Friday, June 9, 2017

Downeaster Economic Benefits …. and other fantasies in choo-choo land…


Do you know what hyperbole is?  No….it’s not this conic section:


Hyperbole is wild exaggeration, generally speaking, and is common among those who love choo-choos and all things train-related.  It’s use is common among Transit Oriented Consultants hired to sell the idea of massive capital investments with other people’s money to benefit a select few at the expense of the many.  You might even say the Downeaster evolution provides plenty of examples of this common “figure of speech.”  Government related activities are especially fond of its use, as those involved work themselves into a dither to convince us they are doing wondrous things for us.


In the last decade or so, such efforts have caused great happiness for some, though they have a penchant for embarrassing themselves in public.  Witness this recent promotional video issuing from the offices of the Amtrak bureaucracy:


You can find it here:

Those who have any knowledge of Downeaster realities will pick up on a number of erroneous statements in the video, but hey, when you’re the Government, you’re not held to any standards.  You might even pick up on an inference from Patricia Quinn that the Downeaster creates economic suction that draws dollars from locales north of Boston and deposits them in that metropolitan area.

        Field of Dreams

There are all kinds of hyperbole, as you well know, including “build it and they will come.”  Another version might be “build it, and the sun will come up in the morning.”  Or, if you’re an incorrigible cynic who equates correlation with causation, “build it and overdose deaths will increase to frightening levels.”  

You may recall that Side did a rather detailed analysis of the Downeaster’s economic benefits to the Brunswick area, which you can review here:  The premise for the development were the wildly exaggerated economic growth figures supplied by agenda driven consultants that have never been held to account for their incredibly faulty predictions, using their “widely accepted models.”


We also fervently suggested to the Brunswick town council that it would be useful to do a survey of economic benefits experienced by town merchants as a result of the Downeaster, but they steadfastly declined to even discuss the subject.  Hmmm; what’s wrong with that picture?

Well, as Chance would have it, we recently came across a related item on the NNEPRA web site that reads thus:

“Identify and Promote Economic and Public Benefits associated with the Downeaster.”

It appears in their “FY 2017 Draft Action Plan”, which you can read on page 2 of the packet you’ll find here:

Given that 11 months of the fiscal year have gone by, you’d think some results would have been achieved for the goal, especially since the economic and public benefits are so plentiful and so obvious.

Thinking back on our own attempts to get somewhere on this subject, we decided to inquire of NNEPRA what they had in the way of results toward accomplishing this goal.  So we sent off a formal request that read:

“Please forward any and all materials produced in response to this action plan item.”


We got our answer this week:

Dear Mr. Schaeffer:

This is in response to your electronic request to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority dated­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ May 31, 2017 requesting documents pursuant to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, 1 M.R.S.A. § 400 et seq.

Any and all materials produced in response to the FY17 Draft Action Plan item to “Identify and Promote Economic and Public Benefits associated with the Downeaster”.

“There are no documents responsive to this request.”

How’s that for an outcome?  The very organization that operates the Downeaster, pursuing the goal for 11 months, could not come up with any constructive benefits to share with us.


Looking on the bright side, at least they didn’t send us one of their promotional posters.

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