Friday, July 3, 2015

NNEPRA's Proposed Royal Junction Siding Project Unnecessary


































In this recent post, we talked about the Tooth Fairy and NNEPRA's fourth successive TIGER Grant application submitted to the US DOT.  It cites a total cost of $8.5 million, and asks for $7.5 million as a grant.

Now comes word from a retired railroad professional commenting on the application, and how the proposed project is virtually unnecessary.  We thought we'd pass it along to you for your consideration, and perhaps NNEPRA's as well.  The individual who composed it managed major passenger rail enterprises;  his credentials for making this analysis are far stronger than anyone in the Downeaster management chain.

That doesn't matter much, we suppose, when you have the Oppem sisters behind you in whatever you propose.  Here is his brief response to the application; the visuals below the text support the argument.

===================================================================

The basis for the project is alleged to be the fact that “string lines” demand it as the precise meeting place for Downeaster  passenger trains. This is a common, but costly, error made by passenger rail planners (Amtrak and Commuter alike).  You should enhance infrastructure based on the common good, and long term planning.  Amtrak, and Pan Am operations are less than dependable. There is no Swiss precision here. Conditions change, schedules change, string lines change.  An adjustment in MBTA schedules south of Plaistow, NH could make a siding at Royal Jct. superfluous  within a year.  In the Maine tradition "Use what you have...if it isn't broken."
 
 An existing  segment of two main tracks (CPF 192-CPF 194), nearly two miles long, is a mere three miles to the south of the  $9,000,000 proposal.  Opposing Downeaster trains could meet in this double track line segment, which has the same parameters as the proposed project.  There are no intervening highway crossings.  The Tiger proposal has six crossings to be reckoned with. Which would be better for motorist safety?
 
A second existing segment of two main tracks is but three miles further south at Congress St. in Portland. Downeasters could also meet here, should they be off schedule.  What becomes clear is that there are several existing meeting points that are only minutes apart that would provide flexibility with a 10 train Downeaster schedule.  Pan Am currently runs a miniscule four trains each day on this line; the Downeaster six. The existing infrastructure  can handle triple that amount. 

Amtrak requires a large amount of "padding" in any proposed set of schedules due to performance failures that are not infrequent.  Tweaking southbound departures out of Brunswick by five to six minutes would allow for meets on the above mentioned existing trackage with the (more likely) tardy northbound trains out of Boston.

 Adjust the strings accordingly. 



Hey, John - maybe you should have a word with Michelle.....

Well, suhprazze, suhprazze!


That ad for a new managing editor is still running on the internet.

So in addition to the TR's usual attention to detail, we can add thoughtful and considerate personnel policy as a major strength.

Enjoy that first pay check as the Managing Editor, John.  No telling how long they'll keep coming!

Maybe you can slip Michelle an anonymous note, suggesting she hie on over to Other Side to find out what's going on in the 'traditional print media' world.

Continued good luck in your new position!

Your colleague,

P.C. Poppycock

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A word to the "wise?"

We realize that the item we just came across could be some sort of publishing anomaly.

Never-the-less, we want to suggest that John Swinconeck, named the new Managing Editor at the Times Record just yesterday, not get too, too comfy in that top level position.

At least if you look here: http://jobs.editorandpublisher.com/jobs/ads/managing-editor-2/

Note in particular the date, which in our universe at least, is today.


Welcome aboard, John.  At least we think so.

You have a proud heritage to protect, no matter how brief your stay.


Benevolent industry colleague that we are, we think we should also offer a word for Michelle: you might want to take that listing down, Madame Publisher.

But thanks for reminding us that attention to detail has always been one of the Times Record's prominent characteristics.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Another Side of The Other Side

Every now and then we amaze ourselves.

Or perhaps scare ourselves is a better way of saying it.

