Tag Archives: NYS High Speed Rail

High Speed FAIL

4 Feb

You might remember when last week, Rep. Louise Slaughter announced that $151MM of federal monies would be spent on a New York’s proposed High Speed Rail line.  You might also remember WNYMedia’s Brian Castner saying, WTF?

You wouldn’t know it from the grand-standing and glad-handing reported in today’s Buffalo News, but New York just got screwed.

$2.5 billion, a down payment on $45 billion, to Nancy Pelosi’s California.

$1.25 billion to connect  Tampa and  Orlando, 4.7 million people, in swing state Florida.

$1 billion to connect  Chicago and  St Louis, 12.5 million people, in the President’s home state of Illinois.

$400 million to connect Columbus and Cleveland, 4.6 million people, in swing state Ohio.

$151 million to connect 22 million people in New York.

Every once in a while, an article comes around that paints a full picture about everything that is wrong in New York State.  I’ve been working on for a week to answer Brian’s question, but Jerry Zremski of The Buffalo News wrote the story and beat me to it.  So, I’ll scrap mine and link to Jerry’s article.

“I think the money we gave New York reflects what we thought about their application,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters Wednesday.

Here’s a video of California’s plan, for the sake of comparison:

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As they say in the world of politics, “oof”.  So, what was wrong with New York’s application?

LaHood said, “This is not complicated. If people get their act together, if they have a good plan, if people are working together, they’re going to benefit.”

Both Florida and California have completed environmental impact statements for their high-speed rail plans, while New York has not. In addition, California has set aside $10 billion in bond funding for its project.

In contrast, New York has lagged for years on comparatively minor projects such as building a second track between Albany and Schenectady, said Ross B. Capon, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. The state only now is undertaking such projects with its new high-speed rail money.

“They’ve been screwing around for years,” Capon said of New York State officials. “There was just not a level of action commensurate with the potential. Their plan was not equal to that of other states.”

Wait, it gets better!

New York did go a bit too far when it applied for nearly $12 billion in high-speed rail funding when only $8 billion was to be available under the stimulus bill

So, we didn’t have a coordinated plan, complete required environmental impact studies, line up bond financing or have ANY appreciable organized effort whatsoever, yet we had the frigging balls to ask for $4BN more than was to be allotted for the entire nation?  Incredible.

New York State is the Veruca Salt of national politics.

A petulant pre-teen ignorant of reality and real world costs, demanding their wishes be granted immediately.

Mommy – “Newyork, I have $100 to spend on new school clothes for the year, what would you like to buy?”

Newyork – “Mommy, I want $3,000 worth of iPods and a bag of smack and I WANT IT NOW!#!#!”

Louise Slaughter ends up looking like the co-dependent mother of her drug addled teenager.  Trying to tell all who will listen, that this time, he’s clean, he’s really clean.

Oy vey, what a FAILtrain.

Screwed!

28 Jan

You wouldn’t know it from the grand-standing and glad-handing reported in today’s Buffalo News, but New York just got screwed.

$2.5 billion, a down payment on $45 billion, to Nancy Pelosi’s California.

$1.25 billion to connect Tampa and Orlando, 4.7 million people, in swing state Florida.

$1 billion to connect Chicago and St Louis, 12.5 million people, in the President’s home state of Illinois.

$400 million to connect Columbus and Cleveland, 4.6 million people, in swing state Ohio.

$151 million to connect 22 million people in New York.

If that’s not a slap in the face, I don’t know what is. My (albeit tenuous) support of Rep Louise Slaughter has hinged on her leading the charge for High Speed Rail in New York. I may disagree with her on nearly everything else, but I believe the high speed rail opportunity overshadowed the rest.

She has failed, and we should be in the market for a new representative. $151 million is a pitiful and paltry amount of money that should make it obvious to everyone that high speed rail is not coming to our community anytime soon.

“I think this is wonderful,” said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, who organized the 11-member Upstate New York Caucus early last year to push the rail project.

“I was hoping for a half-billion, but I’m happy with what we got. They’re not going to start it and not finish it, and I’m going to make sure of that.”

