Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Interesting E-Mail Exchange w a Critic

As per this title, the following was an exchange generated by a rail critic/road supporter who contacted Portland State Representative and MRTC member, Ben Chippen with his opinion on investing in rail (and his opinion on the intelligence of those who support investing in rail). A long, but interesting read. as follows:

On Tue, Jan 11, 2011 at 10:32 PM, George wrote:
I think the state of Maine should only spend money on the rail beds as we do the roads. I read about the economic income of the Downeaster. What is the balance sheet total, positive or negative? If the balance sheet is negative then we shouldn’t be financing it.
From: Ben Chipman []
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 10:43 PM
To: George
Cc: Tony @ Home Office; Gary Higginbottom
Subject: Re: Railroads

Hello George,
The balance sheet for roads is always going to be negative. Pavement and roads do not make money for the state. We should not expect railroads to either. Transportation costs money. Creating a mile of pavement costs a lot more than developing a mile of rail. Dollar for dollar our money is much better spent on railroad. I am not saying roads should not be repaired but we should not stop funding rail either.

Ben Chipman, State Representative
From: Tony @ Home Office []
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 5:56 AM
To: George; Ben Chipman
Subject: RE: Railroads

Mr. Colby,
Cc. Rep. Chipman

Dear Mr. Colby:
In regards to your e-mail on railroads, please find attached the economic impact analysis of the Downeaster passenger rail. The Maine Rail Transit Coalition agrees that the State of Maine should only spend money on rail as we do on the roads. Currently that is not the case and although the highway fund is facing looming deficiencies, investments in railway transportation corridors are even more under-funded. Yet the economic impact of the Downeaster operations alone are projected to generate $76 million in property tax revenues, while creating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth over the next few decades. At the same time the increasing costs of pavement, roads and bridges are being shifted from the state to local municipal budgets e.g., property taxes, at a time when nether towns nor consumers can afford them. Railway transit offers an alternative to commuters that will not only reduce their annual transportation fees, but it will reduce local property tax burdens while at the same time attracting private business and housing investments to locations around railway terminals. This is already happening in Maine (Brunswick, Portland, Saco, and Old Orchard) to the tune of tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

The cost of constructing one mile of railway is $800,000 and last 50 years (or more). The cost of reconstruction one mile of road is about $2 million and needs to be reconstructed every 10 years. Although operational costs of commuter rail require public subsidies, the costs to households for owning and operating a car are estimated at over $10,000 annually per car. If rail can reduce the costs of owning multiple cars, and even help consumers to own a good car for a longer period of time, that return on sales, income or gas tax investments need to be weighed against the costs of continuing to rely on foreign oil and pavement based, single occupancy transportation.

Railway transit is effectively used around the world and in fact, prior to the introduction of the federal highway system, the US railway system was the most advanced in the world, with trains traveling over 100 mph to small and large towns throughout the country. These towns prospered with the rail, and there is a real question as to whether the highway system we now rely on is bringing prosperity to our towns, or a cost burden that is inhibiting our ability to create good jobs and wealth for our citizens.

The Maine Rail Transit Coalition is a group of dedicated professionals from around the State with colleagues around the country that are engaged in studies, educational forums and analysis of transportation with the purpose of explaining the real benefits of railway transportation and the hidden costs of our continuing reliance on roads for economic development.

I hope you can visit our website at for additional information and up to date reports on transportation issues. We appreciate your sharing your comments and hope that you are able to continue to share your thoughts and ideas with us as we continue our efforts to lower transportation costs, and increase economic opportunity for Maine residents.
Sincerely, Tony Donovan, President Maine Rail Transit Coalition
From: George []
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 9:29 AM
To: 'Tony @ Home Office'; 'Ben Chipman'
Cc: 'MRTC'
Subject: RE: Railroads

Apparently you are both ignorant as to how freight moves in Maine and the United States. Both of your attitudes are wrong. We need cooperation between trucks and railroads, NOT on or the other. I am a professional truck driver and I have the same complaint about some of the trucking associations, us or them.

