Commuter Rail: DOT Could Provide Temporary Service

For those of you interested in the long-delayed New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project, the studies are still ongoing, and aren’t scheduled to be completed until 2010. Bah.

Interestingly, the Journal-Inquirer reports that DOT is considering partnering with Amtrak to provide a temporary solution:

The DOT is negotiating with Amtrak on introductory service that wouldn’t need an environmental assessment. It would require some double tracking, but otherwise could be operational for a far less cost.

“Our intention is to get some kind of introductory service up and running in the near term,” Nursick said.

He couldn’t specify how soon the service could be a reality, but that it would happen long before the commuter rail is built, and would offer service to residents along the Amtrak line. (Englehardt)

…So we could have a temporary service that doesn’t require a study? Why didn’t we know about this years ago? Interesting. What exactly is being studied, then, if this service would do some of the same things as commuter rail?

Well, it’ll be nice to have something instead of nothing, and if DOT can manage to put more trains on the tracks it’ll be a step in the right direction.

Waterbury Line Improvements Under Discussion

The Courant reports on discussions being held, and some, including Rep. David McCluskey, are pushing for passenger rail service from Waterbury to Hartford–which would be a partial replacement for the proposed New Britain-Hartford busway.

Source
Englehardt, Matthew. “Towns thinking big regarding rail service.” Journal-Inquirer 3 January, 2009.

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33 responses to “Commuter Rail: DOT Could Provide Temporary Service

  1. AndersonScooper

    O/T, ( no open thread)

    http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-donovan0104.artjan04,0,40453.story

    Interesting article about new House Speaker Chris Donovan.

    Personally, I wish he’d be less of an establishment guy, and that he’d go after Governor Rell head-on, in the same manner that Jim Amann did, only with a degree of competence.

    That being said, I’m hopeful Donovan, Merrill, Geragosian, etc. can show the kind of leadership that is sorely lacking in Hartford…

  2. Hey Scoop, is your wallet still in you back pocket?

  3. It’s sort of amusing that liberals are just now discovering that environmental regulations make building anything very difficult.

  4. It’s sort of amusing that liberals are just now discovering that environmental regulations make building anything very difficult.

    Liberals pass laws to regulate others, not themselves. Their causes are too pure and well intentioned to require regulation. It’s the ones that disagree with them that can’t be trusted.

  5. ………….. with a degree of competence.

    “competence”??
    Are you talking about Donovan or someone else?

  6. Returning to the topic, Meriden represents perhaps the biggest hurdle — and the biggest beneficiary — to improving rail in the region. The tracks run right through the center of the town, at grade with the passing roadways. Upgrading the tracks to include regular two-way traffic — or, in the future, high-speed Acela-type train travel — will require serious investment there, in terms of tunnels and/or bridges and improved crossings.

    Recently, a terrible accident took place in Waterford at an at-grade crossing — basically, like the crossings in all of downtown Meriden — when an Acela struck a car carrying a grandmother and two of her grandchildren. This accident occurred at one of the few at-grade crossings on the Northeast Corridor.

  7. I took a ride on the Metra line in the Chicago area last weekend and I was fairly impressed. It runs smoothly and each car has two stairwells up to a second level of seating on either side, with a luggage rack suspended in the middle. The conductor can collect tickets and fees from the bottom, just reaching up to people above. And there are restrooms. It cost $4.70 each way to get to and from downtown Chicago from a suburb that would be about an hour’s drive, and of course there’s probably not much free parking. Apparently you can buy a $5 weekend pass on the Metra, which has been an enormous boon to the downtown economy. The weekend trains are packed. Of course, they built millennium park there and it’s a great reason to go downtown. We’re not there yet in Hartford or New Haven, but we could be.

    I don’t know the cost of the system. I’m sure it was pricey. The stops are just little platforms with small enclosures and honor boxes. Some of them have coffee for sale during business hours. It’s really pretty nice and it would be fantastic if we had similarly priced service from Hartford to New Haven, as well as the rest of Connecticut’s cities. But the bottom line is it saves car miles and emissions and is driving the downtown Chicago economy.

