SB 241 would allow NH to forge ahead with plans for ‘commuter rail’. It is not just a study. A study has already been done that showed that it was not worth spending the kind of money it would take to serve just 1/10th of 1% of the population!

by Dick Lemieux

People keep saying they want another option for travel. Commuter rail would be another option, for sure. That’s what it was proposed to be, an option to congestion. But, according to the big buck consultants who came up with the plan, only one in one hundred commuters would select that option. The other 99 would still select existing options. Even congested roads would be a more popular choice than rail among commuters.

The rail study says there are 4.4 million people in the train’s service area. To claim that only 1,284 people, out of a potential customer base of 4.4 million people, would be attracted to use the train is a bold admission of failure to meet the needs of travelers.

Furthermore, costs would be far from reasonable. The estimated startup cost of $246 million works out to almost $96,000 per new passenger.

The train is expected to carry only 2,568 passengers a day—equivalent to traffic counts on a back road. You would never condone the state spending $246 million on a back road, would you? Why do you think spending that much on a train that is predicted to be the last choice of commuters in the corridor?

You should also understand that if the state spends federal money on preliminary engineering then fails to follow through with construction, the state has to pay the money back. Nobody is telling the Legislature that. Lobbyists are telling them there’s no harm in spending federal money on boondoggles. The harm is that NH taxpayers would be left holding the bag for operating losses in the millions per year. And that money would all go to MBTA, a widely acknowledged corrupt organization.

This boondoggle would hurt NH just like the Rail Runner hurt New Mexico. Why won’t we learn from the mistakes of others?

Dick Lemieux of Concord is a retired highway engineer and transportation planner who has been an observer of transportation policy for almost 50 years, including 33 years New Hampshire. This is his cautionary tale of commuter rail for NH.