Category Archives: Minutes

Executive Committee Meeting Minutes — Conference Call – March 20, 2018

MARP Executive Committee
Conference Call
20 March 2018
7:30 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.

Members Present:  Steve Vagnozzi, John Langdon, Adam Tauno Williams, Kay Chase, Mark Miller, Stewart Bolinger, Robert Tischbein, Chales Shong (joined the call in progress).

Members Absent: Robert Patterson

Williams – Meetings Update:

April 21 member meeting at MSU Detroit Center. Megan Owens, Transit Riders United, and Joel Batterman, Detroit Freedom Riders, will speak. Meeting time is 10 a.m. to Noon

Summer Executive Committee meeting is rescheduled for July 14.

Langdon, Miller and Tischbein propose that MARP meet in September at the Mountain Top Station in Mount Pleasant. Tischbein has contacts at CMU. This offers a great opportunity to engage CMU students. Langdon has received a favorable response from Louis Ferris, Great Lakes Central, for a train excursion at no cost to us, from Mount Pleasant to Cadillac. Miller is making arrangements with the restaurant. Group favors going ahead with these plans in lieu of the previously scheduled June meeting in the North Region.

Membership Update:

Bolinger has received $1200 in renewals through PayPal (15-20 memberships).

The dues renewal request was sent to all members on February 24 via email or by surface mail to the 60 members for whom we have no email.

Chase – Communications Update:

Chase and Gurney are working on the Winter/Spring issue of The Michigan Passenger and expect to have it out in May.

Langdon moves, Miller seconds, unanimously approved, that copies of The Michigan Passenger be mailed to the Governor, Lt. Governor, 110 State Representatives, 36 State Senators, 2 U.S. Senators, and to the Washington, DC, and Michigan offices of the 14 U.S. Representatives. Chase points out that this will add about $125 to the cost of each mailing. Langdon says that it is not necessary to print extra copies of the newspaper for this purpose. Langdon is agreeable to having the additional mailing costs taken from the Governmental affairs budget.

Langdon – Governmental Affairs Update:

In State Budget action, the House has cut $3M from the Governor’s FY2018-19 budget request, funding intended for work on the Wolverine route. Amtrak’s request may be significantly less due to the elimination of ticket agents at Niles and Jackson and the greater operating efficiency of the new Siemens Charger locomotives. There is talk of a second frequency on the Pere Marquette and an additional frequency on the Wolverine. Langdon will send details on the Amtrak funding request to Williams and to Chase.

Plans are being made for special trains to Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, the Senior PGA tournament in Benton Harbor, and a possible Grand Rapids Art Prize train. Williams is working on plans for a MARP meeting in Grand Rapids during Art Prize.

There is a good chance for a supplemental appropriation to upgrade the A2TC trackage to allow a “tourist train” (demonstration project). Not likely to happen in time for Traverse City Cherry Festival, but maybe for Labor Day.


Shong – West Region Update:

Shong is compiling a list of colleges and universities in the region to see what they have going on for fall semester. Has run into snags with the idea of printing legislator’s information on the back of membership cards. Vagnozzi suggests, instead, sending an email with that information. Shong does not favor this because emails tend to be overlooked or “lost”. Chase points out that whenever a call to action is included in MARP publications, information is included as to how to contact the target lawmakers. Also, there are lawmaker locator links on page 4 of every issue of ON TRACK.


Bolinger – Financial Update:

The yearend budget report shows that expenditures exceeded revenues by $1,748.00. Revenues from member dues and donations are weak at this point in 2018, thus some cause for concern. Chase points out that we ended 2017 with a deficit, even though most of the budget lines were underspent.

Bolinger said the finance committee (Bolinger, Gurney, Miller, Vagnozzi, ex offficio) will meet this week and will be looking at reductions in some budget lines.

There is $12,600.00 in the checking account, about the same as what we had at this time last year.

Chase asked what is anticipated for expenses in the social media area. In 2017, $2,000 was reallocated from the Communications budget to this purpose. Williams will send a report on the social edia focus.

