The State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Transportation (DOT) have announced that they are seeking public input through December 15 on an amendment to the Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor (the Corridor). The UMP governs the use of the 119-mile rail corridor, which has been the subject of much recent debate over the future of the historic rail line. Four public comment sessions are scheduled to discuss the possible amendment.
According to the notice issued to the press: “DEC and DOT will develop a draft UMP amendment to evaluate the use of the Tupper Lake to Lake Placid segment for a recreational trail. The agencies say they are also examining opportunities to maintain and realize the full economic potential of rail service from Utica to Tupper Lake, and reviewing options to create and expand alternative snowmobile corridors, and other trails, to connect communities from Old Forge to Tupper Lake on existing state lands and conservation easements.”
Public comment on amending the UMP is being accepted until December 15. Comments can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, mailed to NYS Travel Corridor, NYS DOT Freight and Passenger Rail Bureau, 50 Wolf Road, POD 5-4, Albany NY 12232 or provided verbally during four public comment meetings scheduled to take place:
October 28, 2014 6:00-8:00 PM in Utica at the State Office Building
October 29, 2014 1:00-3:00 PM in Old Forge at the View
November 6, 2014 6:00-8:00 PM in Tupper Lake at the Wild Center
November 7, 2014 1:00-3:00 PM in Lake Placid at ORDA
“Community input is vital in determining future uses for this unique corridor and we encourage people to attend these public meetings to make their voices heard,” DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said a prepared statement. “DOT is partnering with the Department of Environmental Conservation and the public to examine the best course of action to maximize economic, environmental and transportation benefits from the corridor.”
“We are taking a comprehensive, careful approach to this major transportation corridor in the middle of the Adirondack Park because we realize how important future uses of this artery are to the people and communities of the Adirondacks,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens’ statement said. “The upcoming public comment meetings will give the public and stakeholders a great chance to help the two agencies craft an amended UMP that serves the public good.”
The rest of the DEC/DOT press release follows:
“Amending the 1996 UMP/EIS will enable DEC and DOT to thoroughly review those aspects of the 1996 UMP/EIS that recommend enhanced recreational opportunities and community connections, and to examine alternatives for the best future use of the Corridor along the Tupper Lake to Lake Placid segment. DEC and DOT will work with the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and public stakeholders, including local officials and residents, to assess alternatives that reflect current realities along the corridor and potential environmental and economic impacts.
“The 60-day public comment period will provide a transparent and public means of gathering information for use in a proposed amendment of the 1996 UMP/EIS that would maximize benefits from public use of the corridor and conform with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
“Following public comment, DEC and DOT will prepare a Draft UMP Amendment and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement EIS) in 2015, which will explore opportunities to increase recreational use of the rail corridor and ensure it promotes tourism and economic growth in the surrounding communities. Additional public input on a draft UMP Amendment will be conducted by APA, with the goal of completing a final UMP Amendment later in 2015.”
I am a regular visitor to the Lake Placid area, coming up for 4 or 5 days at least once a year. This area needs more train service, not less. I’d love to be able to take the train from New York City right up through Utica and into the Adirondacks. I don’t care if takes a bit longer than driving… it is about the experience, not the rush.
On the other hand, I love trails. I believe in trails. But here’s the rub. Trails can go anywhere… literally anywhere. Trains can only run where there is track and right of way.
Somehow we ended up in a misguided argument of trains vs trails. Have both! Let the trains run on their tracks and instead of blowing so much hot air and money trying to rip up the tracks, use those resources to build a new trail.
If the user-base for a trail is as large as the proponents say, then it is surely worth building new trails to meet the demand.
Stop the animosity. Keep the trains, expand the trains, and build a uniuque economy off the trains. Then do the same thing with trails, if that is really possible, but do it on trails that don’t require ripping up someone else’s passion.
The Tree Huggers Need to understand the North Country needs a Real Economy and Mass Transit and Freight are what that takes. I suggest developing an Enviro-Train maybe special cars and sleepers with Tour Guides and Interpreters ….. Maybe even a Field Course on the History, Geology and Environment available with discounts for Groups and Senior Citizens …… There are Way To Many TRAILS …. Develop The Rail Road.
All those ideas and suggestions aren’t worth the paper they are written on if there is no one to finance and implement them. ASR can barely survive with what they are doing now. They have neither the funds nor the manpower to accomplish any of it. Instead of taking the opportunity that has been presented to them for the last 18 years that they have had control of the corridor and doing something with it they have been happy with the status quo. Well, the 5 year marketing period granted by the state in 1996 is way over due. Reviewing the UMP is the right thing to do. It’s time to make a decision and move on.
No more bike trails please! We need to preserve rail roads, not take them down. They are the most environmentally friendly means of transportation. A freight car can move 1 ton of freight over 480 miles on 1 gallon of fuel. Compare that to a tractor trailer which can only run about 5-10 miles on 1 gallon of fuel.
It’s important that we preserve these and I cant think of a better way to put the rail line into a holding position than to make a scenic rail way.
