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.