Saturday, September 4, 2010

Trains, part deux

You’ve probably noticed that our return to active posting has been a slow process, to say the least.

Which is why we’re grateful for an “offer we can’t refuse” to step up our pace, even if it takes away from snooze time in the well-worn Lazy-boy.

Notwithstanding cousin Earl sweeping through the area last night, with much needed moisture for our lawns and gardens, our local publications offered the ‘perfect storm,’ as it were, in their latest editions.

I refer to the Ostrich, and Maine Insights. Both items to be discussed exemplify the phenomena we discussed just a few days ago in this post.  In a word, completely missing the point, because seeing the point would make their argument irrelevant.

Yesterday, the former printed a lead commentary entitled ‘In praise of ‘rat holes’’ by erstwhile town councilor Jackie Sartoris.  (And here I thought we were supposed to call her Jacquie)

Ostensibly a response to Fred Blanchard’s analysis of the economic viability of Amtrak service to Brunswick, her offering quickly revealed itself as an archetypical feelings and emotion based tirade that the author became known for in her years as one of our elected ‘leaders.’  She mentioned his ‘calculations,’ and then scrupulously avoided addressing them in everything that followed.

Instead, she offered a near hysterical rant about the planet and children and everything but the facts attendant to the subject.  It was reminiscent of her high dudgeon over the “Fireman’s Prayer” monument at the Cooks Corner Substation.  Those of you who follow such things will remember that she publicly bemoaned the challenge of explaining such injustice to her daughter.

It’s probably a waste of time to comment further about her column.  Let’s just say that you have no idea how much we miss her presence on the town council.

Things came together, in that odd way they often do, as we read the article in Maine Insights while we gobbled our sandwich at the Big Top yesterday.  This publication is an offering from Ramona du Houx, the mother of our local member of the Maine Legislature, Alex Cornell du Houx.  It was formerly known as The Maine Democrat, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In an article entitled All Aboard on page 6, Ms du Houx dabbled in analysis of the facts and economics associated with the extension of Amtrak to Brunswick.  The fact that Maine Insights is a clearly partisan, slobbering tribute to all things associated with the Democrat Party in Maine aside, even her fawning discussion of the issue is reason for concern.

Let me explain.  The article contains this passage:

So far the Downeaster is having our best year ever, with more than 474,000 riders and $6.7 million in revenues, to date.

My calculator says that means an average revenue of $14 per rider for folks traveling between Portland and Boston.  Wow; at that rate, recouping $50 million or so in front end costs, coupled with millions a year in recurring costs, should take….oops…the batteries just ran out in my calculator.

But don’t worry, things get better.  As demonstrated in this additional passage:

Patricia Quinn, executive director of NEPRA, says the expansion will boost ridership by another 36,000 passengers each year.

“This is just the beginning,” said Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx. “Brunswick’s economy is already seeing new opportunities from this project.”

Hmmm….36,000 new passengers, at $14 a rider or less…well, you might just be looking at roughly $500,000 per year in new revenue.  In other words, if the optimistic projections come true, another half million dollars a year.

No wonder our former town councilor decided to avoid the facts and wax eloquent on environmental theology.

We’re open to cogent arguments on the economic value of extending Amtrak service to Brunswick.  And as soon as we see them, we’ll post them here on Other Side.

Until we do, we’ll hold to the position that this whole concept is founded more in fantasy than in reality.  And in political posturing.  LIke the grandiose pension and health care benefits promised by state and federal government.

Which means it seems like a big load of du Houx to us.

1 comment:

  1. Wow!!! I almost missed this one and have to thank Mr. Poppycock for calling it to my attention. Its amazing what you can get out of a liberal cat when you step on her tail.

    I've personnaly responded to the other two critics but the Sartoris piece reeks of so much garbage that it dosen't deserve a response.

    There is another interesting calculation that exposes the idiocy of the reailroad. If you take the capital and labor cost of $7.2 million per year to provide the train and paid for round trip bus tickets to those who could not afford them, you could provide 360,000 free tickets per year, or enough to transport nearly 1000 people per day from Brunswick to Portland and back.