Certainly a hot debate but where do you get information from? Why do you think that the railroad can barely survive? They seem to be doing great from what I have been seeing of freshly painted equipment. What do you know that the rest of us don’t?
Their financials, which are available for anyone to who wishes to investigate them online. All not-for-profits financial information is posted on several sites. Also, the Utica to Thendara run provides for 84% of their ticket sales and revenue and that run is not affected at all by the rail trail proposal. Only a very short section (Remsen to Thendara) is even located within the corridor in question. Utica to Thendara is not part of the proposed trail. Only the Lake Placid to Saranac Lake section has been operational with continuing declining ticket sales. The rest of the corridor from Saranac Lake to Big Moose is in such poor condition that it is only used to transport equipment twice a year.
Before you draw any conclusions about the financial condition of the non-profit ASR from an ARTA director, read the rebuttal to an attempt by ARTA to smear the railroad by not presenting all the facts:
By the way Scott, I forgot to mention if you want to read the articles I linked above, you will have to pay a subscription fee to get the full text from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. However, if you want to read only pro-trail commentary, the ADE has an arrangement with ARTA through their Facebook page links that allows readers free access to pro-trail commentary.
I don’t think the trains generate enough income to justify running them the few times per week (seasonally) that they run – And I would MUCH rather have the tracks removed to be able to walk, bicycle, snowmobile, horseback trail ride, or just plain travel unimpeded between all of the wonderful towns these tracks run through – without having to be stuck inside a train, or break my neck trying to navigate over the rail slats on foot. And I truly believe all of the businesses along the way would appreciate the customer traffic – traveling through the Adirondacks free to enjoy the surroundings however/whenever we choose makes ALL of us more hungry, thirsty, and extraordinarily more inclined to spend – spend – spend!
If you are a local trail user your spending will not have any impact at all on your local or regional economy more than it already does. You are spending your money now, without the rail-trail. If anything, your choice to buy refreshments along the trail will dilute or reduce your spending at businesses you currently patronize.
Consider the existing coffee shop or local deli that is 3 or 4 blocks from the corridor now. If your dream comes to fruition, new coffee shops, sandwich shops, pizza, etc., will all collect along the trail. If locals like you have 6 new places to spend your money, the business of the existing shops will be reduced. That is called economic redistribution, and the average profit among all the businesses is reduced.
I am curious Susan, do you do any recreation that you speak of now on any existing AP trails?
The Train, when it runs, passes 200′ behind my home. I walk the tracks and the woods surrounding often. But I cannot ride my bike to establishments in surrounding towns over tracks, it would be too far to walk, too dangerous for a horse, and I can’t take my snowmobile until there is enough snow coverage to be safe.
So in all honesty, yes – I would spend more if it were easier (ie: more recreational) to get places. I work at home, I stay at home 99.9% of my days – and I truthfully do not see the train go by very often. This leads me to believe the system is not generating enough public interest to support the cost of running the train. If such is the case, I would much rather be able to use the space to go for longer more enjoyable trips, far more often (as I do when there is enough snow to snowmobile to nearby towns over the tracks).
Hence, I would undoubtedly spend more than I do right now.
How do you jump from not seeing trains very often to them not paying for themselves? The fact is that it is currently a tourist and heritage train that runs during appropriate seasons holidays and weekends. I am involved in an operation in another state. Nobody would ever run a train if it wasn’t making a profit, that is ridiculous even for non-profit. The schedules often can not be made larger because of crew constraints and when people are in the region.
Either way I appreciated reading the comment you made Susan. If this becomes a debate of tourists vs locals I now understand where people are coming from :).
This train only operates at the Lake Placid to Saranac Lake section. It has control of the corridor from May 1 to Oct 31. No other activities can happen in the corridor while the train is operational. The revenues don’t come close to covering expenses. Meanwhile nothing else can happen on the corridor.
The solution to this is to extend the train all the way from Utica to Lake Placid. As Scott explains, the schedules often cannot run more often due to shortage of local crew and lack of local demand; but with the full connection to Utica, the trains will be able to run more often, as they will have more passengers, and more crew available (from Utica).
And round and round we go, when oh when will a decision ever be made? I suggest with tongue firmly in cheek that DEC and DOT could more easily just ask the good people at Adirondack Almanac to gather all the comments that have been made on this site on this hot topic over the past several years and get an in-depth take on this issue.
It seems this process has gone on and on with those at the top unable to make a decision because obviously a considerable group of people that advocate for both sides will be very disappointed.
For this observer, who has made a few posts himself here on the issue, the overwhelming evidence, for a variety of reasons support removing the rails from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid and creating a trail that will generate far more positive benefits for the people of the region and those visiting it.
Just one recent example: I was in the LP area several weeks ago when as usual with the season things were hopping. The Ragnar(?) race was going on, the roads were filled with tourists viewing this years incredible foliage display and as we drove through Wilmington Notch and by Cascade, which had at least 150 cars parked along both sides of the road, that this was definitely NOT bike-friendly territory at the time. But if the bike trail existed, I suggest that hundreds of erstwhile bikers would be enjoying this gorgeous time of year in this beautiful area, and would be eating, shopping, and sleeping at local businesses.
