Friday, September 19, 2014

Breaking News….well, not really.

                   

We have ‘breaking news’ for you, at least in one sense.  But ‘breaking’ is not the same as ‘surprising.’

Several days ago, we posted an item that looked like this:

Breaking News: NNEPRA fails to win 2014 TIGER 6 Grant

A little over a month ago, we posted these two items:

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2014/08/sausage-letters-and-other-pork-related.html

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2014/08/gravy-trains-business-of-year-capitol.html

in which we went to some length giving you background info on NNEPRA’s application for a 2014 TIGER 6 Grant.

The basics are shown in this table from the Grant Narrative document:

image

To refresh you, the overall context here is the “Downeaster Service Optimization Project,” with a total project estimate of $30 million.  As you can see, NNEPRA took the position that they already have $16 million in hand, and applied for $14 million as their Grant Request to complete the funding profile.

In an announcement here http://www.dot.gov/tiger dated today, September 12, 2014, the 2014 awards have been announced, and NNEPRA was not among the winning applications.

The ‘breaking news’ is that more than a week after the announcement, no media outlet, as we’ve already said, finds the loss of $14 million in funds on a $30 million project newsworthy.

We’re reminded, strangely enough, of the story about the $247,000 totally forgivable loan to Brunswick Taxi.  A story that was broken on these pages, and only appeared in ‘mainstream media outlets’ weeks later.  Because they were so damned busy carrying other stories that were far more important to local readers, and there’s a shortage of newsprint and ink.

                                  

So thanks, Yogi.  You’re a great American.

    

And to the conventional media outlets guarding our freedoms and our interests, time for you to give us the ball and head for the showers. 

You’ve lost your “stuff.”  And we’re worried you might soil your bed.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sidely’s “Believe it or not……”

Many in our midst consider us an incorrigible anti-government type, and wonder why we come to the discussion table with an instinctive distrust of spending by government authorities, whether at the municipal, state, or federal level.  Or by those sketchy and vaporous entities known as ‘quasi-governmental agencies.’

Look no further for an explanation than this news report we came across today.  It turns out that MRRA, the “Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority,’' has won a $1.5 Million grant to construct a new, 6,500 sf storage facility for snow-removal equipment.

MRRA, we need to remind you, is in the same category as the Maine Turnpike Authority, the Maine State Housing Authority, and lest we forget, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.  Which is to say it is an organization with virtually no legitimate oversight or accountability, and which is praised at every turn for its ‘remarkable contribution to economic development.’  As if the massive funds it expends come from someone else other than you and your neighbors.  And Side.

In other words, it subsists on OPM: “other people’s money.”  Which leads to a particularly cavalier understanding of the term ‘value.’

If you’re the type who keeps a calculator nearby, you might be offended by the fact that a 6,500 sf shed could cost $1.5 Million, or $230 per square foot.  At that rate, a commodious 2500 sf  house would cost nearly $600,000.  That house, of course, would include windows, a basement, plumbing, a kitchen, and any number of other complicated aspects of a family domicile.

Shocking as this all may seem, the worst is yet to come.  And remember, we’re talking here about a place to park snow removal equipment under a roof.  (We feel obliged to tell you that we keep our convertible John Deere lawnmower/snow blower in a shed on the order of 200 sf, along with all our other yard maintenance paraphernalia.)

The ‘worst’ is this passage in the news report:

“The Navy, when it operated the air base on the site, did have a a dedicated snow removal building, but that was found to be larger than needed for civilian use of the airfield.”

To which we reply, in the modern vernacular, AYFKM? 

There is an existing shed for storing such equipment, but it’s TOO BIG?  So you’re going to build a NEW ONE?  For $1.6 MILLION FREAKING DOLLARS?

We suppose that when we eventually sell our home, if the new buyer has a snow blower smaller than our John Deere, he’ll feel it necessary to build a smaller shed, rather than use the one we built.

