Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An interesting discussion on Rail by Bus Advocates

The discussion began with a report from the Portland-based Mane Assoc for Sustainable Transportation as follows:
"Our {MaST} position on rail: Christian dropped the ball on this last month. We had a brief discussion of how hardline rail advocates have somewhat undermined the practical implementation of better rail service by alienating/ridiculing various leaders, and the need to present a more reasonable position. General agreement around stating these as priorities: Given limited resources, we need to focus on areas where they'll provide the greatest benefit to businesses, passengers, freight, and commuters. A million dollars spent on a rail line in Piscataquis County will not provide the same benefit as a million dollars spent in Auburn - Maine should be disciplined in focusing its limited resources where rail is most likely to succeed, in order to maximize our rail investments over time. We believe that those priorities should be, in no particular order: Secure reliable funding for our existing Downeaster service first. The immediate priority for capital improvements in Maine should be the trunk line between NH and Lewiston/Auburn - imrpoving service for freight as well as for passengers. Passenger rail stations must be well connected for pedestrians, transit users, and bicyclists. MDOT/AVCOG will sponsor a public hearing on Amtrak expansion to L/A on Sept. 8th. CLF will go and Christian might as well. We plan to present our ZOOM proposal as evidence that there's demand for transit between L/A and Portland. Hillary pointed out that Tony D. has been antagonistic to the idea of bus service. Important to point out that buses and rail are complimentary: Concord Coach and the Downeaster serve the same people in Portland/Boston, give travelers more options, and make both services more successful. If Amtrak goes to L/A 5 times a day, commuters will still want to have a bus service available in case a train doesn't fit their schedule.

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2010 00:46:17 -0400
From: ghiggin2@earthlink.net
To: c.neal.milneil@gmail.com; hilary@theleague.com
CC: tdonovan@maine.rr.com; weissp@hotmail.com
Subject: Re: MAST Steering Meeting Friday

Christian and Hilary,

Since you're still copying me on MaST Steering Committee communications, some reactions to your last meeting's notes...

Yes, Tony Donovan is dogged about bypassing intercity bus and moving directly to commuter rail. Doggedness is necessary in order to overcome the powerful pavement construction lobby. That construction lobby will grant you some bus expansion because they perceive more pavement-based bus action as potentially construction-generating, whereas the highway construction lobby is hard-wired to fear and strongly resist serious funding-agency commitment to commuter rail as throwing a big monkey-wrench into their comfortable pavement expansion/maintenance paradigm.

That very powerful pavement lobby and their Portland-area funding conduit - PACTS - are willing to allow bus transit because it uses pavement, and unsustainable pavement maintenance/construction is mostly what Maine's transportation decision-making structure is all about. Furthermore, this transportation decision-making structure includes not just the construction and paving firms and the PACTS local government folks (in Greater Portland), it also includes consultants such as those who get another job by adding the L/A rail "study" to their expanding Portland North contract.

The pavement folks should especially like a bus alternative that adds bus transit to the emergency lanes of I-295. Don't look now, but with this I-295 bus-emergency-lane scenario those emergency lanes may need to be reconstructed with adequate foundation to handle regular bus traffic (as opposed to the original emergency-lane function of just supporting occasional stationary vehicles). The pavement guys will thus love the bus-on-295 proposal forthcoming from Portland North since it enables MDOT to tell the public - including MaST - that they are expanding mass transit while giving the construction industry another possible tear-and-rebuild job on 295.

Furthermore, by adding the "analysis" of Amtrak to Lewiston-Auburn, MDOT's consultants not only get another consulting gig, but MDOT also throws a token rail bone to rail advocates and to the Lewiston-Auburn folks who felt stiffed when Brunswick got the Downeaster.

If MDOT was seriously considering rail service to L/A, , they would first of all not just make the easy, knee-jerk response that passenger rail = AMTRAK. Instead they would make an open-minded examination of rail service that is appropriately scaled, scheduled and equipped for both Portland-L/A commuter and Boston travel needs. This may very well be smaller-equipment, scalable, modular commuter-rail cars with relatively more frequent service for commuters and with linkage to the Downeaster in Portland (or Yarmouth Junction) instead of analyzing only a full-scale AMTRAK train going to L/A with insufficient travel frequency for commuting needs and thus a preordained negative feasibility assessment (which would please the pavement lobby).

