MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF RAILROAD PASSENGERS
41ST ANNUAL MEETING
DURAND UNION STATION, DURAND
SEPTEMBER 13, 2014
Members Present: Barb Spaulding-Westcott, Charles Bonnell, Clark Charnetski, Clayton Farmer, Dan Mitchell, Dan Platz, David Williams, Debby Mills, Diane Patterson, Don Monteith, Don Westcott, Eric Newberg, Hugh Gurney, Jim Hinkins, Jerry Becker, Jim Wallington, John Langdon, J.P. Descamp, Julien Wolfe, Kay Chase, Kaz Fujita, Keith Martin, Kim Powell, Larry Krieg, Larry Sobczak, Martha Benedict, Michael Frezell, Norma Ward, Ren Farley, Richard Pekarek, Richard King, Robert Tischbein, Robert Patterson, Roger Webster, Warren Fritz, Doug Wilson, Tim Fischer
Others Present: Deborah Doyle, Derrick James, Kali Fox, Mary Warner-Stone, Melissa Horste, Ron DeCook, Tim Hoeffner, Tom Carper, Les Schneider, Guest of Eric Newberg
Welcome and Introduction of Guests: Chairman Tischbein called the meeting to order at 10:34 a.m. Robert Patterson pointed out that each table has a table host to encourage and lead discussion.
Special Guests were welcomed including:
Mary Warner-Stone, Executive Director, Durand Union Station
Deborah Doyle, Mayor, City of Durand
Ben Glardon, State Representative for the Durand area
Kali Fox, Regional Manager for Senator Debbie Stabenow
Melissa Horste, Regional Representative for Senator Carl Levin
Les Schneider, Shiawassee County Commissioner, District 4
Mary Warner-Stone, Executive Director of Durand Union Station, Incorporated, welcomed all to the beautifully restored facility. She announced that DUSI now has a professional archivist-
curator, Michael Boudro, who is organizing the museum’s extensive library and archives, starting on the lower floor and working up to the attic. Boudro will also be upgrading museum exhibits. DUSI plans to participate in a study of orphan trains during which 4th graders will be arriving at the station via Amtrak. Warner-Stone urged all to return during the holidays and enjoy one of several Christmas dinners served amid lavish Christmas decorations. DUSI is planning an extensive commemoration of its 30th anniversary in 2015.
Melissa Horste, Regional Representative for Senator Carl Levin, stressed the Senator’s strong support of Amtrak. She highlighted a recent grant of $12.2 million for Detroit’s M-1 Rail in addition to an earlier $25 million grant. At this point, it looks as though current Amtrak funding will be extended through May, 2015, giving legislators more time to work on reauthorization of MAP 21 and PRIIA. Clark Charnetski asked Horste to offer MARP’s thanks to Senator Levin for his constant support of rail over the years.
Kali Fox, Regional Manager for Senator Stabenow, voiced Stabenow’s support for public transportation in general, including the East Lansing Transportation Center now under construction and the M-1 Rail project. The Senator is closely tracking the Railroad Safety Act, currently under review by the Commerce Committee as well as the reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Act.
Others with words of welcome were Durand Mayor Deborah Doyle, State Representative Ben Glardon and Shiawassee County Commissioner Les Schneider.
Video Greetings: Joseph C. Szabo, Administrator of the Federal Rail Administration, greeted the group by video, noting the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Pere Marquette, the 40th anniversary of the Blue Water, a ridership increase of over 30% on Michigan trains since 2005, higher speeds on the Kalamazoo-Dearborn portion of the Wolverine route in the near future, new stations in Dearborn and Grand Rapids, and the South of the Lake study which promises faster and more reliable service between Chicago and Porter, Indiana. He urged support for the administration’s transportation bill which includes dedicated funding for passenger rail.
Blue Water 40th Anniversary: Don Westcott reported that he had been coordinating events as part of the Blue Water 40th Anniversary Commemoration, now scheduled for October 1. Billboards have been put up along the I-69 corridor and several banners can be checked out for travel shows. On October 1, each station along the route is planning a ½ hour program.
