Buried in the recent article on commuter rail is all we need to know about why commuter rail is a very, very bad idea for the Granite State.
First, the author takes liberties with the ridership numbers. The actual estimate is 2,568 passengers per day, not 3,000. In reality, it should be understood that 2,568 passengers a day is really just 1,284 individuals, some from NH and some not, each taking one round trip daily. So, when you’re considering how many NH residents would benefit from rail, you’re really looking at somewhat less than 1,284, less than one tenth of one percent of NH residents.
Contrary to what the author says, it is not at all unclear how the $7 million per year bond payments and operating subsidies would be funded. It’s right there on Page 21 of the 2014 study she cites. The state’s share would be paid with statewide capital program money, vehicle registration taxes, municipal “contributions,” greenhouse gas initiative fees, statewide property taxes, airport passenger charges and lottery ticket revenue … in other words, mostly by hundreds of thousands of people who would neither use the train nor benefit from it.
The lion’s share of the $916.5 million cost of widening I-93 and the Everett Turnpike will be paid by the people who use those roads, via gas taxes and tolls. That is a feasible and sustainable funding plan.
On the other hand, the lion’s share of the $246 million plus $7 million per year cost of commuter rail would be paid by taxpayers all across the country and New Hampshire who would never even see the train, let alone use it. That is how boondoggles are funded.
Other assertions in the article are so ridiculous that they must not go unchallenged. First, to expect that shifting 2,568 commuters a day to the train would relieve traffic on both Route 3 and I-93 is delusional. The daily fluctuations are more than that today. Further proof is in the fact that highways are congested everywhere in the Boston metro area, where there is already rail. Doubters need only look at the Lowell to Boston corridor for proof that rail has no affect highway congestion.
Lobbyist EJ Powers’ assertion that “A commuter rail connection would allow (commuters) to continue to live in the city but work in Manchester” is laughable. First, they’re reverse commuting in the non-peak direction. For most of them, the train would be slower.
But, even if there are 500-600 people who would choose a slower train to travel from Massachusetts to work in the millyard, the expectation that taxpayers in NH should be expected to foot the bill for their commuting costs is, frankly, insulting to New Hampshire taxpayers.
Eli Maroney, the fellow who switched to a 9-to-5 job at Bose Corporation in Framingham and who now considers himself “in exile from NH due to Boston commute,” might have said it best when he said, “New Hampshire is a great place to live. … If I could find a job that pays as well as my current position, I would definitely want to move back.”
That’s what NH should be focusing on, well paying jobs, not expensive underutilized trains. …giving people less reason to work out of state, not more.
The root problem is that NH is not competitive with MA in salaries. Rail exacerbates that problem by making it easier for a few lucky people to abandon NH jobs and head south.
Commuter rail is based on the dubious principle that 1.33 million NH residents who work at lower paying in-state jobs should pay, involuntarily, for rail that would make commuting a little bit cushier for 0.001284 million residents to their higher paying out-of-state jobs.
I think it’s kind of funny in a way that it’s the Democrats, “champions of the little people,” who are pushing rail that is so clearly a gift to the high rollers at the expense of the little people.
Mr. Lemieux is a retired highway engineer and transportation planner with more than 30 years’ experience reviewing multimodal transportation plans from NH to Hawaii.