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MARP Membership Meeting Minutes — St. Johns – January 26, 2019

JANUARY 26, 2019

PRESENT: Approximately 22 members including Steve Vagnozzi, Joshua Hamilton, Adam Tauno Williams, Mark Miller, Robert Patterson, Hugh Gurney, Clark Charnetski, Larry Krieg, Jim Roach, Michael Frezell, Yuri Popov, Dan Platz, Robert Tischbein, Doug Wilson, Kim Powell, Nick Little, Andrew Kent

Also Present:  Jenny McCampbell, Gary McCampbell, at least one community member

Call to Order:  East/Central Regional Chairman Joshua Hamilton called the meeting to order at 10:04 a.m.

Detroit Metro Region:  Regional Chair Robert Patterson announced that the TRU Annual meeting would take place on January 31.  He also noted that the Michigan Central Station in Detroit was open to the public  today, January 26 and Sunday, January 27, to display artifacts connected to the station that have been turned in since Ford acquired the building.  As part of this event, there will be a light show against the building this weekend.

Treasurer’s Report:  Treasurer Steve Vagnozzi reviewed the 2019 Budget in some detail.  In order to produce a balanced budget, the Executive Committee has raised lower categories of memberships by $5.00 each.  In response to a question about the Michigan By Rail expense item, Vagnozzi explained that it reflected projects to be done with a Hands Foundation grant to MARP via the Michigan Environmental Council. Supported by the grant are the Coast to Coast Rail project, the Ann Arbor to Traverse City rail proposal, and a proposed commuter rail between Holland and Grand Rapids.

Vagnozzi   noted that MARP members had recently met with former Congressman Joe Schwartz from the new governor’s transition team.  Schwartz is interested in rail transportation projects that could be accomplished in a reasonable time period such as the Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter rail proposal.

Vagnozzi   reminded the group that in the November, 2018, election there was a major turnover within the state legislature.  Meetings by MARP members with new legislators, particularly those on the appropriation committees are critical.

Speaker:  Nick Little, Director of Railway Education in the Center for Railway Research and Education, Michigan State University, was introduced by Hamilton.

Little explained that the Center for Railway Research and Education is part of the College of Business, not the Engineering School and approaches the subject from a business perspective.

He first reviewed the passenger rail structure in his native England where thousands of trains converge on Victoria and other stations in London each day.  It was a shock when he joined the MSU staff in 1995 and realized that East Lansing was served by only one train daily.

He does not foresee a day when Michigan will have a passenger rail system comparable to Great Britain, primarily due to population density.  Michigan and Britain are roughly the same size, but Britain has 58 million people and Michigan maybe 10 million.  In addition, Michigan’s major industry has been automobiles, so people naturally think first of motor transport and highways.  The fact that Michigan is a peninsula state works against rail.

Several trends may change Michigan’s fascination with the automobile.  Today, only 26% of sixteen year olds have drivers’ licenses and younger people want to live in places where they don’t need to own a car.  Little noted that with the smart phone, travelers have instant information on all types of transportation in larger cities like Chicago – walking, bus, etc.  He is a strong advocate of consolidated transportation tickets which work very well in London and other cities.  With current data programs, it is quite easy to distribute revenue equitably among several transportation providers.

Little sees the first passenger rail expansion as a direct rail link between Detroit, Grand Rapids and Holland, supplemented by connecting buses.  Little is a big advocate of connecting buses throughout the state.   He would also like to see Diesel Multiple Units connecting Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.  DMU’s can easily be expanded or shrunk depending on demand.  He suggests connecting the Pere Marquette line with the Amtrak line just north of New Buffalo.

One issue Little would like to see addressed is adequate space for luggage within a passenger’s sight line.   In Britain, luggage is stowed behind the seats.  Level boarding platforms are another key issue.  He sees a need for the Surface Transportation Administration to bring passenger and freight rail people together to resolve the issue.

Little would like to see more emphasis on batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, which have been studied in North Carolina.  Hydrogen fuel cells have the same efficiency as diesel.

At the present time, the biggest challenge in Michigan to the growth of passenger rail is reliability.

When queried about what we as MARP members could be doing to build ridership, Little responded that we should share our enthusiasm for trains and their value.  Share our knowledge about how to use the current rail system, how to get to the train from home, how to get to your ultimate destination from the train station in a distant city – the total end-to-end trip.  Share how the experience on the train is different than that on a plane.  And very important for those wary of public transportation – emphasize that it is perfectly safe to sit next to another person on the train.  Review with others the total cost of driving to another city versus taking the train.  Work for a unified ticket system.

As to “fixing the damn roads”, Little asks, “Where’s the money coming from?”

As to gaining access to stations such as Grand Rapids, Little noted that current technology could make it possible for a ticketed passenger to open the door.

