Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How blessed we are to have the Downeaster…

An Amtrak Downeaster passenger train arrives at Brunswick's Maine Street Station in this November 2012 file photo.

Dunderheads that we are, we need to be reminded from time to time how passenger rail is a far safer, reliable, dependable, cost-effective, flexible, sustainable, environmentally sensitive, economic alternative to ‘old world’ transportation modalities like buses, automobiles, aviation, etc.

Which makes us ever so grateful for this reminder published today in the BDN.  It looks for all the world like trains have their own equivalent of ‘potholes.’

Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the Federal Railroad Administration has placed “slow orders” on around 27 miles of Pan Am Railways track — running from the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border to Maine — in about 25 different spots.

“The fact that some are in areas of track where the train [normally] goes 70 mph, it’s really impacting the time,” Quinn said. “It’s hard to tell how long [repairs] are going to take.”

We note that she didn’t mention the ‘alternative routes’ train passengers should take.  Oh wait….because there aren’t any.

However, Quinn elevated TrainRiders/Northeast, a rag-tag collection of passenger train groupies, to professional status:

For the rail service that so far has reported nearly 25,000 more riders for the first quarter of 2014 than the same period last year, according to the industry group TrainRiders/Northeast, Quinn said she expects the round-trip cancellation will drop its daily ridership by 300 to 400 people.

If they are an ‘industry group,’ then so are we, albeit for different industries.  What a crock.  And if we were her, we’d look to an unaccountable, ‘non-profit advocacy group’ to accurately report ridership, especially if it substantiates NNEPRA’s otherwise unprovable claims.

Reducing ridership by, say, 350 per day, means about 125,000 fewer riders per year.  Depending on whose figures you believe, this means a reduction of 25-30% in ridership.  If people were simply interested in going from point A to point B, wouldn’t they simply catch another train?  What do they do when their preferred train doesn’t run?

No problem, we assume, fiscally.  Fixed expenses will continue apace, and the feds and others will simply supply the necessary subsidies to keep operations running at the 50% deficit rate.

And remember…this is only an aberration caused by a bad winter.  We should never see that happen again.

Passenger trains will quickly resume their position as the preferred mode of transportation, regardless of what else goes on in the real world.

And Brunswick’s local economy will continue to experience ‘amazing things.’


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