Saturday, January 18, 2014

Finally figured out how to access this blogger again.  Turns out I started a new Google Account and lost track of my original Maine Rail Transit blog page.  Whatever, we are back and it looks like we have sustained a lot of interest in the restoration of passenger rail in this region.  I was just reviewing the last posting a discussion with a rail supporter, but serious skeptic. 

The fact is.....  and that is how we intend to proceed with this demonstration.  The Maine Rail Transit Coalition, with members from around the state and across the professional and political spectrum have been researching the facts around transportation, climate change, congestion and the real costs to consumers and taxpayers of the current transportation policy and investments by state DOT's and Federal.  We have some good facts and experts in many fields ready to research additional information.

Our analysis indicates that a passenger rail service is the basis for a new paradigm of investment and transport.  Rather than traditional transportation based on pavement and other asphalt solutions, whether it is auto, bike or ped, the MRTC recommends a multi-model system of mobility providing accessibility to places for all users, no matter age, health, abilities, or economic status. 

Our current work, funded by the National Association of Realtors Smart Growth action project, and the Sierra Club is way advanced in providing the resources for a demonstration project of passenger rail service between Portland Maine and Bethel in Oxford County Maine.  True, the Portland area MPO is ignoring us, and the Portland City government says it can't be done.  But elsewhere in the state, and in the streets and meeting places around Portland and everywhere there is a growing chorus of support to try this.

Not only do we believe climate change is real and threatening, but we believe that the auto-dependent system of transport model used by the government planners, and heavily supported by the advertising and oil industry, is in fact the primary cause of our economic malaise. 

It is Train Time.  Like the Maine Rail Transit Coalition on Facebook    .  Send us your questions and ideas   Join us in our presentations and forums around the state by checking our calendar at    And talk to your local, state and federal officials, both elected and entrenched (I mean staff). 

We can do this.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Way Life Should be

Commuter trains v. Buses. We can do both, right?