Could someone please get real?

OK, enough beating on that dead horse; let’s move on to the next one, and see if it stands up and rides off into the sunset.

image

Nobody, we repeat NOBODY, with the exception of Side, has reported on NNEPRA’s third consecutive rejection of a TIGER Grant Application.  We told you about that in this post: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2014/09/breaking-news-nnepra-fails-to-win-2014.html

We set the stage on the TIGER 6 Grant subject in these posts:

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2014/08/sausage-letters-and-other-pork-related.html

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2014/08/gravy-trains-business-of-year-capitol.html

For the life of us, we can’t understand why not one single media outlet in Maine has reported on this outcome, which renders NNEPRA short of $14 Million in their proposed $30 Million “Downeaster Service Optimization Project,” a capital plan for only one purpose – expanding service between Portland and Brunswick.

Apparently, the Bangor Daily News, the Portland Press Herald, the Brunswick Times Record, the Forecaster, and various others, don’t consider this meaningful news worthy of being reported to the general population.  What a great indication of their ‘government watchdog’ role in service to the general public.

On to the next item.  Even though we’re getting a bit tired at this late hour.

               

We told you of proposals to pilot commuter bus service in communities between Portland and Brunswick in this post: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2014/08/other-side-alert-bolo-for-bbt-of-tne.html

Today we came across a news report stating that Freeport’s town council has given ‘strong support’ to the idea.  Not only that, but the numbers are looking better than initially estimated.

So lest you think a passenger train is the only alternative to  personal auto travel (or a horse and buggy for the more traditional among you), be advised that others are at work to compete with the highly subsidized Downeaster rail service.

Fill ‘em up, Pardner!

IMG_4696

Alright; now we’re even MORE tired, but we have one more subject to discuss.  The Brunswick Bobbsey Twins, and many others, posting on published news articles, have stood up for NNEPRA’s commitment to complying with each and every environmental regulation associated with operation of the Downeaster.

We’re quick to admit that we’re not subject area experts in such things.  But we’re also not prone to tying our shorts in knots with the cabbage that fell off yesterday’s truck and wrapping them around the axle of the noon balloon as it arrives in Brunswick.

So we can’t help but wonder about this recent photo of a Downeaster engine being refueled at the Cedar Street “Park and Ride” lot just east of the Spring Street overpass, and just steps away from the front door of the MidCoast Hunger Prevention Program building.

Apparently the contractor doing the refueling is a licensed dealer from Massachusetts.  It remains to be seen whether that raises any issues or not.

But could someone please explain to us why a contractor from Massachusetts had to refuel a train at its northern most terminus in Maine, in a Park and RIde lot accessible to the general public, without any obvious means for containing spillage or any other hazardous consequences of such a procedure?

                            

We look first to NNEPRA, which operates the Downeaster.  Perhaps they’d say the train was ‘running on fumes,’ and had to be refueled in order to make it back to Portland.  To which we would say, ‘what; these things don’t have fuel gauges?’  And there are no fuel suppliers in the nearby area?

Even more, given the ‘regular’ schedule for Downeater service, isn’t there a standard operating procedure for seeing that trains are refueled on a predictable basis?

Which leads us to raise a question heard elsewhere recently:  “Is this any way to run a railroad?”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Update News Alerts: Tuesday’s edition

As sometimes happens in this business, news can break after the initial story has been filed.  We strive, of course, to keep our efforts as fresh and up to date as we can.

Today we come to you with two such updates.

<p>The first has to do with this post: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2014/09/considering-new-municipal-development.html, which we filed just yesterday.

The response to this story has exceeded all expectations, and we can tell you now with confidence that Freeport and Brunswick want this dump built.