Bite the bullet NY State and build the trail.
As an observer to our local trails, some existing more than 27 years, local people are by far the primary users. Three weeks ago at one of our popular trail heads, out of 47 cars in the parking lot, 46 were from local dealerships. An hour or two on the trail and they go back home. Some may choose to eat in town, other may go home and order a pizza, like we did.
The folks arriving in your community to see autumn leaves would likely have come anyway, trail or not. Spending by those people contribute no new economic activity, so your assertion of eating shopping and sleeping would have happened anyway and thus, no measurable economic growth.
The NYDOT can satisfy both sides in this debate by building short segmented trails alongside the existing railroad where space permits in each community between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. This would provide the average user (about an hour on the trail once a week) the recreation and health benefits desired, and preserve the railroad for greater tourism and economic development.
Not sure which trails you are observing, but those observations go against all statistics and evidence available for the region as a whole. Tourists, meaning anyone who doesn’t live in the immediate vicinity, are the vast majority of people using trails and spending money creating jobs for locals. Sorry, but that is a fact. Without tourism most of the locals wouldn’t be able to afford to live locally for long!
Tourists are not the vast majority of people using rail-trails. Locals are. What available statistics and evidence are you referencing? As an example, the report by NYP&T on the Erie Canal clearly states the average user lives within 5 miles, and spends less than one hour per week on the trail; you can verify this fact. As a whole, The Erie Canal Trail receives about 2.5% overnight visitors; overnight visitors are the key group that spends out of region money necessary for an economic contribution to a trail economy. The Virginia Creeper Trail sees about 4% of overnight visitors. Tourists come now to the Adirondacks for a variety of reasons. Only those that would come specifically for a trail experience would be counted toward trail-related economics; this is true in any region. Sure, if you own a bar or hotel on the proposed rail-trail, as some ARTA directors do, you will see an increase in business; but that is all about location, not region-wide economic activity.
I am looking personally at our trails in western PA and hard economic data of near 30 years that show no region-wide economic increase due to trail economics, in fact, many trail communities have lower economic growth than the rest of the state average. Some along the Great Allegheny Passage are economically distressed municipalities. Where has the trail economy been, with a 27 year old trail, for these folks?
I was referencing Adirondack trails, not rail trails in other locations much, much nearer population centers. This proposed trail like almost every other Adirondack Trail would mostly be used by people from away, who at the very least will purchase gasoline, snacks, possibly eat out, etc. The local population along that route is tiny. I don’t see why the use of the rail trail would be any different than other Adirondack Trails where you can see cars from many different states at the trailhead
Ok, point well taken. So of the visitors to the AP, the question is how many come to access existing trails now, versus how many would be new or first time visitors? Is their primary purpose being to use the proposed rail-trail? This is where the meaningful numbers separate from all users to the group that matters, and the numbers get much smaller as on the Erie Canal Trail, The VA Creeper Trail, the GAP, etc.
Unfortunately, the overnight visitor numbers for example trails that compare with the Remsen-Lake Placid corridor have been shamefully exaggerated by ARTA to garner support for their plan.
The number of people who drive cars as tourists in order to use long-distance trails is pretty small, and it is getting smaller. However, the important point is that those people are going to the existing Adirondack Trails through wilderness.
Such tourists do NOT go to a short trail from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake. Such a short, urban trail would be used by locals, the same as other short, urban trails.
I know, the process is maddening and oh so painfully slow. But it’s worth it. Don’t give up!
The trains would be much more popular than they are, if the route were upgraded and maintained all the way to Tupper and Lake Placid, and actually utilized on a frequent basis all year. Based on what I’ve seen and heard in the years I’ve been visiting the Fulton Chain region, many older folks and families (ourselves included) who do not bike or snowmobile come up, but lament the very limited train services. It would be a shame to see this piece of Adirondack history go away.
Sure, the line could be pulled up and the scrap sold to offset the cost of doing it, but what about after that? Whose nickel will be used to maintain and patrol the route? Will users be charged a fee?
At least with passenger trains, the line would generate not only direct income through ticket sales, but the communities it passes through could be revitalized. Adirondack communities are engaged in actively promoting winter activities, but the snowmobiling and limited skiing available in the Fulton Chain are draws for only a small minority of the potential tourist population.
Ask yourself this question, what would bring you and your money into the Fulton Chain in winter if you don’t ski or snowmobile. The tourist shops, some restaurants, and places to stay are closed in winter, which could be turned around with a good rail service. I almost forgot, ski and snowmobile trains could be very popular.
I suggest that all your assertions about what an economic boost the train would bring to the area are pie in the sky. These suggestions that if the ‘route were upgraded and maintained’ a surge in passenger traffic would follow are nonsense. It reminds me of when John Brown sought to help former slaves get a start as farmers by giving them land–in the foothills of the Adirondacks, one of the hardest places there is to succeed in agriculture. This just in: railroads stopped making money on passenger traffic in the 1930’s! Even today in metro corridors railroad companies receive(justly so in my opinion) massive subsidies through Amtrak. And the cost of upgrading and maintaining a railroad in the heart of the Adirondacks would be prohibitively expensive. As it is, the train doesn’t run during parts of the year and when it does depends heavily on volunteers among other operating issues, which as the saying goes is no way to run a railroad.