Secondly, If MDOT is seriously considering rail service to L/A, they should bring the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) fully into the study function because NNEPRA - per the Maine Legislature - "is directed to take all actions that are reasonably necessary to initiate, establish or reinstate regularly scheduled passenger rail service between points within this State and points within and outside this State. These actions may include, but are not limited to, the acquisition, holding, use, operation, repair, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, modernization, rebuilding, relocation, maintenance and disposition of railroad lines, railway facilities, rolling stock, machinery and equipment, trackage rights, real and personal property of any kind and any rights in or related to that property." (Maine Revised Statutes Title 23, Chapter 621, Part 7 - Railroads, subchapter 1, Section 8003.) I.e., if serious passenger rail planning is to be undertaken, the Legislature has designated NNEPRA to do the job, but MDOT doesn't seem to be sufficiently serious in this Portland-L/A analysis to involve the State of Maine's passenger rail entity.

MDOT might be mentioning analysis of rail passenger service to Montreal in their L/A project publicity, but when Patricia Quinn of NNEPRA was asked recently about how soon rail service to Montreal might happen, she replied that it probably won't happen until after she stops dying her hair blond. Guess they're not real serious -- but some dogged effort might change that. Meanwhile, keep an eye on Patricia's roots.

This all makes MDOT's Portland-L/A passenger rail project look like a token effort -- thus a dogged response is justified.

So back to Tony's approach --
Pushing past the pavement lobby requires stubborn assertiveness and commitment to rail, not just playing by the desires of the decision-making establishment. MaST seems to be satisfied working within the slightly expanded comfort-zone of the current transportation paradigm with some bus plans that the pavement lobby can live with. On the other hand, mobilization of the public will be needed to dismantle the strait-jacket of pavement addiction. Doing that with the necessarily fast turnaround requires a dogged approach. Your bus plan may not be sufficiently bold and appropriate for future needs, and thus a distraction from where we need to go. Tony has little patience with that, and I'm in agreement with him.

If you want to do something quick and remain acceptable in the eyes of the pavement junkies, then continue with the bus idea with its non-sustainable pavement addiction. If the "S" in your acronym really means "sustainable", then be bold, risk pissing off the pavement lobby, and put existing rail corridors to work linking Portland with not just Lewiston-Auburn but also with the commuter traffic nodes along route 1 Falmouth-Yarmouth plus Yarmouth village and the Pineland Center. And get started now.

As for comparing the Portland north bus/train situation to the Portland-Boston situation -- bus and train co-exist to Boston because Portland-Boston is a bigger market draw than Portland-L/A, because the train cannot get to South Station in Boston whereas the bus can, and because Logan Airport is a big piece of Concord Trailways' Portland to Boston sustenance.

Rail offers a far better lifestyle for Greater Portland's future, but it needs a courageous push. Bus might give your organization an easier short-term feather of accomplishment in your hats. But the courageous push requires a dogged approach. So how about going after true sustainability and hopping on the train with us? It's gathering momentum. Don't let it leave without you...

Thanks for listening and seeking better trans with trains!

On Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 10:54 AM, Paul Weiss wrote:
Excellent insight and commentary. I am in complete agreement. Buses are a short term fix that helps the highway lobby while short changing our long term future. It puts us more dependent on a method of travel and urban sprawl that is completely unsustainable. It is hard to imagine an organization that touts itself as "green" and supports more pavement. These roadways are bankrupting cities and towns across the state and will be only costing more and more every year. Rail is much cheaper to maintain in the long term and less expensive to build if you consider the entire life cycle of highways (repaving every 7-10 year). Think of the enormous amounts of oil to pave every few years and all that oils eventually ends up in our rivers and lakes, and air. That is the same oil that leaked from a wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico. Imaging clean fast green electrified passenger rail?
Given proper funding, we could have commuter rail service set up with 6 stops within 1 years time. It is doable and would change forever the economies of the entire region and make it a much better place to live.
If we keep investing in roadways and highways, we will be squandering money for the "perceived" short term fix. In the mean time you will have lost forever the true high speed, "green" connectors of towns and cities in Southern Maine, the railways. This is why policy decision are so important. They will shape entire regions and economies for not only decades but centuries. If we continue down our path of highway building we will set up the entire region for a failure on a grand scale. Imagine the world with 6-10 dollar gasoline. How many buses and highways are going to be repaved at that price? This is not so far off.

