Thursday, March 05, 2009

High Speed Rail ? (2)

Now Sen. Valesky has joined the chorus pushing for high speed rail: "An Erie Canal for the 21st century."
The development of a high-speed rail system in New York state has been discussed in one form or another for years. A system which would enable passengers to travel from Syracuse to Buffalo in an hour, or to New York City in a couple of hours, has incredible potential to transform the way we live, the way we work and the way we do business in Upstate New York.
Transform the way we live? How?

High-speed rail represents opportunity in Upstate New York at a time when we need it most, not unlike another infrastructure project that, 200 years ago, also seemed unlikely at best — the Erie Canal. The creation of the Erie Canal in the 1800s demonstrated the best of New York state.

Mr. Valesky needs to think about another Upstate canal from the 1800s -- the one for which Utica passed up an opportunity to be capital of New York State -- the one that was supposed to transform Utica's economy and perhaps even let it rival New York City: The Chenango Canal. The thinking was, the Erie Canal brought such success to Utica, imagine how much more success there would be if two canals joined here!

It simply didn't work. All that is left of this canal are a few sections paralling Route 12 to Binghamton. It succumbed to the railroad.

The Erie Canal worked because it filled an existing need. The Chenango Canal failed because the need did not exist.

Now even the railroad (on this route anyway) doesn't get very much use now, railroad use being largely supplanted by personal automobiles, trucks, and the interstate highway system.

Which gets us back to the Thruway. All of Upstate New York lost its competitive advantage over other parts of the country with completion of the interstate highway system. Simply, other places became as easy to get to and travel through as Upstate.

But what have we done in New York? We placed a tax on our interstate highway -- the Thruway Toll -- which puts Upstate at a distinct DISADVANTAGE to other parts of the country.

I mean no disrespect, but it seems that we really have put a bunch of idiots in charge.


Anonymous said...

If we really want to rejuvinate the upstate economy, eliminate the thruway tolls and raise the speed limit to 75 mph.

Our local politicians appear dumber every day. High speed trains will never work in the winter in upstate NY. The passengers will sit on the tracks watching the thruway traffic pass them by.

kemtee said...

"The Erie Canal worked because it filled an existing need. The Chenango Canal failed because the need did not exist."

To that point: if someone's going to ride said high-speed rail, wouldn't that imply that they need to go somewhere to do something?

What exactly would that be? What job would they need to go to? What opportunity would be so important that it could only be accessed in this manner? It doesn't exist now, and it seems a bit cart-before-horse-ish to think that it would as a result of.

Just my $.02, adjusted for economic issues.

Anonymous said...

"The Erie Canal worked because it filled an existing need."

"Worked" as in past tense. It could never stand on it's own any longer, and since the canal is run by the thruway authority, it is suported by our thruway tolls.

If the thruway authority stopped pumping our toll money into the canal system, they could stop charging tolls. The canal could then be supported by those who use it instead of having the masses subsidize it.

When it becomes apparent that the canal is an outdated money pit whose use is only what it is because of the taxes being spent promoting it and building adjacent restaurants along it and then giving free or reduced lock fees. The commercial traffic is minimal and the pleasure boaters (many of whom can well afford to pay for their yachts to utilize the canal) just use it to get back and forth to other destinations and on our dime. It also sucks large amounts of water from this areas lakes and reservoirs, much of which leaks out of it and is wasted.

If the canal was not such a priority, thruway tolls could be eliminated, the trains we already have might get more use, the potable water supply the MVWA wants for planned expansions and beyond would no longer be an issue, and traffic on the thruway would increase. Win, win, win, win!

DISCLAIMER: I realize I have over simplified ALL of these issues, and that the canal is certainly an assett to our area. The ideas may be far fetched but someone somewhere needs to start thinking outside the box.

Anonymous said...

I'd use the railway... if I could take my car. What is the mass transit like at my destination point? I'm not going to NYC every weekend.
It would just be easier if I didn't have to drive I90, but use my car for the local driving. For example, if I want to visit friends in Canada, I can take the train to Niagara, then drive my car over the border. Easy! I could sleep on the train and not have to worry about anything.
But MY ideal is way too complex and specialized to be helpful for any business model for the train system.