A post two days ago, on Wednesday June 24th, contained this passage:

The Local Ostrich of Record

TR banner
As news junkies and intellectual elites know, the New York Times has for many a year been referred to as ‘the newspaper of record,’ whatever the hell that means. 
We believe we have a number of devoted souls who simply can’t get by without their daily dose of the “Gray Lady,” withered as she’s become.  Not that the rest of us aren’t showing our age.
In a local sense, we believe a declining yet still notable number of willfully uninformed consider the Ostrich to be ‘the newspaper of record’ hereabouts.  Surely the editors do as well; how could they come to work each day if they didn’t?  (PS: when can we expect the next change ‘at the top?’)
Those last parenthetical words were a jesting ‘throwaway line’ in our general scheme of things.
So color us shocked, shocked, we say, when we came across this item in today’s edition of The Ostrich:

Swinconeck named Times Record managing editor

Starts duties Monday
The Times Record

JOHN SWINCONECK JOHN SWINCONECK BRUNSWICK

Fifteen years ago, John Swinconeck got his start in the newspaper business as a freelance writer — for The Times Record

Starting Monday, June 29, he will lead the newspaper as managing editor, having spent a little more than the past year serving as a reporter for The Times Record.

“I’m excited for John to take on this role, as his passion for the business and the Mid-coast region has impressed me during the last year,” said outgoing Managing Editor Rob Montana. “The quality of his reporting is excellent, surpassed only by his commitment to community journalism and telling the stories of the people here.
Wow; it wasn’t too long ago we visited The Ostrich offices off Industry Road to meet and welcome Rob Montana, who moved here from upper New York state with his family to take the lead editorial position.  Now he’s being replaced, and with no mention of what lies ahead for him.  Time will tell if this is a blessing for him, before the publication goes under completely.

We hope John finds things to his liking and does some good for what’s left of a ‘once proud’ newspaper.  He joins a long line of top editors there, each of whom hasn’t lasted very long.

Names that immediately come to mind are these:

Rob Montana (most recent)
Gina Hamilton (maybe not top job, but she thought she was)
Bob Mentzinger
Jim McCarthy
Rob Long

and who knows who else.  As we recall, the last two flip-flopped between ‘top-dog’ status.

All this turmoil makes us paranoid about what may lie in store for the top spot here at Other Side.  We’ve had the position for a coon’s age in journalistic time, but we haven’t noticed anyone lurking outside our door waiting to take over.  Our life-long working relationship with the publisher has been largely cordial, but that can be a curse as well as a blessing.

So make sure you watch the headlines.  In today’s news climate, heads can roll without warning.

Yeah..that’s in bad taste, but let’s face it; it’s true.

Sadly.
 


Technorati Tags: ,,

Thursday, June 25, 2015

NNEPRA asks the Tooth Fairy for another chance….



We’re pretty sure that last year we reported on the failure of NNEPRA to win a TIGER Grant on their third swing at the ball.  Now it looks like they’ve appealed the called third strike, hoping it will be ruled a foul tip.  So they can have a do-over.

                   

Pardon us if the circumstances remind us of a famous quip from decades ago.

You can find the details of their effort here:
http://www.nnepra.com/sites/default/files/TIGER%207%20Royal%20Junction%20Siding%20Project%20Narrative_0.pdf

(FWIW, this year’s funding available is $500 million, compared to $600 million last year, so the odds of succeeding this time, generally speaking, are lower than the last time.)

  

  
Or in a separate listing with all the attachments here:
http://www.amtrakdowneaster.com/tiger-7-grant-application

One of which is this two year old effort from prior applications, generated by Parsons Brinckerhoff, noted participant in the “Big Dig” fiasco of some years back.
 


Not only that, but it appears that the “Letters of Support” (http://www.amtrakdowneaster.com/sites/default/files/Tiger7%20Royal%20Junction%20Siding%20Project%20Letters%20Of%20Support.pdf)  are duplicates of those aged missives we debunked last year, one by one, in the various posts you can revisit with this link:  http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/search?q=TIGER+letters

Frank Lee, we’re disgusted by the shabbiness and shameless propaganda contained in the submissions.  Even worse, we’re offended and embarrassed that such efforts carry the imprimatur of the State of Maine, and hence that of all of us who live and pay taxes here. 

