The Maine Rail Transit Coalition - Train Time
Updated: Mar 4, 2020
“Think of this as simply changing your perspective, accepting that the world is not precisely as you imagine. Historically every major breakthrough began with a simple idea that threatened to overturn all our beliefs. The simplest statement “the earth is round”, was mocked as utterly impossible because most people believed the oceans would flow off the planet. Small minds have always lashed out at what they don’t understand. There are those who create … and those who tear down. That dynamic has existed for all time. But eventually the creators find believers, and the numbers of believers reaches a critical mass, and suddenly the world becomes round… Perception is transformed, and a new reality is born.”
The Maine Rail Transit Coalition is an ad-hoc assembly of individuals and interest groups whose goal is to increase Transit Options and Mobility by mobilizing citizens to press for sensible public policy to define and implement the appropriate role of commuter rail throughout the Northeast.
My name is Anthony (Tony) Donovan. My profession is Realtor ®. My passion is passenger train transportation. Not necessarily the trains, although I’ve seen some very advanced hybrid and battery-electric railcars out there.
My interest is the routes, the connectivity, the stations and station sites. I am a planner, a transportation specialist, and certified economic developer with a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and certificate of Urban Planning from the University of Maine Muskie School of Public Service. I currently practice my profession as a commercial Realtor ® specializing in site location of development on railways – specifically focused on Transit Oriented Development land use. The Maine Rail Transit Coalition (MRTC) exists primarily due to my dogged pursuit of good rail planning for Maine.
Of course, to develop at train stations, we need to get the trains operating to the train station sites. So, I consult on the restoration of passenger train services, with public and private interests, The MRTC has the ability to identify highest and best-use corridors in the region, what is required to restore the corridors for passenger train service, including the political will needed at all levels of government.
Our team previously had been involved in PACTS, advocating for rail over the best part of the last 2 decades. We have attended years of meetings of State DOT consultant work including the 2007-2011 Portland North, the Brunswick extension, the State Rail Plan, the Mt. Division, the Rockland Branch, Augusta route, and even the Calais Branch to Acadia National Park.
Since 2008 the MRTC partnered with the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club to sponsor forums around the state to educate and inform residents and policymakers on railway transportation corridors. MRTC and Sierra Club Maine collaborated for 12 years in support of State legislation to restore passenger trains. We have had much success.
Most recently we led the successful effort in the Maine State legislature to pass a bill that funded report for a Service Development Plan to connect Maine’s 2nd largest metro centers; Lewiston/Auburn, to passenger train service. It is time for this plan to be implemented.
Together with more than 20 years of involvement in the study of Maine’s railways, and from the rail forums conducted throughout the region, it is our professional opinion that;
1.) The Maine State Rail Authority and Department of Transportation must determine commuter rail markets along all of the existing rail corridors.
2.) There is a need to educate the populace on the locations, routes, sites along the routes and the cost & benefits of railway corridors.
3.) Once people learn about the resources a railway transportation corridor has to offer – right in our own backyards – they are very interested in how we might use these resources better.
Specifically, there are railway transportation corridors that serve southern Maine and the Lewiston and Portland metro region, owned in most part by the State of Maine that require investment. The current state-operated Amtrak Downeaster passenger trains lease rights to the private PanAm Mainline. This route, sometimes referred to as the “trunk”, could connect local railway feeder branches including the Mountain Division from Maine’s western commuter towns, the Rockland Branch along the Downeast coast from Brunswick, the Augusta Lower Roads connecting Bath Iron Works to the State Capital, and most immediate of all; the former Grand Trunk Railway, now a state-owned railroad from Portland’s India Street to Lewiston/Auburn through the Portland North Commuter towns of Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland. Pineland and Auburn.
These corridors provide an opportunity to transform how we live, how we travel, how we create jobs, and link to affordable housing, how we do land-use, and methods of addressing congestion and environmental protection. The Maine Rail Transit Coalition wants the State of Maine to address rail as a method of getting us where we need to go - immediately. We are calling for:
A regional planning effort conducted as soon as possible (NOW) to provide a realistic assessment of the benefits, costs and potential of the Grand Trunk and Mountain Division railway corridors; both “shovel-ready” for investment.
A public visioning, including a program of educating residents, policymakers and property owners on these railway resources.
We are advocating for a completed determination of ridership, commuter and land use patterns in areas currently adjacent to these railway corridors.
We are advocating for an analysis of the various revenue sources for funding rail transit that are currently used around the country including federal funding criteria, funding for rail operations and capital improvements through taxes including on the consumption of gasoline, real estate benefitting from transportation and a consideration for percentage of tolls collected on the Maine Turnpike.
Anthony J. Donovan, Founding Member
Maine Rail Transit Coalition