Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday bits and pieces…..

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Local Personnel Changes:

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We note, apparently, that Gina Hamilton and her smiling, cherubic face are no longer with The Ostrich.  During her tenure at the much revered ‘paper of record’ for the Brunswick area, she seemed to be working her way down the organizational ladder at a furious pace.

Gina, judging by her history, is adept at talking herself into a job, but inapt at talking her way into holding on to it.

We could say we’re going to miss her, but we have our journalistic integrity to protect.

The NOTWIUN Opines Amiss:

                                   

If you’ve been a reader of ours for awhile, you may remember that we had another name by which we called The Ostrich.  That name is The NOTWIUN, which is an abbreviation of The Newspaper Of The WIllfully UNinformed.

We coined that term in response to an editorial they ran sometime ago accusing certain members of the Town Council at the time of being willfully uninformed on a subject related to base re-development.  No doubt we asserted that it was the editors who were willfully uninformed at that time.

                                         

And we were reminded of that sentiment yet again recently.  Whether they are willfully uninformed, or willfully mis-informed, we’re tempted to say, is a difference without distinction.  As we thought about the difference though, we’ve decided to go with mis-informed, because they have in all likelihood been chugging the Kool-Aid shooters served up by the All Aboard Brunswick gang, the Brunswick Downtown Association, NNEPRA, TRNE, and assorted other train idolaters.

In the week just passed, the current editors showed just why they are as we have called them.  They decided to lecture us all on the DEP SWPA Hearing subject, which is easier, we suppose, than actually investigating the subject and reporting on it.  They went with the worn-out talking points that have been foisted on low-information readers, and did their best to keep them that way.

                           

Lettuce assess a few of the shroomier passages:

NNEPRA simply needed to re-submit its application. Instead, it’s jumping through all of these extra hoops to make sure those who are outraged that a maintenance facility would be built — on the train tracks that were located behind their property when they purchased their homes — can say no more about being left out of the process. To ensure there will be no further delays in getting on with building the building.

Actually, two things jump out at the discerning reader.  First, the ‘property behind their homes’ was zoned for 20,000 sq. ft. max structures, roughly 1/3 the size of the proposed NNEPRA facility.  Leave it to the federal government to declare themselves exempt from virtually all municipal and state law and regulations. 

As to ‘simply re-submit,’ inferring a carbon copy of the original, even the briefest of discussions with someone informed on the subject would have made clear that the absence of notification allowed numerous shortcomings and inadequacies to make it into the process.  Due diligence and rigor were not hallmarks of the original; those who challenged the application did their best to see that the revised submission speaks to the public trust issues involved when a state agency submits an application to another state agency.

The hearings taking place tomorrow should only deal with stormwater, and passionate arguments about the other aspects the facility should be left at the door. Surely there will be those who will extoll the virtues of what the facility will mean for Brunswick and the Downeaster: Increased rail service, ending the idling of train cars on the tracks, and saving money from dead-head runs and personnel shuttling are among the favorites touchstones for those in favor of the project.

We trust the editors will soon scold the hordes who came to speak in support of the permit, and spoke never of stormwater, but only their mystical belief that trains are a wonder upon our lives.  Said supporters either could not find their way to the repeatedly published guide-lines for testifying at the hearing, or simply knew that adhering to them would leave them with nothing to say.

Just as surely, there will be those who show up to demonize the proposed facility, offering criticisms about how the Downeaster isn’t cost effective or reliable, and the excessive noise, emissions and decreasing property values that will result if the terrible MLF is built.

Opponents of the permit, on the other hand, scrupulously adhered to the guide-lines for testifying, offering substantive and well-researched commentary on various aspects of the permit application.  We expect no recognition of the difference with supporters, because that would put the editors in an objective, informative box, the sort with which they are unfamiliar.

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Worse, they’d be upsetting the beautiful people, local immortals, elites, and selected members of the unhinged fringe.

Though those in opposition will likely not listen to these words, the time has come to move on, to accept that the facility will — and should — be built.

Based on what, we might ask.  The editors certainly haven’t illuminated the subject in any real sense, which means all they are left with is emotion and opinion, each of which aligns with the local cognoscenti and down-towner attitude mentors.  Those especially with New York Times and Washington DC sensibilities.

Change isn’t always the easiest thing to handle, but in this case it is inevitable.