Bravo Sierra salutes are warranted all around.  Did you know the proposed project is key to redevelopment of the former BNAS?

                                   Image result for broken record

We just don’t know how much longer we can keep our lid on in the face of such abject disregard for truth and reality.  Let us say this…the documents we refer to above demonstrate just how low standards (if any!) have become in intergovernmental matters and pursuit of Foppem and Soppem.

There ought to be fraud statutes that apply in such cases, including the funded efforts of noted consulting firms who traffic in such misrepresentations, and live off the public teat and the gullibility of all too many ‘officials.’

We’re speechless beyond that, which in itself is a sign of what a travesty of governmental responsibility and accountability the NNEPRA effort represents.

On the other hand, recent news emphasizes the level of incompetence common in those of high rank who oversee such grand enterprises as passenger rail operating as a government agency.  The feds set the bar pretty low for state agencies like NNEPRA,  as shown in this item:
http://freebeacon.com/issues/amtrak-employees-claimed-to-work-40-hours-per-day/
June 22, 2015 2:23 pm
Timesheets for employees of Amtrak are riddled with abuse, according to a recent audit report, with cases of workers claiming over 40 hours of work in a single day.
The audit released by Amtrak’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) Thursday found examples of abuse in the overtime system, which totaled nearly $200 million in overtime pay last year.
“[Calendar Year] CY 2014 timesheet data revealed trends and patterns that indicate potential fraud, waste, and abuse in the reporting of overtime and regular time,” the audit said. “Some of these trends and patterns may be justified because of the complexity of union agreement rules, the nature of jobs, and the functions employees perform.”  (emphasis ours)
“However, our prior investigative work has shown instances in which employees have fraudulently reported hours not worked,” the OIG said. “We believe that these trends and patterns merit further analysis and, if appropriate, action by management.”
One such trend was employees claiming the impossible feat of working 48 hours in a single day.
“Employees reported 1,357 days in which they worked more than 24 regular and overtime hours,” the OIG said. “Ten employees reported working at least 40 hours in a day.”
Of those 10 employees, a serving attendant in the Café Car, who earns an average of $23 an hour, recorded 47.95 hours in one day, 31.01 of which were recoded as overtime.
So if you thought the incompetence on display at the IRS and the VA were ‘anomalies,’ think again.
An anomaly in government terms is finding an agency that actually does what it is supposed to do, responsibly, effectively, and affordably.

       Image result for reagan there you go again

We work hard not to use the pages of this blog for partisan political posturing, but many of you will see this graphic and a few others as just that.



So be it.  When taking umbrage at incompetence in government and their hired toadies, and exposing it the best we can becomes partisan, it’s time to turn off the lights and say Good Night Mrs. Calabash, wherever she is.
 


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Publishing Problems


            


If you haven't already figured it out, we're having considerable difficulties doing what we normally do on our blog.

The multiple programs that have gotten along fine for nearly six years have recently decided they don't like each other.

Just to make things more fun, our internet service was dead in the water for two days, which can be maddening at this point in our digital history.

You should have noticed some glitches in tonight's postings, which we're trying to resolve, but without much luck.

You see multiple versions of the same post because we're trying to figure out what's going on, doing things from two different computers to compare results.

So bare with  us, please.  We have family obligations, etc, that are making it difficult to prioritize fixing things.

P. C. Poppycock

Conflict of visions (2); “no-brainers;” and other random thoughts from a past Father’s Day…

A Conflict of “Identifying With” Visions

                   Image result for rachel dolezal

The cultural mantra of the 60’s and beyond was ‘if it feels, good do it.’  Nowadays, it seems to have become ‘if it stomps on reality, become it.’