Paul Weiss
Maine Rail Transit Coalition

In the next decade, the only place where Maine might have the money to expand highways is on the Maine Turnpike, which has its own dedicated and reliable source of funds (tolls). The Turnpike is Constitutionally prohibited from spending any of its toll revenues on rail, or on any infrastructure more than 5 miles away from the Turnpike (they've helped finance some connector roads any bypasses in the past, like Rand Road in Portland). But the Turnpike CAN spend toll revenue on bus services (like the ZOOM). Here's what we'd like to happen:
Get the Turnpike to fund more local and regional bus services connecting to and along the Turnpike corridor.
Thanks to 1), local bus services in Portland, Lewiston, and Biddeford, which are primarily funded from local property taxes, would have more farebox revenue and lower expenses, to free up $1-$2 million a year in unrestricted municipal funds.
A portion of those local property tax savings in those communities could then be re-allocated to supporting the Downeaster and commuter rail service.
So this is a way to get the Turnpike Authority - with its massive revenues - to INDIRECTLY fund better rail service, even though direct funding is prohibited in the constitution, to the tune of $1-$2 million a year. That's four times as much as the Turnpike currently spends on bus services. If you have a more realistic way to boost funding for new transit services, I would love to hear it. But based on our preliminary conversations with lawmakers and lobbyists, this has a very good chance of happening. We could potentially have commuter rail between Biddeford and Brunswick next year - but only if you get over your hangups over the possibility of having more buses on the roads as well.
You guys are free to protest this plan. But if you do, those Turnpike revenues will probably be shunted over to the state's road maintenance backlog instead of to buses, and then we'll be right back where we started, without any dedicated or long-term funding for rail services in Maine, and more money for roads. By saying "no" to buses and not offering a realistic plan of your own, you're saying "yes" to this bullshit status quo we're dealing with.
I'll reiterate that it all comes down to funding - the studies are irrelevant unless someone puts up the money. You guys are from a generation when state and federal governments were happy to spend trillions on expanding our infrastructure, but those days are over.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Posted: August 10
Updated: Today at 7:46 PM

Our View: Foot paths
should not replace rail development
Both transportation alternatives have value, but one should not supplant the other.

The hardest policy questions don't balance good against bad, or even the lesser of two evils: The thorniest issues are the ones that pit one good option against another

There is such a conflict emerging in transportation planning circles regarding the expansion of walking and biking trails on unused railroad rights of way.

There have been very successful projects in which these strips of land have been transformed into urban trails that not only facilitate human-powered transportation, but provide recreational options that help people improve their health and make an area a more attractive place to be.

Portland Trails' eastern waterfront trail, that links the Back Cove to Marginal Way, Congress Street (via Cutter Street) and Commercial Street is a great example of how an unused rail bed can become a civic asset.

But just because rail beds are not being used now doesn't mean that they will never be needed. It's important to remember that while converting a rail line to a bike or walking path is valuable, it should never preclude a return to passenger or freight rail, which could be a key part of our transportation future.

Under current conditions, reviving rail often looks like a too-costly option, but that will not necessarily always be true. Gas prices are currently depressed by an international recession that has lowered demand for petroleum. A recovery in Asia could change that dramatically, making alternative transportation much more attractive.

While many rail-to-trail projects give the pathways temporary use of the right of way, reserving them for future redevelopment as rail lines, the pathway conversions can make it more expensive to turn the right of way back to its original use. It also creates a constituency of people who like the trail and want to keep it.

That why rail supporters fought a grant proposal by Portland Trails, which was seeking federal support to rebuild the abandoned rail trestle between Portland and Falmouth.

Policy makers should take careful notice. Recreational facilities are valuable, but they should not preclude another form of transportation that could reduce the number of vehicles on our roads and better service our economy. When possible, new trails should coexist with rails, and only replace them when there is no foreseeable future for a return to trains.

letter to Sec. of US DOT LaHood

Maine Rail Transit Coalition
27 Riverview St
Portland, Maine 04102
Telephone: 207-774-6732
Mobile: 207-329-673
Fax: 207-766-2367
Mailto: TDonovan@Maine.rr.com

Build trains, not lanes!

