Meeting Minutes – Executive Committee — Detroit – February 15, 2014

FEBRUARY 15, 2014

Present: Robert Tischbein, Hugh Gurney, Kay Chase, Kathleen Newell, Rosemary Horvath, Larry Krieg, Robert Patterson

Also Present: Jeanie Merckel, Chuck Merckel, Don W. Westcott, Jim Hinkins, Doug Wilson, Dan Platz, David Roberts, Cecilia Roberts, Tim Hoeffner, Leonard D. Barry, Richard Rosenbaum, Diane Patterson, Peter Hollinshead, Qingpeng Zhang, Dr. Leo E. Hanifin

Call to Order:  Chairman Tischbein called the meeting to order at 10:15 a.m.  The roll was taken and it was determined that a quorum was present.

Agenda:  Krieg moved approval of the agenda.  The motion was seconded and agreed to by the members of the Executive Committee present.

Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting in Chicago on November 2, 2013 were reviewed.  Krieg moved approval.  Chase seconded the motion and it was approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

Minutes of the Executive Committee meeting in Williamston on January 18 were then reviewed.  Krieg moved approval, with Horvath seconding.  The motion was approved by a majority of the members of the Executive Committee present.

Treasurer’s Report:  Chairman Tischbein then reviewed the report of income and expenditures for the month ending January 31, 2014.  As of the end of January, MARP’s checking account stood at $30,309.26.  This included $17,141.26 in the Pratt Fund, leaving $13,168.73 available for ongoing operations.

Newell moved approval of the January Income and Expenditures Report.  This was seconded by Krieg.  After explanations by Treasurer Randall on the speakerphone, the January monthly report was approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

Tischbein next began review of the proposed 2014 budget for the organization showing $14,700 in projected income and $15,420 in projected expenses.  A carryover of $2,714 brings the budget into balance with a surplus of $1,994. Krieg moved acceptance.  This was seconded by Newell.

Discussion followed, with many points explained by Randall on the speakerphone.  Robert Patterson was asked to investigate and recommend an appropriate membership payment to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.  Satisfied that the proposed budget was truly in balance, Tischbein called the question.  The motion to approve the 2014 budget was approved by the members of the Executive Committee present.

In response to a question from Horvath, Tischbein noted that having a CPA serve as Treasurer would be extremely expensive for a small organization such as MARP.  Krieg pointed out that our By-Laws require us to have a Treasurer as one of the officers.

Guest Speaker: Chairman Tischbein then introduced Dr. Leo E. Hanifin, who recently stepped down as Dean of the University of Detroit Mercy College of Engineering and Science after 21 years.  He remains a full time professor.   Hanifin discussed how he, his colleagues and students, have been at the forefront of transportation planning over the past two decades.  For a number of years, Hanifin headed up the Michigan Ohio University Transportation Center, a coalition of five universities funded by federal and state DOT’s and partner corporations.  In that capacity, Hanifin led a consortium of engineering and architectural faculty which provided invaluable input into the development of the Detroit light rail system, scheduled to break ground this spring.

Hanifin reviewed the work of a team currently analyzing the myriad factors that enable and inhibit the development of an effective regional transit system in Southeast Michigan.  To aid in this analysis, the team has reviewed recent transit successes and failures in three metropolitan areas with similar demographics to Detroit’s – Cleveland, St. Louis and Atlanta – as well as Denver, which is dissimilar in many ways.  Lessons learned include that a regional system must be truly regional, that progress requires tenacity, and that all stakeholders must be identified and brought into the planning process.  Transit leaders must be effective consensus builders.  The details of a transit system must be developed by transit professionals who can hone down everybody’s wishes into a system that works for the majority of users.  Hanifin advised MARP members not to let their affection for rail blind them to the benefits of other modes such as Bus Rapid Transit.

Hanifin concluded by reviewing the results of a recent survey of 800 likely voters in the Detroit metropolitan area representative of the mix of demographics in the region.  Among those surveyed, 86.23 % thought public transit in Southeast Michigan needed improvement and 67.08% indicated support for regional taxes and fees to support public transit.  More people thought the Regional Transportation Authority would improve public transit in the area than not and more said they would vote for increased registration fees to support the RTA than not.  All in all, Hanifin is very encouraged by these responses since the RTA has yet to put together a plan for improvements.  For continuing updates, Hanifin suggested checking out  from time to time.

In response to a question from Robert Patterson, Hanifin reiterated that vehicle registration fees of $10-$40 would bring in around $100,000,000 annually.

A date for the groundbreaking ceremony for the M-1 streetcar project has yet to be determined, but relocation of utilities is underway.

An initial project for the Regional Transportation Authority will be the development of an integrated fee system between the major providers in the area including the People Mover, DDOT and SMART.

In conclusion, Tim Hoeffner thanked Hanifin for his efforts over the years and for being a catalyst for transit in Southeast Michigan.  Hoeffner noted that many community leaders are alumni of University of Detroit  Mercy and that Hanifin has effectively used his access to them.

Public Affairs:  Speaking on behalf of Public Affairs Coordinator John Langdon, Gurney reported that the Governor’s Transportation budget for FY 2015 includes sufficient funding for current Amtrak operations in Michigan.  This was confirmed by Hoeffner.

Communications:  To get the process going, Chase has drafted position descriptions for each member of the Executive Committee and has asked the incumbent of that particular position to review and revise as necessary.  She then went over Resolution #4 to the By-Laws, approved by the Executive Committee in January, 2008. This was the action that gave specific duties to each of the At Large Executive Committee members.  At this time, John Langdon leads the Public Affairs Committee, Kay Chase heads up the Communications Committee,  Kathleen Newell heads up the Membership Committee and Jim Wallington leads the Meetings Committee.  We now need to flesh out the respective committees.