{Contact Names deleted to protect the innocent} From: On Behalf Of Karl Sent: Sunday, September 23, 2012 4:48 AM Subject: A commuter train to Concord? No thanks. The Conservative Opposition in NH never wavers! Published on Concord Monitor ( Home > A commuter train to Concord? No thanks. ________________________________________ Newspaper article: MONITOR BOARD OF CONTRIBUTORS A commuter train to Concord? No thanks. Too few riders, too much money By Grant Bosse / For the Monitor September 23, 2012 When it comes to transportation policy, you're either a train person, or you're not. I'm not. __________________________________________________ -----Original Message----- From: Carl Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 2:29 PM Subject: RE: A commuter train to Concord? No thanks. Let’s not forget that we already have a bust service that is more frequent and cheaper than any commuter rail service would be. Carl, Sugar Hill, NH ________________________________________ From: Tony @ Home Office [] Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 3:34 PM To: Carl D. Subject: RE: A commuter train to Concord? No thanks. Hello Carl Based on national experience, and in regard to some of the analysis we are conducting on restoration of existing railway corridors in Maine and NH, meeting modern transportation requirements, we are finding that bus service is significantly more costly than passenger rail transit. Just in terms of the damage a bus does to roadways -thousands of times more than cars - but also in regards to what type of economic impact a bus system has (zero $ ROI), compared to that of the public and private wealth that is being generated at passenger rail terminal, in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We of course also cannot discount the costs of environmental degradation from both fumes and the impacts of asphalt systems on the environment. But the real impact is that of our continuing dependence on oil-based transport, both in the vehicles themselves, the rubber-based tires and the internal combustion engine, but also the costs of roads that are literally breaking the budgets of households and at every level of governments. Building and rebuilding asphalt roadways every 7 to 10 years is far more expensive than building, and maintaining steel bed roadways that in many cases have withstood traffic and the elements for well over a hundred years. You may have been correct in referring to the service as a BUST. Because the use of buses on taxpayer subsidized roadways is clearly neither cheaper, nor does it have to be more frequent than that of a restored passenger railway service. It is train time. The numbers support it. Please consider that over the past 75 years we have designed a culture that does not make it easy to consider alternatives from that of asphalt. But there must be, and there is a better way. Tony Donovan Maine Rail Transit Coalition Portland Maine Mailto: or "Build Trains not Lanes" ____________________________________ -----Original Message----- From: Carl Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 4:20 PM To: 'Tony @ Home Office' Subject: RE: A commuter train to Concord? No thanks. Dear Mr. Donovan, There has long been a debate concerning the relative merits of bus vs rail for intercity transport and for urban transit. Your note compares bus service to rail transit, whereas my note referred to intercity service between Concord and Boston. I’m sure that you are aware of the importance of traffic density for comparisons of various transport options; in major metropolitan areas, rail transit certainly has a role – as do bus services. For intercity service, buses travel at low marginal cost over highways used by tens of thousands of cars and trucks daily, whereas rail services travel over capital-intensive rights-of-way. I have worked with railroads for many years, and I understand very well the costs of operation and maintenance. If the traffic volume is there, fine; but if the traffic volume is low, then intercity bus over existing highways is much better – and much more flexible. I think that your statements about the economic impact of rail terminals and bus terminals are misleading. An expensive rail terminal that attracts little traffic will have little economic impact, and the same would of course be true for a minor bus terminal that is underutilized. But remember that the investment for bus is just a few percent of the investment required for rail, so the rail advocates must quantify very much larger benefits to justify the added expense. You note that a bus does the damage of “thousands of cars”, which is overstating the case (“many cars” but not “thousands” and a bus does less damage than the much more frequent heavy trucks). A bus can replace a couple of dozen cars on the highway, thereby reducing congestion, which is a greater concern than pavement costs on busy highway networks.) I am certainly not against increasing rail services. However, I believe that we will be better off with a well-integrated system that involves rail, fixed route intercity bus, local transit, and demand-responsive transit (and cabs and private automobiles as well). I believe that we would be better off promoting improved transport systems, with better use of energy, rather than focusing solely on rail. Thanks for your response, Carl Senior Research Associate & Lecturer (Retired) Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering M.I.T. _________________________________________ From: Tony @ Home Office [] Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 4:31 PM To: Carl Subject: RE: A commuter train to Concord? No thanks. Carl: Thank you. I did not intend to mean that we should focus solely on rail. My response was in reaction to your comment that appeared to focus solely on buses. In fact we are designing a model of integrated transportation services that uses all modes, but as in many federal studies, supported by highly paid consultants, that conclude rail cannot be a viable mode due to the capital costs, too often rail is dismissed first in favor of buses. Buses are damaging roads equal to the impact of thousands of cars and in many cases exceeding that of trucks ( I will source that for you, but am busy right now). Roads are "capital-intensive rights-of-way" more than that of railways over the long-term. (I will source this also) We are in agreement that alternative transportation system planning needs to include all modes. No longer can we dismiss rail due to perceptions that it is more expensive. and we must consider the proven facts that passenger railway terminal sites are attracting tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment. Something buses are not doing, and have never had the reputation for doing. Thanks for your note. Please feel free to follow our work at . Our coalition is growing and we do believe that it is truly train time. Thanks. Tony D _____________________________________________________ -----Original Message----- From: Randy Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 5:09 PM To: 'Tony @ Home Office'; Subject: RE: A commuter train to Concord? No thanks. Carl, Tony, Christopher Good commentary on rail vs bus. I offer one more quick comment from the peanut gallery. Why don’t buses go directly to Manchester Regional Airport? From Concord, one can get to Logan by bus with less hassle than to Manchester. If service was direct, I would use the bus to the airport more frequently. I assume others feel as I do. I also ask for comment if the economics of Trains to Manchester-Concord work, vs bus service for now, except as a stop on thru tracks to Montreal. Randy Bryan _____________________________________________________________ From: Tony @ Home Office Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 7:11 PM Subject: RE: A commuter train to Concord? No thanks. Hi: In Maine our organization recently was awarded funding from the National Association of Realtors for a grant application that is designed to evaluate the feasibility of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic railway corridor for passenger service as it was identified in the 2011 FTA Small Starts Portland North Alternative Modes project study.. our study is corridor based, multi-modal land-use planning designed to incorporate a system of all modes of transportation to meet mobility and accessibility needs at the community level, for the purpose of funding transit with local support - a key requirement for Federal funding. We believe that our model will enhance economic development, attract private investment and establish a model that is applicable to other corridors throughout the country - applicable to what we are referring to as low-density populated areas like maine (and new Hampshire). We are hard at work, with little funding, but a lot of committed professionals. With luck, and good work, we could answer your question re., Manchester Airport. let's continue the conversation. By the way, the Portsmouth Branch that intersects the Downeaster Amtrak mainline service at Rockingham Junction 9 miles west of Portsmouth, continues west for another 20 miles to the Manchester Airport. The route is blocked by a slight Interstate somewhere in Manchester, but it is a protected railway corridor currently used for recreational purposes. Just a thought........... Maybe I'll blog a bit about this. Have not in a while TD Maine Rail Transit Coalition Portland Maine Mailto: or "Build Trains not Lanes"

