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Monday, August 31, 2009

Trains in NH? No Way.

The Concord Monitor has put yesterday's Viewpoints section online. We're happy to link to the many interesting articles in that section. First, Dick Lemieux argues that new passenger rail service makes little or no sense in New Hampshire.
First, New Hampshire lacks the critical mass of riders or the population density to support rail.

Transit advocates have a long history of overestimating ridership. And federal authorities have a long history of accepting them without question. (Check out the trolleys.) The suggestion that 1,000 to 1,500 riders per day would board in Concord alone is laughable. According to Census figures, 165 commuters made the daily trip between Concord and Boston in 2000.

History tells us that new train passengers are former bus passengers, not former car drivers. Thus, trains would not remove very many cars from the road. They would remove buses. Nowhere in America has rail reduced intercity highway congestion.

Second, rail would cost money the state simply doesn't have. At a time when the state is laying off employees, raising taxes and fees, cutting services and cutting critical support to municipalities, it is irresponsible to propose a new $300 million project of any kind, let alone one that would benefit between one tenth and one half of 1 percent of New Hampshire's residents.

Based on reasonable estimates of cost and ridership, the startup cost would be between $45,000 and $300,000 per daily passenger. Looking forward, U.S. Department of Transportation data show that rail operating subsidies average 21 cents per passenger mile, compared with 4.7 cents for buses.

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