There is no demand for rail service in the Adirondacks

To the editor:

I agree that the idea of a demand for rail service on this corridor in the Adirondacks is wildly exaggerated. I also don’t believe that the scenery along the railroad is any better than what people would get traveling up 28 to Route 3 and north by car or bus. But alas, Trailways bus service ended in 1985 between Lake Placid and Utica because of lack of ridership.

The evidence is clear from Adirondack Scenic Railroad statements and actions there is no demand for riding a train in the Adirondacks. They have closed the section between Thendara and Big Moose to rail use all but 10 days last year and 14 days this year to promote pedaling on the corridor on rail bikes. That is an admission that railroad scenic or passenger activities have little interest to the general public. The taxpayers spent $8 million replacing the bridge over Route 28 and refurbishing the tracks to Big Moose so maybe 10 or 15 times a year a train might use it — seems to be a heavy price. Now the same taxpayers get to pay the ASR to pedal on it with rail bikes.

For more insight to passenger service demand into the Adirondacks, one only must look at their schedule and tax returns. Their ticket sales for 2017 were 1.386 million; of that, the Polar Express accounts for 1 million of their ticket sales and never enters the Adirondacks on the corridor. Add in their other 40 excursions that don’t reach the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor, and it’s clear that riding a train in the Adirondacks is not the what people want to do. These figures are alarming since the New York State Department of Transportation spends more on maintenance of the corridor than the gross ticket sales on the corridor. Who does this?

The Pataki administration started funding the ASR in 1996; they paid for the tracks so they could operate and gave them seed money to buy equipment. Now, 23 years later, it’s time to evaluate the value of continuing to fund rail operations.

Jim McCulley

Lake Placid