Monday, April 26, 2010

TUESDAY, 6PM: Straight Talk on the Lehigh Valley Rail Study at City Hall

By Dennis R. Lieb

(The above photo is the central rail station of Brugges, Belgium. I used it extensively while there to travel to Iper, Ghent, Brussels and Paris. It is a five minute bike ride or ten minute walk from central Brugges. )

I attended last week's RenewLV rail forum at the Hotel Bethlehem with about 200 other people. I won't get into particulars for lack of time, but had these general reactions:

I came away from it even more convinced that this needs to happen and the sooner the better.

It is obvious that with Paul Marin's departure for Spain, there is no dynamic voice leading this initiative at the current time.

The mood in the room was one of political predisposition to, if not kill the plan, then at least de-emphasize it's legitimacy.

The above opinion emanates from a general feeling garnered from the study language that nobody wants to step on PennDOT's or the private bus carrier's toes.

Bruce Davis; the Rt 22 Coalition's mouthpiece and ever-present voice of LV highway expansion, never gets tired of spouting his mantra of doom and gloom surrounding rail's future here. It is time they took
the microphone away from him.

The area's mayors made their presence felt through sharply focused questions that called into doubt much of the "statistical evidence" presented on ridership and farebox return. I give them credit for holding feet to the fire.

Having said all this, I do not want to give the impression all is lost. Quite the contrary, there was nothing in the report - despite it's stilted presentation - that precludes us from continuing with this project. Two key phrases were mouthed that night that should rise above the din:



On Tuesday night Easton Mayor Sal Panto has called for a special presentation at council's working meeting. It will be given by Becky Bradley and the Planning Staff. All Easton residents will be obviously welcome. If you would like to know what the actual status of passenger rail is, what new funding streams are currently available and hear a balanced evaluation of the rail study, then please attend. I have been part of a small rail working group within the city to analyze the report and come up with localized Easton data that puts the possibility of rail service in a much better light.

Tuesday, April 27, 6:00pm City Hall, Fifth Floor Council Chambers

Questions and comments from all attendees are welcome. I hope to see you there.



Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Anybody who drives Rt 78 everyday, as I do, know that rail transportation is the future. The roads simply can't carry the river of commuters every day, no matter how many more they build. Plus, there is on average one to three accidents on my stretch of the road alone. Just last weekend, I overheard someone say they wouldn't drive 78 because they would be risking their life to do so. No exaggeration.

hopeunseen said...

I hear you Julie,

Theresa commutes to Newark everyday and many times her travel time exceeds 4 hours.

The lack of mass transit is also a matter of our culture's emphasis on individualism leading to a dependence on personal vehicles, space, etc.

The growing congestion and traffic volume on 78 begs for a Rail.

Anonymous said...

still, rail would only benefit those former NY and NJ residents who have moved here and CAUSED the problem.same problem in the poconos and wilks barre along 80. I used to commute just to exit 16 and it was horrible (I'm not a transplant though). now I commute WEST on 22 and its like night and day.
so, if you dont like the traffic, well then work in PA or move back to NJ. simple.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again. Rail service is going to clean up I78. Another urban myth.

You people who travel 78. Do you carpool? Do you offer to drive someone else to take one car off the road? If you are not doing that, then mass transit won't solve anything. Mass transit means sacrifices. I don't hear too many wanting to make any

peterkc said...

Personally, I think a Valley-wide system of light rail and streetcars is more important to our sustainability than passenger rail to NY.

That being said, I think the study on passenger rail was deeply flawed, partly because of the choice of route and partly because of existing limitations of NJ Transit's Raritan Valley line [the old Jersey Central system].

One of the staff admitted that the option they chose [a southern route using Norfolk Southern's LV line] was probably significantly more expensive than a northern route would be -- both in initial capital costs and operating expenses. Using this choice was a sure way to discourage interest in a viable system.

Because of limitations within NJ Transit's system, it would actually take longer to get to NYC by the proposed train than it takes by bus! To get passenger rail to work, it needs to solve that problem first. As someone at the forum suggested, a high-speed Amtrak line from Harrisburg to NYC via Hershey, Reading, Kutztown, and the Lehigh Valley would make more sense.


P.S. - The study group should be embarrassed at delivering such a poor piece of work after accepting $250K from LVEDC & the counties is an embarrassment.

Anonymous said...

You can see the study at the LVEDC website.

I was surprised that the city of Easton stuck to the former LV terminal and came up with the idea of 2 dollar a day parking. On issue one-try some thinking outside of the box. On issue two, I'm a taxpayer and know that 2 dollar a day parking requires my support. I am not going to pay for some commuter to park their car all day. I already pay for too much baloney.

Anonymous said...

rail and streetcars disappeared for a REASON: not enough people were USING them. so fcking pathetic to want to spend billions to put something back that was there before that people weren't using!
carpool, bus and cut down on frivolous trips and your problem is fixed.

Anonymous said...

There are vested financial and therefore political interests in squelching mass transit in favor of building more road. Would serve proponents of mass transit to out these interests and their influence on studies to date.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would anyone want to car pool? How dare you suggest that others should give up freedom and privacy to make more room for you. Or is it some other vested interest you have?