Those words may sound a bit familiar, but it’s probably just your imagination.  We do trust that cognizant authorities will give the views of Freeport the consideration they deserve. </p>

Now for the second story, which relates to this post: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2014/09/breaking-news-nnepra-fails-to-win-2014.html

image

In the post, we told you how NNEPRA had failed to win a $14 million TIGER 6 Grant from DOT, and how that would complicate their plans for a $30 million Service Optimization Project that deals with capital improvements between Portland and Brunswick, including the Maintenance and Layover Facility adjacent to the Bouchard Drive neighborhood.

According to other sources, however, this don’t make no never mind.  We read today in a posted comment by Benet Doneit to an article published yesterday in the PPH that:

“They have the funding secured through other sources.
Build it there, build it now.”

We’re not familiar with Mr. Doneit, but the name somehow rings a bell.  That aside, he appears closely connected to NNEPRA authorities and inside information.  Either that, or Mr. D has a lot of guile.

If Doneit is right, we can’t help but wonder whether NNEPRA has some legal exposure for not revealing their other funding sources in the TIGER application to DOT.  We’ll leave that to the attorneys to figure out.  We know they have several available to them for pro bono work.

Though some could be occupied on other ‘landmark’ legal cases.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

<p>Officials considering new municipal development on Pleasant Hill Road

If you follow things here on Side, you know that Cape Brunswick is long on glorious opportunities to undertake major capital projects, and in the process, lift community pride to ever loftier levels.  One of those opportunities has to do with the rapidly expiring viability of the town dump (or ‘landfill,’ to those who call swamps ‘wetlands’ and puddles ‘vernal pools.’)

Relishing the irony of it all, we understand from one of our sources that town leaders are preparing to advance a proposal that a new dump to replace our aging and déclassé ‘land-fill’ be constructed in the vast open spaces along Pleasant Hill Road, just hundreds of yards from it’s intersection with Maine Street.

While you may not be aware of the specifics, our insider status affords us access to behind the scenes details, which we’re all too happy to share with you here.  Beginning with this artist’s concept for a ‘pleasant hill’ on Pleasant Hill Road.

According to early cocktail napkin sketch plans filed with the town planning office, the new project would be located on Pleasant Hill Road just west of Baribeau Drive, making it convenient to the major arterial intersection with Maine Street.  Some might wonder if Casella Waste Systems has a hand in this plan, but Side has no evidence of such.

“This has always been a defining intersection in Brunswick’s character” said JP1 and JP2, “and we think it’s time to bring the most important elements of our infrastructure right back to where we can savor them on a daily basis.”

The site has been used as a dumping location since the 1800’s, so it clearly qualifies as a historic dump site, according to one town official.  “What we’re proposing is entirely consistent with this historic use, and frankly, reaffirms Brunswick’s commitment to it’s unique heritage as preservationists and conservators of all that is important in our heritage.”

“We see no reason to desecrate pristine lands that serve as vital passage ways for native wildlife, when we have the resources right here close in to residential areas to replace our distant facility” said one local environmental advocate.

She added that the site along Bouchard Drive, much closer in town, would have been a perfect location for the new dump, but the tracks installed there get in the way.  “We wish it were the other way around,” she said, “that the dumps could be built along Bouchard, and the MLF could be built at Pleasant Hill and Maine.”

“But we understand that dreams can’t always come true.”

“We lobbied with the most powerful members of the town council,” our source told us, “but they were insistent that the reduction in carbon footprint resulting from an in town dumps” was enough to sway them.

Those who live in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood, especially those close to the Maine Street and Baribeau intersections, are expected to oppose the plan.

But others said those homeowners should have known better; that this is a classic NIMBY reaction.

 

“If you buy a home near a historic and vacant dumping field, you should know that it could easily become a major industrial dumping facility for the common good.”

“Suck it up for the greater advantage of Brunswick,” one local curmudgeon said.  “What makes her think her concerns should influence what goes on around here?”

One other resident said that in spite of assertions in the press, the fact that she owns property in the effected area does not expose her to ‘conflict of interest’ charges. 

