Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Paul Marin Wants $75k From Northampton County and He Wants it Now!

I got lots of advice before going to last night's passenger rail presentation by former Wall Street money manager Paul Marin, who also chairs the LVEDC's Transportation Committee and is a LANTA board member. Look Out Lehigh Valley cautioned me to keep "an open mind to learn about what is being proposed."

When I walked into Easton's Third Street Alliance meeting room, the place was packed with about seventy proponents of passenger rail. Marin was preaching to the choir. Marin is promoting the extension of an existing rail line from Clinton, NJ, to Easton and further west. I learned there are already rails from Clinton to Phillipsburg, NJ, the western border of New Jersey. New Jersey has even designated areas for stations and parking lots.

Marin has persuaded the publicly-funded LVEDC to pay $100,000 towards a $250,000 railroad study. He expects to get the rest of the money from Northampton and Lehigh County, $75,000 each. In other words, the public is expected to pick up the entire tab.

Joyce Marin, Paul's wife, told the assembled masses that "Lehigh Valley Commissioners" have already approved the idea. I think she was referring to Lehigh County. She also claimed Paul even made a very favorable impression on the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, with the exception of two or three of those damnable naysayers.

"And we all know who they are," laughed Paul Marin, as the rest of the crowd joined in and yukked it up.

So much for having an open mind.

Lots of New York accents, by the way. Not one elected official was in the room. Nor were there any news reporters.

At this point, I asked the rail apostles whether there's something wrong with people who have questions. Isn't that the reason for this meeting in the first place? Marin stopped laughing.

I also asked a few other questions. Who is really benefiting? Should all of us be expected to pay for rail lines to bring more commuters in from New Jersey and New York? Who is really behind this? We already know it won't solve congestion, but won't it exacerbate it? Aren't these commuters going to gobble up what little open space we have left? Where's the zoning proposals? What about the schools? Won't they be overburdened, too?

Heresy! I got dirty looks the rest of the night.

About the only answer I got from Marin is that he himself is not a member of the Lehigh Valley Partnership, an unelected aristocracy that operates like a shadow government. According to Blue Coyote's description of a good study, we won't see those questions answered there, either.

As Blue Coyote explains it, 330 projects are already under consideration for federal funding. For all practical purposes, this is already dead.

Undaunted, Marin is moving forward. He made a pitch to Northampton County and was told the county would consider his request in next year's budget. Unwilling to wait in line like everyone else, Marin wants his money NOW. He plans a pitch next week before Northampton County Council.

After the meeting, I called the Northampton County Bulldog, Ron Angle, who just happens to chair Council's finance committee. This was news to him.

Incidentally, Angle is one of the two or three LVPC naysayersl - the ones Marin was laughing at earlier this evening.

I told Angle that, too.

40 comments:

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

FMZ interviewed Marin before the confrence for the TV broadcast.

I will say the massive end to a build up would not happen if people who should do their jobs in zonning and planning did their jobs at preventing that.

A train would also benefit plenty of Keystoners my age. With this economy the LV is not a great place for work.

A train commute to Philly or the rotten apple would be a nice option.

America needs a major infustrutur overhall. Trains should be a part of that.

But lets be real. Who runs the group that gave us Marin and the train "study"?

Didn't he have a record of wasting taxpayer dollars on useless "studies".

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Didn't he have a record of wasting taxpayer dollars on useless "studies".

I don't think so, to be fair. He hasn't sold me, but he doesn't have to sell it to me. He must be fairly confident if he thinks he can just stop by NC Council and walk away with a check for $75k.

Anonymous said...

Watch how i plays out at the meeting as Ann McHale is a member of LANTA Board.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That could explain why he thinks he can get this money now. I can do a railroad study for $50.

Joe Hilliard said...

I have reviewed a number of studies - after these proposals were implemented.

These light rail projects are always disastrous.

Mr. Marin is a Wall Street tycoon. And like the Wall Streeters who bankrupted themselves, they all turn to the government (the taxpayers) to pay for all their schemes.

