Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Will Marin's Departure Kill LV Passenger Rail?

Rumor has it that Paul Marin once wowed his house guests by donning a matador's costume. But in many ways, he has been very much like those flamboyant showmen, considered both artists and athletes, who are willing to face the bull alone.

Marin has faced some LV bulls. He was willing to answer some tough questions from me about passenger rail, and stared down both Lehigh and Northampton County for a $150,000 rail study. As a LANTA board member, he again faced the bulls on Northampton County Council. He publicly pitched the appointment of controversial alternative transportation advocate Steve Schmitt, a bicycle enthusiast, to the board of a transit company.

Does Marin's departure for Madrid sound a death knell to LV passenger rail?


Anonymous said...

Who gives a shit.

Anonymous said...

No. Passenger rail has never really been alive. Hasta la vista.

Anonymous said...

Recipient of the 2009 Tocks Island Dam Award for futile government programs.

Anonymous said...

So what happens to that money!

Shouldn't he have to give it back?

It is hard to imagine passenger rail when Bethlehem has just torn out all its rails along 3rd St.
and built walking paths.

While they still have the tracks by the river, the station is gone
made into a medical and store facility.

$150.000 could feed a lot of hungry children.

Maybe you could contact whoever gave Marin that money and say
taxpayers want it back !

Anonymous said...

this was one big waste.

Sure, ask anyone if they would want train service to NY and they will say yes.

Then ask how much they are willing to pay for it, $20, $40, $70?

Problem is that there are not enough riders-daily- to make it work.

Government subsidies will help to the tune of 500 Million to a Billion per year. Most people do not recognize that New Jersey is not going to pay for rail service to PA. That means PA needs to put up the dollars or get the feds to put up the money. Fat chance PA is going to invest money in taking PA residents to work in NYC, just doesn't have any return.

Better chance for rail service to Phila.

Now comes the big selling point. The panacea for rebirth of downtown Atown and Easton, rebirth of the rail stations. People will go to suburban stations-safety and free parking before they ever go to the urban centers.

It's incredible to think that so much money could be wasted on best guesses and false hopes. I had this idea that we get transcontinental flights in to ABE. Won't have to deal with all that traffic around Newark and Kennedy. I wonder if LVEDC will put up the money for a study. I am qualified to do the study because I have flown alot.

Andrew Kleiner said...

I hope not. Rail service to Philly, if feasible, is a no-brainer, it should be done. And, not even Philly but Lansdale really.

Anonymous said...

Now comes the big selling point. The panacea for rebirth of downtown Atown and Easton, rebirth of the rail stations. People will go to suburban stations-safety and free parking before they ever go to the urban centers.

It's incredible to think that so much money could be wasted on best guesses and false hopes. I had this idea that we get transcontinental flights in to ABE. Won't have to deal with all that traffic around Newark and Kennedy. I wonder if LVEDC will put up the money for a study. I am qualified to do the study because I have flown alot.

8:14 AM

Have to agree with this post.
In the last 10 days, a woman was hit on the head with a gun by a robber at 7;30 a.m. in downtown Allentown a block or two from city hall. 7:30 in the morning!

michael molovinsky said...

only in the lehigh valley could a couple be hired and appointed to important positions based on a bike rack in the emmaus triangle. i'd love to see the accomplishments listed on the application to madrid.

Bernie O'Hare said...


You are bashing both of them? Are you suggesting that Paul Marin has no accomplishments? You honestly feel that an international corporation would hire this guy and put him in Madrid if he was not worth it?

He has no obligation to list his accomplishments with you. Frankly, your mean-spirited snark is unwarranted, perhaps motivated more by jealousy than anything else.

Frankly, he's accomplished more in the LV in his short time here than you or I have in years of rants. He managed to get himself appointed to LVPC and LANTA, wherre he worked for transportation changes. He worked on keeping Emmaus' water supply stable.

I have no idea about his business qualifications and frankly, that's none of my business. Nor is it yours.