    All that is unrelated to the budget problems here in CT. Things are a mess and we probably do need to take a hard look at ways to cut costs while also somehow expanding what we’re offering for mass transit. Maybe there’s a way we could print our own money here…

  8. IMO, all this talk about rail and buses is a joke. Talk about back to the future. What’s next, horse and buggy trails and trolleys? State residents long ago punted on the idea of trains and buses in favor of the convenience of the automobile. What we need to ease the traffic and congestion is more roads, pure and simple. And before you start with the “cost of maintenence” retort, I thought the all-powerful state employee union was mainly interested in jobs? More roads = more maintenance = more jobs.

  9. IMO, all this talk about rail and buses is a joke. Talk about back to the future. What’s next, horse and buggy trails and trolleys? State residents long ago punted on the idea of trains and buses in favor of the convenience of the automobile. What we need to ease the traffic and congestion is more roads, pure and simple. And before you start with the “cost of maintenence” retort, I thought the all-powerful state employee union was mainly interested in jobs? More roads = more maintenance = more jobs.

    No, this is a backward looking view. Connecticut decided on roads in the 1960s, a decade during which pretty much every development decision made was the wrong one.

    More roads won’t help connect the region, encourage economic growth in places that desperately need it or bring jobs in. Mass transit will. Why do you think members of all parties in the river towns are all banging the drum for the commuter rail line?

    You guys really think the state employees union is evil incarnate, don’t you? I suppose they’re an easy target.

  10. P.S. Trolleys would be great. Ripping out the trolley lines was yet another mistake of the postwar era.

  11. Returning to the topic, Meriden represents perhaps the biggest hurdle — and the biggest beneficiary — to improving rail in the region. The tracks run right through the center of the town, at grade with the passing roadways. Upgrading the tracks to include regular two-way traffic — or, in the future, high-speed Acela-type train travel — will require serious investment there, in terms of tunnels and/or bridges and improved crossings.

    There are a lot of crossings all up and down the line like this–relatively dangerous at-grade crossings with only a gate. Enfield doesn’t have many of them, but I can think of at least a few bridges that will probably need updating in the future.

    It’ll be a good investment if we can make it.

  12. easthartfordtaxpayer

    I’m fine with a rail line as long as it’s paid for by those who use it. The guy in Stonington shouldn’t be paying for commuters in Hartford.

    If the line couldn’t be self sustaining based on fares or other creative income streams it shouldn’t exist.

  13. I don’t know the cost of the system. I’m sure it was pricey. The stops are just little platforms with small enclosures and honor boxes. Some of them have coffee for sale during business hours. It’s really pretty nice and it would be fantastic if we had similarly priced service from Hartford to New Haven, as well as the rest of Connecticut’s cities. But the bottom line is it saves car miles and emissions and is driving the downtown Chicago economy.

    By the way, you’re fooling yourself if you think that a new commuter rail line would be cost-effective. It will cost a fortune, for example, for Gabe to ride the rails from New Haven to Hartford for work every day, and someone will have to pay for it. Even the very best estimates indicate that the State will lose $1 million to $10 million a year to operate the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line.

  14. By the way, you’re fooling yourself if you think that a new commuter rail line would be cost-effective. It will cost a fortune, for example, for Gabe to ride the rails from New Haven to Hartford for work every day, and someone will have to pay for it. Even the very best estimates indicate that the State will lose $1 million to $10 million a year to operate the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line.

    Roads are not cost-effective, either. By your logic, we ought to never build any more of those, unless each road has a toll booth on it.

  15. If the line couldn’t be self sustaining based on fares or other creative income streams it shouldn’t exist.

    Name me an interstate highway that pays for itself.

  16. You guys really think the state employees union is evil incarnate, don’t you? I suppose they’re an easy target.

    And you really think the state employees union is about “working people” and “jobs,” and not about political power, don’t you?

    Anyway you try and spin it, the imposition of the state income tax and comensurate increase in the size of our state government has sent the quality of life in our state into a tailspin. Unfortunately, that’s a fact that most people are not willing to recognize yet. Why do you think people are fleeing the Northeast? Because of the reasonably low cost of living and high quality of life? Come on, Genghis, your smarter than that.

  17. Roads are not cost-effective, either. By your logic, we ought to never build any more of those, unless each road has a toll booth on it.

    That’s not true. Yes, the State has to pay for roads every year, but their “cost-effectiveness” cannot be debated. The operating cost-per-user of Connecticut’s highways is probably less than one percent of the operating cost-per-rider of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line. The most recent estimates (which are no doubt conservative, given the foot-dragging taking place with this idea) are that the line will require a $8.96 million subsidy for 2,200 estimated riders. That’s over $4,000 per year from the State per rider. How much do you think the State pays, per rider, to keep I-91 up and running?