All of which leaves us very confused, so we’ll be watching for the Bobbsey Twins to clarify things. </p>

Friday, September 12, 2014

Looniness unending: a TrainLover’s ‘solution’ to the zombie economics of passenger rail

                

The more public discourse on passenger rail, particularly the Downeaster, carries on, and the more the dreamers sense that the dream is increasingly at risk, the greater the degree of looniness on display.  There are, to be sure, some leering leaders of the loudest loonies.

Just a few weeks ago, we posted this item as a prime example, in which one of the usual suspects attempted to fly without the benefit of wings.

Looniness unending: “the most successful train in the nation”

You may not have seen an article that appeared in the Portland paper over the weekend, but no matter. The article concludes with these words:

Wayne Davis, head of Trainriders/Northeast, a rail advocacy group that gathered 90,000 signatures in 1989 for a petition asking the state to restore passenger rail service in Maine, said the group historically avoids politics because it views train service as a nonpartisan issue.

But he said the LePage administration’s sudden strong interest in the permitting process for the layover facility might cause his group to organize rail activists to campaign against LePage in the governor’s race.

“We are not powerful, but it would be enough to put a bump in the road for someone who wants to get re-elected,” he said, adding that he thinks LePage is “tinkering with the most successful train in the nation.”

We quickly sliced and diced the assertion that the Downeaster is as he says; go back to the post to find out why his claim is ludicrous, and should relegate the speaker to a back bench position with all speechifying privileges summarily revoked.  Not to mention, of course, that the speaker seems to be advocating that relevant law be ignored and/or circumvented with a ‘most favored party waiver.’  No politics there, of course. or in threats of electioneering by the ‘non-profit’ organization he heads.

                            

Given the recent flurry of print media items related to Downeaster and NNEPRA circumstances, and the option to comment on line on these items, there has been no shortage of other examples of looniness, almost all from those lovesick with devotion to passenger rail travel.  The rest, with rare exception, are comments of the “you’re getting exactly what you deserve, you crybabies’' variety.

One of the former types caught our eye this week in discussion of an editorial in the Portland newspaper declaring the LePage administration is ‘off track’ on the MLF location issue in Brunswick.

A reader named Alan Burden, obviously a staunch supporter of passenger rail, was engaged in a bit of back and forth with another reader who questioned his claims of economic worthiness for passenger rail.  You’ll have to read the entire conversation to absorb it all, but this comment of Burden’s in particular seemed particularly loon-worthy.  We’ll quickly parse it for you here.(Emphasis, where present, is ours.)

“First, your arguments also apply to airplanes; yet we subsidize them. So NO, I'm not buying that nonsense from you. Sorry!”

Any mention of Amtrak/Downeaster subsidies almost always results in a “but Mom, everybody is doing it!” response.  As in distraction from the issue at hand.

“Next, I'm well aware of the standards. Guilford; now PanAm's tracks went from permitting 40 MPH freight train running to 60 MPH freight train running. So that is indeed a boon to freight movement, as it now moves faster and more trains can use the tracks. The more trains is due in part to the higher speeds, but also the increase in passing sidings that were built to accommodate the Downeaster.”

Grasping for straws to validate the massive Downeaster capital investment to date, with perpetual subsidy requirements.   More trains?  Care to back that up?  Freight trains running at 60 mph?  None of the freights we’ve seen running in the local area come anywhere close to such speeds.

“As for the amounts, consider that those improvements will last for many years. Far longer than the lanes on our highways will last at their much higher cost and much higher replacement values.”

Grasping at straws again, not to mention comparing the economic utilization of the highways to that of the rail trackage.

“And the Downeaster in 2013 carried just shy of 560,000 rides. That's "not claimed" but actual ticket sales.”

Ticket sales, for reasons explained in numerous prior citations, do not equate reliably to ridership.  That is part and parcel of the game played to maximize the PR value of the reported stats.