RE: TIGER II Discretionary Grant Application submitted by PACTS, in Portland, Maine

August 3, 2010

Honorable Ray LaHood, Secretary
United State Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood:

The MRTC’s mission is to elevate railway transportation to its proper balance in transportation investments planning and decision-making. We are committed to the preservation and restoration of railway transportation corridors for the purpose of moving people and goods as an alternative to transportation requiring roads and highways. Our organization along with coalition partners have been engaged in educating policy-makers, consumers and government institutions on railways in and connecting to Maine. We believe that investments in railway transportation will lead to new and enhanced economic opportunities around transit sites, including new and better jobs, affordable housing and energy efficiency. We believe that passenger and freight rail will reduce the household consumer costs associated with transportation and taxation and will better achieve goals required for projecting our natural environment.

The purpose of this letter is to express our strong opposition to the grant application for TIGER II funding, submitted by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportations Systems (PACTS) to fund planning for a Greater Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Project.

Our organization was an early and strong supporter of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. We believe that the Obama Administrations Livability Principals are the first opportunity in generations for our nation to address its addiction to oil and at long last to restore our railway transportation system that was once the most developed in the world.

However, railway transportation corridors are highly endangered, primarily by the notion that these critical corridors are no longer viable for their intended purpose and that they can be and are being converted to recreational trails for bicycles and pedestrians. Maine over the past few years has successfully sought abandonment of the only two railway corridors serving the Portland Peninsula and has converted one of the corridors to a taxpayer funded $6+ million dollar paved recreational trail. In addition the State has allowed railway corridors, including a critical link between the state’s two largest employment centers in Augusta and Bath, (BIW) to be converted to paved bicycle routes. Railway corridors leading out of the City to the west have also been converted. In each case these corridors were purchased by the state for the purpose of rail transportation.

The PACTS grant now seeks to convert the last preserved railway corridor linking downtown Portland with Maine’s second largest metro center in Lewiston and Auburn to a trail. The applicants may deny that is their intent, and they may claim as in the past that the trail is “only interim until rail is restored”. But we have learned the hard way that railway corridors cannot be reclaimed after a bike/ped path is established.

We are suggesting that if rail is considered as a viable alternative transportation mode for meeting the principals of more transportation choices, economic competiveness and expanded choices for people of all ages, income and races, then this “single-mode” study should be withdrawn and the applicants be required to collaborate on transit-oriented, mixed use development that revitalizes our communities and is a more efficient use of Federal funding of public works investments.

We have proposed to the applicants that the use of TIGER funds would best be suited to a study of the established Portland Transit facilities on the Eastern Waterfront that not only have received millions of dollars in FTA money to create a viable transit center, but that also lays fallow as the state and city grapple with how this critical waterfront transportation site might best be used. We are suggesting that the cost and benefits of a fully multi-modal transit center, enhanced by the restoration of the railway corridor that extends from here to Montreal Canada, is a better choice than a non-motorized recreational trail that takes away such a critical rail link north and west.

The MRTC membership participated in just such a grant application in June 2009. Although the proposal to fund a multi-modal study of the same corridor was ranked highly by PACTS staff, the Policy Committee of that organization rejected the proposal as being too early. Now it appears we are too late.

Our apologies for the length of this correspondence as we often find that when the discussion turns to rail, that it is a lengthy and involved topic. On behalf of those of us who fully support the Sustainable Partnership, we respectively request that the US DOT and Department of HUD turn this grant application down. In turn, our organization will actively reach out to our legislators and agencies seeking a collaborative approach to leverage these new Federal initiatives designed to meet the needs of communities such as we have here in Maine.


Anthony J. Donovan
Founding Member
Maine Rail Transit Coalition

For additional information please visit our website WWW.MaineRailTransit.org , or contact any on the following members.
Anthony J. Donovan - TDonovan@Maine.rr.com
Paul Weiss - Weissp@hotmail.com
Gary Higgenbottom - GHiggin2@earthlink.net
Susan Davis - Susandavis@mngrr.org
Ann Adams - annadams10@hotmail.com

CC: Maine 1st Congressional district Representative Chellie Pingree
Maine Governor John Baldacci
Maine State Senator Margaret Craven
Portland City Councilor David Marshall
PACTS Executive Committee

Thursday, June 17, 2010

FTA Schedules Outreach Sessions for New Starts/Small Starts Rule Change

For those of you concerned/interested in the outcome of the Portland North Alternative Modes project study - consider commenting to this rule-making


Changes Will Spotlight Economic Development and Environmental Benefits

Building on a policy shift announced earlier this year by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the Federal Transit Administration today asked for public comment on how to change the way major transit project proposals seeking federal funding are rated and evaluated.