St. Johns Depot:  Hostess Jenny McCampbell welcomed the group to St. Johns and its depot.  The building is owned and maintained by the City of St. Johns and is frequently rented out by the city for meetings, showers and parties.  That is why what once was the waiting room is kept open and uncluttered.

She reminded the group that at one time 95% of all travel was by train.  The city of St. Johns actually came into being because the Detroit and Grand Haven Railroad decided to route its tracks through the area in 1867.  The first station was built in 1869.  By 1910, it was totally obsolete, but the railroad company refused to take action.  Then in 1920, a tornado hit the community and demolished the old station.  As a result, the current station was built.  Fortunately, as building drawings exist as well as photos of the stationmaster at the window with telegraph and typewriter close by.  One of the few artifacts in the waiting room itself is the large safe from the original station which was returned in 2002.

St. Johns is 98.13 miles from Detroit and 90.18 miles from Grand Haven.

The original name of the community was Johns Station.  Somehow the name got transposed to St. Johns.

The volunteer group that McCampbell and her husband Gary head up is mainly involved is preservation and restoration of four railroad cars kept adjacent to the station, a caboose, a sleeping car, a post office car, and a coach.

Frezell added that an interurban once connected St. Johns with Lansing to the south.

Adjournment:  The meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Hugh D. Gurney

MARP meets in St. Johns on Jan. 26, 2019

MARP Member Meeting
Saturday, January 26, 2019
10:00 am – Noon
Historic Grand Trunk Depot
(Clinton Northern Railway Museum)
107 East Railroad St., St. Johns MI 48879
Map & Directions

MARP’s first meeting of 2019 will be held on Saturday, January 26, 10:00 AM to Noon, at the former Grand Trunk Depot, 107 E. Railroad Street, St. Johns MI 48879. Our presenter will be Nick Little, Director of the Railway Research and Education program at Michigan State University. He will explore with us the future of passenger rail in Michigan and across the country.  Mr. Little has a wealth of railroading experience, having started his career with British Railways.

We will also have a tour of the depot and the vintage rail cars being restored by volunteers led by Jenny and Gary McCampbell. Their most ambitious project has been the restoration of the “Sault St. Marie”, a 1902 Smith & Barney Sleeper car that probably ran between the Soo and Duluth until service ceased in 1936. Check out the article “An American Treasure Comes to St. Johns”. For more about the work of the museum and its volunteers, visit

Plan to join us following the meeting for socializing over lunch (everyone pays for their own lunch).

If you would like to arrange carpooling with someone in your area, please send an email to us at and we will do our best to find you a ride.

Executive Committee Meeting Minutes — East Lansing – December 8, 2018

MARP Executive Committee Minutes
08 December 2018, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, 955 Alton Rd., East Lansing 49823

Present: Tom Purmort, Adam Tauno Williams, Steve Vagnozzi (until 1:00 pm), Kay Chase, Chuck Merckel, Jeanie Merckel, Joshua Hamilton, Warren Fritz, John Langdon (by phone), Mark Miller

Absent:   Robert Patterson

Call to Order:   10:06 a.m.

Welcome, Chair’s plans, expectations and requests of the Executive Committee

Chair asks each person to jot down 3 priorities for the year.  Priorities include: increase membership, improve train service (add cars, frequency), clearly define goals, outreach to local officials, BE POSITIVE.

Approval of agenda:   Accepted as presented.

Approval of minutes:   Hamilton moves, A.Williams seconds, to approve minutes of Oct 9, Oct 16, Oct 23 conference calls. Unanimously approved.

Treasurer’s Report & Approval of 2019 budget:   As of date, net worth is $41,000. Vagnozzi presented the 2019 Budget Proposal prepared by the Finance Committee (Steve Vagnozzi, Hugh Gurney, Mark Miller). Based on 2018 spending and requests submitted by the persons responsible for each budget category, the target was to prepare a balanced budget. Anticipating increases in dues (+$1980) and donations (+$500) in 2019, obtaining another $5000 grant from the Sally Mead Hands Foundation, and withdrawal of $1000 from the VTSAX investment fund (Pratt Fund), budget totals $17,000.

