Of course, the big economic news in this state is the announcement of the new inter-city passenger train plans by Governor Patterson. I’ve been discussing it a little bit here and on FaceBook, both. And as you might expect, the comments in the local news are hot and heavy. Check out the D&C, where people are clamoring for the death of Renn Square and getting back to what Louise Slaughter proposed years ago and what I’ve been whining, bitching and complaining about ever since: a combined RGRTA, Greyhound and Amtrak station.
That article will have to wait, because there’s food enough for thought there. But it’s this comments section of the WHAM13 article I originally linked to that I want to talk about, because the comments there are going to radiate out farther probably long before the Louise plan gets talked about.
A few of the arguments here center around one basic premise: “oh, well. The rail line will be great for Montreal, when everyone from Rochester leaves to go there. But it’s not good for Rochester.”
It’s worth having a debate about how to keep people in Rochester. It’s worth discussing how the city and surrounding suburbs could attract more dollars to themselves by having better entertainment venues. It’s a legitimate discussion that we probably should engage in frequently.
But to conflate this discussion with that of transportation is absurd. It is, I am sad to say, exactly the classic provincial, myopic small-time thinking that has plagued this city literally since Old Nate setup camp by the Genesee River. The discussion of improving our infrastructure and transportation systems in Rochester has – let me be entirely clear – absolutely nothing to do with what Rochester people will be doing with their Rochester money.
Improving our rail system in this state is about increasing the flow of traffic along those routes. Not the traffic of Rochestarians, but of people from other places entirely. One major route is the North Corridor, traveled currently by the Lake Shore Limited. According to the report released with the new Patterson rail announcement, 1.5 million people travel by rail in this state every year. It doesn’t say how many travel the Limited, but its safe to say a hefty number of people are traveling to Chicago and points west. When they do, they go right through Rochester.
And that’s exactly what we need. Double or triple that number, if we can manage it. We’ve been fools for too long ignoring that source of revenue. The size of a city can probably be directly correlated to the availability of well-maintained transportation routes and the city’s exploitation of same.