Need a more realistic picture of the impact of passenger rail service

Saturday April 13, 2013

The flurry of activity in recent weeks to promote the concept of passenger rail service in the so-called "western corridor" of southwest Vermont seems to be a case of a small group of people who have concocted a dubious scheme attempting to foist this scheme on what they hope is a gullible public.

Two weeks ago a Banner article stated that the initial capital cost just to start the operation from Albany to Bennington to Manchester to Rutland was estimated to be $118 million and the ridership might be about 8,800 persons per year. Do the math on that one, and get a guess as to [how] the break-even price of a ticket, or the size of the subsidy, might have to be funded by the general public.

The article on April 9 spoke glowingly about the use of this service as a commuter service for employees to and from their jobs. The proponents speak glowingly about the huge number of jobs to be created so serve these 8,800 riders. They also predict great increases in all kinds of economic activity in the towns to be served.

What I would like to see is some evidence to support these wild claims of economic renaissance to come. Are there any actual studies available that provide verifiable evidence to justify these claims? Where can we find such research?

I would suggest that a more realistic picture of what might be the actual impact of passenger rail service on Bennington County can be gained by considering the economic activity in the towns now served by Amtrak north of Saratoga Springs, i.e., Ft. Edward, Whitehall, Castleton, and Rutland.

While we are waiting for the hard evidence to appear, I would suggest that these train buffs would be better served to find a good hobby shop, buy a Lionel set to play with, and concentrate their energy on something more constructive, such as finding actual corporations that will be willing to locate in our area and provide jobs above the minimum wage level.




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