Why doesn't Mr. Marin do this the old, Wall Street way? Find a bunch of private investors and build a railroad company......

Nah, government's gotta do it and we gotta use taxpayer money to pay for it.

Isn't that how Beth Steel, Standard Oil and the railroads were built? With taxpayer funded "studies" and taxpayer money?

Anonymous said...

To fair, transportation is always subsidized. Look into the actual cost of air transportation. It's never covered by the ticket costs. Look at into the actual cost of auto and truck transportation. Gas taxes don't cover those costs.

Economic externalities are passed on to the public all the time in our transportation system. If we are going to pass them on in one form, we should pass them on in other forms. At this point, we don't treat all forms equally with regard to externalities, and that flies in the face of free market capitalism.

Anonymous said...

Bernie -

Is his wife the same Joyce Marin who was appointed CED director in Allentown?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes.

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

I was refering too Phil Mittman and his "I'll get a group to study it, and we'll get back to you.".

Mittman was King of urinating tax dollars for "consultants studies".

Now LVEDC is doing it under his leadership.

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

to not too

Bernie O'Hare said...

Got it.

I misunderstood you.

Gene said...

Paul Marin wants to be able to ride a train to his job in New York. Period. I'd like to see him try doing it the traditional Wall Street way, tapping into his rich commuter buddies instead of tapped-out Lehigh Valley taxpayers. Might create some jobs in the process, as well. But as with all Wall Streeters, why work when you can play with money instead - especially public funds?

Dean N. Browning said...

The $75,000 requested from Lehigh County has not been approved. It is part of the 2009 budget that is currently being reviewed by the Board of Commissioners. There are at least two more sessions scheduled to complete the budget review as follows:

http://www.lehighcounty.org/commish/commdocs/BudgetHearings08.pdf

Anyone who wants to attend one of these hearings and speak in favor or against this (or any other budget item) should take the opportunity. The vote on the final budget will not be until October 22.

Dean N. Browning

Anonymous said...

Someone made the point in another post about the time it will take to take the train from the Lehigh Valley to New York. To me that is the biggest reason this needs to be studied real hard - it'll take too long and as a result people won't ride the train.

I know a lot of people who live in Quakertown and work in Philly. To take the train involves driving to Lansdale and getting on for the ride. All in, it's a 1hr 45min commute on a good day. To drive to downtown Philly from the Quakertown interchange is about an hour. Many people would rather drive and save time than take the train, and that hasn't changed even w/ the jump in gas prices.

This has all kinds of implications for the Lehigh Valley, hopefully our elected officials recognize that there needs to be a lot of work done.

Spike, I hear ya (and agree) on studies, but I don't see any other way on this one.

The Banker

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dean, Thanks for setting us straight. Last night, Joyce Marin led everyone to believe the "Lehigh Valley Commissioners" had already approved this.

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

I think she was referring to the Lehigh Valley PLANNING Commission.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, she was not. I was there. You were not. She spoke about the LVPC and the "Lehigh Valley Commissioners" separately. She indicated, wrongly, that the "Lehigh Valley Commissioners" have approved their end of the funding and her husband added that a push would be made next Thursday in Northampton County.

Anonymous said...

Prisons and trains. What the heck, keep spending our hard earned Tax Dollars on white elephant projects that will simply cost us all in the end and be outdated or outpriced the day they are opened.

Bob Jr. said...

Gotta disagree, Banker, on the train to Phily. In the 1990s, I lived 20 minutes from the Qtown TP interchange and worked in center city; the train from Lansdale beat driving any day. You're exhausted after fighting traffic during rush hour(s). You don't save any time driving and its way more expensive. Even now, when I can chose to travel at off-peak times, I still take the train.

Anonymous said...

Bob jr, which direction did you travel to get to the Qtown interchange? It may be that your commute to the Lansdale station was shorter than the people that I know, and therefore it worked for you?

GOP4MassTran said...