The final irony in the item, which, we could argue, captures the plight of The NOTWIUN.  Or so we would fervently and defiantly wish.

               

A question or two on the post of yesterday:

In thinking about the items we posted from Ms. Johnson and Mr. Dunbar, we couldn’t help but wonder how they factor into the Downeaster ‘ridership numbers.’  Not to mention how many times the latter found himself Shanghaied south of Brunswick by the vicissitudes of winter as they unfairly visited themselves upon the helpless train.

Charles says he made 71 trips in the last year, though he doesn’t say how many of those trips his spouse came along with him.  Still, think of the possibilities.  Do his trips count as a total of 71 in the ridership for the year, or 142 to count each direction?  How about all the stops in between, say Portland and all the other major depots along the way?  Does Dunbar add to the ridership tallied at those stops?  In both directions?

Now add his wife into the mix.  The possibilities for statistical and enumerative mischief are mind-boggling, all fundamentally due to one patron of the train.  The important point to note, of course, is that Charles and his spouse travel south to benefit the economy in larger and more exciting locales, thereby depriving the local economy of that stimulation.

What will it take in the way of unknown visitors from away to simply offset his and Ms. Johnson’s travels?  Only the shadow knows.  But we continue to believe that in such situations, economic stimulus from individuals tends to flow from the more remote, unexciting locales, to the more urban, culturally blessed, and exciting locales.

We have no criticism of either’s affinity for travel and spending their hard earned resources wherever they wish.  But we have plenty of criticism for those who fail to recognize the ‘giant sucking sound’ when discussing economic ramifications of The Downeaster.

 

As we said, it’s becoming clearer and clearer why no-one in an influential position will allow or endorse an objective probe into such realities. 

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Even those who held leadership positions in Economic and Community Development….and should be most committed to evidence based decision making, rather than political expediency.

We can dream, can’t we?  And maybe if a few more did, it might change things.

Or not.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Finally! Some serious economic data on the Downeaster!

DEPpan

Where do we begin after a week like this?  A week filled, as Walter Cronkite used to say, “with those events which alter and illuminate our daily lives.”  We’ll have to think long and hard about the two key action words he used, but for now we’ll abide them.  Walter, by the way, was a fraternity brother of ours, which depending on your inclinations, means both of us are unworthy of being taken seriously.

The week was filled, as some of you know, with a nearly 12 hour session on Wednesday at the Brunswick Golf Course, where Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted a full hearing on NNEPRA’s StormWater Permit Application.  That application pertains to the Maintenance and Layover Facility they propose to build in the “Brunswick West” location nearby the Bouchard Drive in-town neighborhood. 

The session was broken into a very formal court-like process for the involved ‘parties’ that ran from 9am to almost 5pm, followed by an evening session that began at 6pm and ran for two hours or more, during which ‘the public’ could comment on the issue.

                             

Then on Thursday, many of us (from both points of view) traveled to the State Capitol in Augusta, where we sat in on a Legislative hearing for the passenger train idling bill sponsored by Senator Stan Gerzofsky.  Excluding the wait time, this hearing consumed something like 2.5 hours of discussion time.

Your humble correspondent testified at both events, and we’ll be passing along the contents of our testimony in upcoming posts.

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Now to the maine subject of this post, as suggested by the title.  You may recall that in past efforts, we did our best to see that an objective study was undertaken by our town, with the help of Bowdoin faculty and students, to ascertain the ‘economic benefit’ of the Downeaster to our perfect, or near-perfect community.  We wanted some data to back up claims by well-known public figures that the train “has already had major benefits for the local economy” and similar assertions.

While the graphic just above doesn’t specifically derive from circumstances such as ours, we found the prima facie subject designation entirely appropriate.  We’ve had any number of local authorities, elites, and attitude formation experts rave about the ‘promise’ of the Downeaster as it relates to putting our community ‘on the map,’ sparking economic development of unbridled depth and breadth.

If you care to review the background on this subject on Other Side, hie yourself here: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/search?q=economic+benefit

Sometimes, fate intervenes in the midst of our failures and provides alternate solutions, and that’s what we bring to you today.  Unknowingly, or perhaps unwittingly, various sources provide real insight into our subject, and in the process, blow holes in the widely-accepted articles of faith associated with ‘the promise.’