Many more tourists who tend to be younger, more active, and have disposable income, would be attracted to this beautiful region by a relatively flat, 30-mile bike trail that would be family friendly and prove a boost for the communities of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid.
The fact is people are drawn to the region because of the train ride in its current state, the point is if it went all the way to the lake it would bring in even more people. It is currently a heritage train with volunteers, the comparison with Amtrak is invalid. I am a volunteer at a train ride in another state, we have had passengers all the way from Poland because when they want to experience America, and to them that means riding a historic scenic train. Granted I will admit our passengers are largely families looking for something to do or older people with disposable income from around the region. But those people often spend money in the area to eat and shop, it is a benefit to the region that kids love.
If you are interested in simply bringing in younger people a trail will not help either, I love hiking never have I heard anyone travel far just only for a certain hike, except the Appalachian trail. As another commenter said, look at the plates on the cars, they are often all from local dealerships. When traveling with my family we look for places to hike in the area after we picked a vacation spot based on other attractions such as historic sites, museums, and train rides because most of these areas already have places to go for a walk somewhere. Simply put, it rarely makes a geographic area stand out, why go to New York for a hike when there are trails in our area? But there is only one Adirondack Scenic Train ride.
Hummmm, why did the train fail three times and what has changed? I have asked the Old Forge real-estate folks how many have built and bought and rent for snowmobiling in winter and how many have for train riding in summer…your guess?? Yes, the trail will be large for our business, but in the Big Picture it will be HUGE. We don’t need another way to get to the Adirondacks, we need another reason to come and less time between popular activities!
This is currently a heritage train, not Amtrak. This is not a way for people to come to the area but an attracted in its own right. Rides like this are HUGE throughout the country.
Scott, how many of the real-estate customers own, register and ride their machines in the Adirondack Park? Are these folks new to the area, or have they been coming around for years anyway?. Are they repeat rental customers? If they were all new, you would think sled registration totals would be going up, but they are going the other way. And what about the railroad failing? Seems they are doing great on the south end, which ARTA acknowledges. Why would you hold the ASR responsible for New York DOT and DEC not doing their part in refurbishing the entire line as proposed in the 1996 UMP, and handcuffing the railroad with no more than 30 day lease all these years? You are being disingenuous in making that statement without considering the rest of the story.
My comment was intended to be positive to the current railroad that has done a great deal with a volunteer crew.
If the line were developed properly, I’m talking about a year-round RR., not just a summer attraction. A bike route is only useable in summer, and the snowmobiling tends to be largely local…within 50 to 100 miles.
A question I posed in my OP has not been answered. Let’s assume a hiking/biking/snowmobile trail is made. Who is going to pay for its upkeep, and since parts of it are not close to the roads, security? Are you assuming it will be free to all comers? The scrap value of the iron will only go so far, then what? Whose deep pockets will be tapped?
Bruce, you will pay for the maintenance and improvement of the trail as long as you live. Public support is required to keep a recreational trail. Consider the GAP and the Allegheny Trail Alliance. The ATA is a seven-member organization that supports the Great Allegheny Passage between Pittsburgh, PA and Cumberland, MD. Three of seven organizations, Montour Trail Council, Riverlife, and Regional Trail Corp, are large enough to file IRS Form 990’s, available at Guidestar.org. Just three groups report public funding between 2008 and 2012 over $20.7 million; in 2012 public support for the RTC was 98%. Again, verify this for yourself.
The idea floated by ARTA that trail conversion is free and with ASR out of the was the taxpayer will be better off is very incorrect.
Yet you don’t complain about tax dollars for roads? There’s merit to having trails linking towns, but you don’t have to destroy your railroads to do so either.
Bruce, there are hundreds of miles of trails maintained by snowmobile clubs now, and they would help maintain this trail too. This trail would be one of their crown jewels and their upkeep would reflect that. Further, once built it wouldn’t require maintenance and upkeep to the extent that say a road would. I live near the Erie Canal trail in Western NY, and this year for the first time in 16 years there is a larger scale maintenance project going on (which really wasn’t even necessary in many people’s opinion).
Brian, let’s get the record straight, not hundreds of miles of snowmobile trail, but more than 1,800 miles of snowmobile trails. A 27-year old trail system I noted above received more than $20.7 million dollars in public support in just 5 years; I did not make that up, it comes from their tax returns. ARTA and trial supporters never answer this. Please specifically answer how you can make the claim that trail maintenance, upkeep and improvement will not cost the communities of the AP and taxpayers of NY indefinetly.
These are our comments that were submitted:
Dear NY DEP and DOT:
We are commenting on your plans for the rail corridor. We favor retaining and upgrading the line from Old Forge to Tupper Lake, and converting it to a bicycle trail from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid. This way, everyone wins and the rail bed provides maximum benefit to the public.
