$10.7Bn for Rail? Hmm. . .

The Governor has announced a plan to invest $10.7 billion into passenger rail service. Gosh, does this mean we can ace the Fat VAT on non-diet soda, or what? Seems like, if we can invest like this, we can certainly afford to change the tax code as well.

But of course, that’s just sniping, not discourse: money given to the state by the federal government for use on rail projects cannot be used to ease our debt.

The plan to update and improve our inter-city passenger rail system is actually kind of a good one, albeit painful to contemplate when the state suffers such tax injustice. At least more New Yorkers may have the opportunity to pay unfair taxes with the jobs it creates. Transportation investment is always rewarded, especially in a state like New York. The plan in this case is to provide a system that:

  • Increases freight rail market share by 25%, reducing the growth in
    truck traffic and energy consumption;
  • Provides six and one-half hour rail travel between Albany and
    Montreal (including Toronto), making rail a more viable option compared with driving;
  • Provides four-hour rail travel between Albany and Buffalo, also
    connecting Syracuse, Utica, and Rochester, making rail travel more
    time-competitive with driving;
  • Includes at least three new intermodal facilities/inland ports across the
    state serving the rapidly growing container segment of rail traffic,
    helping to remove long-haul trucks from the highways and delivering
    products to consumers quicker;

Now, a question for Rochester: don’t you wish we’d concentrated more on improving transportation in Rochester than on the Renaissance Square? You know, the theatre district that almost was? If we’d been playing our cards right six years ago, we would have had a plan on the table to combine our local RGRTA, Greyhound and Amtrak services under one roof. Think of the revenue it might generate to have transportation, food and other services available for anyone who steps off the train in Rochester.

But what is done is done. The Renn Square project is in full swing now, and with federal backing, there’s no turning back now. Better that we try to improve what we have than fight against what probably cannot be stopped. If that’s the case, is there any chance of providing a transfer system to the Amtrak station? Can there be any use of that federal money to create a new station up there on Central that might pique the curiosity of rail travelers?

I keep beating this expired nag’s head for six years, now. But I can’t help it.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.