Chairman’s Report: Chairman Tischbein reviewed a multitude of projects in which MARP is either an active participant or is closely tracking including the South of the Lake corridor study, the proposed Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter line, the proposed Howell-Ann Arbor commuter
line(Wally), upgrades to the tracks and signals between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, construction of the new transportation center in East Lansing, restoration of the Jackson depot, pedestrian traffic flow at Chicago Union Station, recertification of steam locomotive 1225, Wi-Fi on Amtrak, state and federal transportation funding, support for continued passenger service on the Algoma Central Railroad, study of proposed passenger rail service between Holland and Detroit, and the M-1 light rail project in Detroit. MARP is looking for suggestions on how to make it easier for members to participate more actively.
M-1 Rail, Detroit’s Woodward Avenue Streetcar: As he opened his remarks, Timothy R. Fischer, Chief Administrative Officer for M-1 Rail, displayed a section of old streetcar track unearthed on Woodward Avenue as excavation for M-1 got underway this summer. Visuals in his power point presentation showed the exact route of the 3.2 mile light rail line and how it ties in with the People Mover on one end and Amtrak and the Crosstown Bus on the other. The project will have 20 stations, each with shelters, where passengers can purchase tickets at ticket machines. Each station offers level boarding of the light rail cars.
Construction is underway in the downtown area, with fences between the sidewalks and work areas, as well as covered crosswalks to protect pedestrians. A portion of the bridge across I-75 has been demolished and will be rebuilt incorporating tracks for the light rail line. Approximately 40% of all jobs in the city of Detroit and 20% of all jobs in Wayne County are in the Woodward Avenue corridor served by M-1. Support from numerous foundations and businesses, the City of Detroit, Wayne County, MDOT, and the federal government are making M-1 possible. The cars, powered by electric batteries, and with capacity for both bikes and wheelchairs, will be in operation by the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.
Studying the Ridership Demand for Coast- to- Coast Rail: Elizabeth Treutel, Policy Associate with the Michigan Environmental Council, updated the group on the Coast- to- Coast project, the ultimate goal of which is the restoration of passenger rail service between Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Holland. Coast- to- Coast hopes to fulfill one of the objectives of the Michigan By Rail public forums back in 2012 and incorporated into the State Rail Plan. With support from 52 organizations, Coast-to-Coast has successfully raised the required local match and has secured a $100,000 Service Development and New Technology grant from the federal government to do a Ridership Demand Study. Treutel urged all present to follow the progress of the study and participate in the planned public engagement process. Richard King asked that plans for Coast-to-Coast permit a Flint-Grand Rapids connection.
MARP Business Meeting:
Minutes of the 40th Annual Meeting, September 14, 2013: Minutes of the 40th Annual Meeting were distributed and reviewed. David Williams moved approval, seconded by Richard King. After adding Barb Spaulding-Westcott to the list of those attending, the minutes were approved by the members in attendance.
Treasurer’s Report: The Treasurer’s Report was distributed and reviewed. As of August 31, 2014, MARP had $33,342.48 in its checking account. Of this balance, $17,141.26 was earmarked as the Pratt Fund, leaving $16,201.22 for operations. Wallington thanked America By Rail for a $1,000 donation towards Annual Meeting expenses. Frezell moved acceptance. Becker seconded, and the Treasurer’s Report was approved by the members in attendance.
Nominations: After noting the passing of long time member George L Schlaepfer on May 21, 2014 and acknowledging fellow Nominating Committee member Steve Sobel’s efforts, Clark Charnetski, Chair of the Nominating Committee, presented the slate of officers for the period beginning at the conclusion of today’s meeting and serving until the conclusion of the Annual Meeting in 2016:
Chair: Larry Krieg
Vice Chair Jim Wallington
At Large Executive Committee Members
Kay Chase John Langdon
Kathleen Newell Jim Wallington
Regional Chapter Chairs
Don Monteith, Northern Warren Fritz, Western
Robert Patterson, Metro Detroit East/Central Open
In accordance with the By Laws, the Treasurer, Jeanie Merkel, is appointed, not elected. Charnetski urged those interested in the open positions of Secretary and Regional Chair of the East/Central Region to speak with Larry Krieg.
Tischbein moved acceptance of the slate as presented. The motion was seconded by Don Westcott and approved by the members present.
Recognition Plaques: Plaques were presented honoring the services of outgoing Chair Robert Tischbein and outgoing Secretary Hugh Gurney.
