Saturday, November 21, 2015

Non Sequitur nails the “Transit Oriented Development” modus operandi

Years ago, a frequent wave off in the bizarre crowd in which we ‘grew up’ was ‘see you in the funny papers.’  It seemed ever so much more sophisticated than ‘see you later, alligator,’ which was memorialized in song.  By Bill Haley and the Comets, wasn’t it?.

Over the years, we came to learn the lesson that good comedy almost always has an element of truth in it.  And that the best of the ‘funny papers’ is very good at poking fun at us, our lives, and those things we consider important.

Shoe, Pebbles, Peanuts, Zits, and any number of other strips often make us chuckle.  Non Sequitur does sometimes, but other times leaves us totally cold.

In recent days, the well known strip offered this insight:

Studies R Us

“Studies R Us.”  Geez!  Why didn’t we think of that when we reviewed the scandalous incompetence and wasted dollars represented in the “Transit Oriented Development” studies we’ve told you and others about?  The ones that have driven the ecstatic support for passenger rail spending (‘investment’ to zealots; speculation in reality) in the hundreds of millions of dollars here in Maine and nearby states to create the Downeaster.  Among other marvelous achievements of Government.

We’ll remind you of one of our favorite projections promulgated by one of these charlatans, willingly paid for with YOUR tax dollars, with no challenge to the assertions:

EDRG Table 6.1

Judging from the cartoon strip above, Wiley Miller is familiar with the efforts of CNT and fellow members of the Consultant Industrial Complex.

Now he needs to take on the gullible and unconcerned bureaucrats who sponsor and then accept the results of such folly, using them to justify irrational spending demands.

To forward their careers, and that of others.

Is this a great country or what?

Don’t answer that, please.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

PPH Maine Voices: Rerouting Downeaster funding to critical priorities


Selected passages:

When complete, this will put total capital expense for the Downeaster in the $150 million-plus range. Add operating deficits since inception, and taxpayers will have kicked in $250 million so far and will keep doing so at $13 million (and growing) in annual operating subsidies alone.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority’s extravagance brings to mind troubling excesses uncovered at other state authorities: the Maine Turnpike and Maine State Housing, which share the same accountability and transparency flaws.

You can read the entire column here:

You probably need the practice on opening links anyway.  Be sure to read the comments; they offer great insight into the public ‘mind-set’ on these matters.  (We hate terms like mind-set, but that’s a topic for another time.)

            Ladies of Brunswick


We’re hoping our friends at All Aboard Brunswick and ChoochooRidersNortheast chime in soon; we trust they find the position put forth to be enlightening, and more importantly, in the ‘greater community interest,’ which is sacred to them.  They do care about the rest of us, don’t they?

                   Amish horse and buggy

Which brings to mind the theological aspects of transportation in some communities.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Unsustainability, thy name is “Legacy Passenger Rail”


An assertion that the Amtrak Downeaster excursion on the imaginary axis is a $250 million experiment in legacy transportation is credible and supportable with facts on the public record. 

Even more credible are these passages from the Maine Central Railroad 1959 Annual Report:

 MCR 59 snip page 9

  MCR 59 snip page 10

“….conclusively destroying any concept of public necessity.”  We love that phraseology, from the year of our High School graduation, when common sense and rational thought were more in fashion than they are now.  Sadly, a preference for such things is ‘so yesterday.’

Regardless, we thought we’d bring you this latest ‘draft operating budget’ from NNEPRA, the operator of the Amtrak Downeaster.  It’s in two sections because of production issues, which offer us a chance to insert comments along the way.


The budget segment just above shows (in the highlighted entries) that NNEPRA projects operating revenues for the current fiscal year to be less than the projected operating revenues for the prior fiscal year.  Specifically, projected ticket sales are down by $300,000.  They can’t blame this on harsh winters and other deflections.  These are PROJECTIONS.

On the other hand, Amtrak is raising their “rental fees” by $2 million, or 17%!  This is a clear indicator of Amtrak fiscal challenges nation-wide, and it’s sure to continue as the political and economic underpinnings of the Amtrak pipe dream erode. 