Post-modernism?  We understand it’s premise is ‘there is no such thing as objective truth.’  Noted columnist and Brunswick resident Eddie Beem has used this argument a number of times to undergird his premises.
Now we’re moving beyond that to Post-realism;  ‘there is no such thing as objective fact.’

Rachel Dolezal ‘self-identified with African Americans (blacks?),’ so she ‘became one,’ and even married a black man and had two children with him.  Since her ‘race expression’ was black, there was nothing odd or interracial about her marriage as she saw it.  She was a black marrying another black.

They have since divorced.  Which led us to wonder if he married her because he ‘self-identified’ with whites, and therefore thought of himself as one, and so he was a Caucasian marrying another Caucasian. 
Do you suppose they could have gotten divorced because each discovered they were trying to cross-self-identify with the reality that the other was trying to deny?

Was this simply a “Conflict of Visions?”  A cacophony of ‘self identities?’

We can’t help but wonder how the kids they brought into the world are supposed to view themselves.  How should they ‘self-identify’ in this new era of trans-racialism?  Especially since they have parents of two different races, real or imagined, that are dissonant, to say the very least.

Talk about growing up confused, and feeling a need to go off to ‘find yourself.’  Isn’t life challenging enough without having to grapple with totally unnecessary burdens like this?

Remember the jingle – “sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t.”  In the ‘old days,’ we could count on country music to help us sort things out – “sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug.”

But that was back in the paleo-pre-post-modernism era.  And we’re way, way beyond that, unless you’re trans-chronological.  In which case, we’re way before that.  Or sideways to it.
Got it?  We’re just trying to clarify things for you.

“No brainers,” taxes, and the future of Brunswick

          
  
“That’s a no-brainer” is a term that’s been around for a long time, and have occasionally used ourselves.  If one stops to think about it, one might realize it’s ambiguous, and should be used judiciously, lest it suggest exactly the opposite of what was intended, and reflect poorly on the one who spoke it.

Especially since Brunswick has a rather undistinguished record when it comes to property acquisition, construction, stewardship, and ultimate disposition.  We think wistfully of the “Old High School;”  Jordan Acres, Longfellow, and Hawthorne Schools;  Coffin Elementary and Brunswick Junior High; the “Old Times Record Building;” the old Town Hall and the nearby Rec Center.

Now we read that in a similar fine example of real-estate stewardship, the town is planning to purchase the former Cumberland Farms Gas Station/Convenience Store property diagonally across from the new Police Headquarters.  While it was on the market for $350,000, WE are expected to pay only $250,000 for it.  The idea is to tear it down and fill it in, using the same improvement strategy that worked so well on the old TR building.

One way or another, that’s a significant piece of property removed from the tax rolls.  Not to mention capital funds depleted.  All in all, a very smart move in the minds of some.

Councilor Jane Millett, a real estate professional, was quoted thus: “This is a no-brainer to me.”  Councilor Kathy Wilson, reminding us of the TR episode , suggested the council would be “stupid not to” purchase the property.  You can take those comments as you will, and we’ll certainly do the same.  Council Vice Chair Walker noted that improving the area would be a boon to the “gateway” to the town.


           
Look, as long as great ideas are abundant, and tax rolls and ‘investment’ dollars are largely irrelevant in local matters, we can’t help but suggest another such acquisition for the town’s consideration.  Pictured above is a very similar property to the Cumberland Farms site.  It’s on outer Pleasant Street, and is much more of a real ‘gateway’ to Brunswick.  In fact, it’s juxtaposed between two gracious welcoming signs on the other side of the Rte 1 approach into the richest little town in America.

Surely letting this eyesore stand would be a blot on community self-esteem.  Not to mention a memorable visual overture as one enters the local area for the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and other notable attractions of our prosperous and proud town, including the mammoth Amtrak Maintenance and Layover Facility that should begin construction shortly just a few blocks further down into the ‘heart of Brunswick.’

Frank Lee, we don’t think trivial details like tax rates and capital funding limitations should be allowed to get in the way of this “no brainer” situation.  Wouldn’t it be “stupid not to” act immediately on this symbol of welcome to the throngs of big spenders coming our way?

