Aug 9, 2008

Bikes and Trains

Paul Marin, an activist on transportation issues, hopes to see train service restored between Allentown and New York City, absent over fifty years. It's a big dream, and I wish him success with it. You can read more about his mission in The Morning Call.* What caught my eye in the article, was a proposal to restore rail service between Lansdale and Quakertown. Long ago, back in high school, I recall taking the train from Bethlehem to Philadelphia. As memory serves me, and it doesn't, it was a one car trolley like vehicle, that was remotely operated. By that, I mean in my memory, there was no engineer. Also I was the only one in the car, perhaps I should lay down and tell a psychiatrist about this? Anyway, here comes my point; recently there was an article about turning the track between Bethlehem and Quakertown into a bike or jogging path. These conversions are quite popular now. Millions are spent tearing the track up to make a path for spandex yuppies. Can't these fitness buffs jog and bike someplace else?. How many countless millions would it cost to replace that rail bed and tracks? I know the old tracks may not be suited for high speed trains, but perhaps in the future they could be replaced or used for a tourist trolley. Lets not destroy irreplaceable infrastructure for a StarBuck moment.



TrekMedic251 said...

I thought the Quakertown-Lansdale expansion died along with the much-ballyhooed Schuylkill Valley Line? I'll have to read that MCall article.

Bill said...

Although I enjoy biking on such rail to trail conversions, we would best be served by the return of rail!

Katie Bee said...

For the record, I'm against destroying useful infrastructure (even if it's not currently in use). But I've read that it's not just the local yuppies using those types of trails, people have traveled 260 miles to reach these types of trails and with the area attracting cyclists, I can see where there'd be demand for this type of thing. And demand from people with money.

I found a post . from a cycling blog about this (I searched others and I'm surprised I haven't found more). It's a couple years old, but still.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I dopn't think we'll see a return to rail in our lifetimne. I support lighht rail, which really could just mean better bus service. I don't like the passanger train lobby. i doubt they hav any interest in the environment. Some just want to lure more commuters to the LV until there isn't a square inch of green space lefty.

Anonymous said...

I'll support rail service (and mass transit in general) when I am not forced to pay for it.

At some point, rail service may become economically feasible (again). Until that point (and after) the government should stay out of it.

Mrs. Dottie said...

I am for rail service from Allentown to NYC. My husband, an Allentown native, commutes to NYC. It's not just NJ and NYC transplants who are commuters. The article states that there has not been a survey done to assess the need for this service. I wonder if there really are enough commuters to justify train service? I know that many people would use the train to go see shows and sites in the city, and it would be nice to have that connection.

Anonymous said...

I will support the interstate highway system and the maintenence and upgrading of route 22 when I am not forced to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

As a Lehigh Valley native, I don't like what the commuters have brought - loss of green space, more traffic jams, etc.

But the reality is we're already a suburb of Philly and New York (I hate it too, but it is true), and while the current housing slump has slowed that migration down, it'll pick up speed again eventually.

If it's proven that rail will take traffic off the roads and give us all a break, then we have to at least consider it.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

MM, the track conversions have linked several communities - best example I can think of off the top of my head is the Coplay / Hokey link. That path gives kids (my daughter has been one of them) the ability to go where should would not otherwise - too much traffic on the roads, I don't want her riding a bike or walking on MacArthur Road.

Also, with environmental laws being what they are, I imagine it'd be impossible to get all the approvals necessary to just cut new paths into otherwise virgin ground.

I agree w/ you on major lines (i.e., Bethlehem / Quakertown, which would be needed if rail were to Philly were ever restored), but there are plenty of lines that just aren't needed and can be put to much better use.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Rail and (bus) service should be funded by the users and not by the government.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1127, in a perfect world I agree w/ you. However, the infrastructure costs are too high.

Also, wouldn't your logic extend to highways and other methods of transportation?

To keep it on an even playing field, shouldn't the infrastructure (track beds, bridges, etc.) be funded by the government, as is the case with roads? Then the rail users would be required to cover the operational costs.

How does that square w/ your thoughts?

The Banker

Anonymous said...

Banker -

Our roads and bridges are funded largely by federal and state taxes on fuel. Unfortunately, we have a problem with roads and bridges because a good portion of our fuel tax dollars are being diverted to fund mass transit.

I say make the fuel tax equal what it costs to build/repair/maintain the roads. No funds diverted for mass transit, and EVERYBODY (buses, gov't vehicles, etc) pays the fuel tax (on vehicles that travel the roads).

Similarly, those who use rail service can fund that method of transportation with their own user fees.

Anonymous said...

Not true. By law all gas taxes must be used only for highways. You can look it up.

Anonymous said...

Don't ya just love it. Paul Marrin runs from NYC after 911 and now misses its conveniences so he's gonna burden the Lehigh Valley with the cost of transporting him to his playground.

AuH20 said...

Ask the planners how long they expect a train trip to NY to be. My guess is 2 1/2 to 3 hours. While the feds 'require' freight trains to get out of the way for passenger trains just ask Amtrak riders how well that goes. Plus at least one change in Newark and/or Hoboken. Won't be high speed like some proponents hint at. My advice: if you must work in New York City and don't want to live a house in Warren County. By the way: ever wonder why western New Jersey sits there in a relative pristine state? Perhaps it's because they want it that way and giggle as the Wall Streeters pass them by as they drive up OUR taxes in the Lehigh Valley.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:17 -

I have heard that our Governor obtained special permission to use $600 million of federal highway funds on SEPTA.

Now, he wants to either borrow $600 million (or lease the turnpike; or toll I-80) to fix highways and bridges.

In politics, there always seems to be a way to do things - even when you are not supposed to.

GOP4MassTran said...

I'll support no government involvement with rail service, when the oil companies and auto manufacturers start picking up the tab for the designing, building, operation, and manintenance of our roads.
I've got news for you folks, sprawl is already here. Rail service was here before. Thank 78 for the sprawl, for the congestion. We have failed to manage it.

TrekMedic251 said...

Partially correct, GOP. Suburban sprawl is a chicken-and-egg issue. More sprawl = wider roads = more sprawl.

The bigger issue is that we abandoned our railroads in the late 60s and built our suburbs around highways that emptied into roads that couldn't handle them. Then we built more right next to rails and imposed unrealistic speed restrictions on them.

Finally, you've got the NIMBY factor, courtesy of these housing developments that are right next to unused rails.

Bringing back rail transit will take SOME of the pressure off these roads. The rest will come with winning over hearts and minds.