Let’s begin with this example, in the form of an earnest letter by a local resident to the editors of The Ostrich. The dear lady also testified at the DEP session on Wednesday, essentially reading her letter before the assembled masses.  Read the letter carefully:

In support of the permit

I am writing in support of the storm-water permit application so that the Brunswick Layover Facility can be constructed. My retirement has been enhanced by frequent train trips to Boston to visit museums or enjoy other activities. Addition of a third round trip from Brunswick to Boston would mean that Brunswick residents could enjoy a full day of activities in Boston, including dinner in a fine restaurant and a play or concert and then catch a train all the way back to Brunswick. Looking for my car in a deserted parking lot at the Portland station after the last train arrives at 1:25 a.m. and then driving home to Brunswick alone is not an experience that I wish to repeat.

Alison Johnson
Brunswick

What the letter does, of course, is to document the exact opposite of economic benefit to our local economy.  Instead, it articulates ‘the sucking sound’ the Downeaster represents as it pulls discretionary dollars from local residents and takes them to points south to stimulate the economy in those destinations.  And it asks for more options and service to make hauling dollars south more convenient.

Moving on, let’s look at the testimony of Charles Dunbar, a retired Ambassador and diplomat, who lives in the historic Pennellville area of our nearly perfect town.  We believe his spouse testified at the DEP hearing, though we have no materials at hand documenting what she had to say.

We do, however, have a copy of the remarks Mr. Dunbar submitted to the Transportation Committee of the Maine Legislature on Thursday.  Here it is:

Testimony by Charles Dunbar at the LD 439 hearing on Thursday, 26 March 15

My name is Charles Dunbar, and I love (live?) in Brunswick. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify about my grave concern that the bill you are considering may cripple the present operations and future development of the great service provided to the people of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts by Amtrak's Downeaster.

I begin by expressing my high esteem for NNEPRA, its executive director Patricia Quinn, NNEPRA's staff, and the Downeaster crews, all of whom I have grown to admire from the vantage point of a frequent Downeaster rider. I have watched with growing respect as they surmounted the adversity of the past two winters, unscheduled track repairs, and delays caused by other trains to keep the service healthy and growing.

I recently wrote to Ms. Quinn to commend the imagination and ingenuity of Conductors Peter White and Rob deVilleneuve for finding ways of getting 70 or so Freeport and Brunswick passengers home when a freight train broke down and blocked the track between Portland and Freeport. Although occasionally inconvenienced by being unable to travel on a growing number of full trains both to and from Boston, I am pleased at the triumph this represents for those directly involved and for our state as a whole.

In short, the Downeaster has been an integral part of my life for the past four years, and I have enjoyed almost every minute of the 71 trips Amtrak recently informed me I had made between Brunswick and Boston in the past year. The train facilitates my teachig (teaching?) at Boston University, my access to my doctor and to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where I am being treated, and my wife's and my travel to Boston to visit family and attend cultural events.

My "where-the-wheels-meet-the-steel" Downeaster expertise does not extend to the bill you are considering today, but I cannot see how it could do anything but harm to the Downeaster. I thus hope strongly that it does not become law.

If you’d like to know more about Mr. Dunbar, you can find it here:  http://www.bu.edu/pardeeschool/profile/charles-f-dunbar/

It’s clear, of course, that with 71 round trips in the last year between Brunswick and Boston, Charles is highly dependent upon the Downeaster.  That’s an average of almost 1.5 round trips per week.  This ‘integral part of his life’ allows him to work, get health care, visit family, and attend various ‘cultural events.’

Under the circumstances he describes, one might wonder why Charles and his spouse live in Brunswick, since all their meaningful activities take place 160 miles south.  We can only guess what economic benefit this generates for the Boston area, and what loss of local economic activity it represents.  And we can only guess, in the same fashion, why Charles and his bride haven’t taken up residence in greater Boston.  Seems like they’re down there most of the time anyway, for life’s most important pursuits.  Why not clean up their existence by eliminating all that commute time?

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Next item: you may or may not remember the “Chain Station,” a bicycle shop that opened a few years ago in the building on Union Street adjacent to the ‘long term parking lot’ provided by the town for Downeaster travelers.

As we understand it, the duo who opened that business did so largely on the expectation that the massive influx of tourists predicted by NNEPRA would generate considerable demand for bike rentals, and that a location nearby the train station would be a winner.  Apparently their expectations were unfounded, and now someone else has decided to run a ‘bike and ski’ business out of the building.  We’ll see, of course, how good their judgment was in making whatever investment they’ve put into their operation.

