Thursday, October 17, 2013

Transit Czar: Passenger Rail Not in Our Future

WFMZ-TV69's Randy Kraft reports that Bethlehem has joined Allentown and Easton in adopting a resolution calling for the formation of a rail transit authority to restore passenger rail service to the Lehigh Valley. This is in response to repeated efforts of rail advocate Kirk Raup, who has been pursuing this dream since 1992.

A dream may be all that it is.

A $250,000 regional rail study, released in 2010, revealed that it would cost $1 billion for a passenger rail line to New York City, serving about 800 riders. In a floodplain.

Besides, we already have a regional transit authority. It's called The Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA). That was a point made by NorCo Council president John Cusick during yesterday's budget hearing. "Why wouldn't we use the authority we already have?" he asked.

"Give us enough money, and we'll give you anything you want," answered LANTA Executive Director Armando V. Greco. But he called it an "expensive proposition," noting that "economics override our desire to see passenger rail." He indicated that might change at some point, but "I don't see it in out future."

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

the votes by these three cities were nothing but a joke

Anonymous said...

Pie in the sky thinking. The money is in freight. If we were smart we`d run freight at night and people during the day on the same railroad lines. We ain`t smart.

Anonymous said...

Not the rail discussion again. Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

As I recall the cities did this before promoting a solid waste authority which even went out and borrowed money in anticipation of having to construct a landfill. Someone got stuck with that bill. The whole idea in reorganizing county governments in the valley under new charter studies was to enable the counties to provide this type of service. You can debate the service all that you want but the three cities are making an end run around county government to protect their interests in this area. Lehigh Valley will get rail service eventually to the Philadelphia region. That makes sense for us, Philadelphia and the state. It helps everyone economically. The terminals need to be placed where they make most sense for everyone, perhaps the abandoned Lehigh Valley airport.

Anonymous said...

Hard to imagine this can happen even though it's a good idea. The railroad lines have been paved over and now are exercise paths.

Ken Kraft said...

6:52 you are right.

I brought this up in committee meeting last night during the lvpc portion. How can we ever get rail service back when we have given up the right of ways to the Rails to Trails program?

Anonymous said...

What is the most priority? Rail to NJ/NYC or rail to Phila via Quakertown. I can see some study funds coming from the Turnpike Commission.

Lanta may be a better umbrella for such a commission to fall under. After all, many bus routs would have to service any stations.

The should focus on the route that has the greatest chance for success, if this goes anywhere at all. This is and should not undermine our needed road improvements. We put road improvements up against rail and got neither. That set the LV back.

Anonymous said...

Rather have a rail trail.

Anonymous said...

There are few commuter options to Phila. I remember serving on a federal jury and charging the feds for hotel stays in Philadelphia because no one can guarantee a reasonable arrival time commuting. There is no bus service, the NE extension is bumper to bumper and the Expressway is much worse. If you are going to a sporting event you have to have at least four hours commute time to avoid missing the kickoff. I have found that a route along the New Jersey side of the Delaware along two lane country roads to I95 at Scudder Falls gives the best chance of arrival. Trouble is that Pa in their rail study (to line up federal priorities for funding) did not address LV to Phila and probably killed any chance of rail service. That's a shame because rail would benefit both LV and Phila economically.

Anonymous said...

800 riders? If there was rail, riders would increase because it would be so much more convenient to go to NYC and for New York tourists to come down here. Grab some stimulus money and let's do something that will also take 800 cars off the road. I'll pitch in an extra $100 a year in taxes.

Anonymous said...

What is the fascination with rail service? Is it because we all played with trains as kids?

If people want trains, let the USERS pay for it. Not a dime of taxpayer money should be spent on this boondoggle!

Anonymous said...

And we may never have the kind of money this would take...too many other people with their hands in the pot.

Railroader said...

There is no way Norfolk-Southern is going to let passenger trains on their tracks! They have a hard enough time without a passenger train holding up interstate commerce!

Not going to happen, period!

Bunch of screwballs...

Anonymous said...

8:53

Thanks for your 100 bucks.

Now you just need another BILLION dollars (less your $100)

Rail service - Transportation for people who can't do math.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"the votes by these three cities were nothing but a joke"

It was easy when they did not have to spend a penny.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"That makes sense for us, Philadelphia and the state. It helps everyone economically"

Right now, the economics speak against it. As fuel becam=omes more expensive, it might make sense to improve bus service. I just don't see rail.

Anonymous said...

That 2010 study was setup to fail.....

Anonymous said...

Passenger rail is never going to happen in the Lehigh Valley. Ever. Kirk Raup needs to stop wasting everybody's time.

You're never going to find that amount of money or land for it.

I found the votes by the cities hilarious. You're talking about three entities that desperately try to pay the bills every month supporting an idea that needs "only" a billion dollars.