It would or will be several years before the railroad can even come close to moving the freight that trucks move. Ben your economic ignorance is showing again. Roads absolutely do make money for the state and towns. How do you think products and services get from here to there?

I checked the website and that is just a typical optimistic projection done in 2008 and after you get past the propaganda ,most of it untrue especially about being “green” there is not much of sudstance there.

Thank You for the response
George Colby
From: Tony @ Home Office []
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 4:19 PM
To: George; 'Ben Chipman'
Cc: 'MRTC'
Subject: RE: Railroads
Dear George:

Actually our group works very hard to establish facts and data to support our analysis and that information we put out for discussion. However, more important is that we tend to try to work with all groups in a manner that is not hostile, or in any way exhibiting vitriol as is so much in the news these days. We do not ever make statements that might be cause for someone to think we are angry or stubborn. We do not ever call anyone ignorant, and though we might consider statements made by others to be wrong, we never say that they are wrong but rather try to establish facts and analysis so as to help everyone understand all positions. The only attitudes we believe are wrong are those that can be considered to be personal attacks on our integrity.

So moving beyond that aspects of our communications, please consider the following:

The railroad industry and trucking industry is cooperating to a great extent throughput Maine and the US. Intermodal transportation networks are critical to the economical and efficient movement of goods. The Auburn intermodal is the best example in Maine where we have products hitting the shelves of retailers in Maine after a rail connections from Vancouver delivers (china-made products) to trucks that deliver to LL Beans etc. I am not certain where you read us to say that it was one or the other. We are instead seeking to balance investments in both.

It is also true that it will be several years before rail freight matches truck. But several years is not that far off. And it was just several years ago when Maine's truckling industry gathered at the Capital to complain that they were being driven out of business due to high gasoline and diesel costs - something that unless we increase roads subsidies the State has no control over.

I am not certain how roads make money for states and towns. Businesses make money through the creation of wealth and use transportation, provided by government investment as a critical tool to achieve that wealth. But the government subsidies have been required for the deficits in user fees for the Highway Trust Fund for many years. From 2008 to present more than $30 billion dollars have been transferred from the General Fund to the Highway Trust fund. Funds that could have been used to pay for other services - or to reduce taxes.

I am not certain what website you went to. if it was the Maine Rail Transit one, we do seek to post established data, or facts. If what you say about things being "untrue" please be specific and we will respond accordingly. As for green, our goal is economic prosperity and the best return on investment for consumers in a manner that is efficient, economical and environmentally sound. We believe that is we achieve efficiencies, economic prosperity and environmental benefits will naturally follow.

The train industry has so many drawbacks simply due to the way America was planned during the post WW2 era, with advent of suburbia. During the 50s and 60s when the highway system was being developed there were many regulations being created in favor of the automotive industry, thus hurting the train industry. A few figures major figures about trains to consider:

- 85% of the wear on our highways is caused by trucks.
- One 80,000 lb truck does as much damage to the highway as 10,000 cars.
- One train can replace 280 to 500 trucks, since each wagon can carry on average 100 tons vs 56 ton max on a truck.
- A truck requires 3 times more fuel per ton per mile. Though the figures range from 1.4 to 9 depending on equipment and conditions.