My own limited interaction with him revealed a very bright man who spoke passionately for what he believed in. I don't recall him ever snarking your resume.

ironpigpen said...

It's not what you know.

It's who you know.

Anonymous said...

i am saddened to see the nasty comments in general. disagree with the ideas on the merits, not on the person who delivers the idea.

all the best to a loving couple with abundant energy and ideas to make a community a better place. Madrid scored!


Bernie O'Hare said...

Geoff is right. I'm no Joyce Marin fan and probably disagree more than I agree with her husband on policy matters. I was highly critical of their participation in A-town's "pay to play" culture, andwas unwilling even to discuss that w/ Marin.

Having said that, I never doubted Paul Marin's committment to making this community a better place. He did have enthusiasm and intelligence, and I wish him the best. It's unfortunate that some would choose to kick him while he's on his way out. Not much class there.

Anonymous said...

I normally would agree that deal with the concept and not the personality. I cannot separate the two in this case.

LVEDC employed an individual to complete a study on rail service who offered nothing in his resume. That is, when the day is over, the final product lacks credentials which will be taken seriously.

Point: you are an elected representative or senator attempting to legitimize spending hundreds of millions of dollars for rail service. At minimum, LVEDC should have considered what nationally prominent firm or individual had the power to move the system. I think the final choice lost the battle before the war began.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is ridiculous. LVEDC did not hire Marin to do this study. Where did you get that misguided notion? The outfit doing this study is the asame outfit being used in NJ to study extending the lines into P-burg.

Anonymous said...

my understanding is that paul served lvedc and lvpc as a volunteer. yes, he had to get appointed to play that role, but i don't believe lvedc or lvpc compensate people like paul for their service. likewise, my understanding about who was hired to do the study is the same as bernie's.

I always looked at the rail study in this light: transportation studies are conducted every year in the LV. some by penndot, some by lvpc, some by local gov'ts... but there are studies always underway and sometimes at a cost far greater than 150k. to my understanding, not one of them told us a reliable story about the feasibility of light rail. how can we enact any transportation policy without knowing the details about rail or any other form of transportation for that matter. Paul, at the end of the day, will have helped local elected and appointed officials for the next 10-20-40 years better understand the transportation possibilities for our region. I know he had an agenda, but as somebody who doesn't have a transportation agenda, I want to know the facts and how they will impact my community for the future. And as somebody still under age 30, that kind of long-range thinking is incredibly important to me. It is a shame the LVPC hasn't demonstrated this kind of planning in the past (seriously, has anybody seen the traffic on route 100 near those warehouses). Hopefully some of Paul's line of thinking and questions will carry over to the next wave of volunteers. We don't have to accept the way things have always been done as the course for the future. Agree or disagree with the policy implications, but an inquiring perspective is good for the public.


Anonymous said...

Mass transportation is a waste. I prefer to drive my SUV and fight traffic and spew deadly pollution into the air.
Then I came home to my perfect life with quality healthcare and who gives a crap what my driving costs others.
If I paid the true price for gas, based on what it really costs...well that will never happen.

Anonymous said...

Why can't Allentown ever "score"?

michael molovinsky said...

bernie, the real snark is always from you, directed at my comment. that aside, what were marin's qualifications to be on lanta. you fully know that the administration was part and parcel of the decision to relocate the transfer stops off of hamilton, but did the marin's protest? you fully know that no one said more insensitive things about the merchants than steve schmidt, who marin recommended for reinstatement. perhaps you should review your recent comments about morganelli and callahan before judging me so harshly.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM, At no time have I ever called either Callahan or Morganelli unqualified, especially with a complete lack of evidence. I have criticized them on the issues, to be sure, and have also priased both of them when I thought they were right.

You have demeaned Marin personally. What's more, you have absolutely no basis for doing so. You have no evidence that he is unqualified, but snipe at him anyway.

I am not interested in any additional explanation from you. Whine about him on your own blog.

Anonymous said...

I liken this whole fiasco to a situation I faced as a young adult.

I was in charge of a youth sports banquet and made arrangements for a speaker-a motivating coach.