“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop" is known as Herbert Stein’s Law.  Unless, of course, you’re able to print as much money as you need, like they do in Washington.

Moving on:


We take issue with the term “Total Capital and Operating Expense.”  Nothing in the way of capital expense is shown in this budget document. 


Not even the cost of the Brunswick MLF.  Nor are peripheral operating costs, such as the cost of the Brunswick Taxi contract (~$200,000 per year), or the municipal expenses for operating/maintaining local stations and “visitors centers.”  This must have been an oversight.  Or perhaps an inadvertent error in transparency.  Thank you, Dr. Gruber.

Ignoring those minor ‘clerical errors’ for the moment, we can’t help but notice that the operating subsidy required for the current year is up by 23% over the actual amount last year, or nearly $2.5 million.  Wow; sounds like awards and bonuses are called for all around!

We also note that in line 3, state match, there is no mention of New Hampshire or Massachusetts chipping in, even though nearly half of Downeaster ridership occurs exclusively within those states.  Can we all take a deduction for subsidizing their train riders; this is an act of ‘charity,’ is it not?

Let’s review the takeaways from the foregoing.



We recognize that some members of our vast readership, and in particular, the ladies of AAB, are unable to grasp the magnitude of numbers like $12.9 million, since the largest number they encounter in an average day is the price of a double decaf latte with extra cinnamon and vanilla syrup and three cherries at a trendy local coffee house.

  Ladies of Brunswick

We’ll help them this way.  $12.9 million is $1.075 million per month.  That equates to  $35,833 (plus change) per day, or $1493 per hour.  All year round, every day, every hour.

So what; that’s only $25 a minute or so.  What’s the big deal?

Here’s another way to think of it. Brunswick accounts for roughly 7% of Downeaster ridership, so on a pro-rata basis, we account for $903,000 of this year’s operating deficit.  That’s more than $17,000 per week and nearly $2,500 per day.  To carry 17 riders on an average train.  Not including local subsidy costs.

We trust Our Ladies of Brunswick will write once they have a chance to absorb these ‘figures,’ and construct a counter-narrative based on whatever it is they consume to dream up their fanciful ‘community-based’ justifications for throwing public money down a public rat hole.

We won’t bother you tonight with our estimate of $250 million in speculation on the Downeaster.  Speculation is the right word, and any time you hear someone use the word ‘investment,’ tell them to talk to your hand, if you can find it in your heart to do that.  As for us, we’d use a slightly less civil word than hand.

We won’t tell you about the $75 million or so on basic Downeaster start up; the $75 million or so on extending service north of Portland; or the $100 million or so in annual operating subsidies so far.

But we do want to make sure we’ve got things straight, if you’ll forgive the use of a ‘trigger’ word.  We mean no micro-aggression.

Ticket revenue declining by 3%, and rental costs for train equipment increasing by 17%.  Taxpayer subsidy demand up by 23%.


And you want us to believe this is a sustainable enterprise model?  What do you think we are?  Gullible taxpayers?


Oh wait; that’s EXACTLY what we are, isn’t it?

Monday, November 9, 2015

A “Plan B” for Brunswick….your Monday Night lagniappe

Last week we composed and disseminated a ‘presentation’ inspired by recent transit sector happenings in the Auburn area, juxtaposed against the well known passenger rail silliness that has descended upon Brunswick. 

We’re not going to go through the usual listing of our prior posts on the subject and the related links.  We assume that if you’re a regular reader, and interested in the subject in general, you’ve read our prior items, but if not, will have no problem finding them in the index area to the right side of our page.

Here’s the cover page of this latest composition:


You can find the rest of it here:

If you do follow up and look at it, be sure to look at the last page, especially if you consider yourself a realist in economic matters.  It should provide much fodder for critical thought.  You should be able to rotate the budget summary view to the normal reading position by using your pdf viewing options.

If not, have no fear.  In the next day or two, we’ll be providing a detailed commentary on this one page.  Why?  Because it summarizes the folly that is NNEPRA and the Amtrak Downeaster. 


Unless you think money grows on trees, and we should be providing carriage level transit for the few at the expense of the many, while much higher priorities in the common interest go unaddressed.