We wish them the best.  But we’ve seen nothing so far to indicate that basing your economic health on Downeaster train service is a solid proposition.

As a matter of fact, after the Poppycock’s had a casual dinner at a packed ‘venue’ in a nearby town last night, we drove through the Maine Street Station area, at about 8:30 pm…on a Friday night, no less.  We noted a significant number of parking spots available in the general area, though we can’t say definitively what this means.  We do know, however, that the parking situation in our chosen dinner spot was far more congested.

We know…just anecdotes.  But since our betters in town government won’t get behind an effort to come up with more substantive information, it’s all we have, right?

We’ll close with the report on the Wednesday hearing filed and posted by TrainRiders Northeast on the their web page.  As we understand it, the ‘webmaster’ who filed this report is one Bill Lord, a retired TV journalist type who worked behind the scenes for Cronkite, Dan Rather, and others.  He may even have spent time on camera/on screen.

Here’s part of the report Bill filed on the Wednesday hearing:

Marathon DEP Hearing on NNEPRA's Storm Water Runoff Permit

Published on Thursday, 26 March 2015 13:07
Written by TRN Webmaster

It was an all-day event as the DEP held extensive sessions on NNEPRA's Storm Water Runoff Permit request. The permit is required for the construction of the Downeaster's Brunswick Layover Facility. It began at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 8:00 p.m. (with some lunch/dinner breaks). This was the first such public hearing the DEP has ever organized for this type of permit.

The evening public session, held at the Brunswick Golf Club, brought out nearly two hundred advocates - against and for the permit. Those against feared disruption of their neighborhood due to alleged pollution and flooding and those in favor disputed their fears and emphasized the economic benefits of the expansion

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The photo strip just above contains a candid shot of your faithful correspondent testifying at the hearing, along with another ‘opponent’ of the SWPA permit, and two supporters of the permit, including the beloved NNEPRA supporter we’ve nicknamed ET.  Hopefully you can tell which one of the images is your reporter.

Bill Lord, the reporter, did a horrible job of describing the public session in his last paragraph.  He pretty accurately captured the essence of the ‘against’ contingent, but he completely blew it on the ‘for the permit’ speakers.  They offered not a single bit of data on economic benefits, and instead waxed emotional about how much they love the train, and how much it means to everyone.  No evidence, no facts, no logic.  Just rhetorical homage to the diesel dust spewing behemoth that spends so much time in our midst.

If this is the kind of reporting integrity Bill Lord brought to the news on CBS in his years with the network, we can only mourn the credibility we ascribed to them in our na├»ve young adult years.  Bill has obviously found, in TRNE, a perfect application for his spinning of reality, complete with video and photographic backup.

 

Not bad, we suppose, for a project in which taxpayers have invested well over $100 million, and that is looking for another $30 million plus to ‘optimize service.’  Not to mention the future investments required to expand service to NYC, Augusta, Lewiston-Auburn, Bangor, Rockland, and anywhere anyone else wants the choo-choo to come to town.

So what if the service currently runs at a 50% deficit, needing an annual transfusion of $8-9 million from elsewhere to keep the trains running.  This is, after all, economic stimulus and economic benefit. 

Why can’t you see that?

We’re thinking that’s enough for tonight, and for you to assimilate and digest, as uncomfortable as that may and should be.  Make sure you have some Pepcid or Nexium on your nightstand.

Trust us; there’s much more to come, and the volume of reporting ahead of us is growing day by day, almost faster than we can comprehend it.

It won’t be pretty.

Just like us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Psssst! Over here…..your favorite time of year…..

                            

You know, calisthenics time….to limber you up for incoming news….

And some has arrived.  Word is that PP, Superintendent of the Brunswick School Department, is looking for a 10% increase in his budget for the coming year.

By our reckoning, that means he’d like an increase of $3.5 million on top of the current year’s $35.6 million budget.  Not bad for tight times and enrollment that’s down by nearly 30% since the peak about 10 years ago.

The budget then was $27.7 million.  The next one, should he get his way, would be $39.1 million.  That would increase per student costs year over year by just shy of $1,500.  And yield a total cost per student of $16,350, a rather princely sum, we think.

Especially compared to the cost per student of $8,230 ten years ago.