We also note that the Tupper to Placid section is the most appropriate for a rail trail since it goes through several towns that will attract bike riders and offer services. The Old Forge to Tupper Section is remote with little public access and would make a very fine tourist train if the tracks were upgraded all the way to Tupper.
Finally, we point out that one thing the Adirondacks are lacking is a decent rail trail. The Pine Creek rail trail in northcentral PA serves as a good example of how an area can be revitalized with a rail trail. Since the rail trail was established, stores and restaurants have flourished, rentals have sprung up, and property values have increased. Tupper Lake would especially benefit since it would get both bicycle users of the trail and would be at the other end of the tourist train.
The concept of restoring passenger service to the rail line is a pipe dream. Very few people would use it, especially since you would have to take Amtrak to Utica and then wait to transfer to another line to get to Lake Placid. And once at Lake Placid, what do you do unless you rent a car? If this rail line were privately owned, the tracks would have been pulled up long ago. So I don’t buy the complaint that no rail trail ever started with an active rail line.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
Folks don’t be hood winked, you are being played by an outside interest. Lee Keet is a community orginizer of the same ilk as the current resident in the Whitehouse. He has been pushing this rope up hill for years.
The original mission of the Rail Trail Conservancy was to identify and assist in preserving abandoned railroad lines to preserve it for future reactivation. The railbanking process is like a trust. Literature published by the RTC suggests trail groups wait until a prospective line is abandoned. Few, if any, active railroads were removed to make a rail-trail before 2010. Since then the RTC has become more aggressive and now notes “underutilized” corridors should be considered. So their mission has changed and as long as active lines are targeted, there will be some push back. There are now trail groups targeting active lines in NY, NJ, PA, NC, OH, and CA.
You can have your trail and preserve the railroad. Shorter trails of 3-5 miles built out of each community would provide the recreation and features you list, serve the average local user, give regular tourists something else to do, and keep open the economic opportunities the railroad provides.
Dear Tupper Lake:
I’m excited to think of the economic shot in the arm the Adirondack Rail Trail will provide to you. Naturally train defenders question the economics of this trail, while at the same time failing to acknowledge that their operation has not been an economic win by any measure. But if you take the time to look into the details yourself you’ll see that the recreational trail is an economic no-brainer. We’re talking about real money here: this is important to you. So do your homework! Don’t listen only to propaganda from either side.
Remember also that the Adirondack Rail Trail would have national appeal. Far from being just another trail it would be a premier bicycling opportunity in the United States, offering a wonderful new and unique experience to the fastest growing recreational demographic in the country.
Then there is the fact of a greatly enhanced snowmobile corridor. How much of an extended season, how much more ridership and how much business would that create?
Your community has suffered economic depression and controversy. This rail trail is a big win waiting to happen. Let’s do it for you and for your businesses and families.
PS – Saranac Lake, are you listening too?
Pete, it’s all about dirty politics & nothing about economics.
If it was about it economics, you’d be building snowmobile/motorcycle hybrids(basically a kettenkrad with ski’s along side the front tire) and using them year round on the already existing roads between the towns in addition to the already existing trails. :$
“Far from being just another trail it would be a premier bicycling opportunity in the United States”
Pete, the trail may be a good idea but this seems to be overhyping it just a bit.
40 miles of flat dirt road? It doesn’t sound like this will be much more than a good bike trail between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid?
Pete there is no propaganda here. I did the research on the trails, the population base, the business activity, the financial data. You can verify everything I wrote. You want to see propaganda? Look at ARTA director commentary in the ADE and TU newspapers where overnight visitor totals for the Pine Creek and Virginia Creeper trails were exaggerated more than 450% and 1700% respectively; and he admitted they were erroneous.
We have sparred on this before Pete; you can make any numbers you want look good. But look into the regional data for taxes and income and it is not so easy.
So build your trail; but don’t misrepresent the economic data to the public and the state agencies to sell you plan. The same thing can be achieved without removing the rails.
I live close to the Pine Creek trail. I can say first hand that the economic impact and social benefits have been wonderful. The only reason the existing line hasn’t been abandoned is because it’s publically owned and doesn’t have to turn a profit.
Roads aren’t profitable and you’re not against them. So why all the hypocritical stuff against railroads?
Apparently not, according to this article and what was stated at the hearings. Rails with trails is not under consideration.
I you have regional sales tax and personal income data on the Pine Creek Trail impact, please share. How about population numbers? Is your area growing in population due to job creation from the trail? You may have to look further than the economic impact studies paid for by the RTC.
What kind of profit is the trail turning? It is surely publicly owned as well.
One thing that is different about the Pine Creek trail; it is rail-with-trail, so the communities have the best of both opportunities. It can work in each Adirondack community also.
I currently live in Michigan, which has more “rail trails” than any other state. Most of these trails run through very touristy areas and none of the trails have seen a large amount of use. They have all been paved and are very nice, but not many tourists use them. The college campus I am currently on has a “Rail Trail” running right through it. Sure I use it but I don’t see many people on it when I do. None of the touristy communities (or regular ones) have seen any economic gain from these trails. In fact there have been several groups trying to get the tracks back on these trails because it would help the local economy.