“As for the subsidies, first your number is too high.”

So Burden is informed enough to know that the subsidy figures cited were ‘too high,’ but doesn’t know enough to say what the correct numbers are. 

                 

“Second, get drivers to start paying more of their costs and NNEPRA will be able to raise fares and maintain current ridership levels, as driving won't appear falsely cheaper to people, and the subsidies will go down. Raise the fuel taxes enough and there will be no need to subsidize the Downeaster at all. It will cover its expenses via the fare box.”

Read this passage, and then read it again.  This man of the people asserts that the solution to this economic conundrum is to use government to elevate the price of bus, auto, and truck transport to levels that cause users to look for other options, and then, then…..raise the price of the rail based option to eliminate subsidies while ‘maintaining current ridership levels.’  We’re not sure whether Burden is a Professor of Economics at an esteemed academic institution, or a candidate for governor, congress, or president.

What a great solution.  Raise the price of every option through centralized state control of the market variables.  Readers seeing this must be truly grateful for his innovative thinking.

Amtrak's Northeast Corridor already does cover operating costs thanks to higher congestion levels and the hassles of getting to/from the airports miles outside of the city centers vs. the train station right downtown.

Perhaps Mr. Burden should check the fares between Philadelphia and Union Station DC, a distance roughly comparable to the Downeaster span. Suggesting that the transportation circumstances and needs along the Downeaster corridor are even remotely akin to the Northeast Corridor is simply incredulous. There's a reason you don't see or hear 'up to the minute' traffic reports in Maine.

In conclusion, the commenter and his fellow TrainLovers want to increase the utilization of ‘undead’ passenger rail service.  While there may be major metropolitan areas where passenger rail makes sense as one component of the overall transportation mix, the Downeaster corridor and the towns it serves are most assuredly not in that category.

Think of how many places you’ve had to run errands to this week in the course of your normal day to day life.  Can you imagine getting by without ready, efficient, and affordable personal auto transit?  Think about how many places you can fly to from nearby airports like Portland in the course of one day.  Can you imagine passenger rail competing with this mode of transit?

Think about international travel.  Passenger rail is not even remotely in the cards.

      

Let’s face it.  The era of widespread passenger rail travel is long gone, and for good reason.  It’s viability at this point in history is limited to making hobbyists happy, and providing a relief valve in urban mass transit.

Supporters will say that the age of HISPR is upon us….High Speed Passenger Rail.  Assuming that is, massive, and we mean massive, government infusion of speculative funding. 

We, on the other hand, feel obliged to remind you that the era of self-driving vehicles appears to be upon us.  What, pray tell, will be the effect of that evolution upon the overall tradeoffs in the economics and desirability of various modes of personal transportation?

                    http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/nakedpastor/files/2013/06/house-of-cards-550x550.jpg

While we can’t be sure, we’re pretty confident it won’t drive ever greater demand for passenger rail service, which is what the most vocal loonies want us to believe.

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Breaking News: NNEPRA fails to win 2014 TIGER 6 Grant

A little over a month ago, we posted these two items:

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2014/08/sausage-letters-and-other-pork-related.html

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2014/08/gravy-trains-business-of-year-capitol.html

in which we went to some length giving you background info on NNEPRA’s application for a 2014 TIGER 6 Grant.

The basics are shown in this table from the Grant Narrative document:

image

To refresh you, the overall context here is the “Downeaster Service Optimization Project,” with a total project estimate of $30 million.  As you can see, NNEPRA took the position that they already have $16 million in hand, and applied for $14 million as their Grant Request to complete the funding profile.

In an announcement here http://www.dot.gov/tiger dated today, September 12, 2014, the 2014 awards have been announced, and NNEPRA was not among the winning applications.

We don’t know what specifically will follow this announcement, but on the face of things, the plan for funding the “Optimization Project,” including the Brunswick MLF, has been OBE’d, as we used to say in our business.