Explanation of each budget line:

  • Administration (+$460) – to increase visibility of the Chair (attend RPA, MHSRA, MIPRC meetings) [TOTAL $1000]
  • Annual Meeting (+$396) – costs were underestimated in 2018; speaker’s expenses and mailing costs [TOTAL $1500]
  • Communications (unchanged) – publish 2 issues of The Michigan Passenger if no increase in printing, mailing costs [TOTAL $3000]
  • Dues Paid to TRU, MEC, MHSRA, RPA (+$75) – there may be an increase in RPA dues [TOTAL $500]
  • Gov’t Affairs (+$60) – increase to cover costs of Meet ‘n Greets with new legislators [TOTAL $1500]
  • Grants to (+$500) – increase to allow grants to historic stations in addition to Durand Union Station  [TOTAL $1000]
  • In-House printing (+$140) – anticipate more printing with legislative Meet’n Greets [TOTAL $500]
  • Membership (+25) – to reflect actual spending in 2018 [TOTAL $325]
  • Michigan By Rail(+$236) – a pass-thru from the Sally Mead Hands grant; covers initiatives to add service, including the West Michigan Express, Ann Arbor to Traverse City (A2TC), Coast-to-Coast (C2C), North-South Commuter Rail (WALLY), and Port Huron station relocation [TOTAL $5000]
  • Monthly Meetings (+$20) – includes some EC meeting costs and some equipment costs; additional meeting room rental costs not anticipated  [TOTAL $800]
  • Outreach (+$40)   [TOTAL $1000]
  • Social Media (-$375) – “boosting” selective Facebook posts accounts for most spending; anticipate producing a video in 2019 [TOTAL $625]
  • Treasurer (+$10) – cover P.O. box rent of $120, payment of mailing costs & tax filing fee [TOTAL $250]

Discussion of Budget:

Langdon:   Suggests putting Social Media under Communications (no action taken) and covering expense of Chair to attend MIPRC annual meeting

Chase:   Would like Pratt Fund monies spent only on very specific, targeted projects; grants to “historic” stations only if the station still serves as an active passenger station

Approval of Budget as presented:

A.Williams moves, Hamilton seconds, to approve the 2019 Budget Proposal as presented. Unanimously approved by voice vote

As a matter of information and awareness, Vagnozzi asks that the manager of each budget category copy the Chair and Vice-Chair when submitting a reimbursement request to him for any amount over $100. Members concur that this is a reasonable informal procedure. Langdon noted that the Bylaws require approval of the person responsible for the budget category for expenditures under $500; for expenditures over $500, approval by the Chair is also required.

Committee Reports and Action Plans for 2019

Discussion of Outreach: Tom Purmort

Envisions a SWAT team ready to go out to business and community organizations; create a deck of power point slides, also a video (Hamilton working on this); have a loop on a monitor at the shows where we table. Purmort adds we need to be looking widely for opportunities to present: Chamber of Commerce, civic organizations, etc.  Set up a schedule and go out and do it.

Objectives for next 90 days:   Outreach to students at Wayne State (C.Merckel says DeLora is interested); MSU (Hamilton working with Nick Little and Andreas Hoffrichter);  WMU (Hamilton & Chase); U of Michigan ( Yuri Popov). Regional Chairs need to be involved.

Governmental Affairs: John Langdon

Five projects are on the table: West Michigan Express Commuter (Grand Rapids-Holland) which Joe Schwartz, former Congressman and member of Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer’s transition team, thinks is the easiest to accomplish; North-South Commuter (WALLY) and East-West Commuter (Detroit to Ann Arbor) are also feasible in the nearer term; longer term are Ann Arbor-Traverse City (A2TC), Coast-to-Coast (Detroit-Lansing-Grand Rapids) and the Port Huron station relocation.

Meet ’n Greets with legislators will start in February and take a couple of months to complete. Focus on leadership in Senate and House, chairs of Appropriations and Transportation committees, and lawmakers whose districts have train service.

Langdon distributed 2 sample resolutions prepared by Westrain to EC members at the annual meeting. Langdon moves, A.Williams seconds, to approve the resolution supporting continuation of service on the Pere Marquette route. Following discussion suggesting some changes in wording, it was agreed to table this until the 8 January EC conference call. A second resolution in support of a study to connect the Pere Marquette to the Amtrak line at New Buffalo will be discussed also at the January meeting. A.Williams will follow through on this to determine the reason for advancing these resolutions at this time. )

Regional Chair Reports & Action Plans for 2019

West Region: Warren Fritz

Reflecting on meetings with officials and the public in Battle Creek (January 2016) and Niles (December 2015), it is time to focus again on educational/informational meetings with entities along the Wolverine line. Suggests putting vertical, standing banners similar to those in Dearborn station in other stations along the line.

Discussion of the electronic status boards in KAL, BTL, PNT ensued. Purmort will contact John DeLora about the history and future of these boards. Given the problems with keeping them functional, A.Williams suggests we walk away from future responsibility for their upkeep. Larry Sobczak has responsibility for the boards at this time.

North Region: Mark Miller

Continues to distribute Indian Trails brochures, MARP newspapers and information to locations throughout the region. A problem with finding offices open. Seeking help to make contacts on the west side and the UP.  There is a need to encourage the state to study passenger rail in NE Michigan and the UP. Plans for a membership meeting in the North.