Yeah, I’m not sure about that. The money goes for maintenance and repair, to keep the status quo, and little new construction. In fact, the only money coming to WNY itself is to make the Depew Amtrak station compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act – shouldn’t it have been already? Florida, California, Illinois, and Ohio got sums that ensured the job would get done. New York got a sum that ensures the trip from Buffalo to NYC will be 8 hours for many years to come.

Rep Chris Lee, who has been getting high marks for his freshman term, joined Rep Slaughter in this initiative. Is he going to call a spade a spade, and be the only member of the delegation to admit we got screwed? We’ll see.

High Speed Fail

28 Apr

I am a big fan of the push to build a network of high-speed rail throughout the Northeastern United States. The recent spike in oil prices reminded us that there are other ways to get around that may be more sustainable than others, and given how crappily our road infrastructure is maintained in these parts, rail makes sense.

Part of the problem is that it won’t be Shinkansen or TGV or ICE high speed rail. We won’t be whisked along tracks at 180+ MPH – more like 110. That’s better than our early 20th-century technology in place now, but not as good as can be.

Getting to Boston in 5 hours or New York in 4 hours by rail is good, but not as good as 3 or 2, respectively. Plus, it’s better to arrive at South Station than Logan, and it’s better to arrive at Penn Station than JFK, La Guardia, or Newark.

But that’s only part of the problem.

For high speed rail to really matter in Western New York, it needs to be connected southward to Erie, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, and it needs to be connected westward to Niagara Falls and Toronto. Buffalo ought not be the end of the line.

Yet CSX, which controls the rights-of-way that would be used throughout most of upstate New York is playing hardball.

Connections to Toronto and the Falls would be critically important, and it would also make sense to extend down to Cleveland. If it’s worth spending tens of billions of dollars to do, it’s worth doing right. Speed the damn trains up to world-class standards, and point the tracks towards places people go.

Central Terminal Reuse

22 Apr

The federal stimulus package includes several billions of dollars to begin constructing a high-speed rail infrastructure in certain corridors throughout the country. Among them is Buffalo – Albany – New York.

The problem is that Buffalo’s passenger rail terminal is a glorified outhouse under the I-190. Just a mile or so from downtown, however, stands a glorious legend. The Central Terminal.

Opportunity is knocking for this building. There is no doubt that it should be the high speed rail station for Buffalo. Old time rail meets space age rail. The only problem is getting people there. Metro Rail could be expanded from downtown, through the Central Terminal, out to the Galleria or airport in Cheektowaga.

Mike Miller, the President of the CTRC, sent a letter to Senator Gillibrand, and the idea has the support of Common Council President Dave Franczyk and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. Local congresspeople are also being lobbied about this idea.

This may be our best chance yet to begin restoring the Central Terminal to her former glory – and what better way than to do it within the context of its original construction.

Click here to see Miller’s letter.

I truly think this is a golden opportunity, and one that Buffalo and our federal delegation should all get behind.

Sam Hoyt on High Speed Rail Part III

11 Mar

How we get the money, how we get it built, and the Central Terminal:

Sam Hoyt on High Speed Rail Part II

10 Mar

We can watch this in the wake of the Governor’s announcement yesterday of a $10.2 billion high speed rail plan for the state of New York, stretching from Niagara Falls, through Buffalo, and out to Albany, from where it will then branch out to Montreal, New York City, and Boston.

I don’t think this is a silver bullet that will suddenly transform upstate New York into a new boom area. If anything might do that, it will be our supply of fresh water. What HSR may do, however, is let people have an alternative method of intercity transportation that is faster than driving, and more convenient than flying. I thought that Roaring Republican here had a couple of good ideas. There is a travelers’ sweet spot there, and with the right system built right, we could very well hit it.

As long as we consider it in those terms, rather than as some silver bullet, the less we risk it being our version of the Simpsons’ monorail, and Buffalo becoming North Haverbrook.

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Sam Hoyt Discusses New York High Speed Rail, Part 2

10 Mar

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Yesterday, I posted the the first part of our extensive discussion with NY State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (D-144) about the proposed high speed rail project across Upstate New York.  Since I posted that video, Governor David Paterson held a press conference in Albany to announce a $10.7BN plan for high speed rail construction across New York State.