I was reading an article somewhere saying that tourist railroads could boost local economy some 30%. I have no clue why people are so obsessed with tearing tracks out. It is very easy to build a trail and keep the tracks too. Build the trail close to the tracks or on a better route. Then everyone wins.
There is no reason to consider rail service to Tupper Lake or beyond for that matter. There is no demand nor is there any economic benefit. On the other hand the Adirondack Rail Trail as proposed by ARTA should encompass all 90 miles of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor precisely because there is great interest and demand for this type of venue. We are a tourist destination for the active traveler, those people who travel to participate in active recreational activities and adventure oriented excursions. The longer the trail the more opportunities are presented for various kinds of use from the short trek to an extended overnight adventure. Or how about an afternoon stroll with your baby jogger or that marathon training run. Don’t forget that Grand Tour from Old Forge to Lake Placid camping along the way. How about that bike trip to your favorite fishing spot or getting dropped off in Sabattis and riding into Tupper. The longer the trail the more communities benefit in the economic revitalization. Tupper Lake will gain very little by having train service but stands to lose greatly by losing the very real and documented economic benefit of snowmobiling that an expanded rail trail will bring. We cannot afford to ignore any winter recreation activity that brings that type of economic benefit. The travel corridor is a Class A snowmobile trail which allows it to have large tracked groomers to be used on it and is a vital connector to many other class B trails. Any new trails that might be built outside of the Travel Corridor will not be permitted to be more than 8′ wide and not tracked grooming machines will be permitted. While that sounds ok, the reality is that 8′ is not wide enough for snowmobiles traveling in opposite directions to pass one another making for unsafe trails.
The bottom line is that the first 35 miles is a great start but let’s not lose site of the big picture. 90 miles or bust!
So basically you want a winter motorcycle race course. :$
The NYDOT’s thought of making Tupper Lake a rail center is a good one. I understand there might be a new resort in the planning stages there. Why would you want to cut off the possibility of offering rail service to a new resort? They could market a ski train in the winter and any number of cooperative type ventures with rail service. I would think keeping the automobiles in Utica and bringing tourists to a central point like Tupper Lake would make the environmental folks happy too, since a railroad has quite a bit smaller carbon footprint than an equivalent number of SUV’s; and tremendously smaller than lots of snowmobiles.
The 90 mile corridor, with little or no population, in primarily wild and wilderness settings, devoid of cell phone service, and any type of travel amenity is not a good idea. You are not likely to see anyone pushing a baby stroller there. So with your plan this 90 mile section would primarily be reserved for sleds in the winter.
The 277-mile long Erie Canal Trail on average is used by local people who use the trail for less than an hour each week. Why do you think the length of the ARTA proposed trail will create any different type of user? The GAP is well over 350 miles and we have trail communities losing population because there is no economic activity of meaningful nature to keep them.
Hope, you have 10 million people that visit the AP now on a yearly basis, and thousands of miles of existing trails. If your rail-trail is going to provide an economic bounce to the region, you need a large increase in those numbers who will come primarily for the trail alone, not something new for the ones who already visit. If you’re going to build a trail economy on a few extra weeks of snowmobiling, then you better do something to turn around your falling sled registration numbers that are half of what they were ten years ago.
Keeping the railroad and developing short, parallel, accessible recreational trails in each community would provide the best opportunity for recreation and economic development. Why limit the economic development possibilities for your businesses? Kingston, NY, is trying to do the same short-sighted move. Following a Thomas the Tank Engine event that brought in thousands of visitors their business community is starting to wake up and oppose removal of the Catskill Mountain Railroad and calling for a solution to having both rail and trail. If your trail visitors make the choice to stay overnight, they might stay a second night to enjoy a train ride, and might come again in the winter to book a room and ride a ski train to the region.
There are currently 29 comments posted here and you have submitted 10 of them. I believe you have made your points and it might be time to sit back and not let this posting become your personal chat room. You have certainly made your feelings on this subject known. I read every word you wrote and respectfully disagree with most of them but now I suggest you let others state their feelings on this complex matter.
ARTA is promoting a fraudulent agenda.
They complain that railroads are not profitable, but at the same time they don’t expect roads or trails to be profitable.
Trails can be built along side rail lines too.
Lake Champlain, I am sorry we disagree and I respect your thoughts on the subject, but asking me not to engage in civil discussion? Perhaps I missed that we were only allowed one or two entries. I don’t have the intention of making this a personal blog, but would you feel the same way if I supported the trail with the same passion? On two ARTA Facebook pages rail supporters opinions are rejected; so if you do not agree I suppose the next thing is not to let the message be heard.
Everyone’s opinion is important. I hail from an area that saw the steel industry collapse by 1980. Pittsburgh and the Mon-Valley were the most economically depressed areas in the country. The rebirth of the region was not due to a recreational trail, but due to diversification of business and industry, and the return of manufacturing and commercial activity.