Tischbein asked if the By-Laws should be tweaked to permit the chair to appoint an ad hoc committee without first seeking approval from the Executive Committee.

Membership:  Newell reported that membership renewals have been coming in nicely following the renewal letter in January.  Recently, she has recorded 59 renewals, 2 new members, and $230 in donations coming in along with membership renewals.  As suggested in the letter, more members are upgrading the membership level this year.  Newell is looking for younger people to serve on the Membership Committee.

Route Enhancement:  Chuck Merckel shared a letter he had received from State Representative Joe Walsh indicating that MDOT supports MARP’s efforts to have one of the Chicago-East Coast trains rerouted through Michigan.  Hoeffner confirmed that something was in the works.  Gurney is currently working on the 2014 Route Enhancement Recommendations and efforts to secure a through train through Michigan will be one of the action items.

Outreach: Chuck Merckel has secured a complimentary table at the Hobby Show in Novi, February 22-23.  The schedule of upcoming outreach events has been laid out on the table.  Merckel is looking forward to reviewing an MDOT report on how to reach potential Amtrak customers in Michigan.  Chase will be promoting upcoming outreach events in On Track.  Newell advised that we try to build interest among traditional rail enthusiasts in the new and evolving developments in passenger rail transportation.

Amtrak Station Review:  Chase reported that she is developing a survey on the status of the Amtrak stations in Michigan as to who owns each station, when it is open and the range of physical amenities available.  She would like to work with the Regional Chairs on completing the survey form for each station.  This opened up a discussion about why so many stations are locked tight at train time.  Westcott pointed to Flint as an example, where the station is closed when the evening train arrives, local bus service has ceased and there is no information on taxis.  Hoeffner offered that MDOT has an extensive database on each station property and suggested Chase consult this before implementing the survey.  Chase noted that Ren Farley has written an article on the Station Host program in Maine which will likely be published in the next Michigan Passenger.  Hoeffner advised MARP to work with MDOT on the issue.

Meetings:  Gurney reported that our next MARP meeting will be in Holland on Saturday, March 8.

Regional Reports:

            Detroit Metro:  Robert Patterson welcomed the group to Detroit and urged  people to spend the afternoon in the city.  At their meeting last week, the Regional Transportation Authority agreed to put RTA funding on the November, 2016 ballot.  This will provide time to develop comprehensive plans for the voters to decide on.    It will also give time to work on small successes like a joint fare program among the transportation providers in the region.

Patterson pointed to his Rails to Tables concept in which food for the needy would be collected at events MARP participates in.  Chase suggested that this be an agenda item for discussion at next month’s meeting.

East/Central:  Don Westcott reviewed a written report on the work of the Blue Water Promotion group as it prepares for the Blue Water  40th anniversary celebration in September, 2014.  Working with Therese Cody at MDOT and Tracy Robinson at Amtrak, promotional efforts will include at least four billboards along the Blue Water route, posters  at colleges, senior centers and other points along the line, updated Blue Water  brochures,  rail and bicycle and rail and golf posters, and three large pull up banners for special events and festivals.  The promotion group is contacting all CVB’s and Chambers of Commerce along the Blue Water line and asking them to include a link to on their web sites.  For the actual 40th anniversary celebration, all stations along the Blue Water line will be encouraged to stage festivities as the morning train arrives.

Hoeffner noted that the 40th anniversary celebration of the Blue Water is a joint MDOT/Amtrak event.

Westcott observed that not all travel on the Blue Water is to Chicago.  More and more passengers are using the service to travel between points within Michigan.  Hoeffner believes that, with reduced travel times, we can do a better job of promoting Chicago to Michigan travel.

Algoma Central:  Chase reported that she is working on a letter to be sent by MARP to Canadian federal legislators, the Canadian Minister of Transport and others urging continuation of the Algoma Central passenger service between Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Hearst, Ontario, some 300 miles to the north.  The Canadian Ministry of Transport has eliminated the subsidy that permitted operation of this train, leaving countless residents, resort owners and potential vacationers stranded.  Chase, Monteith, Wilson and Tischbein plan to attend a town hall meeting on the issue in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, during the week of February 17.

Hoeffner agreed that we need to reach out to public officials in Canada.  Noting that the new Detroit-Windsor rail tunnel may get underway in the near future, Wilson expressed hope that the new tunnel may improve cross border transportation.

David Roberts wondered if Canada was doing anything to promote tourism in the Algoma District of Ontario.

Minutes of the November 2, 2013 Membership meeting in Chicago were then reviewed.  Krieg moved acceptance.  The motion was seconded by Hinkins and approved by the members present.  Minutes of the January 18, 2014 Membership meeting in Williamston were next reviewed.  Horvath moved acceptance.  Newell seconded the motion and it was approved by the members present.

Port HuronWilson requested that we hold a meeting in Port Huron in the near future to discuss development plans there.  Tischbein suggested he work with Jim Wallington, our Meetings Coordinator, to arrange such a meeting.

Steam Festival:  Horvath announced that the Steam Railroading Institute will be hosting a large steam festival in Owosso June 20-22, 2014.

Frank Lloyd Wright House:  Hinkins provided directions to Detroit’s only Frank Lloyd Wright House, located nearby on Seven Mile Road.

Adjournment:  Robert Patterson moved adjournment, seconded by Hinkins.  Krieg announced that we would be gathering for lunch at Rosie O’Grady’s in Ferndale.


The meeting adjourned at 1:00 p.m.


Respectfully submitted:                                                          Approved:

Hugh D. Gurney                                                                     Robert Tischbein

Secretary                                                                                 Chair