Just a few of the benefits that would result from replacing as much of the trucking industry with rail as possible:
- Significant reduction in wear and maintenance costs associated with highways.
- Less maintenance and less trucks on highways means less traffic jams, which cost an estimated 100 billion yearly to the US economy.
- Using less fuel to ship goods would lower dependency on foreign oil and help reduce emissions for the environment.
- Cheaper goods, due to cost reductions in shipping since a large portion is based on fuel consumption. Exactly the reason why truckers are often heard having protests and strikes during high fuel prices. Inexpensive goods would result in a boost in the economy.
- The rail industry is financially responsible for it's infrastructure. While trucking companies only contribute a small mount to the extremely large budget that is spent on keeping the road infrastructure in America running.
- In 1995 42,000 people died in automobile accidents. A third of all highway accidents that result in death involve trucks. Meanwhile the railroad industry only claims about 500 lives per year (almost all to people who were trespassing on tracks ).
- One rail line can carry as many people in a day as 16 lanes of highway. Plus trains are actually quieter than trucks. Highways produce a lot of noise pollution and require the placement of sound barriers. Meanwhile a train only comes once in a while, and even then does not create too much noise.
- Trains are constantly evolving, and even today's diesel locomotives are far superior technologically than their truck counterparts.

Always a pleasure to have someone like you causing us to think, research, analyze and respond. Thanks again for your commentary.
George wrote:
First I will probably not tone down my speech when I feel it is warranted. That is the problem with this country today. The shooting in Arizona had NOTHING to do with vitriolic speech.

As I said in my reply to Susan Davis I am not opposed to trains. I also believe they have a place in transportation. I may not have mentioned it before, I own a small trucking company and I don’t get subsidized by any government. I have recently changed my view on government financing and railroads. I had for many years been opposed to any government financing of railroads, however I would not be opposed to State & Federal Government financing of railroad beds as they do roads. However I object strongly to subsidizing operating costs of any business by government.

I also stay up on engine technology and to say that locomotive engines are superior to truck engines is just plain wrong. As a unit locomotives are not “far superior” to today’s trucks.I would invite you to read the 2 following article from the Bangor Daily News,160865
Thanks George
From: Tony @ Home Office []
Sent: Monday, January 17, 2011 5:56 AM
To: George
Cc: MRTC; Ben GreenIndy Chipman
Subject: RE: Railroads

Mr. Colby:
In the articles you provided;
1. Mr. Dutton states:"We support the rescue of the rail line, but it is incomprehensible for Maine to spend $20 million of public money with zero transparency into the process, terms and desired outcomes for rail customers and the taxpayers at large. "
REPLY: Lack of transparency is a chief concern of our group. We can get nothing from the state regarding rail investments. All done behind closed doors. just as the highway industry has operated for decades.

It is well-known that Twin Rivers is battling with MMA to secure cost-effective, reliable rail service from our Madawaska plant. The state’s rail, if accessible to Twin Rivers, may in the future provide important rail options to our plant and, by extension, help secure our long-term sustainability. However, we need assurances that the rail will be operated under the principles of capitalism, not backroom deal making.

2. MMA is a lousy company and that applies to most rail operators, particularly in Maine. Thank goodness for government investment in roads and federal and state gas subsidies to keep the operating costs of private trucks low.

My old aunt once said that I should always preface certain statements with "in my opinion", such as "In (your) opinion the shooting in AZ had nothing to do with vitriolic speech" In my own opinion I suggest that it did. And in my own opinion I suggest that you will achieve more by indeed toning down your speech. Too many angry people out there calling people with different opinions ignorant and wrong. That not only risks their anger, but it ends to have those being called names ignore the name callers. We are not bad people and we are working hard (with zero pay) to try to raise the level of incomes for everyone in Maine.

Good comments about twin Rivers and Frazier. A couple of more dollars a gallon on the pump and they may lose a few of those truckers. As for MMA, hopefully we can get some competition up there soon. I lean toward Canadian operators.