Anonymous said...

Don't want to carpool? If you have a thumb, try hitchhiking.

If you are venturous, try freight hopping. There's a dozen trains going through every day.

Julie Zando-Dennis said...

Anonymous 8:11 am. Nice to hear that moving to Easton contributed to the problem. I guess that means I should take my investment dollars -- money spent on a broken down old West Ward house, groceries, hardware stores and the like -- and move somewhere else, since Easton and in particular the West Ward clearly is thriving without the income from new residents like myself.

noel jones said...

It was good to see the Mayor, City Council and Planning Department all enthusiastic about pursuing passenger rail for Easton.

I have said it before, but will say it again, passenger rail advocacy is not just about a rail line to NYC, but throughout the Lehigh Valley and the corridor. I would love to jump on a train to Bethlehem instead of driving. Or a train to Philly.

These Anon voices sound strangely alike...

Rail service and trolleys did not disappear because no one was using them, they disappeared because it was advantageous to the car and oil industries. And now we're facing an oil crisis with long commutes, and no trains or trolleys. We've got to get them back before the cost of drilling a gallon of oil costs more than a gallon of oil is worth. We have gone from 30 to 1 in the 70s to 3 to 1 today, and will soon approach the "roll over" point. What then, Anon?

As for car pooling--I do it whenever possible. I don't consider it a sacrifice, it just makes sense. I'd much rather take a train and skip the car althogether--I lived for 20 years without one.

Anonymous said...

so Julie, are you saying you are NOT part of the problem? well, thanks for saving the west ward, we obviousley can't get along w/o you!
and Noel, nice conspiracy theory you got there, big bad auto and oil industries killed the train. thanks for the insight.

Untouched Takeaway said...

I live in PA and work in NJ (yeah, Anonymous - one of "them")

I won't take 80 or 78 unless I'm absolutely forced to do so at gunpoint.

My commute, therefore, is probably longer than it might be, but at least I don't have to unwrap my white knuckles from the steering wheel once I arrive at work.


peterkc said...

Anonymous 10:18-

It might help if you would learn the facts before spouting off.

A number of studies have proven that the big auto companies bought up successful trolley and streetcar companies specifically to increase reliance on -- and demand for -- personal cars.

As for the long-distance trains, they were made unprofitable by massive subsidies for highways and by unsustainable suburban housing development.

These aren't 'conspiracy theories', they are known facts that have been very well documented. Your tax dollars subsidize others whether you like it or not -- that's what taxes do. The question is whether the money should be used to help make things better for people here or go to the already-rich owners of big corporations.

Effective public transit costs far less than unending highway construction and maintenance.


noel jones said...

Anon 10:18, again, this is not a forum for personal attacks, but civil, earnest debate. If you have a perspective to contribute to the conversation and open dialogue, then please offer it respectfully. Our country is suffering greatly right now from a difficulty in our citizens to engage in earnest civil productive debate. All disagreements are welcome here, but it contributes absolutely nothing to the discourse to insult other administrators and readers on this blog.

I'd like to turn the conversation back to the issue at hand, which is pension reform and the EASD tax hike. This is what the meeting will be about tonight. Pensions account for about 1/7 of the total amount of the original proposed tax hike (now I'm sure it counts for a higher percentage of the total after all the proposed cuts). The pension problem is going to get exponentially worse over the next few years--we need to pull together as a community with our elected officials and find a solution.

Anonymous said...

sorry if it came across as personal attacks, I was just speaking freely. anyway,I'm well aware of highway subsidies and how GM had shut down trolleys and such to build up their bus business; but that 's all history now. so lets look at the situation we are in right now.
highways have allowed this country to grow beyond its crowded cities and expand opportunities for more people. trains were and are limited in actually gettine people where they want to go; thats why cities and small towns were always built so crowded, to be close to the incoming train and supplies.
as for suburbs, well, they also are a reality that can't just go away. and you can't build a rail to every neighborhood and people have the freedom to live wherever they want.
i'm just seeing a lot of money being spent/wasted on feasibility studies and the special interset groups will contiue fighting. I just dont see it happening unless you can fundametally change the way people live/work/play.
sorry if i offended. I gotta stay anonymous because of a conflict of interest.

Anonymous said...

I am another anonymous. Not the same one.

My community needs a lot. It needs help for all kinds of things and the list is neverending.

When you want to jump rail to the top of priorities, I am going to say no. That is not a personal attack.

Rail serves many communities in the metropolitan NY area. If you want to use rail, maybe, you should look at those communities.

I will continue to pursue those needs that Easton requires. Sorry, rail is not one of them. It's very expensive, congress has never given that kind of money to this area. We lack the political clout to make that kind of federal investment happen. Why waste our time and let's move on real issues that will improve our lives.

noel jones said...

Anons--thanks for re-posting. This is a worthy debate, but it's late, so I will try to rejoin this discussion tomorrow night. Thanks for keeping it civil--you're bringing up important points for discussion--even advocates of rail get frustrated with money wasted on studies that don't take all variables into account so that we have to spend more money on more studies...good night for now...