“Today, we begin seeking ideas that will improve our current rating and evaluation process to ensure we invest wisely in public transportation infrastructure projects of national importance,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We must fairly evaluate all advantages that a transit project may offer, including economic development opportunities and environmental benefits.”

The FTA published the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the Federal Register on Thursday, June 3, 2010. In doing so, the agency seeks public comment on how best to evaluate significant transit infrastructure investments by looking for ways to measure cost-effectiveness, including broad public benefits such as economic development, land use and environmental impacts in the evaluation process.

“Major transit improvements are at the center of President Obama’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower oil consumption, and improve our quality of life,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “The Administration is developing criteria that will appropriately measure all of the benefits these projects bring to their communities. We need the public’s input to help get it done.”
The rule is part of an ongoing effort to change how projects are selected to receive federal financial assistance in FTA’s New Starts and Small Starts programs. The first step in this initiative came in January, when the FTA rescinded budget restrictions issued by the Bush Administration in 2005 that focused primarily on how much a project shortened average commute times in comparison to its cost. The goal of the action being announced today is to take into consideration the many benefits that transit can provide where the investment would make communities more livable such as underserved areas or those with the densest population and employment.
In addition to soliciting public input on the federal government’s docket website, Regulations.gov, ( http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#submitComment?R=0900006480afab90) the FTA is planning to hold a number of public listening sessions. Information concerning specific dates and locations of these listening sessions will be issued in a future Federal Register Notice. Input received from these meetings will be incorporated into a future proposed rulemaking, before the rule becomes final.
FTA will host numerous ANPRM presentations throughout the country. Click here for dates and times of the outreach sessions.

Maine Rail Transit Website www.mainerailtransit.org

Testing access

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 19 Rail Forum - "Linking Livability, Sustainability, and Transit in the 21st Century"

May 19 Rail Forum - "Linking Livability, Sustainability, and Transit in the 21st Century"

Wednesday May 19th
6 - 9 PM

Lee Room, Wishcamper Center
USM Portland

Moderator - Tony Donovan - Maine Rail Transit Coalition (WWW.Manerailtransit.org)

Sustainable Communities Partnership
Featured Speaker - Noah Berger - Program Manager Federal Transit Administration

Maine Livability Project- Island Explorer, Acadia
Sue Moreau- MDOT Public Transportation Director

Status of Federal Transportation Authorization
Office of Congressman Michael Michaud

Balancing our Investments in Rails and Roads
Paul Weiss - Sierra Club - Maine, Energy and Transportation Committee

Panel Discussion with Q & A to follow

Sponsored by: Sierra Club Maine Chapter, Maine Rail Transit Coalition, Maine Eastern Railroad, US Rail Car, Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad, Lewiston-Auburn Railway

Free and Open to the Public
Light Refreshments

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Public Meeting Announcement Portland North Small Starts Study

Public Meeting Announcement
Portland North Small Starts Study
Room 109 of the Abromson Center at USM in Portland
6 to 8 PM on Wednesday, April 28th

The Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) is considering implementing either rail or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service between Portland and destinations north of Portland. This Public Meeting will give the latest update on the study and provide an opportunity for public comment.
1. Summary of process to date
a. Process
b. Alternatives considered
2. Results of Phase 1 Analysis
3. Overview of Phase 2
4. Next Steps
5. Schedule Update

To find out more about the Portland North Small Starts Study, go to the Maine DOT website at: http://www.maine.gov/mdot/portlandnorth/

Thursday, February 11, 2010

GET THERE - Our answer to Portland North

Well, for those of you who may be following this blog - I just found it again. Seems google changed the way to log in and for the life of me I could not figure it out. I have plenty of patience when it comes to riding a train. But none when it comes to technology....

THE GOOD news . The Maine Rail Transit Coalition is now a Mine registered Not For Profit Corporation. And, today we presented to the City governments of Portland, Lewiston and Auburn a strategic plan for the restoration of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic railway Transportation corridor from Portland's ocean gateway to the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport. The next step on the route to Canada and to real rail transit for the commuting population of southern-central Maine.

Next Post I will attached the full report GET THERE: Constructive Transportation for Portland North. But for now, here is the Executive Summary. Thanks to all those who contributed to this excellent report...

GET THERE: Constructive Transportation for PORTLAND NORTH

“. . . to elevate rail transportation to its proper balance in transportation investments, planning and decision-making.”
February 11, 2010
by the Maine Rail Transit Coalition
Executive Summary
"THERE: Constructive Transportation for Portland North" presents a strategy to maximize Maine's response to key opportunities for transit investments north of Portland.