     

But don’t you worry your purty little heads about a thang, Dearies!

As Claudia Knox so publicly assured the town council, and by extension, all of us, the train is our friend when it comes to dealing with budget and tax increase challenges.

                  

Well lookee thar!  Here comes one of them trains right now.  And they even have someone on board to guard the $3.5 million delivery!

 

No wonder we all love trains so much.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

OSA issues “FONSI’s” re AAB SWPA permit testimony.

Wow..this is a target rich post, so we’re probably going to take things in a scattergun format.  How about if we begin with this item:

Whopper of the week in the Forecaster this week by Alison Harris:  "We do appreciate DEP's diligence, so that all can be assured that plans for storm-water management meet the highest standards," Harris added.

This is akin to Alison posting a letter to the IRS, thanking them for thoroughly auditing hers and Bernie’s tax returns to assure they ‘meet the highest standards.’

Yep; rest assured that AAB is ecstatic about DEP’s formal hearing process regarding a permit application ‘that was approved once before.’  AAB probably appreciates as well the diligence of the Legislature’s GOC committee in approving an OPEGA review of NNEPRA operations.  We figure Ms. Harris, Ms, Knox, TRNE’s Poohbah Davis and his attorney, and NNEPRA’s ED and staff were at the hearing on Friday the 13th to visibly demonstrate their appreciation of the committee’s thorough oversight.

To our next item, Other Side has no officially designated stature as an “Authority” in the sense of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), or the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA.)

Still, as the master of our own publishing domain, we reserve the right to consider ourselves an Authority on matters that relate to our petty personal interests.  For purposes of this post, we’re invoking this freedom to call ourselves the Other Side Authority (OSA), and issuing two FONSI decrees.

The first is a Finding of No Significant Insights, which we’ll call FONSI 1.  The second, which in a blinding flash of creativity we’ll call FONSI 2, is a Finding of No Supportable Information/Impact.

You may be wondering what these decrees apply to, and if so, good for you. 

Because, you see, we believe Side readers fall into two classes.  The first comes here for a different take, hopefully more informative, on subjects important to our ‘shared destiny.’  The second comes here to find out what the enemy is up to; these are the readers who often check the reaction box indicating they think of themselves as an idiot.  Why anyone would do so is beyond us, but we appreciate their confirmation of our suspicions.

The first class of our readers knows, in all likelihood, that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is holding a formal hearing Wednesday, March 25th, at the Brunswick Golf Course.  The hearing relates only, and specifically, to the NNEPRA StormWater Permit Application (SWPA) required to gain DEP licensing before they can begin construction of their proposed Maintenance and Layover Facility in the Brunswick West location adjacent to the Bouchard Drive neighborhood.  The facility would service Amtrak Downeaster train sets, plus others as yet disclosed, such as Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) engines and equipment.  And who knows who and what else?

DEP has established very precise and specific rules for the conduct of the actual hearing, and for preliminary submissions of testimony and comments relevant to the application by both experts and the general public.  The rules are spelled out in passages such as these, which have been made available to all interested parties; emphasis is ours:

From DEP Public Info Release dated March 16, 2015:

The purpose of the hearing is to receive testimony from the parties and the general public on whether the proposed project meets the relevant statutory and regulatory licensing requirements. The statutory and regulatory criteria associated with the Department’s review of this license application are: Storm Water Management law (38 M.R.S.A. § 420-D) and the Department’s rules concerning Stormwater Management (Chapter 500). Testimony at the hearing is limited specifically to the relevant licensing criteria (stormwater standards, including, but not limited to, basic, general, and flooding standards). An outline describing the relevant regulatory review criteria associated with the proposed project is available on the Department’s website at www.maine.gov/dep/permits/blf/ in the document, “Second Procedural Order and attachments.”

From Chapter 3 of Rules governing the conduct of licensing hearings, Page 17 Section 20:

20. Evidence

A. Relevancy. Evidence will be admitted if it is relevant and material to the subject matter of the hearing and is of a kind upon which reasonable persons are accustomed to rely in the conduct of serious affairs. Evidence which is irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious will be excluded. The Department’s experience, technical expertise, and specialized knowledge may be utilized in the evaluation of all evidence.