Joe, where is your information about light rail projects being "disastrous." Are you talking about Charlotte, where plans are already being made to expand the current system, recently opened? Maybe you're talking about Phoenix and or any of the other towns where light rail transit has spurred development.
And Banker, a trip to the Landsdale train station will show one how many more people are using the train, as one hopes they can find a parking space in the back row.

Joe Hilliard said...

gop4masstran,

Those figures will be released soon.

I am currently involved in 7 other local grassroots efforts to stop government spending insanity.

Anonymous said...

gop...
Light rail as you describe 'followed' development..it didn't create it. And Charlotte's system serves one of the nation's already growing banking centers. If B of A, Wachovia, etc start having difficulties you can watch the rails start to rust.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anybody ask the ignorant 'locals' if they want to become a suburb of Brooklyn? For the few times a year we go to New York we are more than happy with the great sevice you get from Transbridge and Beeber buses.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:16,

There was a bit of that ignorant local attitude last night. After the meeting, I listened as a former New Yorker who lives in the East Penn School District told me that schools are much better now that he's here than they were when I was a kid.

Every time I'd open my mouth to answer him, I'd get hit with, "You're not listening."

No, there's not muich regard for the ignorant locals. I saw that first hand last night.

Anonymous said...

In no particular order:

1) Mr. Marin is positioning himself for a run for Lehigh County Exec

2) Rail always fascinates the public. It has romance and speaks to times gone by.

3) Charlotte's light rail is well funded with a local dedicated sales tax which also supports other transit in a community 6 times the size of the Valley. Check out wikipedia on Charlotte.

4) The restoration of rail depends upon decisions made in New Jersey. It is New Jersey Transit's study of whether to extend service beyond High Bridge that is the issue. Cong Dent reports that with tight funding, Jersey likely will opt to pour funds into their third tunnel under the Hudson project rather than any other rail extensions.

5) Federal dollars only support half the cost of these projects. The challenge is finding the local funding. The State has already told Marin that there is 'no money' for this project, therefore, the Counties will have to fund the 50% share. Is anyone ready to support a local dedicated tax for passenger rail service from Easton to Phillipsburg? The Counties might consider $75,000 a small amount to throw at this effort just to keep Joyce and Paul happy, but it is the tip of the iceberg.

6) The Marin's are very positive people until, as BOH found out, you disagree with what they are preaching about. They are politically correct to a fault and have zero patience or tolerance for any alternative thinking to theirs. And if you are of no use to them, they have no use for you.

7) The service being considered bears no resemblance to the rail service from Lansdale to Philadelphia. The Jersey service would be slow and would need to stop at every station along the way in order to gather passengers. Without those stops and passengers, the service cannot be justified statistically.
It will take more time and cost more than either Bieber or Trans-Bridge bus service.

8) If one really wanted to improve commuter access from the Valley to New York, one would suggest exclusive bus lanes for express services along I-78 and expanded park and ride lots. Luxury bus coaches could easily make the trip in a little over an hour.

Anonymous said...

Typical local lose attitudes bouncing around here stating all the reasons we can't do something rather than the reasons we can.

Anonymous said...

"... loser attitudes ..."

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 10:07, Just got back from a meeting with Paul Marin. Funny, he didn't seem to think these are "local loser" attitudes. In fact, he has agreed respond to every question I pose in a written interview.

Anonymous said...

anon :07
Some would call it 'experience.' Others might call us locals "happy with our lives as they are." Still others call it "realism" and 'no money.' You might go through life like Mr. Happy as did millions of people who thought they could own a home with no money down, no payments for 5 years and no income sufficient enough to pay it. I live in the REAL world.

GOP4MassTran said...

" If one really wanted to improve commuter access from the Valley to New York, one would suggest exclusive bus lanes for express services along I-78 and expanded park and ride lots" How about Bieber and Trans-Bridge paying for these exclusive bus lanes. I wonder how much they contributed to the Park and Ride lot on 33 and William Penn, et al.

GOP4MassTran said...

