Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Say, there Bandstanders, we have one more question for those cool kids over at AAB to answer….

You may have already forgotten yesterday’s post in which we published this graphic:

Brunswick ridership chart

We used it to make a point in these passages:

Betke’s piece caused us to review some things.  First, the most recent number publicized for the Brunswick MLF is $13.8 million, though we understand from the NNEPRA web site that the contract price has not been finalized.  Second, NNEPRA’s 2015 TIGER Grant Cycle Application, submitted earlier this year, says the estimated cost of the Royal Junction Siding needed to “optimize” the Portland North Service is $8.5 million.  You can find the info here: TIGER 7 Grant Application - Royal Junction Siding Project | Amtrak Downeaster

Those two numbers add up to $22.3 Million, a rather princely sum, even in these days of printing money when it suits our needs.  We’re confident the REAL costs will be substantially higher, but this is big enough to make our point.  That point being $22.3 million to do WHAT???

You can see our takeaway; even before the numerous problems with track repair this year, an average of 34 riders per day travel between Brunswick and ALL points to the south.  And for Freeport, an average of 10 (rounded) per day travel between that shopping mecca and ALL points to the south.  And no one can prove that these are new travelers, instead of travelers diverted from using other alternatives (auto, bus).

When we think of spending $22.3 million to support this ridership, we can only ask what it is NNEPRA, AAB, and the others who support this idea are thinking?

We extended an offer to the ‘kids’ to submit an explanation for publishing here, or to The Ostrich.  We’re pretty sure they can figure out how to reach either of us.

As we notoriously do, we had afterthoughts about this issue, and they derive from the ridership graphic above, combined with these items, taken today from the NNEPRA web site:

DE Northbound Schedule

DE Southbound Schedule

The salient points to notice from these schedules are that 1)  Saco/Biddeford is serviced by 5 round trips per day (5 trains southbound, 5 trains northbound);  2)  Saco/Biddeford is about an hour and fifteen minutes closer to NH and MA points, including Boston, than Brunswick is; and 3)  Brunswick is serviced by 2 trains southbound and 2 trains northbound per day.

Now cast your eyes upward to those ridership figure tables.  In the June 2014 summary, you’ll note that Saco had 2,626 riders, compared to Brunswick with 2,021.  This is about 600 more for the month, or an average of 20 more per day.  But spread over five Downeaster round trips instead of two round trips.  This works out to an average of 10 more round trip riders per day, spread over those five round trips.

Keep in mind that Saco/Biddeford are in a far more densely populated region of the state than is Brunswick, and is, as we noted, an hour and fifteen minutes closer to destinations to the south, making it a far more reasonable trip from a convenience perspective.  Yet they average 44 round trippers per day, compared to 34 for Brunswick.  Spread over five round trips, that means they average nine round trip riders per train loop.

45 Round trippers per day with five choices on each train, compared to 34 round trippers per day with two choices on each train.  From stations that are one hour and fifteen minutes apart. Brunswick north of Portland, in the thinning out population area; Saco/Biddeford south of Portland, in the more concentrated population area.

So here’s the new question we pose to our friends at AAB, hoping they will respond with a credible explanation.  The ED of NNEPRA stated at a recent “Rally for Rail” in Auburn that her goal is to have 6 round trips a day between Portland and Brunswick, and 5 round trips a day between Boston and Brunswick.

We asked yesterday why anyone would want to spend $23 million plus to increase service to Brunswick and Freeport. 

Now we add to that the documented experience in Saco/Biddeford with far more amenable scheduled service, and a far shorter ride to points south, and ask how anyone can look at the data on the record and credibly assert that doubling or even tripling the service to Brunswick (and Freeport) will drive a massive increase in Downeaster patronage?


Frank Lee, we just don’t get it.  But perhaps the keener minds at AAB will help us sort through things.  And buy the house a couple of rounds of Kool-Aid shooters.

We’re waiting for your answer, friends, and holding column space in reserve for your answer.


Other Side

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