We’ll watch the news on your behalf to see how NNEPRA and TrainLovers/Northeast react.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Suspicions confirmed: BBT/TNE BOLO GHO proves prophetic

 

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

If you’re among the up-to-date in The Other Side readership sphere, you should recall this post of just over two weeks ago, in which we included these thoughts:

Accordingly, local authorities have reissued the earlier Be On the Look-Out (BOLO) alert for the Brunswick Bobbsey Twins (BBT) of TrainRiders/Northeast (TNE).  And they’ve elevated the state of agitation of the twins to Going High Order (GHO).

While the twins are known for their ability to disguise themselves, authorities are concerned that their real identities may now surface under the pressures of reality.

So, fair warning.  Watch the news as it unfolds, and make sure you’ve got your own knickers under control.

Cause and effect might present itself here as a topic for discussion, but no matter.  Instead, we submit this recently published item:

Letter: State playing games with Brunswick train barn

Monday, September 8, 2014 at 8:30 am

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection waited until the last minute to inform the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority that they had issues with NNEPRA's storm-water permit application for the proposed Brunswick layover facility. Remember this is the same application that NNEPRA filed and MDEP granted last year.

Commissioner Patricia Aho's letter listed 21 items for NNEPRA to address. Many seem irrelevant to the subject of the permit. Take item No. 15, which reiterates what NNEPRA has told DEP is the purpose of the Brunswick layover facility, i.e., general cleaning of the cars, resupplying of the cafe car, and refueling. How does this qualify as a flaw in the storm-water application? Or item No. 16: "Please provide plans for septic pump-out, including frequency and timing, (etc.)" Again, nothing to do with storm water.

Some half-dozen items simply ask NNEPRA to let DEP know if the project design or operations change.

Was there really no other way to handle these details? Do all applicants for environmental permits get to play "Chutes and Ladders" with the DEP, or is the game just for applicants, like NNEPRA, who have somehow displeased the commissioner or her boss?

Freeport and Brunswick want this layover facility built.

Emily Boochever
Brunswick

The Forecaster, in which this letter appeared, allows on-line comments, and surprisingly enough, someone we know responded:

poppypapa3 days ago

How delightful; Ms. Boochever's letter embodies the highest standards of rhetorical and linguistic silliness.

Where does one begin? In this case, let's begin at the end.

'Freeport' wants this facility built, according to the writer. Define 'Freeport,' please, Emily. In specific terms.

Then tell us why Freeport wanting an industrial facility built in Brunswick should convince the rest of us to applaud the idea.

Similarly, 'Brunswick' wants this facility built in Emily's view.

Define 'Brunswick' please, as you use that term to support your case.

Do you mean everyone in Brunswick? I assure you that is not the case.

Do you mean by a vote of the townspeople? I don't recall that taking place.

Do you mean town government? Even there, it's apparent there is no unanimity on the subject, and besides, government is not 'Brunswick.'

Which leads us to believe that what you mean by 'Brunswick' are those with whom you are acquainted that belong to TrainRiders/Northeast, and with whom you hold fund raisers for sympathizers. This is the McGovern syndrome decades later, adapted to our lovely little town.

So unless you can come up with something credible, your claim that Freeport and Brunswick want this industrial facility built is pure bluster.

Next, it's abundantly clear that you have no understanding of the term 'stormwater' in this context. You apparently think it means only rainfall, when in fact, a simple glimpse at the application documents, the regulations pertaining thereto, and a decent pursuit of knowledge would quickly reveal the term is a catchall for a broad spectrum of issues. For example, refueling has the potential to pollute water runoff from the facility, which could enter the aquifer and/or the sanitary sewer system.

You seem to view DEP engagement in this project as an impediment to construction at the proposed location. Actually, their role is to see to it that NNEPRA is in full compliance with all relevant law and regulations, just as the FRA directed in the FONSI decree as a condition for that determination.