On the other hand, this is what makes modern day America what it is.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

“futurely right:” the last refuge of a foamer caught in the headlights

Our text for this homily: Ben Franklin observed, "One of the tragedies of life is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts.“                     


In past posts over the years, we’ve used images like the one above as a metaphor for gushing over-reaction towards a variety of causes.

Only recently did we learn that the term ‘foamer’ is in widespread use for a more specific circumstance.   We learned of it from a colleague, and passed it along in this post:

We provided a link to this video:, which seems to us the quintessential example of a foamer captured live in a moment of railroading rapture.

As phate would have it, our recent letter published in the Forecaster, which we told you about here, flushed out a local example of a foamer from these parts.  He shows himself in the comments that resulted from our letter. (


Foamers are those who have moved beyond Kool-Aid quaffing, to a more advanced stage of irrationality, and can no longer contain themselves when the object of their affections is questioned.

In the case we’re bringing before you, we suspect that TrainFoamersNortheast, a clandestine coven consisting of ‘selected’ members of TrainRidersNortheast and All Aboard Brunswick, has decided to display their intellects and twisted ethics in public.  Why we’re not sure, but we’re glad they did.

Perhaps the Grand Wizard of TRNE has sentenced them to exile on shady acres somewhere..if he hasn’t, he should.  They add no luster to a group sadly in need of it.

Here’s a look at the comments we’re referring to; ‘farmertom2’ was the first to post a comment:


Note the reference to the “antiplanner” web site.  We’re quite familiar with it; they should think about adding an “antifoamer” subpage to their site.  Next in the comment thread came a discourse on the realities of motor coach vs.Downeaster fuel consumption:


This provoked the best that ‘farmertom2’ has in reply:


As they like to say out in the pasture, ‘holy cow!’

Based on his incisive comment, we’re guessing that ‘farmertom2’ lives somewhere south of Never Willbe, a town ‘that time forgot’ as the old saying goes, and that most of us try not to visit anymore than we have to.

Here’s the costume we suspect he wore for Haloween.


We shouldn’t be too harsh though.   When you can’t find a place in Reality, where else are you gonna put down roots?  Never Willbe doesn’t have very good schools, which is probably why ‘farrmertom2,’ in addition to his other shortcomings, isn’t much of a speller.

We’re sure he meant to identify himself as ‘foamertom2’. 

We’ll close with this zinger:

Winston Churchill complained, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.“

We’ve used it before.  So what; we own this ‘publication.’.

Not pastly, not futurely; but nowly.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

“AAH;” Should Downeaster service be extended to Harpswell?


Harpswell issues furtive plea for help from AAB; asks whether funding for railroad bridge from Freeport Station to Harpswell Neck and Bailey Island can be found.


Presumably our award winning friends at AAB are contacting the Oppem Sisters to inquire about funds, but so far, results have not been published.

Here is the referenced article:

HARPSWELL — Ridership is low as the town’s first public transportation system heads towards its six-month mark.

As a result, the service may be discontinued during winter.

From the last week of May through the second week of October, only 41 people rode the bus connecting Harpswell Neck to Cook’s Corner and Maine Street Station in Brunswick, according to ridership data from service provider Coastal Trans.

Twenty-one people rode the bus connecting Cundy’s Harbor to Brunswick in the same time period.

The two buses run on Wednesdays, and make three runs between Harpswell and Brunswick each day. There is no charge for the service.

Ridership numbers show that some weeks saw no riders; for two consecutive Wednesdays in June, for example, nobody rode either bus.

Harpswell signed a contract with Coastal Trans, a Rockland-based nonprofit, for the transportation service in May. The company also operates the Brunswick Explorer bus service.

Coastal Trans draws state and federal funding for its operations, but requires a 40 percent local match.

The town appropriated $9,000 for the match at town meeting in March, which is to be paid in two six-month installments.

The funds are a prepayment for the service; actual costs will be tracked and any unused funds will be reimbursed to the town, according to the contract.

In an interview Wednesday, Selectman Elinor Multer said she was not surprised by the initial ridership.

