Category Archives: Public Transit

The Struggle for Rail in New Hampshire Not Diverted by Senate Vote

Caltrain, a commuter rail that links San Fransisco and San Jose California.

Although the Republican controlled New Hampshire senate voted to kill funding for an engineering survey and study of the cost and logistics of building rail in New Hampshire, supporters and activists close to the effort to get rail in New Hampshire say they are not deterred. As activists state in the associated press report issued last week, supporters and activists will move forward with their work.  This is good news as the current Tea Pots in power do not represent the needs or the wants of the majority of New Hampshire citizens who (as much as 75%) want to see commuter rail extended into New Hampshire.

Supporters of Commuter Rail not Deterred by Senate Vote

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Supporters of a plan to bring commuter rail from Boston to New Hampshire said the Senate’s decision not to fund the next stage of the process is a bump in the road rather than an end to their efforts.

“(We) look at this as a pause in a marathon as opposed to tripping in a sprint,” said Tracy Hatch, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.

Senators rejected efforts this week to put $4 million in the state’s next capital budget for an engineering and environmental impact analysis. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan included the money in her budget, and the debate over rail has largely fallen along party lines. Democrats say extending rail into New Hampshire is necessary for economic development and attracting young people; Republicans question the economic benefits and whether the state should subsidize the project.

Bringing rail to New Hampshire is a long-term project: Former Gov. John Lynch signed a bill creating the rail transit authority in 2007. A study completed by the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority last year found that operating rail to Nashua and Manchester would create up to 5,600 permanent jobs and 3,600 new housing units by 2030.

Michael Izbicki, chairman of the transit authority, said his group will press forward with the project and explore public-private partnerships to fund it.

“We’re moving full steam ahead,” he said.

Senators already have passed a bill creating a committee to study public-private partnerships for intermodal transportation. Izbicki hopes the committee will produce a plan allowing the transit authority to explore this type of funding for the rail project.

State law says the Legislature must take a final up or down vote on whether to bring commuter rail into New Hampshire, if the plan ever reaches that stage. New Hampshire already has the rights from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to operate rail up to Concord, Izbicki said.

Michael Skelton, president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said his organization is committed to providing more data about the benefits of commuter rail. But, he said, the state should have a responsibility in continuing to invest in the project.

“What I’ve heard from legislators is they want more information, they want to see the business case for passenger rail, and that’s something we’re very interested in providing,” Skelton said.


Study Finds Rail to Manchester Best for New Hampshire People and Business

The New Hampshire Capital Corridor Rail and Transit Study reveals that Massachusetts and most importantly, New Hampshire will benefit if rail is extended to Manchester.  Currently conversations have floated the idea of bringing rail into New Hampshire only as far as Nashua, a border city next to Massachusetts.

But the study shows that extending the proposed rail line into Manchester will reap even more benefits to both New Hampshire and Massachusetts at large.  You can read the summaries of the report by different news local news outlets, such as the Valley News, the Nashua Telegraph, The Concord Monitor,  the Eagle Tribune, Lowell Sun, NHPR and even the Nashua Transit Authority.  But we’ll offer you not only the link to the entire document provided in the first sentence here, but also some interesting highlights we gleaned from scanning the report.

Such as in the first section Public Involvement Report:

The Study group put together 91 stakeholder meetings, three public comment meetings in Manchester, Concord and Nashua, which were all very well attended, the Study group put together Public Advisory Committees, which held three meetings.  The following were the PAC members:

  • Amtrak
  • Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission
  • City of Concord, New Hampshire
  • City of Manchester, New Hampshire
  • City of Nashua, New Hampshire/Nashua Transit System
  • Conservation Law Foundation of New Hampshire
  • The Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce
  • The Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce
  • Lowell Regional Transit Authority
  • Manchester Transit Authority
  • Manchester-Boston Regional Airport
  • Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
  • Massachusetts Department of Transportation
  • Merrimack Valley Planning Commission
  • Nashua Regional Planning Commission
  • New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority
  • Northern Middlesex Council of Governments
  • Pan Am Railways
  • Rockingham Planning Commission
  • Southern New HampshirePlanning Commission

On page 6 of the report is also a very long list of stakeholders which represented most of the towns and cities that would be possibly effected by rail transit or have transit issues in their communities, but also businesses such as Anagnost Companies, a large housing developer in Manchester, bus companies, colleges, Public Service New Hampshire — the largest electrical service provider in New Hampshire, regional planning commissions and past grantees for previous transit service studies and planning.

