Our former editorial colleague, Andrew Cline, added some much-needed perspective, and facts, to the subject of passenger rail service. His piece, originally published by the Josiah Bartlett Center that he heads, ran in the Union Leader last Thursday.
People like trains. At least, they like the idea of trains. Which is why, when asked a single, plain-vanilla question with no context, they usually say “yes, I support trains to Boston.”
However, people don’t like the idea of paying more and more money so that a handful of them can ride a train to jobs or a night out in Boston (the latter without having to worry about a designated driver).
Cline notes that the New Hampshire Department of Transportation has estimated costs from $120 million to $265 million to build a Manchester-Nashua-Boston commuter rail line. On top of that, however, would be an annual operating cost of anywhere from $4 million to $10.8 million.
The same DOT study suggested that such a cost would be paid with new taxes and fees (paid by John Q. Public, whether or not he ever rode the train).
But most people would not ride the train. The state study estimated that, at best, Manchester-Boston rail would reduce the daily I-93 traffic by not even one half of 1%. (A Nashua line might reduce Everett Turnpike traffic by 0.14%.)
It also touched on alternatives to rail, including expanded bus service, at much less cost than the train idea.
The bottom line: If people are given all the cold, hard facts about the issue, the talk of train travel would lose much of its steam.