“I always felt that it would be small, and that it would take more than a year to build up anything. … These kinds of things just take a lot of time,” she said. “People are not used to it, many may still never have heard of it.”

Multer said she wants to see how the service performs in the spring, when the weather warms up again.

There is a question, though, of whether the bus routes should be continued in the winter months.

Multer said she is concerned that continuing service through the winter might “waste money.”

“And it is a significant amount of money,” she added.

On the other hand, discontinuing the fledgling service, if only temporarily, may set it back in terms of public recognition.

“I’m not anxious to abandon (the service entirely),” she said. “But the question of whether to run it during the winter is a tougher one.”

Selectman Kevin Johnson on Wednesday said he thinks the Board of Selectmen may shut service down for the winter.

“If ridership is down this fall, there’s no sense keep it going through the winter,” Johnson said.

But, like Multer, he supports continuing the schedule next spring and summer.

“When we signed onto this, we kind of made a commitment to give it a year or two, and not just fold up the tent … if it didn’t work out well,” Johnson said.

Selectmen are scheduled to discuss the public transportation service at their Thursday, Oct. 29, meeting.


So, on at least 45 runs each, the service averaged way less than one rider per run.

Yet note the utter failure of ‘officials’ to conclude it’s an unworthy idea that just doesn’t work.

Those behind the good intentions will do anything to prove they were well-founded, no matter how much it costs, regardless of ‘wasting money.’

It’s exactly what AAB and the other elite boosters of Downeaster service do.  Not enough riders?  Solution: run more trains. 

Not enough revenue?  Solution: deepen ticket discounts. 

Not enough economic benefit?  Solution: dredge up long discredited projections as ‘proof.’ 

Arguments so shallow they make soap bubbles seem sturdy? 

Solution: concoct new fantasies and projections, and hire more experts.


In so many words, dig in your heels and stick up your chin. 

Because in our increasingly corrupt society, it works like a charm.

Letter: Bus may serve Brunswick better than trains


The above letter recently popped up on the Forecaster web page, and will, we assume, appear in the print editions later this week.  It makes reference to events unfolding in the Lewiston-Auburn area, about which we’ve kept you informed.  The closing passage in the letter is this:

Perhaps the same approach should be used for expanding round-trip service to Brunswick, rather than spending an additional $22 million or more in taxpayer funds to meet unknown demands. Such an expanded bus service might even bring Bath and Topsham into the fold, making use of the bypass off Route 1. If the ridership support isn’t there, the service can be terminated with little lost; if it exceeds projections, it can easily and quickly be expanded.

“Perhaps.”  A profound word in certain circumstances, though it can easily be tossed aside by the illuminati if the hypothesis does not meet their wishes.  You can ponder its relevance here as you gaze at the relevant geography in this image:


Friday, October 30, 2015

How Amtrak can save at least $150,000 per year on Brunswick operating costs alone.


As we’ve told you many times, Brunswick Taxi, owned by the King family of Brunswick, has a contract for ferrying Amtrak Downeaster crews between Brunswick and Portland twice a day, 365 days a year.


They also have an ad hoc security role for said passenger rail service, evidenced by how they took us hostage a few weeks ago.  Such is the privilege accorded those who are more equal than the rest of us in egalitarian Brunswick.

We have it on good authority that the arrangement Brunswick Taxi has to provide these services is laundered via multiple layers of subcontractors to the Federal Amtrak bureaucracy.  We and others have been unable to obtain the specifics via normal Freedom of Information/Freedom of Access provisions in federal and state law.  There are simply too many layers of administrative isolation between NNEPRA, the operator of the Downeaster, and Brunswick Taxi, your home-town small business operator.  The same operator that a few years back received a $247,000 grant from Brunswick taxpayers via the Brunswick Development Corporation.

Unable to get actual contract details from official sources, we’ve estimated the Brunswick Taxi contract to be in the range of $200,000 per year for providing those two round trips per day between Church Road and Portland.  That’s a very nice revenue base for their operation thank you,  and not once has anyone challenged our estimate.