I was all set to firm up the arrangements when a parent said that he could get Mickey Mantle.

Mantle, "wow" everyone said; we got to go with Mickey.

Problem was that Mickey did not do these banquets for anything less than $5,000.

Well, my speaker made other arrangements and we got some cheap magician.

We love that big lie. It sounds so good that we fall over ourselves wanting to believe that it works. Rail service to NYC-just has to happen. We have the rails, the empty stations and people just lining up to go.
Or, so we want to think.

No one talked to Mike Keyser of the JPC. He has his fingers on rail; he does not see it. No one looked at the history-Phillipsburg to NYC, daily service, one rider per day, just 15 years ago. No one bothered to check NJ Transit. They have already done studies. They know every driver from Pa on I78 and where every driver is going. Check their transportation planning websites. They did not even recommend rail service.

We spent 250,000, maybe more for something that everyone, except us, knows what it will say. Ron Angle was the only elected rep to see all of this. Give him credit.

Jonathan said...

Hopefully it's not dead. Yesterday a new report came out showing that road users pay only 51% of the cost of roads. The rest is subsidized by non-road users. What's more, that number is double what it was 25 years ago. Clearly the present development formula is unsustainable, and the future cannot abide more unfunded asphalt. My second point is that, with high speed rail now on the federal and state radar, and economic and migration patterns indicating the US is concentrating into mega-regions of clustered urban areas, PA will be the critical link between the Boston-NYC-DC region and the Midwest loop. The single most important economic development objective for PA should be planning the Philly-Pittsburgh high speed line. In turn, the single most important long-term economic development objective for the Lehigh Valley is to be a train stop along that route, and to build out a transit network that gets residents and tourists alike to the region's downtown areas without the need for cars. Examples from Northern Virginia's Metro and Spain's new high speed line show that smaller towns along these routes will see an explosion of growth as a result of access to transit. It would be a shame if such a clear boon to the region were derailed by unimaginative fiscal curmudgeons or idiotic provincial concerns.

Anonymous said...

It is hardly a no-brainer.

The 'rail study' is costing $250,000: $75,000 from each County and $100,000 from LVEDC. It is an extension of the study commissioned by New Jersey Transit a year or so ago and done by some reputable transit planning consultants.

It is NOT a study about restoring rail from the Valley to New York; it is a study of extending passenger rail service from Phillipsburg into the Lehigh Valley IF it is extended to Phillipsburg by New Jersey Transit. The study will be completed in early 2010 with or without the Marins as the work is being managed by LVEDC, the two Counties and the Planning Commission on behalf of the Counties.

Since 95% of the rail line between the Valley and New York is owned and operated New Jersey Transit, nothing will happen unless they decide that it is worth the investment.

The NJT study was of how to reduce congestion on I-78 in the New Jersey corridor. The conclusions were that with a combination of expanded park and ride bus service along with extending rail service from High Bridge (where it currently ends) to Phillipsburg, would attract about 1000 trips per day.

The added bus service could be operated by subsidy to private operators like Trans Bridge. The rail operations would be entirely public and would require adding parking lots at stations along with track renovations.

Complicating the extension into PA is the fact the tracks are currently used for freight movement and freight operators take a very dim view of mixing passenger and freight rail on the same lines. Use of the track would not be 'free' either and would add significantly to the cost of operations.

Interestingly, the rail trips were estimated to cost passengers about the same as the bus running along essentially the same corridor, but the train would take longer. In order to make the rail line work, it would have to stop at every town along the way to collect riders. It was never conceived of as high-speed limited stop rail line.

Will passenger rail service be restored to New York? It is entirely up to New Jersey. The fallacy was and is that the Lehigh Valley or Pennsylvania had anything to say about the restoration of rail service to New York and that a $250,000 study would demonstrate anything other than some technical information about what rail path to use from P-burg to Allentown and the potential demand.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thaanks for the very informative comment.

Anonymous said...

