acceptance of many of the task force’s recommendations, Krieg lamented.  He will renew efforts after the reorganization becomes effective on October 1.  It is critical that Amtrak improve the way it handles passengers at Chicago Union Station if it wants more ridership.

            Involving Younger People:  Continuing the discussion from the earlier Executive Committee meeting, Krieg urged that MARP work closely with the Millennial Mayors Congress and the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, which are trying to interest young people in becoming responsible elected officials and public servants.

Gurney suggested involving young people in rallies and distribution of literature in support of trains. Platz urged that MARP sponsor events at colleges and universities where the possibility of prize money would be a draw for students.  Krieg suggested MARP’s involvement in the Traverse City Ales by the Rails festival. 

            MITrain:   Krieg urged all to visit the exhibition of the MITrain commuter cars in Ypsilanti on August 9, 10, and 11.  The open house is being held in conjunction with the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival.  Three of the reconditioned rail cars will be on display on a siding adjacent to the Freight House. MARP is a sponsor and will have a table.

In response to a query from Platz as to when WALLY will get underway, Krieg reported that Howell City Councilman Steve Manor is trying to get one run a day operating soon.  Full operations are still at least 18 months away.  The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority needs to determine where the Ann Arbor terminal will be, Hinkins added.

Watco, the new owner of the Ann Arbor Railroad, is much more amenable than the previous owner, so there is hope that that terminal will be in downtown Ann Arbor, Krieg observed. 

Adjournment:  The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.


Respectfully Submitted:                                             Accepted:




Hugh D. Gurney                                                         Robert Tischbein

Secretary                                                                     Chair 




After the meeting, many attended a shore side picnic hosted by the Board of Trustees of the SS City of Milwaukee, followed by a talk by a man who served aboard the USCG Acacia when she was active and a second talk about the car ferries that operated between Muskegon and Milwaukee.