There must be SOME WAY to enact an emergency property tax increase beyond that just approved.  ‘Imagine our future’ if we don’t.  It’s almost like having Jordan Acres as a symbol of the educational leadership excellence we’re so widely known for.

Similar opportunities abound for the imaginative and committed.  We’ll do our best to report on them once our internet access is restored.

Walker’s Advisory/Best Mitigation Committee Proposal

                                         Image result for brunswick town council meeting

Speaking of “no-brainers,” town council Vice Chair Steve Walker reportedly proposed the creation of a ‘citizens’ advisory committee’ that would, in his conception, work together to minimize the effect the Amtrak/NNEPRA Maintenance and Layover Facility would have on local residents.  He says the committee would be a “collaboration with TrainRiders (Northeast), NNEPRA, and neighbors in the area.”

Are you freakin’ kidding?  Which is sometimes abbreviated AYFK.  The last thing TrainRiders and NNEPRA have demonstrated is commitment or interest in minimizing effects on local residents.  In fact, it could be easily argued that their posture is exactly the opposite.  Unless you think a choice in paint colors ‘minimizes effects.’

Now that we think of it, maybe if they painted those raised crosswalks on Maine Street a nice restful shade of mauve, it would help reduce their jarring effects, which transcend those of nearly every frost heave we’ve ever encountered.  Though we’re pretty sure frost heaves aren’t usually installed at significant public expense as part of a ‘place-making’ campaign.

The Local Ostrich of Record

TR banner

As news junkies and intellectual elites know, the New York Times has for many a year been referred to as ‘the newspaper of record,’ whatever the hell that means.  We believe we have a number of devoted souls who simply can’t get by without their daily dose of the “Gray Lady,” withered as she’s become.  Not that the rest of us aren’t showing our age.

In a local sense, we believe a declining yet still notable number of willfully uninformed consider the Ostrich to be ‘the newspaper of record’ hereabouts.  Surely the editors do as well; how could they come to work each day if they didn’t?  (PS: when can we expect the next change ‘at the top?’)

Last Thursday eve, June 18th, there was a special joint meeting of the Brunswick Town Council and the School Board, to hear from that most objective and detached master of school architecture, Lyndon Keck of PDT, regarding the critical state of affairs regarding Brunswick school property assets.

We…ahem….wanted to be there, but other priorities interfered.  And we trusted that The Ostrich, as the news source of record, and a mid-day publication, would have someone at the meeting to give a page 1 report in Friday’s prized ‘weekend’ edition.

We gave them too much credit, and maybe you did as well.  Nothing in Friday’s paper.  We’re guessing they probably had no one at the meeting to witness it live, and apparently, assigned no one to watch it live on streaming video. 

Our Comcast cable service has been down since yesterday, so we don’t know if they finally got around to reporting on it.  Surely they could have had someone assigned to watch the meeting by Video-on-Demand once the recording was made available.

And the ‘buzz’ died down enough to take the citizenry’s attention elsewhere.

Great work, gang.  You’ve got a reputation to protect, and you’ve done that and more.

WAIT:  We’re back on the air, and we have an update.  No wonder it was kept out of the ‘paper of record.’  Now we have to figure out who ordered the story be spiked.  Could Johnny Protocols still be aspiring to the Governership of B-Town?

Fortunately, you have Other Side watching out for your interests.  Here’s a nice 100 page document that was the essence of the discussion on the 18th.
http://www.brunswickme.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/June-18th-SB-Compiled-Final-Document-Compressed.pdf
Now comes this in The Forecaster:
http://www.theforecaster.net/news/print/2015/06/24/brunswick-elementary-junior-high-schools-catastrop/236912
Are you familiar with the term “staging” as it relates to shaping the optics and public perception of a particularly ‘inconvenient’ situation?  We think this story qualifies.
                                 Capture forecaster 2 June 24
                              Capture Forecaster 1 June 24

And The Ostrich wants to be our paper of record??

