Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Colossus of Spring & McKeen

The Colossus of Rhodes, you likely recall, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  It towered over the Greek island of Rhodes, and was 107 feet tall.


One imagines it was constructed in the name of community pride, and to demonstrate to all who beheld it the wealth and glory of the governing body of the day.  It is now long gone.

As fate would have it, centuries later, here in Brunswick, a modern-day Colossus is rising up at the corner of Spring and McKeen (would that they were ‘roads,’ but they are simply ‘streets.’)  And it towers over us and its surroundings, in the name of community pride. It provides tangible testimony to the wealth, self-indulgence, and wondrous benevolence of our local and state governing bodies.

When you behold the rising Colossus, you’ll be unable to deny the glories of this awesome edifice “to the children.”  Destined to become one of the Seven Wonders of Modern Brunswick, the Stowe School is a consummate exemplar of modern, publicly sponsored architecture.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

“Piloting” the train idea, and jump starting the transit run

There is much joy in Brunswick these days as $35 million in taxpayer money has been made available to upgrade the train tracks between Portland and Maine Street Station.  Work has already begun.

If I understand things correctly, the plan is to have an Amtrak train run between Portland and Brunswick twice a day, with a stop in Freeport.

Before that can happen, the $35 million will be sunk in the upgrade effort.  Then trains will have to be found and put in condition to be dedicated to the run, and crews will have to be hired to operate and maintain them.  The tracks will have to be maintained, inspected regularly, and plowed when necessary.  And presumably the crossing gates and lights will have to be maintained and inspected on a much more rigorous schedule then they are now.

This is all with no real way of knowing how much ridership the train will generate.

It’s a foregone conclusion the train will not be self supporting for its recurring operation, let alone recoup the non-recurring investment.  I’m not sure there’s an Amtrak run anywhere that can support itself.

I don’t know what kind of exposure the state has in this effort; there must be some, because bond issues have addressed rail transport, haven’t they?  And our local Senator, Stan Gerzofsky, has promoted “investment,” I hear.

While it’s a bit late for such an experiment, wouldn’t it have made sense to “pilot” the idea of twice daily “public mass transit” runs between Portland and Brunswick?  Wouldn’t this be a way to judge public demand and support for such services?

If this is such a good idea, a bus departing the Portland train station headed for Brunswick, with a stop in Freeport, and then returning, with two round trips per day, would provide a relatively low cost and immediate way to judge demand for this transit alternative.

No up front investment to speak of would be required; buses and drivers could be easily acquired; the transit times should be in the same ballpark as the train; and the fares could be far lower than the train will charge.  Or at the worst, for sake of realism, the same.

This could be up and running in a matter of weeks, providing a viable option for the fall tourist season and the holiday shopping period.  If this bus option couldn’t generate enough interest to make a go of it, what makes us think a train, likely at far greater expense and higher fares, will ‘fare’ better?

For that matter, why hasn’t some private concern established this exact route to up their profits?  I suppose the question answers itself.

The “romance of the rails” is one thing, but to think that alone will generate and sustain a critical mass of ridership for a 25 mile commuter run is a real stretch of the imagination.  Have you watched one of the Maine Eastern summer trains pass through town and counted heads in the windows?

But then that’s why we have government here to help us, I suppose.  And taxpayers in servitude to finance the help.

PS: while it might seem too late to try, it could still provide early benefits to Brunswick and Freeport economies if the demand is really there.  And if it isn’t, the losses could be cut before and if the train were to become an expensive failure and embarrassment.

Helping Scott Thomas qualify to run against Stan Gerzofsky in Senate District 10

Maine Senate District 10 includes Harpswell, Freeport, Brunswick, and Pownal. The office is currently held by Stan Gerzofsky of Brunswick, and he is up for re-election.

A few weeks back, the prior Republican candidate for the slot had to drop out of the race. A fine candidate, Scott Thomas of Freeport, stepped forward to replace him.

Scott is a motivated and competent business owner in Freeport, and he clearly understands the challenges faced by business owners in Maine. He is determined to turn things around.

He has a short window to collect the necessary qualifying checks for Clean Election funding. This is a call to registered voters in the district to contribute to the effort with $5 checks. If you would like to do so, please contact me at pemster4062@yahoo.com, and I will make arrangements to pick up your check and get you to sign the necessary form.

Alternately, you can contribute on line at MCEF donations.

If you choose the latter approach, please emial me to let me know you did so.

Once again, the candidate is Scott Thomas of Freeport, and the office is Senate District 10.


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“I am not worthy……”

Borrowing a sentiment from the classic movie “Wayne’s World,” Side comes to you in a prostate position, humility and shame in full public display.

It has been too, too long for loyal readers, if there are any left, to go without the uplifting, amusing, and otherwise bizarre ramblings they have come to expect here, and this correspondent is appropriately ashamed for denying you your fix.

If we had thought about it, and applied any common sense, we might have decided to effectively shut the operation down for the summer, but we didn’t.  Failing that, we could have at least lowered expectations.  (Not that they could be much lower.)

So here we are.  The massive interior project we undertook is complete as of two weeks ago, other than the finishing touch of some border paper around the en suite bath.  And it took the starch out of this old codger, undertaken, as it was, in a series of the most sultry weeks this area has ever known.

Fresh on the heels of that milestone, female fruit of Side’s loins arrived with her two offspring, hoping to bask in the sunlight of our irreverence and hospitality for the month of August.

The end result is that we have talked much and produced little in the way of offerings to lift you from the doldrums.  And for that we apologize.  On the other hand, maybe you needed a break too.

In the midst of the recent power outage, we began this attempt at rebuilding your trust in us, and in getting back into the ‘groove’ of regular commentary.  Given that fruit is still on the premises, and summer is still in progress, we caution you that the publishing pace will ramp back up gradually, rather than instantly returning to the feverish pace you have become accustomed to, and for which we have garnered worldwide acclaim.

I have missed you dear readers, as I’m sure you have missed me.  I hope our bond is strong enough to survive a few mere weeks of our inattention.

And I look forward to a full return to our close and profound mutual support.  And the ‘dialogue’ these efforts inspire.


P. C. Poppycock

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