The first chapter concludes that as a result of the polling across these groups, the Study group noted the following themes of concern from these groups:

    • New Hampshire would benefit from a transportation system that provides multiple transit options, is less focused on single occupancy vehicles, and provides an increase in options that have the potential to ease traffic congestion and save commuting time.
    • The Manchester-Boston Regional Airport is an important cog in the New Hampshire economy and a rail connection to the airport should be part of the Study.
    • The state needs to work to attract and retain young professionals, who are now leaving New Hampshire at a faster rate than they are moving to the state.
    • It is important to demonstrate the impacts and benefits of passenger rail to the state (economic, social, and environmental).
    • The project needs to have a solid financial plan.
    • State demographics are changing (the population is getting older), and the transportation system needs   to address the needs of this changing demographic.
    • The location of potential rail stations is important to many of the communities, and they would like to be part of the discussion in identifying appropriate locations.
    • System safety needs to be analyzed.
    • The fare structure for any system needs to be competitive with other forms of transportation.
    • The frequency of operation needs to be competitive with other forms of transportation.
    • The Study has many implications for development in New Hampshire, which needs to be quantified.
    • Freight rail along the corridor is important, and the Study needs to examine the benefits to freight that could be realized by a passenger rail project.
    • The project needs to quantify environmental impacts, including emissions, air quality, noise/vibration, etc.
    • An increase in transit options has the potential to ease traffic congestion or slow the increase in
    • traffic congestion in the state.
    • Parking issues associated with potential rail stations is a concern in many communities.
    • Any transportation study needs to include connections between rail/bus and other parts of the state, i.e., local transit systems.
    • There is a concern among stakeholders that any proposed train service would negate the need for existing bus routes, which have been successful to date.
    • A transparent process for the Study is important with a high-level of stakeholder and public engagement.
    • Many stakeholders are interested in how passenger rail would impact the state’s economy.

Also interesting facts throughout the study:

  • passenger rail along the corridor in of transit the Study is looking at in New Hampshire was discontinued in 1967
  • approximately 1800 people ride the bus system along the Manchester to Boston corridor daily, which comprises a cooperative relationship between government and private business.
  • the proposed route comprises 73 miles from Boston to Manchester, going through the towns of Nashua and Lowell and other towns in between all the way to Boston.
  • commuting traffic to Boston known as the “commuter-shed” is increasing from stretching into the Nashua, New Hampshire area and further northward
  • business growth has not kept pace with residential growth in these northern areas, causing northern areas to develop into what are commonly known as “bedroom communities” entirely dependent upon the southern parts of the corridor (metro-Boston and Boston) for more people’s employment.  This drives the commuting factor up quite substantially.  Proponents of public transit say that business may be attracted to northern areas if transit options were improved.
  • bus riders must use “park and ride” areas which are removed from urban centers and still rely heavily on vehicle usage as they are almost inaccessible by any other way than freeway travel.
  • projected increases in population will cause further traffic congestion on public roadways in the coming years
  • economic growth suffers in areas that are reliant on one mode of transit for goods and workers
  • roadways and “park and ride” areas do not incorporate other modes of transportation people use, thus making travel impossible or difficult for many and for business needs
  • projected increased population growth will tend to lead to urban and suburban sprawl which can damage quality of life and the environment if better access to and more options for movement of peopel and goods are not developed

Read more in the study, if you missed the link, here’s another: Final Report: The New Hampshire Capital Corridor and Transit Study

Also, the New Hampshire DOT is doing another study and inquiry on more rail possibilities in New Hampshire and would like people’s input, in particular about areas of Conway.  Check it out!

New Hampshire DOT: Aeronautics, Rail and Transit