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A Balanced Transportation System


“From Heritage to Vision”

Making a difference in New Hampshire’s Economic Future
through Transportation Research and Education

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America Needs a Balanced Transportation System

First Reaction  to the tragic events of September 11, 2001

Yesterday at the close of his commentary on 60 minutes Andy Rooney suggested it was time for the government to begin to take a closer look at restoring the national rail system. Steel wheels on steel rails as he put it.

It has been known for some time that America has degenerated to a two mode country. Cars and planes. Professor Stilgoe's column [Boston Globe 9/16/2001] serves to remind us that New England and America once had a balanced transportation system.

The 1920's were perhaps the last time the system was balanced. Not only was there a rail network resembling a plate of spaghetti but there was also a companion trolley system as well as the automobile. There was also an extensive network of costal steamships and ferries.

It is ironic that we live in an era when the populace demands choices in all aspects of their lives. Money invested for ones retirement is not put in one stock but put in multiple funds. Would we patronize a restaurant that had one item on the menu? When one is evaluating their child's education multiple colleges are considered. The examples are endless. Yet when it comes to the topic of mobility why do we accept the two mode system of transportation rather than demanding more. We are even told that we love our cars and want no other options.

It is interesting that the first two legs of the restored Old Colony System carry around 10,000 people a day. Love is fleeting. I have also asked why consideration was not being given to restoring the entire historic Greenbush corridor to Plymouth. At the very least it would allow for the combination of layover facilities in Plymouth. In doing so it would placate some of the objections of Scituate. I have never received an answer. I cannot believe that with all the engineering obstacles overcome in the big dig that restoring the line beyond Scituate to Plymouth could not be accomplished.

Professor Stilgoe alluded to the universal industry in New England which is tourism. At one point I was a Boston tour guide. The tourists mostly from the Midwest and southwest were very knowledgeable about the region. They knew about the Shelburne Museum in Vermont- the mansions at Newport - the Maine coast, etc. A number of them stated they wanted to stay longer but refused to drive. They boarded their buses and left New England.

Although tourism figures from the last few years may dispute the argument that people will not visit the region. One has to ask that after dealing with seven mile backups at tolls booths and departing Cape Cod what is the quality of their visit? Will they return or recommend the region? Why are we not providing a European transportation experience for our visitors. Restore the multi-modalism prevalent in the 1920's. Beginning with a restored rail system that would not only compliment the existing network of roads but also connect airports, bus terminals and ferry lines. Ronald Dale Karr's book Lost Railroads of New England not only chronicles the loss of a rail system but serves as a business plan to recapture a multimodal transportation system.

The horror in New York not only highlighted the deficiency in airport security but provide glaring evidence that we don't have a balanced transportation system.

Peter J. Griffin, President
NH Railroad Revitalization Association

["Griffin, Peter" <Peter.Griffin@FMR.COM> 17 Sep 2001 11:11:15 -0400]

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