Friday, June 1, 2012

An Asphault-Based System

On Thu, May 31, 2012 at 7:33 AM, Tony @ Home Office wrote: The message is to get off of the asphalt-based transportation system. Buses and e-cars just perpetuate this problem. It is not the fuel it is the asphalt. We need a alternative to roads. Supporting rail is the first step. problem the SC has is that national thinks E-cars are the answer. Nope. It does not address the asphalt lobby. The message is rail. If you (we) don't like tar sands - if we don't like oil - we must convince the majority that fixing roads and bridges is just one more piece of propaganda spread by the asphalt lobby to keep us addicted to oil-based transport. and in turn keeps the likes of Vique and company in the money. Count the number of asphalt plants in Maine alone. I think it may be the biggest product we produce - using maine minerals and Saudi, now South Dakota oil. Made in Maine - a paved earth. Train Time. Maine Rail Transit Coalition Portland Maine Mailto: or "Build Trains not Lanes"

Sunday, April 29, 2012


From: Gary Higginbottom [] Sent: Friday, April 27, 2012 6:01 AM Subject: Mtn Division RailWay Corridor Have you see this yet concerning the Mountain Division line? Would you take a train or ride a bicycle to the Fryeburg Fair? We want to know!Click here to take the Survey. Thanks, I took the survey. Reasonably encouraging that GPCOG is even using the 4-letter r-word. Is it just tokenism? A Realistic Plan for the Mountain Division line -- 1) Short-trip transiters (on appropriate-size rail passenger equipment) between Portland, Westbrook, Gorham, South Windham, Standish -- offload River Rd. and 302. 2) Recreation and tourist riders from Portland/Westbrook to Fryeburg and North Conway -- including cruise ship tourists. Including putting one's bike on the train and going to Standish-Fryeburg-NConway for biking and overnighting. 3) Pellets and sand and gravel (and other items/commodities?) from the Fryeburg-Baldwin-Standish area to Portland Mtn. Division is an incredibly straight bee-line from S. Windham, thru Westbrook to downtown Portland, and right to the doorsteps of Mercy Hospital, Maine Medical Center and Barber foods- three of Portland's biggest employers - and in the future, to the Thompson's Point office/entertainment complex. Once people take that rail run on a quick DMU, it will change their whole geographic perception of Portland-Windham. But the bigger rail action is to L/A and beyond -- ultimately using rail equipment that is more appropriately sized than the big, infrequent Downeaster. Break the big cultural wall between Anglo-myopic Maine and the very large population/economy of Montreal-Sherbrook. (Peter Vigue understands it.) --Gary H.

Monday, April 23, 2012


WHY ME? Yes I do sympathize, if I do not actually agree with Governor LePage, in his quest to root out waste in government. We really must take a hard look at how we are spending government dollars, and who is making the decisions about how that money is spent. Are we rooted in policies that are protecting the special interests of institutions who should be working for progress rather than feeding off the troth of government taxes? Governor LePage is systematically rooting out unnecessary government agency spending that unfortunately cuts spending on some of our most needy. Which begs the question, have we considered all government agencies? Are there more interests out there that are wasting our money? Consider two recent examples of government spending that are not only not thought out, but both are spending programs from the great society thinking of the “Great Recession”, pre-2008, when resources could be wasted on special interests. The East-West Highway Corridor study and the plan to build a 315-car Interstate 295 Park and Ride in Yarmouth are examples of spending decisions made years (decades) ago by the State of Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT). The supposed to be “privately” funded 2000’ wide east-west corridor across Maine did not make sense when asphalt was relatively inexpensive, and a billion-dollar road for trucks certainly does not make sense with the price of oil in this day and age. The DOT is spending $300,000 on the whim of a few road contractors, when reports show an immediate need for $700 million for existing transportation infrastructure. The Yarmouth Interchange redevelopment is another example of MDOT engineers allowed to run amok designing some hair-brained “multi-model funded” program that will cost over $9 million dollars. This on a problem that could be resolved with just a sign and improved sightline. “But’, they say, ‘this will reduce congestion at the next Yarmouth Exit 17”. So we are spending nine million dollars to improve a section of highway1 ½ miles to the north. If you think this sound wasteful, try driving Route 1 in Yarmouth at the most congested part of any day. You might experience a ½ minute delay. I raise these issues because there is a better way. In fact the MDOT just completed a $1.3 million dollar study evaluating alternatives for a better way. The Joint MDOT/FTA-financed Portland North Alternative Modes Project New Starts study completed in August of 2011 considered 30 alternatives to highway widening. Problem is, MDOT rejected all options for a highway-based bus system that does not meet FTA criteria for funding. Did I mention there was seventy-five million dollars in federal funding available to Maine for any one of the alternatives, except for the one selected by MDOT? That would be $75,000,000 (six zeros). The Governor might take his tight-fisted budget axe across the street to the MDOT headquarters for some real savings, or at least a more sensible use of scarce transportation funds. Our coalition of transportation interests has taken a close look at MDOT spending over the past decade, and evaluated opportunities to save money and/or get a real economic return on our government dollars. Running out of room for this story, if you would like to hear more specifics, go to our site at www.MaineRailTransit.Org and join the conversation.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gentlemen, we are out of money. Now we have to think" [W. Churchill]

