February 16, 2013

Letters to the editor: Rail service expansion poised for success

I wanted to respond to Colin Woodard's article "Expansion of passenger trains in Maine takes slow track" (Feb. 4).

click image to enlarge

Passengers board the Amtrak Downeaster in Portland in 2004. A reader takes issue with a state Department of Transportation prediction that “a Lewiston/Auburn expansion would only carry an additional 30,000 riders.”

2004 File Photo

In reference to expanding Amtrak Downeaster service to Auburn, the story reports: "... a 2011 Maine Department of Transportation study suggests ridership would be limited. ... The study predicted 30,000 people would use it annually."

Before the Downeaster started operations in 2001, some ridership projections were around 178,000 riders annually. However, the Downeaster carried more than 550,000 riders last year.

To say that a Lewiston/Auburn expansion would only carry an additional 30,000 riders may be a conservative estimate. (Although a 2006 study suggested that upward of 98,000 additional passengers would ride with the expansion to Brunswick.)

Estimating ridership depends on many factors, but the truth is, it's all about how you sell the product. We here in Maine are lucky to have a great sales and management team in the form of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

The rail authority has built our fledgling service from around 250,000 passengers a year into one that carried more than 550,000 passengers in the past calendar year, and is expected to grow even more.

In 2009, the Downeaster was Amtrak's 12th-busiest service, and it has added almost another 100,000 annual riders since then. The Downeaster now is more popular than Amtrak's famous long-distance train, The Empire Builder.

I would not argue that passenger rail is on the "slow track" -- rather, the contrary. We have people who are willing to ride, we have the leadership we need to grow and we have a model we need to succeed.

The only thing holding us back is a lack of capital investment. We should all encourage Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree, along with our local and state representatives, to support this great service and its continued expansion and success.

Eben Sweetser


Second Amendment meant to enable citizen resistance

In the 1700s, King George III sent soldiers to America and sometimes did not send money for their upkeep. So they forced citizens to provide free room and board under threat of arrest.

Once in a citizen's house, the soldiers frequently stole and became physically abusive and there was nothing a citizen could do about it. So citizens began forming militia companies to protect each other from the government.

In April 1775, the "shot heard round the world" at Concord Bridge was fired by a militiaman. We didn't have a U.S. Army until June 1775.

At the first naval battle at Machias in May 1775, militiamen captured HMS Margaretta. We didn't have a U.S. Navy until October 1775.

By 1787, the Founding Fathers had been through a revolution and left copious notes making it clear that they thought all governments become abusive eventually, and they wanted us to be able to own every kind of weapon the army had in order to overthrow the government if it became necessary.

In 1787, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution and sent it around to the 13 states. All 13 states complained it was nothing but a list of rights for the government. They wanted a list of rights for the citizens. So the Founding Fathers said, "Ratify the Constitution and we can amend it later with a bill of rights for citizens."

They ratified the Constitution and sent in 12 proposed amendments. Ten were ratified immediately and became the "Bill of Rights" for citizens. That is why the Supreme Court has said twice in the last three years that the Second Amendment is a personal right, not a government right.

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