Image result for seinfeld and you want to be my latex salesman

We think this is the setup for we have no choice but to build two new schools.  We’d just like to know how we could find ourselves in this catastrophic situation, without a single school administrator having been fired in disgrace, or members of the School Board resigning for allowing this to become our fate.

This is shameful, from any number of perspectives.  And the word criminal suggests itself for those who take even a dimmer view of how our elected stewards discharge their responsibilities.

   

Perhaps we’re over-reacting; a few letters to the Editor at the “paper of record” should suffice to right these wrongs.  No need for torches and pitchforks.
Which leads us to this next point.

Imagine Your Taxes

               image

Those weepy “Imagine our future: Support our schools” signs invented by Brunswick Community United a few years back keep showing up in time for the annual School Budget referendum in June.  As if there’s a chance the adoring public would EVER reject a proposed School budget, and risk being labeled a teacher hater and a child abuser.

There’s about as much chance of their budget being dis-approved in the vote as there is of school properties being maintained in good working order so as to maximize their useful life to the community and those who pay for them.

We’re thinking of paraphrasing the sign’s shibboleth with one that makes more sense: “Imagine our property taxes; Invest whatever the town demands.”  Brunswick’s governing elites are operating in the post-modern era; they’re in denial of the objective truth that a breaking point exists in matters of property taxation, and that towns compete against each other.  Evidence of this is everywhere, unless you self-identify with the Fairy Godmother of endless resources.

Downeaster Service Delays

Here’s a recent ‘it’s all good’ bulletin from that most trustworthy of government agencies, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.  You know them…they operate the much beloved and revered Downeaster passenger rail service.

        

It’s Almost Over!
The Tie Replacement Project of spring 2015 is winding down and is expected to be completed in early July.  Delays to Trains 680, 682, 685 and 687 can be expected to continue until all work is done, but should decrease significantly by the end of June.  These delay advisory emails will continue to be sent through the completion of the project. Beginning next Monday, June 22 (with the exception of Thursday June 25) mid-day trains 681, 683, 684 and 686 will resume between service to all stations between Dover, NH and Boston, MA. The late train out of Boston, train 689, will also resume service to all stations.
In appreciation for your patience and patronage:
Downeaster 10-Ride and Monthly Passes are
Discounted 50%
for the Month of July 2015!
Thank you for your patience – and your business!
*Note* All delay times are approximate and based on speed restrictions currently placed on the rail line and do not include unforeseen occurrences such as train interference, signal issues, or other unplanned events.  Please continue to check Train Status for exact arrival and departure information on your day of travel.
Late trains often make up time en route and may arrive earlier than expected. When trains are late, we suggest you arrive at your departure station prior to the estimated arrival or departure time.
==================================================
Just so you know, the Tie-Replacement Project was originally advertised to be complete by June 15th.  We’re now at the 23rd and counting.  And for those attentive to little details, it’s no longer spring….it’s summer, though we wonder how you can tell.  We think we just read there are 7,000 more ties to be replaced, beyond the 22,000 already installed.

We find the “50% discount” offer kind of ironic, since the scheduled service has been reduced (‘discounted’) by at least that amount for a couple of months now.

                

Stay in step please, children.

Technorati Tags: ,,,
, catastrophes, gateways

Monday, June 15, 2015

Numbers, numbers, numbers; who doesn’t love numbers?

A few days ago, we were looking into a national news story, when in that strange way the internet has of grabbing you by the ears, saying “lookee here,” we have another story to distract you away from your original interest, it did just that.

We aren’t going to tell you what originally set us off on that road, leading to a road not taken (until then.)  Those of you who think deeply and widely might figure it out, though.