The Downeaster is currently running an annual operating deficit of about $12 million a year, or $1 million a month.  In round numbers, Brunswick ridership accounts for about 5% of the total, so on a pro-rata basis, Brunswick operations contribute about $50,000 per month to that NNEPRA deficit.  Not including other costs like subsidies for the Departure Center in Brunswick Station, and who knows what else.


Now here’s an idea.  Maybe 100 paces or so from where Brunswick Taxi picks up and drops off Amtrak crews twice a day, 365 days a year, is an auto dealer, Bodwell Motors by name.  Turns out they’ve sold a boat load of vans over the years just like the one the King’s use on their contracted runs.  And we suspect these vans are still one of their top sellers, even in this age of SUV’s, Crossovers, and other trendy choices.

We’re going to go out on a limb and suggest that NNEPRA, or their Amtrak friends in Washington, through their inscrutable subcontracting labyrinth, could lease a van from Bodwell for a few thousand cash up front, and a monthly lease fee of something like $400.  Amtrak could do so, and provide the vehicle for their crews.  The crew coming into town on the 12:30 PM arrival could get in the van and drive down to Portland, where they would leave the van for use by the later crew that needs to come to Brunswick to operate the 5:30 pm departure from Brunswick to points south.

We’re pretty sure that Bodwell would consider allowing the vehicle to be parked overnight on their property for safekeeping, right across the street from the drop off/pick up point.  Looks like they’d  put about 2,000 miles a month on the van, incurring some excess mileage charges.  Then there’s gas and insurance.

All told, we figure Amtrak might have to spend $2,000 a month for this crew vehicle.

Let’s call it $25,000 a year in round numbers.  Which is $175,000 less than we figure they’re paying Brunswick Taxi for the same transportation service.

That’s a pretty sizable saving, we should think.  And it would include a modest business transaction for a local dealership as part of the bargain.

We understand that NNEPRA, Amtrak, and the rest of the business entities they deal with are not expected to be efficient or break even, or even close.  Still, we think saving more than $150,000 a year for Brunswick operations alone is worth a second look.

Don’t you?


Then again, we’re not like all the rest, are we?  We don’t run on other people’s money.

A lesson in retail sales for the interested student…and a moral for our circumstances.


You know us; we have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and we assume our readers do as well.  Accordingly, we see it as our obligation to slake that thirst.

For some strange reason, we recently became ever so curious about the retail sales world.  Perhaps it’s because a number of those we consider close earn their living in that sector.  So we started looking into annual revenue figures, etc, for those enterprises most of us are familiar with.


For example, Supermarkets, of which we have several in our greater area, ranging from fairly small (Bow Street Market) to quite large (Hannaford, Shaws).  We frequent both Bow Street, which we love, and Hannaford, which is our most convenient option, including their pharmacy.

Both are always busy, and sometimes very busy.  But we had no idea what sort of volume the ‘average’ supermarket does.  So following Casey Stengel’s advice, we looked it up.

Here’s what we quickly found at this site -

In 2013, average sales per U.S. supermarket store amounted to 16.56 million U.S. dollars.

For our purposes today, that’s good enough.  With inflation and other factors considered, we can think in terms of $350,000 a week in sales per ‘average’ supermarket, or $50,000 per day.  Somehow, that sounds about right.  Intuitively, that is, or ‘in our gut.’


We also decided it might be instructive to learn what smaller, more numerous retail establishments register in the way of revenue results.


We can all relate to nationally known franchises:

Fast food dominates the ‘local’ retail landscape it seems.


Turns out it’s fairly easy to find what sort of revenue figures such establishments yield on an annual basis.  This web site…………lists the figures for the top 50 franchises.

Look at the figures there, and you’ll conclude that on average, the best such an establishment might do in a location like Brunswick and the Midcoast at large is $1 million per year.

We have one more data point to add.  One of our close acquaintances works for a national chain that has about 700 ‘stores,’ dealing in the food/health products sector.  They specialize in various food supplements and nutritional items for those willing to pay a premium for such products.  In our view, they are playing off the Whole Foods model, carrying specialized products with prices well above what one would normally expect.  They cater to a very specific and particular clientele.

Their stores average $1,700,000 in gross revenue per year, or $33,000 per week.