From the Second Procedural Order, dated January 13, 2015:

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In short, per DEP pronouncements, testimony/comments will be accepted only on the specifics of the SWPA itself.  Comments and/or testimony in support of passenger rail service, Amtrak, the Downeaster, NNEPRA, the proposed MLF, snacks served aboard the train, color themes of Maine Street Station, or on any other non-SWPA subject, are out of order and should/will not be entertained in any form, written or spoken. 

Which brings us to FONSI 1: our Finding of No Significant Insights.  Various members of ‘the community,’ whatever that means, have filed statements (emails/letters) supporting SWPA approval with the DEP Project Manager.  Most of these have been posted on the DEP web page pertaining to the hearing process, and we’re confident, were submitted by AAB members, TRNE members, and those with similar inclinations.  Several others have been received by the Project Manager and state delegation members, but not posted to the DEP web site.

                                  

We think this opening statement in the message from Claudia Knox exemplifies the very essence of these messages:

“For more than a decade Brunswick residents longed for a return of passenger rail to our community.”

In so many words, every one of the submitted items we refer to embodies abject emotionalism, and nothing more.  No substance, no material evidence related to the SWPA, or any other content compliant with DEP’s Procedural guidelines for the hearing process, and the subsequent adjudication of the permit application.

As we pondered their collective merit, we began to see them as a veritable expression of ‘puppy love.’  If you don’t remember what that is, let us remind you.

Here it is literally:

                     Image result for puppy love quotes

Figuratively speaking, it looks more like this:

                               

Or for older puppies, like this:

                

In Side’s view, the overall circumstances surrounding the Downeaster, AAB, and TRNE are the transport equivalent of puppy love.  And the love-letters submitted to DEP on the SWPA issue are the culmination of their longings.

In drawing this analogy, we see the sentiments expressed in the messages as irrational, exuberant, infatuated, starry-eyed, and scornful of those who counsel against their fantasies.

Most grow up and get over it, developing adult sensibilities and analytical thinking; but some don’t.  For them we offer this update of the song “Puppy Love,” which we hereby redesignate “Choo-Choo Love:”

I cry each night my tears for you trains,
My tears are all in vain
I hope and I pray that maybe someday
You'll be back (you'll be back) in my town (in my town)
Once again (you'll be back in my town once again)

Someone help me, help me, help me please
Is the answer up above?
How can I, oh how can I tell them
This is not a Choo-Choo  love.

Moving on. let’s take up the focus of FONSI 2: Economic importance.  We hereby issue our Finding of No Supportable Information/Impact, in the economic sense.  Neither Majorette Knox, or the Board Chair of the Southern Midcoast Chamber, or anyone else could put forward any tangible evidence of economic benefit from Downeaster service to Brunswick.  And they completely ignored the recurring expenses necessary to service the service.  Such as the $100,000 our town spends annually to keep the station and the platform operating.

All those gushing supporters of passenger rail service, and the proposed MLF here in Brunswick, didn’t offer one tangible piece of evidence that the train has had a positive economic effect on local circumstances.  No studies, no analysis, no anything.  Just platitudes and hand waving.  Not to mention the economic value of “longing.”  The train has been running to town for more than two years, but nobody has any hard data to substantiate the benefits.

They just mustn’t have time to collect the right information.  Since they can’t and won’t, perhaps their “longing” for days of  yore is the primary focus.  In keeping with this theme, why not get taxpayers to fund dresses and hats from the Music Man era for the ladies of Brunswick?  And require proper attire for ladies and gentlemen riding the train?

How about horses and buggies on Maine Street from April to November?  Clean air and and related benefits should more than make up for the costs of dealing with the increase in local manure footprint.

                                 

You might ask, and reasonably so, if emotionalism is supposed to carry the day in local affairs.  Take your pick; but any way you cut it, the testimony offered by the parties involved may look tasty, but every slice looks just like the last one, and leaves a taste in your mouth; black pepper, garlic, pure fat, and the rest.

Burp…

 

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We’re wearing of completing this story, so let’s see if we can cut to the chase, if only by a very slow path.  It’s too late, and we’re too tired to detail everyone of the letters submitted to DEP supporting approval of the SWPA permit for MLF construction at Brunswick West.   Though as we said above, the Claudia Knox opening line captures the essence of them all.