Not all these options may be available to your region, but just 8 years ago the shale-gas industry did not exist. Every one of our railroad branch lines could have been the Remsen-Lake Placid corridor, that today are busy once again supporting jobs and businesses. You don’t know what the future holds. Don’t handicap your region by removing an economic asset like the railroad when with thought and resolve you can have both.
Biking is big business in Pittsburgh and it is touted as instrumental in it’s comeback. Businesses want to locate where there are amenities that their employees and their families want to enjoy. Happy employees means good business. Meet the next Portland, OR.
Hope, I know of the bike lane proposals in Pittsburgh, but giving bike lanes or biking in general much credit for a business rebound in the Steel City is way off the mark. In fact, Mayor Peduto is being criticized for bowing to the bike lobby when there are more pressing traffic problems in the City. If you read the article below, only 1.4% of Pittsburgh commuters ride bikes to work, unless you consider a Harley in that group:
I have no problems with bike lanes, but some businesses in Vancouver, BC tried to claim a business loss because of them:
Pittsburgh, as a manufacturing center, had multiple rail lines into the city, and still does. Following consolidation over time, there was plenty of abandoned railroad real-estate to consider for rail-trail conversion. This is not even close your situation in the AP.
It intrigues me that with all of the people make comments and push to remove the rails and run a trail, without considering potential benefits to operating the railroad and run a trail along side the track.
Here is the perfect example to this marriage… and it is in operation today in Cumberland Maryland.
The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad runs along side a rails to trails road through the rugged Appalachia Mountains in Maryland. If there is a person along the trail in trouble, they will stop and call for assistance to those in need. They Co-exist and work well together in tandem.
This also brings in more tourist revenue than just the trail would alone. All be it, you the locals utilize it, the number of people from out of State do not and that is a fact. With a tourist line there and willing to co-exist, they both win, as well as the whole community.
If there is a way to tie the train in with another site during the winter, here too, the community wins and it does increase the business in the town where the train station is.
And what if some one decides to open a factory in the area, train delivery is much cheaper and less wear on the roads, as it would be with trucks.
It is inconceivable that a group wants to remove the railroad for their own self gratification and not look at the whole spectrum which lays before them… But hey, don’t believe me, check out the western Maryland Scenic…and OH YEA, they just leased a bigger steam locomotive due to the increase in ridership…money, money money
Keep the rails!
Rip out the tracks!
My 2 cents:
A number of people have suggested “trails can be built along side rail lines.” My understanding is that would be cost prohibitive.
Shorter trails of 3-5 miles in length, then? I assure you not many people are going to drive to, say, Lake Clear to bike “3-5 miles.”
Why has no one mentioned the bike trail close by in Burlington? It’s hugely popular. http://www.enjoyburlington.com/parks/bikepath1.cfm
I don’t think you can compare this bike trail with one that runs through a “college campus.”
This trail would be nothing like the Erie Canal trail which, frankly, is pretty boring.
As much as I would like to see the whole corridor become a bike trail, let’s stop bickering and get on board the compromise the DEC suggests: train from Old Forge to Tupper/trail from Lake Placid to Tupper.
Keep the rails! We need more active railroads taking people back and fourth from NYC to the Adirondaks not less. Look how many cars will be taken off the roads and it’ll only continue. Rail Travel is more environmentally friendlier and best way to move massive amounts of people. This is a historic line that must be saved as is. All these trail folks can hike on another trail elsewhere. There’s more in Upstate NY then they know what to do with. The historic tourist railroad brings in more people who spend their money at the local businesses more so then the rail trail.even more for those who will take a commuter and Amtrak Trainswho very well can come up that way. Look at Europe, Japan, Communist China and even Putin’s Russia. They are reinvesting in their rail, light rail and even subway infrastructure. Only on this country will folks be so daft to tear out rails in this day and age and keep pushing that pro car and pro highway propaganda then send a ton of our tax dollars to it. It’s time to save our railroads and stop treating them like the red headed step child.
There is so much to be said here. First, the idea of preserving this rail right of way as a railroad bas to be thought of in several ways…Yes, it is an historic route and this fact should be considered; but so should it be considered as an existing right of way and means of transportation that once removed and obliterated would be costly and all but impossible to reinstate or rebuild. Therefore to get rid of it, to destroy it, should not even be considered for now or the future. And will not be a rapid transit or commuter line as is Metro North, Long Island RR, or the New York City subway system, so traffic and frequency will not be the same. That does not mean it will not be cost effective. While we talk passenger service for the most part it could also be a financial and life saving means of getting goods in and out of the Mountains inexpensively while not clogging roads with traffic or pounding the life out of them. Environmentally, it is better than a parade of gasoline cars and diesel trucks; economically it moves people cheaper than the auto. Whether it is used as a “tourist” ride and attraction or as a means of moving people and goods into, through, and out of the Mountains, it is THE way to do it. If we were to start new, there might be argument not to do it; but it is already there: billions of dollars of studies, surveys, land surveys, excavation, rights of way acquisition, have all been done and proven. This money would have to be spend for a new highway which would not be as economically and environmentally useful. So why start over. With the Adirondack Railroad and its right of way already existing we are billions of dollars and decades ahead of whatever other attempt would be tried as a means of transportation.