The Plan presents an inventory of freight and passenger rail system infrastructure needs in New York State totaling more than $10.7 billion during the next 20 years. The Plan also presents trends in rail freight and passenger use and was the focus of considerable public review, including a 45-day public comment period and public workshops held last summer in Buffalo, Binghamton and New York City.

The Plan outlines priorities for funding consideration from the $9.3 billion dedicated for Intercity Rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the reauthorization of the Federal Surface Transportation Act which is due October 1, 2009 and for the development of the next State transportation plan, which will succeed the current plan following the 2009-10 State Fiscal Year.

With that announcement as a backdrop, here is the second installment of our Hoyt discussion which covers how New York will pay for high speed rail and the history of the plan that was unveiled today.  We have another installment of this discussion to follow.

Sam Hoyt on New York High Speed Rail

9 Mar

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Last week, Marc Odien and I sat down with Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (D-144) to discuss the current plans for high speed rail in New York State.

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Hoyt has been an advocate of high speed rail from his earliest days in the State Assembly and has been a forceful voice for the establishment of not just high speed rail across Upstate New York, but also connecting Buffalo and Toronto as an economic development initiative.

With President Obama’s stimulus package promising $8BN in monies for the construction of rail networks across the country, the time is ripe to build out the “Empire Corridor” and connect our New York State cities.

Generally speaking, we’ve been supporters of high speed rail as we see it as an economic development initiative, not just a transportation or environmental issue.  However, we had questions about the value of the high speed rail network, especially since the current plan focuses on connecting the cities between Niagara Falls and Albany.  Why not build out the entire plan and connect Niagara Falls to NYC and lay the groundwork for connecting to the possible high speed rail in Southern Ontario?  So, we asked Hoyt to set aside some time to discuss the issue and this first video is a general overview of the plan and the need.

Over the course of the next few days, we’ll publish a series of videos taken from our extensive interview with Assemblyman Hoyt and solicit your thoughts and feedback.  Not to go all “Channel 2” on ya, but we’ll relay your feedback and look for answers to your questions.

Sam Hoyt on High Speed Rail

9 Mar

This is the first in a set of videos that WNYMedia.net‘s Buffalo Geek and Marc Odien shot last week with Assemblyman Sam Hoyt explaining why high speed rail in New York State will not become Failrail.

Given the massive hassle that air travel has become, traveling at 125 – 150 MPH between, say, downtown Buffalo and 34rd & 7th does make some sense.

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High Speed Rail in Tor-Buff-Chester

3 Mar

Douglas Turner in the Buffalo News wrote about Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s push for high-speed intercity rail for upstate New York:

Reversing more than three decades of neglect, even attempted bureaucratic suffocation, President Obama has placed the White House strongly behind Amtrak and a national intercity rail passenger system.

In one month, Obama has proposed sending $13 billion into the cause. And if Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, has her way, upstate New York should get a good share of it.

Slaughter’s goal is what aides call “a third track” dedicated to passenger rail running 300 miles from Buffalo-Niagara to Albany along the current CSX right of way.

As everyone knows, with some very specific exceptions, long-haul passenger rail in the US shares the track, and yields right-of-way to, freight. That means that the 70s-era service you get from Amtrak has the added value of extensive delays.

Dedicating a track along existing rights-of-way for passenger travel would be a huge leap forward. A corridor between Buffalo and Boston, with branches off to New York are called for in the federal plan for modernizing rail service in this country.

This is well overdue. But for Buffalo’s purposes, I don’t know that HSR to Albany is as valuable as a link between Toronto, Buffalo, and Rochester would be. If we buy the Floridian notion of a Tor-Buff-Chester megaregion, it would help to integrate the economy of each area into the other, and enable hitherto crazy notions such as commuting between any of the three. If you pre-clear customs and immigration before departure, like you can at some airports, it would be even easier. But at speeds of 150 MPH, HSR service would mean that Toronto or Rochester could each be a 30-45-minute train ride from Buffalo.