Maine Rail Transit Coalition
Portland Maine
"Build Trains not Lanes"
From: George
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2011 18:52:06 -0500
To: "'Susan S. Davis'"
Subject: RE: Railroads
Can you tell me exactly how much it cost to reconstruct 1 mile of railroad bed and 1mile of roadway please. Thanks
From: Susan S. Davis []
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 4:10 PM
To: George; Anthony J. Donovan; 'Ben Chipman'
Cc: 'MRTC'
Subject: Re: Railroads


Please note that truckers are benefiting from trains elsewhere, and we are likely to as well as we rebuild out lost, and much less expensive, rail infrastructure.
Regards, Susan, MRTC

Ohio truckers thank Norfolk Southern for boosting business>
Ohio's short-haul truckers say business is booming, thanks to Norfolk Southern's freight service. The opening of the Heartland Corridor line allows the railroad to send double-stacked freight shipments into central Ohio from points of origin along the East Coast, dramatically increasing work for truckers who shuttle containers the last few miles from the rails to the customer. "Instead of having a train once every three days, now you can move containers much more swiftly. There's a big difference," says one trucking-company operator. American City Business Journals/Columbus, Ohio
From: George
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2011 19:10:46 -0500
To: "'Susan S. Davis'"
Subject: RE: Railroads

I grew up next to a railroad and the rails don’t last 50 years. I know of some roads that have been constructed correctly that have lasted 50 years. On the “about” $2 million dollars for road construction, what exactly what size roadbed are you talking about? I am not against railroads, I believe they have their place. I am not against the government maintaining railroad beds. I AM against any subsidy of operating costs. I am a trucking company owner and I don’t get any subsidies from the government and I don’t want any.
Thanks George
From: Susan S. Davis []
Sent: Friday, January 14, 2011 8:30 AM
To: George
Subject: Re: Railroads

I repeat the statistic from below: The cost of constructing one mile of railway is $800,000 and lasts 50 years (or more). The cost of reconstruction one mile of road is about $2 million and needs to be reconstructed every 10 years.

An even more important aspect of that statistic is that increasingly the cost of annual road maintenance is being transferred to municipalities, which have to choose between funding education and fixing roads. Add that to the cost per household of anywhere from $5-10,000 just owning each car (the gas is the least of it), and you start seeing the hidden impact of roads over rails. But they have to work together. Trucks are a critical component of a successful rail infrastructure. My personal favorite? The name “pick-up” came from picking up freight at the railroad station!
Best regards, Susan
From: Susan S. Davis []
Sent: Monday, January 17, 2011 10:35 AM
To: George
Cc: Ann Adams; Anthony J. Donovan; Gary Higginbottom; Joan Saxe; Joane Saxe; Mark Sengelmann; Mark Sengelmann; Paul Weiss; Susan S. Davis
Subject: Re: Railroads

I don’t have those statistics, so I’m copying other members of the Maine Rail Transit Coalition to get them for you. If I’m not mistaken, roads and highways have a lot of hidden subsidization. Other members of the MRTC can speak to that better.

It’s important to know that General Motors orchestrated the destruction, of, and the negative propaganda about, rail and railroads in order to sell cars, trucks, oil, gas, rubber. They were found guilty of collusion with Standard Oil and Firestone Tire in the systematic destruction of light rail systems, starting in Los Angeles, by the US govt. in the early 1950s—paid all of $1,000 fines, each party. Then along came Eisenhower to create the interstate highway system, done by two friends, both GM executives brought in to run the Dept. of Defense (you’ll remember that defense was the argument for the Interstate System creation, stimulated by the success of the Autobahn in Germany) and Dept. of Transportation. I can assure you that you will not be able to extract real cost comparisons from DOTs to this day. They hide the subsidies and they do not acknowledge the hidden and unintended consequences of road construction vs. rail.

We’ve pulled together our statistics using the Freedom of Information Act as often as not. Let’s see what others can add.

Thank you for continuing this conversation and not just walking away. As you have seen and will see, this is a highly informed and educated group on the subject of rail, transit and transportation.
Best regards, Susan
George wrote:
I agree on the behind closed doors. I have been to MDOT public hearings and Maine Turnpike public hearings. There was always a conclusion reached and they weren’t going to change their minds and they were not open to less expensive and “new” ways tried in other states to repair bridges that equaled the same result. There is too little transparency in all of government.

I added a comment to your signature. ("Build Both")
Thanks George
'nuf said (4 now)

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