    Look, I want this rail line up and running probably more than you do, and I’d consider selling my car if it was ever built — but to say that a new train network and a 60-year-old highway network are equals because both cost the State money doesn’t come close to telling the entire story.

    You guys really think the state employees union is evil incarnate, don’t you? I suppose they’re an easy target.

    Yes, as a matter of fact, I do — and that’s my right. After all, they’re working for me, aren’t they?

  18. Name me an interstate highway that pays for itself.

    I would be surprised if both the NYS Thruway and Mass Pike don’t.

  19. Look, I want this rail line up and running probably more than you do, and I’d consider selling my car if it was ever built — but to say that a new train network and a 60-year-old highway network are equals because both cost the State money doesn’t come close to telling the entire story.

    Of course not, and that’s my point. As the benefits of roads far outweigh the costs, so too do the benefits of rail. No one has ever said it’s going to make money or really be cost-effective.

    2,200 riders/year? That seems way, way low.

    As for the unions, I think if you focus your attention on them you miss a lot of the reasons why Connecticut has problems. And technically, the union works for the workers, not for you.

  20. If the line couldn’t be self sustaining based on fares or other creative income streams it shouldn’t exist.

    It’s important to factor in the additional revenue created by new jobs in and around the cities it serves. If the line doesn’t encourage economic growth in the area, THEN it shouldn’t exist, but I highly doubt that would be the case.

  21. easthartfordtaxpayer

    Of course not, and that’s my point. As the benefits of roads far outweigh the costs, so too do the benefits of rail. No one has ever said it’s going to make money or really be cost-effective.

    Let’s compare.

    According to the DOT 2008 Fact Sheet I-91, I-84 and I-95 have a daily vehicle user total of 2,845,622. That’s an annual user total of 1,038,652,030.

    Interestingly the entire DOT budget is 1,038,800,00 which includes all kinds of non highway spending including rail and bus service, dial-a-ride type services and other such things.

    That’s a total of less than $1 per highway use to run the entire system.

    Contrast that with the rails and bus service. The New Haven line costs $9.25 per use and the Shore Line East costs 23.40 per use. The bus costs 4.35 per use. There is no comparison between the roads and rails.

    Let’s say Joe Blow commutes on the New Haven Line to work 260 days a year. That’s 2 rides per day or $4,810 per year for him to ride. His fare and inconvenience of looking at ads brings the taxpayer cost down to $1,279/year that I’m paying for him to ride the train to work.

    For the guy using Shore Line East the cost is $12,168 per year and a $10,675 cost to the taxpayer after his fare and inconvenience. Frankly, it looks like rail is one of the worst things the state could do in this economy.

  22. This is America. We drive cars. Let’s widen the highways. Rail just won’t work. Nobody wants to ride a train, unless it drops them off at their home and at their job. Connecticut is not built that way. Our houses are in the suburbs, and our jobs are in the suburbs and the cities. What are we going to do – force poor people to ride the trains?

  23. It’s important to factor in the additional revenue created by new jobs in and around the cities it serves. If the line doesn’t encourage economic growth in the area, THEN it shouldn’t exist, but I highly doubt that would be the case.

    What would the jobs be? If we don’t improve the business climate here but build the train, there will be no one who needs to get to New Haven, Hartford or Springfield.

  24. This is America. We drive cars. Let’s widen the highways. Rail just won’t work. Nobody wants to ride a train, unless it drops them off at their home and at their job. Connecticut is not built that way. Our houses are in the suburbs, and our jobs are in the suburbs and the cities.

    Perfect!

    Can we get you to run for office?

    Please?

  25. Frankly, it looks like rail is one of the worst things the state could do in this economy.

    It’s a horrible idea anyway you look at it.

  26. It’s a horrible idea anyway you look at it.

    What if they add smoking cars?

  27. What if they add smoking cars?

    Funny; but mass transit’s a economy killer no matter what.

    Start adding up the places you see daily with drive-thru service for starters.

    We’re a nation of suburbia not just cities; and most cities already have some sort of transit that seems to work.

    Even in the UK where they supposedly have a “wonderful” transit system,
    and lot’s of logical reasons to use it; for example fuel is 4 times more expensive, an annual car tax runs into 1000’s of dollars yearly – yet private ownership of an automobile was clearly the desired mode of personal transportation. (AND they drive better and a *lot* faster than we do.)