Items for Discussion/Information:

Mark Campbell, a MARP member, is interested in MARP taking action on his proposal for Detroit to Pontiac commuter rail.

Vagnozzi feels we don’t have, at this time, the resources (people) to do this. He can’t justify putting any of our limited time and energy into this. Williams opines that the new RTA plan should be our primary focus in Southeast Michigan at this time. This is the consensus of the group.

Langdon speculated about CSX’s proposal to sell off holdings. CP may be Interested in certain SE Michigan holdings.

Vagnozzi – Chair’s report:

Will be attending the Annual Meeting of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association in Chicago on Saturday.

Due to family obligations, Bolinger has asked that a replacement be found. Vagnozzi prefers that it be someone in the Lansing area because that’s where the PO Box is. Williams suggests using our Facebook presence to recruit a candidate.  Langdon suggests also putting it in MI Passenger and ON TRACK, along with the other executive committee vacancies. Chase agrees those are good suggestions, but cautions against expecting much of a response. It is important for each executive committee member to give this some thought and make personal contacts with likely candidates.

Bolinger will draft a “job description” for Chase to include in ON TRACK and Michigan Passenger in an appeal for candidates to fill the Treasurer position, as well as other executive committee vacancies (Vice-Chair, Secretary, East/Central Chair).

Respectfully submitted,

_____Kay Chase_____________________         _____Steve Vagnozzi_____________________

Kay Chase, Acting Secretary                                           Steve Vagnozzi, Chair

Executive Committee Meeting Minutes — Conference Call – February 20, 2018

MARP Executive Committee
Conference Call
20 February 2018
7:30 – 8:30 pm

Members Present:  Steve Vagnozzi, Adam Tauno Williams, John Langdon, Charles Shong, Robert Tischbein, Kay Chase

Members Absent:  Robert Paterson, Stewart Bolinger, Mark Miller

Chase will contact Detroit City Mobility person who spoke at TRU meeting about speaking at the April 21 meeting in Detroit at a venue yet to be determined

Williams is working on a UMich event in March. Yuri Popov is helping. Vagnozzi asks how meeting will be promoted, what MDOT’s involvement will be? Raffle a train ticket?  Adam will first secure meeting place and date and then work with MDOT, Amtrak on these details.

Review of goals discussed at January meeting.

Pursuing the re-route of the Lakeshore appears to be too much of an uphill battle – neither MDOT nor Amtrak appears to want to pursue it, apparently because of problem with CN in Battle Creek.

Langdon report:   Meeting coming up to work on next steps for the Coast-to-Coast project. $300,000 – $500,000 needed for the next study, which is less than anticipated. A2TC project moving forward. “Tourist” (demonstration} train Kingsley to Traverse City may be a possibility for Cherry Festival in Traverse City.

Intra-city/intercity connections: Vagnozzi wants to work with CATA about weekend service to the station. Williams cites fact that Grand Rapids transit’s last runs depart 15 minutes before the evening Pere Marquette arrives.

Langdon: MDOT/Amtrak planning a number of special trains originating in Chicago:

  • May 5 and 12 Tulip Train to Holland
  • Senior PGA Golf Tournament in Benton Harbor. Rich Vavra-Musser will help with this.
  • Maybe Art Prize in Grand Rapids

Michigan Day at Chicago Union Station is April 3 & 4.

Vagnozzi raises concern with PTC issue on Blue Water and Pere Marquette routes. May not be operative by the 2018 deadline. Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson has said Amtrak will suspend service where PTC is not operable.

Shong is willing to format the membership card to have the member’s state representative & senator and US Representative and Senators listed on the back of the card.

