Monday, April 19, 2010

High Speed Rail: Numbers Please . . .

Here we go again.  The High Speed Rail  (HSR) train is leaving the station ... and it should just go and maybe make way for something else.
“High speed rail represents the Erie Canal-like vision that can rebuild the Upstate New York economy,” said Arcuri. “It was really an honor to be able to join local business, labor and government leaders to discuss how further investment in this cutting edge transportation infrastructure would create jobs and lead to future business development opportunities in our region with someone as influential and knowledgeable about rail as Chairwoman Brown.   
Knowledgeable people are not buying this hype . . . and that is about all that this is. 
"Erie Canal-like vision?"  Hardly.  The Erie Canal was a game changer for Upstate New York in the 1800s because it (1) substantially increased the speed and (2) significantly reduced the cost of transportation between places where people/goods needed to go. 150 MPH, if HSR will even do that, is NOT a substantial improvement in speed over interstate highways when time to get to and from the station is taken into account.  Cost? No one is even mentioning reduced costs here, probably because costs will be greater!

"Cutting edge transportation infrastructure?" Wrong.  The bullet trains of Japan have been running for almost 50 years . . . and HSR here isn't supposed to be as fast.

"Create jobs?"  Perhaps to build the thing.  But if we're building something that is already old-fashioned and few will want or use, why bother . . . why not just give the money away to people?   

"Lead to future business development opportunities?" How about some examples of the types of opportunities that HSR will create, so we can judge for ourselves whether or not this makes sense?

"Someone as influential and knowledgeable about rail as Chairwoman Brown?"  What knowledge?  Perhaps if she shared some of it with the public maybe we would be influenced too. 

"Investment?" . . . 

"A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted." 


Anonymous said...

Virtually all available data and surveys concerning passenger rail use signals under utilization in all markets except high density population corriders. This is yet another "sound good, feel good" waste of taxapyer money. Just think of the decades of investment to tourism that will revitalize upstate including the barge canal redevelopment and all the taxpayer paid marinas. All governemnt expenditures on all levels should be required to post a cost/benetfit analysis before votes.

Anonymous said...

I've spent some time thinking about how high speed rail could benefit upstate and Utica's economy and come to the conclusion the most important factor is the travel time from New York City to Utica.

Google lists the driving time as 4 hours 10 minutes - just a little too far for convenient round trip by car. Flying is out of the question - trip from Manhattan to the airport, delays on the tarmac, flight to syracuse etc. - pretty soon your up to 4 or 5 hours of travel - one way.

If a NYC executive or a senior manager can make the trip to Utica in under 3 hours, and stay connected to the home office by phone and internet, then many downstate firms might consider moving back office functions upstate to take advantage of cheap real estate and low cost of living for their employees.

Alternately, professional service providers such as architects, engineers etc. may find it reasonable to have their office upstate and provide services to down state customers - again, low cost of living/overhead, improved quality of life.

Real estate adjacent to the train station could become valuable - and by all means, if HSR comes to pass, Utica must have a downtown station to benefit from the service - placing a station halfway between Utica and Rome would defeat benefits of the service.

I'm not saying this will come to pass - and would rather see back office services as small component of the local economy. I believe Utica should rebuild its economy on local resources, products and services such as agriculture and agricultural products, cultural institutions such as Munson Williams/Pratt, SUNY IT etc. Best to not become a satellite city dependent on outsiders controlling the economic interests of the community.

Best hang to and preserve some of your architecture - when HSR happens, historic buildings and heritage ambience will be a magnet for New York Hipsters looking for some piece and quiet.

Oh, and get rid of the prisons - outside of the textile mills closing, they are worst thing to happen to CNY.

Anonymous said...

The area has, without high speed rail, become a back office mecca. Bank of NY-Mellon, Met Life, Bank of America just to name a few, employ thousands in the area, including Syracuse. The short auto commute has not been a problem. And, some utilize private plane thus relying on smaller airports and no wait time. When one combines a relatively short drive, with transport to the train station and the horrible operational track record of AMTRAC, one does not have confidence in future promises and operations.