    I don’t care if we’re all driving electric powered Smart Cars; I don’t want anyone dictating when and and where I come and go, when I stop, what brand of coffee is in my left hand or whether or not there’s tobacco involved or not.

    The above withstanding:
    Why aren’t we working on some rail based (or railroad easement based) BIG trains that go FAST from coast to coast.

    We already have trains that can break 100 – why don’t expand that?

    Putting a loaded tractor-trailer onto a flatbed sideways (fast loading and unloading) and sending goods in a day flat from NY to LA would have to save us tons of energy.
    A truckload of California produce from LA, chicken from Arkansas to anywhere, Cod Fish to LA – all in 24 hours or so and already loaded into the delivery truck.
    THAT would make sense, and would get a lot of tractor-trailers off the highways.

  28. Of course not, and that’s my point. As the benefits of roads far outweigh the costs, so too do the benefits of rail. No one has ever said it’s going to make money or really be cost-effective.

    Sadly, the benefits of rail DO NOT outweigh the costs — if that was the case, we’d have more rail already.

    Try to perform your own cost-benefit analysis of rail versus highways. In the end, you’ll fall well short of making it work financially, and you’ll be stuck trying to justify taking 2,200 cars off the road at the cost of $9 million a year (not to mention the necessary capital expenditures to build the line and stations, and buy the trains). In August 2008, using an estimate of 2,200 passengers and one-way fares of $2.25 to $9.50, the General Assembly estimated the State subsidy at $14.53 per passenger. That’s right: under the best of estimates, the State would pay more to take Gabe from New Haven to Hartford than Gabe would. If it is built, I’ll ride the train more than anyone I know, but this plan is absurd, and financially unworkable.

    Besides, if we don’t improve the business climate in this State, the improved connectivity won’t matter, because we’ll have half-hourly “trains to nowhere.”

  29. In August 2008, using an estimate of 2,200 passengers and one-way fares of $2.25 to $9.50, the General Assembly estimated the State subsidy at $14.53 per passenger. That’s right: under the best of estimates, the State would pay more to take Gabe from New Haven to Hartford than Gabe would. If it is built, I’ll ride the train more than anyone I know, but this plan is absurd, and financially unworkable.

    For the record, I am not trying to say that the government shouldn’t provide ANY funding to mass transit. However, take a look at the Metro North New Haven Line, the most heavily traveled commuter line in America. For every dollar in expenses, just 30 cents is paid by the State. The remaining 70 cents comes from passenger fares.

    That’s the type of funding arrangement you’ll need to get universal support for the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Line.

  30. Try to perform your own cost-benefit analysis of rail versus highways.

    Fuel taxes do pay for our highways.

    I believe we have a surplus there if one were to look at total revenues raised vs spent on roads.

    Further – aside from roads what does the state do that everyone receives some benefit from?

  31. easthartfordtaxpayer

    I’ve investigated Rail to Philly, Florida and Washington in the last year and each time it was about the same price as flying and far more expensive than driving. Now consider that’s with large federal subsidies for Amtrak.

    Why would I ride a train which is slower and just as expensive unless I have a fear of flying?

    Another thing to think about… The shoreline east has 483,700 uses a year costing a bit over 11.3 million dollars a year.

    Based on round trip travel that’s 241,850 trips. Divide that by 260 working days and you end up with a max of 930 commuters using that line. 930 commuters could fit in 100 Easy Street vans.

    100 Easy Street vans would cost about 3,000,000 up front or broken up over say an average 5 year life, 600,000 a year. Intellichoice data puts the cost of maintenance, fuel and repairs at about 389,000/year for a fleet of 100 vans. Add another million for overhead and waste and you are moving the same number of commuters on more flexible schedules to more flexible destinations for 1.989 million or 17.5% of the cost.

    Then consider that a rolling sales of used vans would add about 200,000 a year in revenue and if the equivalent fares and other income which is about 1.342 million were generated the program could be run for about 500K a year bringing the per taxpayer cost to per commuter and saving the taxpayer over $10,000 per commuter per year.

  32. easthartfordtaxpayer

    the program could be run for about 500K a year bringing the per taxpayer cost to per commuter and saving the taxpayer over $10,000 per commuter per year.

    It should read
    the program could be run for about 500K a year bringing the taxpayer cost to $537 per commuter and saving the taxpayer over $10,000 per commuter per year

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