At any rate, we eventually ended up here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudson_Line_%28Metro-North%29 

Which provides this info:
=====================================
Hudson Line
Metro-North logo.svg
Metro-North Hudson Line.jpg

A northbound Hudson Line train going through the Hudson Highlands
Type: Commuter rail line
System: Metro-North
Status: Operating
Locale: New York City, Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties
Termini: Grand Central Terminal, Poughkeepsie
Stations: 29

Daily ridership: 38,500 (2012)[1]

Character: Commuter rail
Technical: Track length - 74 mi (118 km)
================================

You got that, rail fans, trainies, and All Aboard Brunswickers?
Nearly 40,000 riders per day!  Or roughly the annual ridership of the Downeaster attributed to the Brunswick extension.

        

We have no idea what the fare is, but with those ridership levels, they might have a chance of this being a break-even, or heaven forbid, a profit-making route.  Forgive us for that last term; we realize that to the public benefit minded, being self-sustaining or having revenue exceed expenses is a capitalist-pig concept.

We bring this little excursion on the never-will-be axis to you to contrast what the Downeaster and TRNE ‘mass transit’ dreamers think they will become if taxpayers just invest enough money in the idea, and get rid of winter and its challenges for rail service.

             

Apparently winter doesn’t happen along the Hudson; can you imagine what 38,500 daily riders would do if Metro-North had the same Delay Advisory profile the NNEPRA run Downeaster does?  By the way, in case you've forgotten, today is the day the delays attributed to winter's travails were supposed to come to an end; you know, just in time for the busy summer tourist season.  And before next winter begins in a few months.

We should note an unfortunate anomaly on the run a few years ago:
2013 derailment
Main article: December 2013 Spuyten Duyvil derailment
On December 1, 2013, a southbound train derailed near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx. Four people were killed and more than 60 passengers were injured in the crash.[3] Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the train was traveling at 82 miles per hour (132 km/h), a speed nearly three times the maximum allowable speed of 30 miles per hour (48 km/h). The train's brakes were apparently operating normally and area tracks in proper condition.[4]
Note that the train was travelling nearly three times allowable speed.  Apparently the engineer hadn’t heard the assurances by the likes of Patsy Quinn and Wayne Davis that such things can’t happen because of laws and rules and experience and well, you know, other intangibles that prohibit such unsafe speeds.  Especially on unsafe track.

==================================

Changing tunes slightly, we saw this item in yesterday’s big city paper: http://www.pressherald.com/2015/06/14/business-week-in-review-turnpike-traffic-bodes-well-for-economy-gdp-doesnt/
Turnpike traffic approaches record levels
Traffic volume on the Maine Turnpike is on track to exceed its pre-recession peak for the first time, indicating that the upcoming tourism season could be a strong one. Turnpike traffic, which has been increasing slowly since bottoming out in 2009 during the Great Recession, is poised this year to surpass the record set in 2007, according to officials at the Maine Turnpike Authority. From Jan. 1 through May 31 this year, nearly 28.3 million vehicles traveled on the toll road. The increase over the same period in 2007 was relatively tiny – about 57,000 vehicles, or 0.2 percent – but it comes despite the turnpike’s lackluster performance in January and February when a series of heavy snowstorms kept motorists off the state’s highways. Compared with the same period last year, passenger vehicle traffic was up 4.5 percent. The strongest month was May, when passenger vehicle traffic increased nearly 8 percent.
If we’ve got our numbers right, that amounts to an average of about 188,000 vehicles per day.  On one highway.  It’s 300 miles long, but it’s only one of how many other highly traveled roads in Maine, like 295, for example.



We could try to guess how many total ‘riders’ that might be per day, but why bother.  Any way you look at it, it’s surely at least 150 times the ‘ridership’ total of the Downeaster.  Even allowing for ‘a series of heavy snowstorms.’

                       Image result for go sell crazy someplace else we're all

That pretty much sums up our thoughts for those who argue that the Downeaster ‘relieves’ pressure on the interstates in Maine.  Want the live version?  Go here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsZPWsVNTqo



Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Numbers? Hey, we got your numbers right here!