Respectfully submitted:                                                     Accepted:

_____Kay Chase____________            ____Steve Vagnozzi___________

Kay Chase, Acting Secretary                                              Steve Vagnozzi, Chair

Meeting Minutes — HASLETT – January 27, 2018


Membership Meeting

27 Jan 2018

Haslett Public Library
1590 Franklin Street, Haslett MI 48840

Members present: Stewart Bolinger, Clark Charnetski, Kay Chase, Dave Falconer, Michael Frezell, Kaz Fujita, John Guidinger, Hugh Gurney, Tim Hoeffner, Larry Krieg, John Langdon, Chuck Merckel, Jeanie Merckel, Mark Miller, Robert Patterson, Richard Pekarek, Dan Platz, Kim Powell, Yuri Popov, John Rasmussen, Jim Roach, Charles Shong, Steve Sobel, Bob Tischbein, Adam Tauno Williams, David Williams, Doug Wilson

Guests present: Alison Barber, Kenneth Borg, Ron DeCook, Gerald Grossman, Al Johnson, Ron King, Ray Lang, Robert Lippert, Jeff Martin, Ed Rutkowski

Meeting called to order at 10:30 a.m. In the absence of Chair Steve Vagnozzi, who had a family emergency, Adam Williams presiding.

Safety briefing and introductions.

Williams moved, Rutkowski second, to approve the Order of Business as presented.


John Rasmussen has spoken with Derrick James, Amtrak Governmental Relations, about doing a survey of Michigan train passengers. He, John Guidinger and Clark Charnetski have formed an ad hoc committee to pursue this further.


Langdon distributes a member survey to be completed and returned to him at conclusion of meeting.

Financial Report:

Bolinger – MARP began 2017 with around $12,000 in the bank and ended $11,000-plus.   The Vanguard investment account currently stands at around $24,000. A $5,000 grant from Michigan Environmental Council is in a separate account to be used for work on rail initiatives around the state:  next phase of Coast-to-Coast proposal, new station in Port Huron, activities in Livingston County. Mark Miller and Hugh Gurney will work with Bolinger to prepare the 2018 budget.

Committee Reports:

Langdon (Government Affairs): Calls attention to materials available at back of room including Amtrak 2017 Michigan Fact Sheet, FRA-led Midwest Rail Study information and newsletter, new Michigan train schedule effective 22 January, and information about how to download the national timetable from the Amtrak website.


Adam Wiliams (Meetings Coordinator): In 2018 the number of member meetings will be reduced to four (April in Detroit, June and October in venues to be announced, Annual Meeting in November). Executive Committee will have monthly conference calls, members may participate. MARP will focus attention on special meetings and outreach events in a continuing effort to engage a wider constituency, particularly younger people, in our advocacy efforts.


Panel Discussion  “How do we engage the younger generation”    

Panelists: Tim Hoeffner is Director of MDOT’s Office of Rail and immediate past chair of Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC). Ray Lang serves as the Senior Director of Amtrak’s National State Relations. He is also President of The Chicago Union Station Company, a wholly-owned Amtrak subsidiary.

Tim Hoeffner: NARP, MDOT, Amtrak, MARP have had a lot of discussion about how to meet with and engage a new generation of rail advocates. The current membership of MARP is not representative of the people who are using passenger services. We need the younger generation to help us develop services to match their expectations. Michigan will elect a new governor and legislature in 2018. They may well ask “Why should we partner with MARP? How can they help us?”   Not sure that what MARP wants is in alignment with what the future patronage wants.


Ray Lang: MARP should set a goal of getting 20 students at each meeting. Plan meetings on campuses. Have them fill out a survey, establish student chapters.  Ask how many have the Amtrak app on their phones. Amtrak has a robust social media presence, uses geo-targeting, and tracks usage. Amtrak tracks visits to Facebook, sees that many then go to the Amtrak website, knows how many then buy a ticket.   Michigan has many international students and they use trains to get from Chicago airports to Michigan campuses.


Hoeffner: Echoes the importance of international students.  MSU is building dorms and facilities focused on international students. Students are not going to train shows. Print media is OUT. The new “elevator speech” is what fits on one screen of the smart phone.


There followed a lively discussion period, with members contributing their thoughts on how MARP can be more relevant to students. Popov has polled his 500 students at the University of Michigan and found that 2/3 of them do ride trains. Students have little time or money, but will find the time if presented with something exciting:  high speed rail, technology, hyperloop. Krieg notes that the activist students gravitate toward environmental issues, are concerned that business as usual is not sustainable. Our message should be that trains are the most environmentally sound way to get around. Partner with organizations like MEC, Sierra Club, Ecology Center. Use the campus newspaper to reach out, even place ads.