I am having trouble deciding whether I would be more successful in the state-house or as a private citizen. Would voters support this agenda, this platform? {note -Read my 2008 City Council 3 publication. Compare it to this rant....} The Auto industry is finding that young people are not interested in cars, much less as a car representing their social mobility. ( This a survey found that when asked, young people ages 23- 33 responded that they prefer the Internet over owning a car. The automakers-- America's industry is responding to this by marketing on MTV, targeted ads and getting headlines in the media. "The experts say you need a car." This is the same mistake by US industry that Consumers/taxpayers were victims of 60 years ago when the auto-makers told us that experts are saying; we need to build highways across and into every urban center in the nation. The economic morass of the way we live now is forcing us to think. The answer is not a another generation saddled with annual auto-mobile ownership costs. The answer is a new model. Progressive ideas are needed to create new products that will meet consumer wants --- and build them here. The answer is mobility by means other than autos. The answer involves questioning whether the asphalt-based transportation system we have developed over the past 2 generations 60 + years is still working. It is not. Auto-Dependance, infatuation, and recreational worship of the automobile in this culture is going to change whether you accept this or not. It is even harder to accept if that is where all the money is. Just like the young in the middle-east, young people in this country are beginning to complain. Rather than have troops shoot them in the streets, or police brutalize them in the cities, the solution is to give them what they want. Security, mobility, freedom and safety. Transportation has the power to give this, to fund this. Transportation historically creates wealth by attracting investments at terminal sites. Jobs that these young technology - advanced future leaders want. We want livable cites and clean air and water for generations to come. We do not want or need parking garages. They would rather have a disposable car (zip, and make certain it is powered by renewable). They have innovation, and new applications they want to share - like how to connect multiple destinations. They shop and spend locally. Rail Transit can offer this. This is about our having a choice of mobility. Rather than bailout the auto-industry again when it becomes reality that no one wants or can afford their product. As hard as that is to fathom, it is very much a reality. This next generation should be able to buy one good auto that can last them the rest of their lives. Mobility reduces the number of miles on your own personal vehicle and we all know that the value of a car, its ability to last w/out major repairs, is based on its mileage. Giving consumers alternatives to paying the costs of mileage, will save household budgets. The goal is policy developed by the community rather than policy developed in response to a system of funding created by the Federal government (created by lobbyists for the Feds), and distributed based on formulas that favor the road system. This trickles down to the local roads and local planners hired for the purpose of meeting state and federal requirement and therefore entirely upon roadways. What we are calling an "asphalt-based" land-use system. It is time that policy is developed by those who will use it and pay for it. Rail Transit into town centers offers an opportunity to create wealth. new development, new businesses, new modes of transporting users from node to node - home, shopping, school, medical, work and recreation. A rail corridor defines a transportation system that links all the terminal stop locations with the commerce needed to sustain the system. Community-based sustainable development. Say it again - community-based sustainable development. And it is not the job for staff - it is the job of people elected to represent their communities. Staff is stuck in the asphault. In 196_ the asphault system caused local planners to allow the destrcution of the great Portland Union Station. The fedearl stamp on local transportation decssions was complete. But - the state of Maine, under the leadership of several progressive Governors and MDOT commissioners, recognized that the raillines needed to be preserved. We currently control over more than 300 miles of railway in Maine and hundreds more miles have agreements in place for state rail use. Now is the time to take back our freeedom to decide how we want our communities to be. We now have an opportunity to make our cities and towns quality livable places, attracting new ideas, new and innovative technologies and the generation that can make this happen. -----Original Message-----