By now, you’re probably asking why all this boring data has any meaning or relevance to what goes on around here.  Thanks for playing our straight man.  This is why:

EDRG Table 6.1

The above is a table contained in a study we’ve told you about in prior posts, and cited in our recent briefing given to the state’s Passenger Rail Advisory Council.

Our government paid good money to a consultant named EDRG to get this projection of economic benefit from the Amtrak Downeaster.  Note that it asserted that by 2015, which is now, Brunswick would see an increase of $95,000,000 in total business sales.

Maybe $95,000,000 is a figure that’s hard to ‘get your arms around.’  That’s why we provided the retail revenue data in the preamble to the table just above.

Think of $95,000,000 as the equivalent, of sixteen (16) new Hannaford Markets in town.  Or somewhere between 100 and 200 new franchise/fast food establishments.  By 2015….NOW.  Or 55 new high end specialty food/health product outlets.

This is what we fall for in the way of expert consultant wisdom and genius.  And models that predict Transit Oriented Development benefits to the local economy.

We don’t know about you, but this seems to us like it deserves the label ‘AAB’, for absolutely absurd and bizarre.  Frankly, it seems fraudulent……as in criminal misrepresentation.  But it makes our carriage set happy, and so it won’t be questioned.

How on earth, we have to ask, can a sane and informed populace allow such complete incompetence and wasteful use of taxpayer dollars to continue.

As we’ve said before, the question answers itself.  And the moral of our story is this:

All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.

Thank you, George Orwell. 

And sleep well in your stupor, Brunswick, Maine, and the rest of you who gobble up such garbage proffered at your expense by those who claim to be wiser than you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Something for AAB to aspire to….


We may have been off base in identifying the folks at AAB as ‘trainies,’ or ‘Kool-Aid Keggers.’ [Flying_Yankee_Matchbook_ad_derivativ.jpg]

Yes, they are zealots for ‘legacy infrastructure’ who are blind to other modes of transportation.

                         Amish horse and buggy

They are rank amateurs, however, when it comes to foamers elsewhere, as evidenced in this video, which should give us all pause as we consider the advocacy of our local spokespersons.

Watch it here:

We tried to embed it, but were unsuccessful.  We hope you can make it work, because it is truly ‘something special.’  If it doesn’t work for you, be sure to let us know.  We’ll work to solve our little technical problem.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Conflict of Visions….Transportation Style


We’ve been updating you lately about what’s going on in the Lewiston-Auburn area on the transportation front, specifically regarding expansion of Downeaster passenger rail service to the area.  Including the matter of our briefing a related Council in Augusta last week on the benefits of such service observed in Brunswick, and the expert projections that no doubt set the stage for the expansion to Brunswick.  Certain ‘interests’ in Brunswick still believe in those projections, so much so they implored Auburn officials to ignore any facts that would suggest otherwise.

To review the bidding, the state budget includes language addressing a $500,000 planning study to extend passenger rail from Portland to Lewiston-Auburn and beyond.  Each of those towns recently voted to come up with their $50,000 share of the cost, and the state will provide the other $400,000.  Presumably the result will be a plan costing less than the $107 million to $234 million estimate in this 2011 MDOT analysis: MDOT Aug 11 Portland to LA Feas.  Including a nice new MLF in that area, and an annual operating subsidy of $2 to $8 million a year.

All of which evokes memories from the salad-days of passenger rail:


From Wikepedia:

One of the most popular and busiest trains to be operated out of Portland was the Boston-Portland-Bangor "Flying Yankee" route which was run jointly by the MEC and Boston & Maine Railroads making three daily departures (two southbound and one northbound) from Portland Union Station. On April 1, 1935 this service was inaugurated with a then ground breaking diesel-powered stainless steel articulated streamline train set. Based at Portland, its three unit 142-seat integrated consist was the first such non-steam streamliner to enter service in North America east of the Mississippi, and just the third overall in the United States after the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad's almost identical "Pioneer Zephyr" (1934–1960) the Union Pacific Railroad's M-10000 (1934–1942).

