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Passenger rail service: Where’s the evidence?

August 3, 2012
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

To the editor:

A July 31 Guest Commentary in the Enterprise dismissed the nationwide evidence of economic benefits of rail-trails as "an illusion." If the commenter has specific objections to the methods used to generate that evidence, let him debate those objections with the experts on the other side. Otherwise, that evidence should constitute the primary basis for making this decision. Our system of law and government is based on weighing evidence, and we should hope we don't find ourselves on a jury with a person who has no use for evidence!

The commentary then offered conjecture in anticipation of robust passenger rail traffic from Albany or Chicago, through Utica, to Saranac Lake. This would be a massively expensive undertaking to restore the rail line, and then to subsidize the operation of such rail service if it does not carry a very substantial number of passengers. According to the Congressional Budget Office, railroads carried 1 percent of domestic intercity passenger travel in the year 2000, versus 92.2 percent by air and 6.8 percent by bus (CBO, 2003). Unless advocates can present credible evidence of a robust passenger load - and given lengthy travel times, poor options for local travel once a visitor arrives by train, and the excellent air service we enjoy - we should conclude that passenger rail service would not justify such a massive expenditure or significantly benefit the region economically.

David Banks

Lake Clear



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