Hoeffner:  We will try to help MARP put together programs to entice students. Suggests raffling a ticket. Emphasized that MDOT can facilitate our success, but we have to do the legwork of organizing.


Lang: Commits to having Amtrak personnel if we meet on 3 campuses this year. MOBILITY should be the focus. He also admonished that MARP’s role is ADVOCACY, not to make money for Amtrak.


Michael Frezell: Important to talk to your elected representatives. Local business fairs offer good outreach opportunities.


Hoeffner: In response to a question, says MDOT is in discussions regarding the student discount which has been discontinued by Amtrak.


Clark Charnetski: Sees an opportunity to engage students in the design phase of the new Ann Arbor station and in the SE Michigan Regional Transit Authority issue that may be on the fall ballot.


Hoeffner:    MDOT is making more of an effort to talk with universities, asking them to help with promotion and how to get the word out to the students.


Responding to Krieg’s comment that funding is needed to expand service which is currently at capacity, Hoeffner expressed the need to figure out how to grow the ridership mid-week and off-peak season. Is willing to try to do something to draw ridership to the low-ridership days: lower fares on these days, higher on weekends. Recognizing that new equipment is still a few years away, can use this period to grow the support and patronage.


In response to comments that the focus should not be entirely on millennials, Hoeffner noted that focus on students is the low hanging fruit. Get them on board as students, they are primed to continue post-college.

Updates on Michigan services:

Hoeffner: Recent press release on trip time reductions show that Michigan is reaping the benefits of the infrastructure work done over the last three years. Still some issues related to implementation of the ICTS train control system with the new Siemens locomotives, but expects to see resolution of these within a few months. Continue focus on Michigan service issues – driving costs down, tightening schedules – before addressing things like connections to Windsor at Detroit. Gives kudos to Al Johnson, Manager of Operations, MDOT Office of Rail, whose strategic decision-making is driving these efforts. Asks that MARP exercise good judgement in making public information about efforts that are in early stages. There are no plans at this time to add frequencies. Upcoming marketing efforts around Senior PGA Tournament and Holland Tulip Festival, perhaps other events.


The feasibility study is ramping up for the proposed Ann Arbor to Traverse City (A2TC) route. The SE Michigan Regional Transit Authority still holds the potential for Detroit to Ann Abor commuter service. Starting to have some talk about linking up with Toronto; there is lots going on in Toronto, but they’re not thinking of going to Windsor yet. MDOT sees stations as the front door to the communities they serve and thus as the communities’ responsibility. MDOT wants to have the communities engaged.


In response to a question about reliability of equipment as it impacts on-time-performance, Hoeffner said he met with mechanical last week in Chicago and urges that we keep in mind the P42 locomotives are going on 20-25 years of service. Have been some winter issues with the new SC-44 Charger locomotives (operating on the Pere Marquette route), but Siemens is focused on assuring excellent performance.


In closing remarks, Lang enthused about the progress that has been made in Michigan in the last several years. Improvements that are transforming the passenger experience include higher speeds and greater reliability as a result of improved trackage and signals, along with such projects as the Engelwood fly-over, the Indiana Gateway and the new stations. PRIIA Sec. 209 presents funding challenges. His parting shot was, “Watch what CSX is doing,” in reference to the recent news that CSX is reviewing 8,000 miles of rail lines as potential candidates for sale or lease, included the former Pere Marquette trackage in Michigan.


Hoeffner thanked MARP for all the support and looks forward to continuing to work together. He also cited the “unique and fruitful working relationship with our sister states”, particularly Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin. “It’s not just Detroit to Chicago, it’s Detroit to Milwaukee or Detroit to St. Louis.”


Adjournment: Langdon moved, Sobel seconded, meeting adjourned at 12:08 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,


_____Kay Chase________________________          ______Steve Vagnozzi ____________________

Kay Chase, Acting Secretary                                                   Steve Vagnozzi, Chair