Other highlights include these:

  • Johnny Protocol’s lengthy discourse reciting his impressive resume of both elective and appointive positions held in Government, reminding readers that he should have been Governor, damn-it, and that he should be Chair of the Brunswick Town Council, damn-it.  His rambling discourse on the number of permits and number of hearings in DEP history ignores the salient fact that in this case, which is most unique, the applicant is the State of Maine, because NNEPRA is a Maine State Government entity,  Which means a State Agency (DEP) is exercising authority on an application from a State Agency.
  • Bernie Breitbart, spouse of Alison Harris, hypes “sold-out” trains heading south as an explanation for low ridership figures  in/out of Brunswick, and why more frequent service is required to our perfect little village.  You may recall that we debunked this notion repeatedly in past months by actually trying to buy tickets for trips heading south, none of which were sold out.
  • The Southern Mid-Coast Chamber of Commerce played the trite card they used in years past to argue that the Downeaster is an economic boon to our area.  They failed to include even a hint of objective evidence for their assertion.

Even some celebrities have a problem with the messages crafted by our local elites.

                           

So in summary, besides labeling the local epidemic a severe case of puppy-love, we raise the Brunswick Sausage flag as well.  And add this reminder:

                 

Which seems apropos the reality that passenger rail has disappeared for a reason.  Unless you find reality to be a myth.

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We’re fond of saying that life is one big learning experience, and we’re here to prove it.  So pay attention, class!

This is a train:

This is a bus:

       

From what we can tell, many folks in our area have never seen or heard of a bus, so we thought it  important to introduce them to the concept.

It turns out that a bus can do just about everything a passenger train can do, faster, more economically, more flexibly, more reliably, and with virtually no capital infrastructure investment.

Imagine, if you will, the possibilities.  Take a look at the schedules for the Downeaster and Concord Coach to get some idea.  And by the way, the latter runs up coast from Brunswick on a regular basis, without any investment in rails or ties or other related infrastructure.  Turns out buses, especially those with rubber tires, can run on the ‘roads’ that the rest of us, in cars and trucks, travel on.

Related to this subtle distinction, one of the letter writers we referred to above seems to believe the only efficient way to get from points south (Portland, etc) to Boothbay Harbor is via rail expansion.  He’s convinced that a major investment in rail service to the area is the only way to avoid the summer traffic jam at Red’s Eats junction.  To which we say “get a map, pilgrim.”  Or grow up; take your choice.

Back to the bus thing.  We’ve read that Amtrak lovers claim the seats on the Downeaster just can’t be compared to those on a bus.  Is that all they’ve got for lobbying to spend tens of millions of public money for specialized, single purpose extensions to rail routes?

               

We found this photo by searching for Downeaster interior photos.  Excuse us, but these accommodations look no more accommodating or luxurious than modern-day bus seating.  Of course, if you go to the marketing-heavy NNEPRA/Amtrak web sites, you’ll find photos that look like this:

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In other words, these are no more standard passenger rail accommodations than first class seating is for air travel.  This is the Downeaster standard, which looks no different or better to us than modern day bus (motor coach) provisions:

image

For those, however, who believe passenger rail accommodations just can’t be matched by rubber tired motor coaches, we reach out to you with an ‘au contraire, mon chiot amier amis.’

Modern day buses/coaches offer a full range of possibilities, perhaps wider than anything seen in passenger rail service.  Just take a look at these options:

     Image result for prevost bus interior

   

Or for the more privileged, this:

Suffice it to say that blather about how buses just can’t approach the comfort of rail transit is so  much poppycock.  If you’re willing to pay the price, someone will likely provide the ride you’d really like.

Which brings up the real problem in this discussion.  The puppy love gang isn’t willing to pay the price of their ride; they want everyone else to pay for it.

Let us leave you with a few other relevant images we collected:

 

In closing out this post, given all the editorial energy we’ve invested in it, we suddenly had an inspiration.  Maybe it’s time for locals to form the Brunswick Reality Association (BRA) to offset the malarkey that issues forth from the BDA, AAB, SMCC, and like organizations.

The BRA, as we see it, should have as a priority assuring that false fronts are no longer the norm in our local discourse.   It will, we’re sure,  be hard to find someone who can fill this role, as titular head of the new organization.

Still, we’re convinced we need pointed analysis of the facts associated with crucial issues that come before us.  Droopy, sagging arguments from yesteryear just don’t pass the test.  Falsifying the story, which has become the norm, is so yesterday.

We’ve got enough boobs in Brunswick.  It’s time to get real.