• Maine Commuter Rail

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England

Moderators: MEC407, NHN503

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  by Froggie
 
Being from South Portland, my first thought upon reading this was, "Where on earth would they put the station?" I guess they could put it on Main Street, but the tracks don't exactly run next to the most populous areas of town.
  by Mikejf
 
It is too bad Portland does not have all it's businesses centrally located so the rail option will work. A long walk to most medical facilities from the rail. And all other major employers are a long way from Rail. Going to be a tough sell if someone thinks about it.

Mike
  by markhb
 
That's what comes from predating the arrival of the steam engine; the grade (i.e., Bramhall Hill) to get into town didn't matter so much when most people arrived by boat. Take a good look at the city the next time you ride in on the Peaks Island ferry and you'll realize that the city's real front door is the harbor.
  by Mikejf
 
That's where the front door used to be, but not much down there now. Maybe a stop near the ball park and one down on Commercial street would reach most of the city, but the bulk of the commuters are going to the outskirts, away from a feasable rail location.

Mike
  by Froggie
 
Did anybody attend this meeting? I didn't hear about it ahead of time (it's separate from the Gorham Corridor Study meeting, right?), but it seems like it was very relevant.
Transit experts who have worked on projects throughout the country spoke Thursday evening about new ways of moving people around Greater Portland.

The presentation, hosted by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, was the first in a series of workshops on the area's transportation problems and potential solutions to them.

...

Commuter rail, higher frequency light rail, bus rapid transit and streetcars were discussed.
  by markhb
 
It looks like the only rail-related item on the Portland Transportation Committee's agenda for this month is related to commuter rail, not the NNEPRA suggestion of a new station. The item is:
2. Resolution in Support of LD 1330. Resolve, To Expand Commuter Rail and Passenger Rail Transportation in Maine. - Councilor Marshall
The meeting materials include the proposed resolution by the City. It has a long preamble which I won't reiterate, but a few of the clauses are perhaps noteworthy:
Whereas, existing railway transportation corridors link federally recognized transportation
centers at OceanGate and the Auburn Airport with service center communities throughout the
region
Whereas, rail transit removes commuters from congested highways onto dedicated transit
corridors,
Whereas, rail corridors offer a high quality transit link containing minimal conflict with other
rail traffic and minimal urban road crossings,
Whereas, establishment of commuter rail service and the rail line improvements for such service
lay the groundwork for further service to downtown Lewiston and the communities of Oxford
County, to the communities west of Portland, Windham, Westbrook and Standish and to the
major population and market area of Montreal, Quebec,
The homepage for the resolution itself is here. The Summary states:
This resolve directs the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority to establish and convene the Maine Commuter and Passenger Rail Advisory Task Force to evaluate and prioritize investments in commuter and passenger rail service between communities in this State in order to expedite development of efficient commuter rail service as appropriate in the major economic and population centers in this State to reduce costs to the State, its municipalities and its citizens of travel to and from work, business activities and entertainment and recreation activities. The task force must develop a Maine commuter and passenger rail plan, which must include investment priorities for the establishment of commuter and passenger rail service between communities in this State. The plan must be based on existing studies and analyses that explore the markets and infrastructure and the potential to remove automobile traffic from excessively used roadways. The plan must also provide for the reduction of highway construction and maintenance costs and ways to limit the need for parking facilities as well as reducing road congestion and lessening transportation costs for citizens living in cities in this State. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority must report the findings and the plan of the task force to the Department of Transportation and the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation no later than December 31, 2011. The Joint Standing Committee on Transportation may submit a bill to the Second Regular Session of the 125th Legislature on the subject matter of the report.
Quite an ambitious charge for a task force with no budget and a stipulation that the members will not even be reimbursed for expenses. What is notable, though, is the list of co-sponsors on the resolution (the primary sponsor is Rep. Ben Chipman, I-Portland (Parkside)). Italics are my own comments;
  • Representative CAIN of Orono -Emily Cain, House Minority Leader (D)
  • Representative CEBRA of Naples - Richard Cebra, House Chair of the Transportation Committee (R)
  • Senator CRAVEN of Androscoggin - Margaret Craven, Senator for Lewiston (D)
  • Representative CUSHING of Hampden - Andre Craven, House Assistant Majority Leader (Whip) (R)
  • Senator DIAMOND of Cumberland -Sen. Bill Diamond of Windham, member of the Transportation Committee (D)
  • Representative MAZUREK of Rockland - Edward Mazurek, ranking Minority Member of the Transportation Committee (D)
  • Representative PEOPLES of Westbrook - Ann Peoples, member of the Transportation Committee (D)
  • Representative SHAW of Standish - Mike Shaw, lists his occupation as "Railroad Conductor" (D)
  • Representative WILLETTE of Mapleton - Freshman Republican who represents this district near Presque Isle, Transportation Committee member (R)
Let's see, that gives us 3 Republicans including the majority whip and the chair of the committee of jurisdiction, 6 Democrats including the Minority Leader and the ranking minority member of the Committee, 5 total members of the Committee, representatives of Lewiston and the Portland and Bangor suburbs (including 3 from the Mountain Division area). I'm not a big fan of Rep. Chipman politically and I don't live in his district, but I do have to give him credit for doing his legwork in putting this list of cosponsors together.
  by gokeefe
 
Mark,

Is this resolution binding?

