CGR: Fix Conventional Rail First

This is way more information on the rail situation in New York than I’ve seen from any other source. Like they say, it’s the “Policy Wonk” blog. . .

Kent Gardner lays out a compelling case for fixing what we already have in the way of rail system before we start messing with high speed rail. That makes sense, especially since half the needs assessment doc that the state produced concerns the benefits for freight rail which would still be using the old lines.

There are also some interesting details about why the Lake Shore Limited is so chronically late. Turns out, its our beloved privately-owned CSX corporation doing the scheduling around here. Isn’t that convenient?


Say Yes to Rail, Sez Carla Palumbo

Carla Palumbo weighs in on her blog about the proposed commuter rail service for New York State: an emphatic yes from the councilwoman.


A Train with Conflated Tireds

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.


$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.