Why? Incoming Chair Larry Krieg warned that as he takes office, he will frequently ask the question “Why?” Why do we come to meetings? Why do we educate people on the value of passenger rail and promote rail as a transportation option? Why preserve historic transportation facilities? Why study and recommend improvements to the passenger rail system? He suggested that members take a fresh look at MARP’s Vision of expanded service including connections to Canada and other states. It is essential that we understand why we do what we do, not just what we do and how we do it.
Krieg vowed to recruit new members and make them feel welcome and comfortable. He will make sure that MARP is fiscally responsible and that both internal and external communications are the best possible.
Keynote Speaker: Amtrak’s National System: An Engine of Growth for Our Communities? Thomas C. Carper, former Chair and current member of Amtrak’s Board of Directors, stressed the importance of Amtrak as a tool for economic development. As a local businessman in Macomb, Illinois, he took Amtrak service for granted until the threat of losing it served as a wakeup call. Community leaders, mayors and chambers of commerce all across the country see Amtrak as an engine of economic growth. From the earliest days, when land grants supported construction of the first railroads, public support has always been part of the equation.
In Michigan, Amtrak not only links big cities like Detroit with Chicago, but also connects numerous smaller cities and towns, stimulating employment and economic growth all up and down the lines. Amtrak itself employs hundreds of people in numerous communities who pay taxes and purchase all sorts of goods locally.
Carper pointed to Memphis, where rejuvenation of the train station has stimulated renewal of the entire city core. Communities make a long term investment in rail transportation when they build or restore a train station.
Amtrak service is essential, both in the Northeast Corridor, where one out of every six Americans reside, and in more rural areas, where it is often the only public transportation available. Carper urged all present to encourage mayors, land developers and local business people to speak up in favor of investment in our transportation system.
Responding to questions, Carper expressed hope that the current suit by Amtrak before the Supreme Court will be successful as all freight railroads will be watching. Recently, Carper accompanied Amtrak CEO Boardman to North Dakota to work out problems with rail service there. With cooperation from the freight railroads and strategic investments where major conflict points exist, Carper believes that 90% on time performance is possible within the existing system.
Charnetski stressed to Carper the importance of having one of the East Coast trains pass through Michigan, where it would serve a much larger population base than the present route through Indiana and Ohio.
Michigan Passenger Rail Market Survey: Ronald K. DeCook, founder of DeCook Governmental Policy and Strategies, discussed his recent study of how the younger, wireless generation in Chicago gets to Michigan now and how they could be persuaded to use the train more frequently in the future. Currently, 87% drive and 5% fly when travelling to Michigan points. DeCook asserted that more people in Chicago and its western suburbs would use the train if they were more aware of that option, if Amtrak offered more frequencies to current destinations and if rental cars were available at Amtrak stations in Michigan. DeCook suggested a tie in with local tourism groups and Pure Michigan marketing.
Update on Michigan’s Accelerated Rail Program: Timothy H. Hoeffner, Director of MDOT’s Office of Rail, updated the group on a number of ongoing projects. He anticipates that the new Grand Rapids station will open in October and the new Dearborn Transportation Center in late November. MDOT is working with both consultants and constituents to determine what people really want in a new Detroit rail station and how to deal with parking. The railroads have finally agreed to the proposed crossover in West Detroit, so that project should be underway in the very near future. Double tracking between Dearborn and Ypsilanti is scheduled to begin in about a month. The cutover of signals between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek has been very complicated, but the new train control system should be operational in the near future. MDOT continues to review the possible purchase of two Talgo train sets. If accepted the two Talgo train sets will replace Horizon equipment on two of the three daily Wolverine runs. MDOT expects the delivery of the next generation of rail cars and locomotives sometime in 2017.
Planning for the Ann Arbor-Detroit and Howell-Ann Arbor commuter lines continues. The move of Michael Ford from the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority to the Regional Transportation Authority is a win for everyone, given Ford’s expertise in transit.
Adjournment: Keith Martin moved adjournment. The motion was seconded by Robert Patterson and approved by the members present.
Respectfully Submitted: Accepted:
Hugh D. Gurney, Secretary Robert Tischbein, Chair