Economic and environmental considerations are driving the U.S. Federal government rapidly back toward rail transportation to move people and goods, and the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) is responding with the statewide Maine State Rail Plan and with the Portland North Project Alternative Modes project study to assess transit alternatives to automobile travel north of the City of Portland.

Maine has impressed the nation with our Downeaster passenger rail success, proving that rail passenger service works in mid-sized metropolitan areas – and that it works in Maine. Thus, the Downeaster rail service will be expanded and further Maine passenger and commuter rail services must be quickly and seriously evaluated. .

The Portland-Auburn region is blessed with rail corridors, some of which have been well maintained and preserved – including the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway (SLR) corridor from downtown Portland all the way to Montreal, Canada – a rail corridor that links Portland with towns to the north over a clean route relatively unencumbered by road crossings and by other rail traffic.

The convergence of these circumstances makes a strong case for re-establishing passenger commuter rail service on the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail line linking the multi-modal downtown Portland transit area at Ocean Gateway/Maine State Pier with Yarmouth Junction and with the Lewiston-Auburn Regional Airport and rail intermodal facility. This in turn creates the base for direct rail transportation linkage with the large metropolitan market area to the north – Montreal.

This rail development will serve the need for a Portland North commuter transit alternative while simultaneously laying the groundwork for further SLR service enhancement for the passengers, freight and economy of the 3-county region – Cumberland, Androscoggin and Oxford.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) “Small Starts” funding is appropriate and potentially available for this development. Under new federal administration, Small Starts funding criteria shifted away from simply short-term cost effectiveness and toward long-term environmental protection, economic development and congestion relief. The SLR opportunity now becomes very compelling based on service quality to commuters, operational economics and safety, environmental considerations, economic development opportunities and the very significant issue of transportation linkage between Maine's two largest economic and population areas – Portland and Lewiston-Auburn.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - 1 Background and Objectives
The State of Maine has achieved widely recognized success investing in railway corridors and rail services including the Downeaster service, procurement and maintenance of railways, plus planned future rail investments in Southern and Central Maine to advance freight, passenger and commuter transportation service at the metro area, statewide and regional levels including connections to Canada.

Maine's success with rail makes Maine people, communities, state government and federal agencies supportive of further rail development progress in Maine.

The best opportunities to further rail progress are being clarified now through two rail planning initiatives:
* The Maine State Rail Plan to prioritize railway corridors for investments, and
* The Portland North Alternative Modes Project study, a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) analysis of commuter transit alternatives to alleviate congestion on highways north of Portland that deals with alternatives for moving people in and out of Portland.

This Maine Rail Transit Coalition's report summarizes how the combined objectives of the Portland North Project, the State Rail Plan, plus sustainable economic develop objectives of three counties (Oxford, Androscoggin and Cumberland), are strongly and perhaps best served by focusing on commuter rail service for the Portland-Yarmouth-Auburn SLR corridor.

Upgrading this Railway Transportation Corridor for passenger service at reasonable speeds gets the region to the commuter service future envisioned by the Portland North Project and at the same time positions Maine for Boston-Portland-Auburn/Lewiston-Montreal rail service– a very valuable linkage of 4 urban areas plus Maine's Oxford County important recreational regions.

The SLR route provides connectivity to the Downeaster Amtrak service at Yarmouth Junction, to ferry and cruise ship business at the Ocean Gateway Center in downtown Portland and to air transportation and further rail linkages at the Lewiston/Auburn Regional Airport.
Our objective is to add to the Portland North analysis with additional considerations around commuter passenger rail and how transportation, energy and environmental policies impact the real lives of people in a world where gasoline/automobile dependency must diminish.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Taken for a Ride - GM and the Rail

You may reject the following video presentation, or you may not. But from the perspective of the MRTC, this is what we are up against. Nothing necessarily against these fine gentlemen from Detroit and Washington for building an industry that resulted in the employment of tens of thousands of workers, and of course enormous financial returns, nothing against them that is if their business model held up. But, reality is, the global dependence on the single-occupancy vehicle, powered by an internal combustion engine, or the imagined electric "Volt", we now have a system of transportation that is neither efficient, nor economical and is doing great environmental damage as it drains the pockets of consumers and taxpayers.
In our humble opinion, this story says it all. Think Train Time