Are you suggesting a lesser standard should apply, and that NNEPRA should be immune from the accepted protocols for health and environmental aspects of such industrial projects?

                 

We’re still waiting for reports from local authorities to let us know whether today’s rain was enough to extinguish local brush fires.

                                         

Once we do, we’ll update you.  Meanwhile, pay attention to the warning signs that were posted previously.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Downeaster ‘ridership:’ Betke asks for the facts, just the facts, ma’am.

Before we get to the subject at hand, we want to give credit where credit is due.  We understand NNEPRA, in keeping with prevailing modern-day employment law, is especially careful to make sure that applicants for open positions are considered without regard to gender and any number of other personal attributes.  As proof, we offer these candid shots taken at recent interviews to fill a ridership accounting position:

       

For those who aren’t quite sure how they self-identify, there’s another test that can be taken.

                 

Which brings us to the subject of our post.

George Betke, Jr, who appeared here as a ‘guest columnist’ in June to rave reviews, has a commentary appearing today on the pages of the Times Record, or as we call it, The Ostrich.  George has an analytical mind, and a professional background in transportation, which makes his observations far more credible than those of, for example, the Bobbsey Twins, Emily and Jeff.  More on that soon.

With George’s permission, here is that column, as submitted to the editors:

HOW MANY PASSENGERS REALLY RIDE THE “DOWNEASTER”?

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority last week reported a 4.6% gain in ridership on Amtrak’s “Downeaster” for fiscal year 2014, ended June 30. In light of prior comments that patronage was suffering from delays caused by remedial track maintenance, this surprising declaration prompted a review of past data that raises serious questions as to how many travelers really do use the train. Views may differ on how success of the service should be judged, but statistical discrepancies shouldn’t cloud the single metric continually emphasized by the Authority – ridership.

Until its recent updating, NNEPRA’s website home page had proclaimed that the train carried a record 556,347 passengers in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013. Monthly ridership history presented elsewhere on that site told a different story, totaling only 497,483 for the same period, a difference of 58,864. Which was it?

NNEPRA now heralds 536,524 passengers for fiscal 2014, an apparent 3.6% decline from the 556,347 previously reported for fiscal 2013. It nonetheless claims a 4.6% year-to-year gain from another figure for fiscal 2013, 512,775. That count must not have been a record, however, since it refers to a comparable fiscal 2012 total of 528,292. Which was it?

On the other hand, the latest monthly ridership history through June adds to 518,577 versus 497,483 for fiscal 2013, up 4.2%. Depending on the chosen prior-year point of reference, there could also have been a 3.6% decline or an increase of 7.8%. Which was it?

Historical traffic data now summarized on the site (536,524 for fiscal 2014; 556,347 for fiscal 2013; and 528,292 for fiscal 2012) suggest that little sustainable growth is directly attributable to the 28-mile extension from Portland to Brunswick in November 2012, which presumably contributed to the fiscal 2013 increase. By the Authority’s own statistics, therefore, ridership for the latest period actually is down from last year (indicating the delays did have an effect) and only 1.6% above the pre-Brunswick total two years ago. Which is it?

The “Downeaster” also offers a wide array of choices targeting different categories of travelers. One unexplained question is how passengers are recorded. Amtrak’s numbers are derived from ticket-sales information rather than actual on-board body count, and NNEPRA’s practice is unclear. Since one-way and round-trips are identically priced, what happens when a round trip is purchased but used in only one direction? Are trips recorded on the date of purchase or at the time of presentation? Is some assumption made as to the number of trips actually taken by the typical monthly passholder? Is an infant under age two and riding free counted at all? Could any of those factors account for the website’s statistical inconsistency?

NNEPRA clearly has some explaining to do to its perplexed observers. Whatever methodology is used should be clarified and consistently reported to be credible.

[The author is President of Transport Economics, Inc., a Newcastle consultancy.]

       

     Tickets, please.