Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Portland, Maine prattle

This one looks like a “letter to the editor.” Quite honestly, we would expect more from a professional journalist or editorial writer. Aside from the generlaly insulting tone (since when are proponents of sensible ground transportation “fans?”) the supposed distinction between so-called luxuries and necessities is illusive. Although I have not lived in Maine, I once called Montana home and I am sure those icy highways in January are very safe and comforting for all the terrified bus passengers.

Passenger rail service north of Boston is a “luxury” which happens to be Amtrak’s fastest growing route.

Frankly, it will be a good day when highway hogs stop diverting much needed dollars which would be better spent on efficient, environmentally friendly,  passenger rail.

Bridges and highways are a necessity. We need them to get from here to there, be it for work, to shop or other purposes. But every time we approve a transportation bond issue, several million dollars are diverted to subsidize passenger rail transportation.

North of Boston, passenger rail service is a luxury. We already have quality bus service running on frequent schedules.

If the objective is to get cars off the roads, bus service is the less expensive alternative, and the passenger miles per gallon is comparable.

We spent more than 200 million tax dollars before the first Boston train was run and now subsidize 50 percent of the operating costs.

Not satisfied, rail fans now advocate a similar scenario for service to Rockland. If they succeed, I speculate that more than 90 percent of the passengers will be along for the pleasure of the ride, not to get from here to there. That’s simply an expensive tax-supported amusement park.

There are already several rail rides in Maine operated and maintained almost 100 percent by modest fares, volunteer labor and charitable dollars.

If the Legislature cannot distinguish between necessity and luxury, it should at least let the voters do so by itemizing on transportation bond packages where the dollars will go and allow the voters to decide each item.

John van C. Parker



Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail

One Response

  1. Scoopernicus says:

    I live in Portland, and the Downeaster is my preferred method to got to and from Boston. I’m 6’3″ and the seats on the trains contain much more leg room then the buses. The ticket prices for the trains are about the same as the buses, and the train drops you off right in the center of town.

    Personally I find the Downeaster pretty damn essential to my travelling needs.

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