As a part of the executive branch I would think separation of powers would require legislation or some kind in order to require a result from an executive agency.

Are these people exclusively committed to 'heavy rail' or are they looking at light rail or streetcar options as well? Have any of these individuals ever been involved in causes that supported light rail or streetcar proposals?
  by Froggie
 
I was wondering that too. Does the city of Portland really have the authority to order NNEPRA to do such a study, or would it have to come down from the State?

*edited for typos
Last edited by Froggie on Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by markhb
 
I didn't go tonight, as it seemed like a rubberstamp agenda item. I think I was unclear earlier: The core resolution, LD 1330 with the list of sponsors I mentioned, is before the Legislature. That's the one that would set up a task force to study passenger and commuter rail. From what I can find on the Legislature's website, NNEPRA is technically an independent agency and not directly under the MaineDOT or the Executive Branch; dare I say it, they're set up the same way as the Maine Turnpike Authority. So I think this resolution would either be binding, or at least unwise for NNEPRA to ignore; they're not under the Executive Branch. For that matter, I think resolves like this have been used in the past as a way for the Legislature to direct even an executive agency to do something; such was the case in 2004 with the I-95 renumbering.

The Portland Transportation Committee was discussing a proposed resolution to be laid before the full City Council that would express the City's support for LD 1330.

I have no idea what the thinking is re: what kind of equipment to run. I'm not sure that there have been any serious light rail proposals in Portland since Cumberland County Power & Light pulled the plug on the old streetcar system, but in all probability the emphasis here will be (at least in terms of Portland.... can't speak to L/A and Bangor) on trying to reduce motor vehicle traffic on the Peninsula, and whatever is the most effective means to that end would be favored.

The fact that the City's resolution in support mentions rail connections to Oceangate (i.e., the new ferry terminal in GT-land) troubles me since using that implies reconstructing the trestle.
  by Froggie
 
markhb wrote:The core resolution, LD 1330 with the list of sponsors I mentioned, is before the Legislature. That's the one that would set up a task force to study passenger and commuter rail. [...] The Portland Transportation Committee was discussing a proposed resolution to be laid before the full City Council that would express the City's support for LD 1330.
Yes, that makes a lot more sense, though probably I was the only one confused. ;)
  by markhb
 
One thing I neglected to mention earlier: theLegislature's Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing on LD 1330 tomorrow, Apr. 28 at 1 Pm in Augusta (State House room 126). It should be an interesting day, given that the bill shares the date with a proposal to create a special license plate (like the University and breast cancer ones) for the NRA.
  by markhb
 
It appears that the City Council approved the resolution in support of LD 1330 on Monday, 6-1 (Suslovic opposed, Leeman, Donoghue absent). The committee work session on the resolution will be May 5, 2011, at 1 Pm, in Room 126 of the State House.

The Portland Daily Sun had an article today regarding the possibility of giving buses priority on downtown Congress Street, and also mentioning LD 1330 and Ben Chipman's ideas around commuter rail.
Rail, METRO studies seek to curb cars
While [Senior City Planner Bill] Needelman said the Bus Priority Corridor "has a specific scope to bus traffic on a certain section of Congress Street," Chipman said his commuter rail study could help city officials coordinate bus line schedules with commuter rail service.

After riding a train into Portland, "you'd be able to get on a bus and get to where you're going," Chipman said.
...

"I think Portland is big enough to support rail, it's got to be well thought out. The bill would bring stakeholders to the table," Chipman said.
  by gokeefe
 
I don't know where Representative Chipman is getting his information or developing his opinion that, "Portland is big enough to support rail", but I don't think its very well thought out.

Heavy rail seems to be pure fantasy. Street cars on the other hand not so much. Why, oh why, this alternative doesn't come up is really beyond me.
  by 3rdrail
 
gokeefe wrote:I don't know where Representative Chipman is getting his information or developing his opinion that, "Portland is big enough to support rail", but I don't think its very well thought out.

Heavy rail seems to be pure fantasy. Street cars on the other hand not so much. Why, oh why, this alternative doesn't come up is really beyond me.
I agree 100 %. It's called "let's pretend that we have cities and are not a state of villiages".
  by kilroy
 
gokeefe wrote:I don't know where Representative Chipman is getting his information or developing his opinion that, "Portland is big enough to support rail", but I don't think its very well thought out.

Heavy rail seems to be pure fantasy. Street cars on the other hand not so much. Why, oh why, this alternative doesn't come up is really beyond me.
Are you thinking of building inter-urban lines out to surrounding areas? I don't see how that would be more economical. The cost of acquiring the ROWs would be more than heavy rail subsidies for many, many years.

If you're thinking of running DMU's on existing tracks, that's not going to happen. Light rail DMU's can't run on heavy rail tracks unless they are grade separated (which there may not be enough room for without acquiring more land) or time separated. That would mean no Amtrak or freight service on the lines during commuter operating times.

Sorry, I don't see anything but heavy rail for commuter service in Portland. They did the DMU time separated operations here in New Jersey on the River Line. It works well because Conrail only runs one or two locals a day over the tracks and they can usually get their work done during their overnight window of operations. But because of the success of the light rail, there is a desire to expand the operations later into the night and now they can't because the tracks belong to Conrail and they want to service their customers.
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