                     Image result for All aboard brunswick

We doubt anyone would argue the premise that the “success” of NNEPRA’s Downeaster passenger rail service is substantiated exclusively by ridership statistics.  Even the ladies of All Aboard Brunswick should be able to agree with us on this.  Lord knows we don’t want to say anything that upsets them, or gives them fainting spells.

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Growth over the years since inception in 2000 or so are trumpeted regularly as the measure of public support for the service, even if it runs at roughly a 50% operational deficit, with massive capital expenditures to date, all from state and federal sources, and much more needed to fulfill established plans and not so established plans.

In spite of recent reports about numbers heading in the wrong direction….unless you consider growth in the number of ties being replaced as a positive….the numbers we hear still seem pretty impressive to the untrained ear, eye, and mind.   The nose has a role here too.

Half a million or so riders overall per year, and 35,000 or so for Brunswick.  Sounds like a lot, you must admit.

              

Until you start to break things down.   Half a million per year, reduced to a daily average, is less than 1400 per day.  Given the number of trains on the schedule – ten – and a capacity of 250-300 per train, perhaps it’s not as impressive.  And we have good reason to believe Concord Coach bus service beats the Downeaster figures by a substantial amount.

The Brunswick figure reduces to less than 100 per day….about 96.  More detailed analysis of figures for the last year or two shows Brunswick trains average 23 riders, less than 10% of capacity.  About half the capacity of a single Concord Coach bus.  Yet a 4,250 hp Amtrak engine hauls 4 or 5 passenger cars back and forth to Brunswick on each train.

        

Numbers have magic, and the best purveyors of numbers can inspire you to believe them instead of your lying eyes.

But let’s try some comparisons.  Suppose we told you that Spring Street in Brunswick carried more than 700,000 ‘travelers’ per year?  Would you believe that?

Here’s how you get there.  Go to http://me-avcog.civiccities.com/index.aspx?nid=1009



Fool around with the map, and expand it to look at Brunswick.  You’ll find that Spring Street had Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) of 1,860 vehicles per day in 2010.  That’s 678,900 vehicles per year.  You can guess how many passengers the ‘average’ vehicle carried, but if every fourth one had two people in it, total Spring St. ridership in a year would be about 850,000, or 60% more than the Downeaster claims overall in a year.  And 24 times Downeaster ridership for Brunswick.

Not only that, if the average Spring St. vehicle has seating for four, they’re running at more than 30% of capacity, as compared to Brunswick Downeasters running at less than 10%.

We don’t consider Spring St. to be a ‘major’ route.  So let’s move up a notch, to a street like McKeen.  It had AADT of 8,050 in 2010, or nearly 3 million per year!  Which would put it in the vicinity of 4 million ‘ridership’ per year, without allowing for school buses.  So you could say McKeen exceeds overall Downeaster passenger traffic by 8 to 1.  And exceeds ridership for Brunswick by a factor of well over 100.
Maine Street carries an AADT of 15,000 plus, or 5.5 million.  “Ridership” easily exceeds the Downeaster overall by a factor of 10.  And overwhelms Brunswick ridership by a factor of 157.

When you look at it that way, things don’t seem so impressive, do they?  Especially when you consider the annual subsidies of $9 million or so for the train, and capital expenditures well above $100 million at this point, and much more needed to fulfill plans of record.

Under the circumstances, we don’t think anyone wants to consider comparing Downeaster figures to those for I-295 or I-95.  Claims that the passenger rail service is ‘relieving’ traffic congestion on these routes is ludicrous, as are claims of huge environmental benefit.  Have you seen a grandfathered 4,250 hp locomotive belching diesel fumes and particulates?  Remember, under current protocols, it does that 24 hours a day, whether carrying passengers or not.

 

As you can probably imagine, we put considerable personal effort into this analysis on your behalf.  We hope you were paying attention in class, and took good notes.

You never know when there might be a pop quiz, or even worse, that we ask you to show how the detailed info we provided justifies what goes on around us.
 
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Including the song selections of the three Oppem sisters.