Get out of here already. Next!




Bernie O'Hare said...

While I think Raup is wrong, I admire his tenacity and his willingness to engage all three cities.

Anonymous said...

Once you get these trains they continue to cost the taxpayer. I for one do not need another bill.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, none of this, neither the article, the comments by county officials, or comments on the article seem to have the bigger picture or much basis in reality. Creating the rail authority doesn't cost any real money, it's the way to possibly GET money for this--years down the road. Federal funding for commuter rail would be necessary to make it happen, but that can't happen without the creation of a rail authority (or the participation of an existing transportation authority, but LANTA seems to have little interest).

Raup readily admits such a project is some 20 years down the road, if it ever happens. If anyone bothered to talk with him about it, which apparently, no one has.

Most of it would be along existing freight rail lines through upgrading them, not the resurrection of old passenger lines. So, don't worry, your rail trail running/biking paths are not part of the picture.

BTW, I'm not Kirk, before anyone gets any funny ideas. And I've no huge opinion about it either way, other than that I generally think it's a bad idea to squash ideas that are possibly very good and useful and forward-thinking before they're fully explored. The heyday of the LV was also during the heyday of good passenger rail connecting the area to other places of importance. That's probably not entirely coincidence, and a good rail system may be just the thing to cement all the happening things going on in our area for posterity.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Before any elected official looks at rail service with the hope of getting NYC commuters to reside here, someone has to correct the tax problem PA has with New York. There is no reciprocity between the two states for income tax payments. PA residents who work in New York state pay heavy taxes to New York and are not obligated to pay either PA income tax or earned income tax. That means any New York commuters will contribute nothing to local school and municipal budgets. Even more problematic is the lack of payment of state income taxes reduces the state aid for the school districts in which the New York employee works. Under the current arrangement the most undesirable PA resident would be one with a large family who has a job in New York City. It simply increases the tax load on everyone else. Good luck in trying to fix the problem. Efforts have been made for over 70 years. As far as whether this idea may have traction in the next 20 years, why not. There are people out there hoping for intergalactic space travel by 2035. Lehigh Valley's good years were when it was an industrial giant. Coincidentally, it was during the time of train travel and before TV. If any or all of that are relevant.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Why did it cost so much to find out FREIGHT pays more than HUMANS ? This "study" cost is absurd !. Fire some body that commissioned this., and get his pension to offset waist.

Anonymous said...

At one time (approximately 1980) Northampton and Lehigh county could have purchased the railroad and the right of ways to where SEPTA provides rail service into Philadelphia. The cost was several million dollars. The rail lines were in need of a complete overhaul. The speed limit for the trains was 15 miles per hour in some areas. Lehigh County had to purchase the lines in their County and Northampton County likewise for Northampton County. It was a trivial cost for Lehigh and several million for Northampton county. Then they had to rip up the lines and re-lay the track. The railroad beds also needed repair and needed to be rebuilt. Septa wanted several hundred riders per day to guarantee continued service and Northampton County and Lehigh County together could only guarantee 35 riders. It was a no brainer to walk away from rail service to Phila. There wasn't anyway to justify spending millions for 35 riders a day plus pay a penalty and guarantee ridership in the hundreds or the County picked up the difference. Rail service won't happen unless the Federal Government pays for it with no local strings attached. The Counties simply can't afford it.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same thing about why LANTA wouldn't be given the task of handling (unless they want yet another authority to appoint friends to). Rail is a MAJOR money losing option. If there was profit Norfolk Southern or heck even Lehigh Valley Rail Management would have jumped on this. If the rail people really want to get something going they should contact SEPTA and have them try to reestablish service to Quakertown (they still own the property all the way to the train station in Q-town and the rails still exist). If passenger usage is heavy then SEPTA can go back to offering service to Hellertown (i know they pulled most of these rails up for the trail, but SEPTA owns the property). That being said I'm willing to bet that usage would be very minimal at best.

Hank_Hill

Anonymous said...

can't we just hook passenger cars onto the freight trains

Anonymous said...

You rubes need to go to Europe.

Apparently every other country is able to do this bus us.

Anonymous said...

Why did it cost so much to find out FREIGHT pays more than HUMANS ? This "study" cost is absurd !. Fire some body that commissioned this., and get his pension to offset waist.

Or perhaps you could revisit your spelling and grammar lessons.

Robert Krasinski said...

Why is it so hard to bring trains back to LV? Cost, and problems with track ripped up and needing to share track with freight trains for the ABE service with NJT to NJ? In NJ, the freight and commuter lines are separate, commuter uses the former CNJ from High Bridge, and freight uses the former LV across the state between Phillipsburg and Newark. NJT would have to use freight tracks from Bloomsbury to Allentown.