The "Flying Yankee" covered about 730 total miles a day on its Monday through Saturday runs over a Portland-Boston-Portland-Bangor-Portland-Boston-Portland loop during which it reached speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. After a little over 23 years in operation during which the three unit train set traveled over five and a quarter million miles, the streamlined "Flying Yankee" made its final revenue runs on May 7, 1957 and was then retired from service.

Who knows how long it will take to do the new planning study, massage the numbers so they don’t look near as ridiculous as those in the 2011 study, go in search of the money, and then, if it can be ‘found,’ roll the dice and start spending it.  We’re thinking what….seven to ten years before any service could be available to carry distinguished retired diplomats and professionals in the area to Boston for their academic employment, refined dining and cultural events, and medical care.  All of this will be done, of course, by properly motivated government operatives spending OPM efficiently and carefully as only they know how.

Now, all of a sudden comes along a wild-eyed entrepreneur from the private sector who already operates a sizable collection of motor coach routes in Maine and nearby states.  That would be Harry Blunt, owner of Concord Coach and related enterprises.  We alerted you to the presser that would take place yesterday in the L-A area.  The photo at the top is the bus that was there for the event, and the photo just below is of Maine Turnpike Authority ED Peter Mills speaking at the event.


The Sun Journal, the esteemed journalistic guardian of freedom in the area, was so excited about the event that they went apoplectic and could not attend.  No matter; whatever coverage they might have provided would have smelled of rotting grapes, and disdain for private sector interference in the proper province of Government.

The net result, whether they like it or not, is that area residents will soon have convenient and proven means of transportation to Portland, where they can connect with other links….rail, bus, or air…to other places.  Just as important, local and state decision makers will be able to gauge local demand for such transport options.

Which undoubtedly scares the Sun Journal and local and state politicians all to hell.  What if the buses start running, and ridership is extremely low, or worse?  How will passenger rail expansion at orders of magnitude greater OPM costs be justified, rationalized, and sustained?

On the other hand, what if bus ridership exceeds expectations/projections?  Simple enough…expand the schedule accordingly with additional scheduled runs.  That should take what….maybe a month or two?

So, two parallel efforts are underway.  One was tried a long, long time ago, and went defunct nearly 60 years ago.  Passenger rail fantasists are trying to resurrect the idea at colossal public expense and with years of effort lying ahead.  All for unknown/unproven ridership demand.

The other was conceived in recent months, and will soon be operating with minimal public expense and virtually no infrastructure complications, and be as flexible as you could want in responding to lesser or greater demand.

Which leads us to the following obvious point.  NNEPRA is planning to expand Brunswick to Portland Downeaster service to 6 round trips per day, and will need at least $22 million in OPM investments in infrastructure to make it happen.  Even though there is no credible, established demand for such expansion in service.

Instead, why aren’t those plans being put on the shelf in favor of an expansion to the existing Concord Coach bus service that connects Brunswick to Portland and Boston?  We could even imagine the loop originating in Bath, then taking the bypass off Rte 1 to make a stop in Topsham, coming across the bridge to Brunswick Station, and then heading south to Portland, with a stop in Freeport if considered useful.

This expansion in service could begin virtually immediately, without any of the infrastructure complications and expenses involved in expanding Downeaster round trips to our town.  Just as important, it would be a useful demonstration project to gauge regular passenger demand for service between this area and points south.  Schedules could be adjusted quickly and efficiently.

Now we have to ask why ‘local leaders’ aren’t lobbying for just such an evolution?  Are they too devoted to spending millions upon millions in OPM to address a ‘need’ which is absolutely, totally unproven?  Are they too committed to the Field of Dreams approach to risk their own political capital in taking a stand opposing the ‘community consensus?’  Have they taken a dip in the Kool-Aid tank once too often?

                       Amish horse and buggy

Are they so committed to resurrection of “legacy transportation” models that they can’t see the horse-manure they’re spreading everywhere, at the bidding of a group of elites among the carriage set, at the expense of the populace at large?  And in the process, furthering the expansion of a bureaucracy that would not exist in a rational world?

Are they too excited about what could well become a white elephant smack dab in the heart of “pristine” downtown Brunswick?