East/Central Region: Joshua Hamilton

Seven goals for the year: (1) Station beautification in East Lansing; (2) Station FAQ signs; (3) Finish establishing East/Central Membership Committee; (4) More involvement at MSU; (5) More MARP outreach locally; (6) Visit Flint and Lapeer stationS; (7) Port Huron station relocation plans. Has concrete progress on #1-4. Is a member of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association Young Professionals group.

New Business:

Discussion of membership dues structure and creating new categories for corporate sponsors. A.Williams moves, Hamilton seconds, unanimously approved by voice vote, to approve revising membership classes and fees as follows:

Senior/Student     $20    (raised by $5)

Regular                   $30    (raised by $5)

Family                     $50    (raised by $20)   NOTE: Changed to $40 when Resolution #7 adopted 08 January 2019

Advocate                $50    (unchanged)

First Class             $100    (unchanged)

Life                        $500    (unchanged)

Suggested new categories for corporate entities

Non-Profit             $50

Bronze                  $125
Silver                     $250

Gold                      $500

Brief discussion of possible incentives to encourage new members: break on dues amount or registration for annual meeting, etc.

2019 Meeting Schedule:

Five member meetings and the Annual Meeting scheduled as follows: Jan 26 (St. Johns), Apr 6 (Detroit/Metro region), Jun 22 (North region), Sep 14 Annual Meeting, Nov 9 (West region). A.Williams moves, Hamilton seconds, to approve this schedule. Unanimously approved. Executive Committee conference call every 2nd Tues, 7pm; Purmort asks that decision items be submitted in advance of the meeting.


Two issues of The Michigan Passenger, monthly online issues of ON TRACK

Jack Urban, Kalamazoo City Commissioner

Attending in person, he is seeking our advice on a lobbying campaign he is initiating to add more service on Wolverine line, also Pere Marquette line if money can be found for both. Distributes sheet recapping recent conversation with Derrick James, who suggested two “asks”: (1) An early westbound train out of Kalamazoo or Battle Creek; (2) A 2nd frequency on the Pere Marquette. Urban is developing a resolution to take to jurisdictions along the Wolverine line. Kalamazoo City Manager Rietsma supports this effort. Would like us to check his facts and suggest individuals along the route with whom to collaborate. A.Williams adds that MDOT has expressed interest in such a collaboration. Purmort points out the challenge of the 1.6 miles of CN track in Battle Creek that are a choke point.

Online Activities Planning Tool:

Purmort envisions creation of such a tool to which all EC members would have access. A. Williams working to obtain a Microsoft Office 365 non-profit license for this endeavor.

Bruce Becker, Vice-President of Operations, Rail Passengers Association (RPA) spoke to the committee via phone with information about ways in which RPA can assist state ARPs in managing their member databases and in web development. In addition, RPA is partnering with the Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN) in a pilot program to boost and promote membership in both organizations. When joining (or renewing) with the Vermont Rail Action Network (VRAN), members are offered an opportunity to join RPA at a discounted rate by clicking on a link which takes them to a special joint RPA/VRAN membership page. This program could be expanded to serve other state ARPs.

Q&A with Becker:  Does the discounted membership program apply to renewals? Becker says it is primarily aimed at new members, but might be applied also to renewals. Purmort asks if RPA is active with American Public Transportation Association (APTA}: Becker is RPA’s representative on the APTA High Speed Rail group and says RPA is active but could always do more. The Midwest High Speed Rail Assoc. is closest thing to a regional rail advocacy organization of which Becker is aware. Niles volunteer program is going forward with 18-20 volunteers taking training led by Amtrak in January. RPA also looking at a couple stations in Carolina for pilot volunteer programs. Volunteers will not take the place of station caretakers.

All Aboard Ohio:

Purmort has talked with Ken Prendergast, Executive Director of All Aboard Ohio. AAO saw a big drop in membership when the Governor turned back stimulus money for the 3C corridor (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati); State of Ohio spends $0 on passenger rail.

APTA Membership:

Purmort cites the wealth of information (committee reports, technical papers) available from APTA. Membership is expensive, but he may be able to get a less expensive membership as a retired member and would pay out of his pocket.

Website coordination:

MARP website needs to be updated more frequently, if not totally redone. Purmort, A.Williams, Hamilton, Chase plan a conference call with webmaster Larry Sobczak.

Inventory of equipment owned by MARP:

A partial list includes: canopy, 2 printers [Langdon has both printers; one of should be with Merckels]. A.Williams has projector, screen and cords for use at meetings.


Adjournment at 3:26 p.m.



Kay Chase, Acting Secretary

Approved 08 January 2019