"The service being considered bears no resemblance to the rail service from Lansdale to Philadelphia. The Jersey service would be slow and would need to stop at every station along the way in order to gather passengers."
Did you ever think that not everyone who goes towards NJ, works in NYC? I've been on the R5 local to Philly and out of Lansdale and believe or not, people actually get off before the 3 Philly stations. Imagine that!?

Anonymous said...

"Did you ever think that not everyone who goes towards NJ, works in NYC? I've been on the R5 local to Philly and out of Lansdale and believe or not, people actually get off before the 3 Philly stations. Imagine that!?"

And the point being made by the original statement was that the service will be slow. And your point is?

Anonymous said...

"How about Bieber and Trans-Bridge paying for these exclusive bus lanes. I wonder how much they contributed to the Park and Ride lot on 33 and William Penn, et al."

Not sure of your logic here: we should all pay for trains but not invest in park and ride lots and exclusive bus lanes because of what reason? Because you like trains not buses?

These private companies make profits and supply a service that is successful. They have the ability to expand with some public support that would be a lot less expensive then restoring rail service and would not be a subsidized operation.

If you are 'for mass transit' you need to think beyond steel wheels as the sole option.

GOP4MsssTran said...

And the point being made by the original statement was that the service will be slow. And your point is?
The point is easy to see, not all commuters want to go to NYC, there is a need for service elsewhere.

GOP4MassTran said...

"Not sure of your logic here: we should all pay for trains but not invest in park and ride lots and exclusive bus lanes because of what reason? Because you like trains not buses?

These private companies make profits and supply a service that is successful. They have the ability to expand with some public support that would be a lot less expensive then restoring rail service and would not be a subsidized operation."

I'm all for good bus service and would take a bus to work if I could, but I don't work in NYC, Wall Street, etc.

I think you need to get past the idea that mass transportation will make a profit. The private bus companies, which have limited service would not exist without public investment in infrastructure.

William said...

"Charlotte's light rail is well funded with a local dedicated sales tax which also supports other transit in a community 6 times the size of the Valley. Check out wikipedia on Charlotte. "
Sure, I did. Charlotte metro area pop. is 1.7M. Six times the valley would bring us in about 300,000. I think not. Also, like it or not, we are a bedroom community of the largest and sixth largest city of the US, something that Charlotte can't say. Our choices are car, bus, and ......

Anonymous said...

The big point not being made here is how rails service will reshape development patterns here in the valley.

Rail makes walkable, pedestrian oriented style development possible and makes urban revitalization achievable without tearing down 50% of our cities at an unattainable cost (in doing so and in lost tax revenue.

As long as the car is the sole mode of transportation most every home will be forced to have two of them which forces everyone out on the cities with one or no car garages.

A return to rail will allow people with decent income to have one, or no, vehicle(s).

Joyce Marin said...

You were sitting behind me at the Easton presentation. It is possible either that you misheard my comments or that I was unclear. It was late and either of us could have been at fault. If it was me, I apologize.

I was referring to the the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, to whom Paul made a presentation last month. To my knowledge, neither the LVPC or the Lehigh County Commissioners have taken a formal vote or a stand on this issue. My comments referred to last month's meeting of the LVPC, after Paul made his presentation. You can talk to the other commissioners, but it was my impression that the commissioners approved OF the ideas that Paul presented.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ms. Marin,

You mentioned that the LVPC had been sold on this idea, which is when your husband mentioned there were two or three holdouts "and we all know who they are."

But your husband also mentioned getting $75k from NC and said he was going for it now. That's when you said the "Lehigh Valley Comm'rs" had agreed to this already. I thought that odd, and we now know, thanks to Dean Browning, that's not what happened. Clearly, the impression left was that you were referring to LC Comm'rs bc the LVPC has no authority to approve funding.

I did not record the meeting and it is entirely possible that I misunderstood you. I did take notes and reported it as I remembered it.

Perhaps I need to apologize.

You've clarified what you meant.

Thank you.