I believe rail service would be very compatible with a rebuilding and widening of Route 22. The acquisition of right of ways could serve a dual purpose. A direct shot through the valley along Route 22 would maximize ridership. A stop at Route 309, One at Route 145, another at Route 378 and one in Easton. Light rail simply to Bethlehem will not take cars off of Route 22. Simply taking 7,000 vehicles off of Route 22 will not alleviate congestion for local commuters.

Anonymous said...

Let`s just forget about only attracts more people wanting to move here. We have enough already.

Anonymous said...

Marin should return that $150,000

Anonymous said...

Passenger rail in the Lehigh Valley is dead for a lack of funding. You could have every former living President of the United States pitching the project, and you'd still wouldn't find enough cash.

I sometimes think the rail proponents are trying to fix their personal costs of business in the choices they make. If you live and work in the Lehigh Valley, cars are fine. However, if you've decided to get an economic advantage of buying less expensive housing in PA, while working in NJ or NY, the cost to you is that you're going to have a hell of a long commute. If you don't want the commute, move closer to work.

Anonymous said...

These discussions always end up being about best guesses.

I looked at that website

Commuters on I78 are headed to jobs in Somerset County. NYC rail service is not going to ease a congested highway. The Jersey planners envision bus transportation to move people from train stops or park and ride locations along the I78 corridor. The NYC factor does not enter the equation.

I commuted to Lower Manhattan-financial district for years. I drove to Jersey City and took the PATH trains to World Trade and walked down Broadway to Wall. When I had appointments uptown I backtracked on PATH to Hoboken and went into midtown.

I would never spend hours in a train stopping at every crossing to pick up and discharge passengers. The average commuter has a tolerance for a 1 1/2 hour commute. When you start adding time to that figure, public transportation does not work. It all becomes a quality of life issue.

There has never been a concrete number for the potential ridership to NYC. There have been all the usual guesses-everyone will take the train. Express bus service from the Lehigh Valley will beat any local train. Besides Atown to Port Authority is about $40 round trip. I don't see train being much cheaper, if that.

Want to spend a cheap afternoon. Drive to Jersey City to the PATH station, Exchange Place, on the waterfront. Takes less than an hour one way. Buy a PATH ticket and go to World Trade. Walk directly cross town to the Seaport. Does not cost anything to park on the street in Jersey City on Sunday. It's safer than the Lehigh Valley. PATH is 3.50 round trip. Want to go uptown, check the subway schedule at the sub stops along Broadway. That is our train service. YOu cannot beat it. I commuted to Wall Street daily for years on this route.

Anonymous said...

Since we are talking Transportation, an American Parkway project serving Allentown will NOT alleviate traffic congetion or safety hazards on Route 22. PennDOT traffic studies clearly show the section between 309 and Airport Road carries 100K vehicles per day while sections east and west of that only carry 70k vehicles per day. In August, PennDOT scrapped the plan to widen that section to three lanes each direction, and diverted $100M to Route 412 (bottom dollar highway). Widening this section of Route 22 was on the PennDOT 12 year plan. The fact it was buried so abruptly suggest it was a political decision. The repaving PennDOT just completed on Rt22 was a waste of money. They should have widened it in the process. This stretch of Highway was declared the most dangerous section of highway in the valley. If Specter can get Federal funding to widen Route 202 that carries 75K cars per day, surely Route 22 is worth of federal funding.

Anonymous said...

Passenger rail is a great idea. Paul Marin is my hero!

Anonymous said...

Hopefully yes... this pipe dream of his should go with him to Spain. We can't afford to build a subsidized train system that will be little used. Heck, SEPTA and Amtrack can't even pay for themselves. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

"Hopefully yes... this pipe dream of his should go with him to Spain. We can't afford to build a subsidized train system that will be little used. Heck, SEPTA and Amtrack can't even pay for themselves. Enough said."
Enough said is right. Please list just one airport or one road that actually pays for itself, without any subsidy in the United States. BTW this pipe dream already exist in Spain, it's called high speed rail. You should consider traveling beyond the Lehigh Valley, it might help you to expand your thought.