Trains For America

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Portland, ME wisely considering more convenient Amtrak station

There’s an unfortunate tendency among transportation officials to view Amtrak routes on a very macro scale. Chicago to St. Louis: you get on in Chicago, get off at St. Louis. But where in Chicago? Where in St. Louis? Are you going to arrive in Missouri at night in the middle of an industrial suburb with no bus or even taxi in sight? This is a particular problem for smaller towns where public transport may be limited or nonexistent. This is the 21st century, we can’t assume that everyone is going to be able to procure an  affordable automobile dropoff or pickup. Many Amtrak customers may be taking the train precisely because they don’t have access to a car.

So it makes perfect sense that Portland, Maine is considering relocating its Amtrak stop to the town’s historic pedestrian waterfront area. The idea looks to be in the early stages, but it’s good to see cities paying attention to the economic potential brought by an intercity rail line–if it actually connects somewhere. From the Portland Press Herald:

Quinn said she raised the issue so city officials could be aware of its possibility and integrate it in planning efforts. “It was kind of a conversation, not something I was putting on the table,” she said.

Still, Quinn said that a downtown stop would “add a whole new dimension” to the service because it would allow visitors to reach the city’s waterfront and main shopping and dining areas without grabbing a taxi or riding a bus.

There are a lot of unknowns, she said. Pan Am Railways owns the right of way there, but she doesn’t know how extensive it is. The railroad also owns 64 acres of underdeveloped waterfront property just west of the Casco Bay Bridge. Officials at Pan Am could not be reached for comment.

Filed under: Amtrak

7 Responses

  1. Kyle J Emge says:

    This would be great, especially considering the current station isn’t anything special. Just a one-story, nondescript building that happens to be near the track.

  2. Mike says:

    Great news. Indeed, the train station is currently in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by other industrial land and highway on-and-off ramps. Portland would stand to gain much if they could indeed muster up the funds to move the station…the question remains, however, would the successful bus lines move as well?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great idea, fun town. I have made the trip and the cab ride was rediculos.

  4. Really great idea. Train stations in Europe (and most in Connecticut) are located in the most walkable, downtown centers. This has a huge benefit in terms of transportation convenience and economic vibrancy.

  5. Jon Dandridge says:

    Problem is if an when service is extended to Brunswick, neither station is on that route so you could end up with 3 stations in Portland. Unless the Commercial St. site could somehow be connected to the former GT tracks that run along the waterfront and out by the B&M plant. However that involves navigating a lot of prime waterfront land and also evicts the Maine Narrow Gauge RR (which might end up moving anyway).

  6. NikolasM says:

    After looking at googlemaps I agree with Jon. The best near term thing that could be done would be to switch to the tracks that split to the right (where the DE goes left) and have a station near Congress/Park and St John Ave. That would place the station on the ‘right’ side of that unwalkable interchange with I-295 and on the most logical ROW to continue to Brunswick. It seems that there would be plenty or ROW for a light rail of some sort from this new station (or even the current one) to the proposed Commercial Street site to get visitors downtown.

  7. sarah says:

    Actually, we made the trip from Chicago to St.Louis on Amtrak for our last vacation. We started in Chicago at the in the suburbs so we could park the car. But we could have just as easily started downtown at a Union Station where you can connect to CTA and get almost anywhere. In St.Louis, it brought us directly to a main station where we switched to the metrolink light rail, taking it to the historic “union station” turned into a shopping mall & hotel. The whole trip in St.Louis we did on rail or by foot.
    I agree that locating stations in the same place as connecting systems or bus terminals is important. We actually have to drive from our town to a big city and park the car just to ride. Kind of inconvenient if you don’t know where to find cheap parking.

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April 2009


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