Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Downeaster Economic Stimulus: a data point


As you’re probably aware, we have an Enterprise Rent-a-car operation here in Brunswick, on outer Pleasant Street.  They have a ‘car rental desk’ at the Maine Street Station Visitors Center.  As shown in the graphic above, one of their discriminators is that they will pick you up, instead of making you find a way to their location to pick up a car.  This would seem a perfect approach for Brunswick, especially compared to more traditional airport locations where a bustling bevy of shuttles operate to take you to the various agencies on site.

A few weeks ago, on a whim, we decided to stop in at the office on Pleasant Street.  I asked a friendly soul, who looked to be in charge, a simple question.  “In an average week, how many cars would you say you rent to folks arriving at Maine Street Station?”

His first reaction was a look that said ‘are you sure you really want to know,’ followed by a pause as he searched for the right words, and finally he said “not many.”

I looked at him and asked “you mean 2 or 3?”

He paused again, and thoughtfully answered “maybe.”

We’re constantly being told how successful the Downeaster is; how ridership is exceeding expectations and continues to “grow;” and how much of an economic boon the service is to our community.  Not only that, but that people are clamoring for more trains in and out of Brunswick.

In a recent article, NNEPRA cited 33,000 passengers arriving/departing at Brunswick in the most recent fiscal year.

We’ll leave it to you to figure out what all those ‘passengers’ are doing when they get to Brunswick.  If we assume half of the 33,000 live in this area and are going elsewhere to enjoy themselves, we come up with 317 non-resident arriving passengers per week, on average.

If “maybe” only 2 or 3 rent a car, the other 315 or so are doing what?  And getting there how?  And spending what when they get there?

Oh well.  Pondering such questions is becoming increasingly non-productive.  We should remember to re-read the glowing endorsement letters from the BDA and Freeport civic organizations.  Looking for objective, hard data can be so counter-cultural.  Not to mention politically incorrect.

We’re beginning to believe there are more Ostriches in Cape Brunswick than we’ve been saying for the last five years or so.  It appears they all gather at an in-town beach location where there’s plenty of sand for digging in.

Which really says a lot, doesn’t it?


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