I think NYS has come up w a great plan by getting rid of the tracks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. Great starting point, try it and see how that works. If the train proves viable from OF to TL in a reasonable timeframe, say 7 yrs, then leave it. If not, go with the trail all the way to OF. Just my 2 cents.
As far as a trail beside the tracks, it seems physically impossible in many places and DEC and APA would probably have real problems with it.
What if another Olympics or some event requiring a lot of building materials and equipment happens in the future. Will it be schlepped up a trail? Driven up through the Cascades or down through Jay? Will the roads be crowded with cars getting folks to such events? Trails exist throughout the Adirondacks, but there is only one railroad. It might be needed for transportation in the future. Keep the rails intact!
Put in a quiet light electric train that can bring in hikers and paddlers (and folks that just want to enjoy the ride) summer and winter. Seems like a green solution that will certainly give the Adirondacks a unique amenity.
Sorry snowmobile fans.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is one of only two surviving corridors leading into the Adirondacks that dates from the glory days of the American railroad. I am quite sure that there are more than two trails in the Adirondacks as of now; the sacrifice of an extremely historic railroad line in lieu of just another trail seems a completely avoidable travesty. Furthermore, the reopening of the entire ex-New York Central Adirondack division from Utica to Lake Placid will be able to draw tourists from New York City and all points beyond. The railroad operates a historic roster of equipment which includes perhaps the last operable New York Central RS3 on home territory. It would be a heavy blow to the Adirondacks’ history and the New York Central’s history if it were torn up. What many don’t see is that there may be an unprecedented need for the railroad, tourists or not. What if freight has to be moved from Lake Placid to Utica? What if another huge sporting event occurs at Lake Placid that requires heavy equipment? If the railroad is torn up, not a bit of the above can ever occur unless the railroad is completely rebuilt, which runs contrary to both parties’ visions of “generating revenue.” I say keep the railroad; it’s really a no-brainer.
I hope the DEC and DOT get as many comments as this thread.
It’s only a “no-brainer” to those overcome with nostalgia. The rest of us have to think about it. It seems that most people give a lot of weight to real life factors, you know – out in the real, contemporary world.
To them, using an entire railroad corridor as a museum may seem excessive when it could be used for something else.
Those who believe history is important should respect it; railroads have a much-diminished role in small communities. This was caused by technological changes that occurred in the 1930’s.
The problem with your argument Curt, aside from your insistence that historic preservation is only “nostalgia”, which is clearly and patently false, is that you seem to think you know the future. You are willing to tear out a substantial piece of Adirondack infrastructure, which in all likelihood can never be replaced, for your hobby.
Forgetting fairness, costs, and the other obvious shortcomings of ARTA’s rail-trail plan, destroying infrastructure for another trail is a pretty questionable project.
In the real, contemporary world, infrastructure which can never be replaced is more important than bicycle and snowmobile trails.
As long as the Travel Corridor stays intact as a travel Corridor and the rail bed (more important than the rails and ties)is maintained, then the travel corridor can be anything the State of NY decides it can be in the future. Who knows what that might be 50 or 100 years from now. Not you nor I. Maybe we will all be whizzing around in our own hovercrafts, who knows. Rails are being turned into trails all over the country because that is what the people of those communities wish to have. If train travel was so popular and economically viable we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all. The reality is that there is little demand for it and more demand for bike and snowmobile trails.
Sure Hope, hovercrafts.
That about sums up the lack of seriousness trail advocates seem to have for the future of our only rail line.
No one ever thought electric cars would ever be a reality either. Neither you or I can predict how transportation will evolve in the future. Seems to me that there is a huge resurgence in bicycling for recreation as well as transportation why not embrace it?
“No one ever thought electric cars would ever be a reality either.” Electric cars have been around since the 1880s. In 1900 more than a third of automobiles were electric powered. The problem over the last century has been a lack of will, not a lack of technology – a situation remarkably similar to light rail today.
I do embrace bicycling for transportation (which tearing up this rail line will do nothing to support) and recreation, but we shouldn’t tear up existing mass transportation infrastructure for a recreational trail.
A person who does not support a rail to trail is not shrugging off bicycling in some way. I bike all the time, I would argue I “embrace” the sport as much as anyone. That doesn’t mean I have to support a rail to trail?? Sometimes folks in these discussions seem to paint everything as black and white. There are lots of fun places to ride bikes in the Adirondacks this isn’t the be all and end all of biking in the park.
It’s not just about biking.
Nostalgia was only one thing I addressed. By your logic, we shouldn’t have museums at all. After all, why would anyone devote massive Art-Deco buildings to house dinosaur bones and such? Dinosaurs are much less relevant than railroads in the “real, contemporary world.” However, a much larger portion of my statement asserts that opening the entire Adirondack Division would ensure a substantial tourist base due to the fact that Utica connects to the national rail network. Furthermore, this decade has seen Amtrak ridership rise to record levels. Why sacrifice a railroad line that could potentially carry both passengers AND freight from Utica to Lake Placid and back? I never said it had to be either a railroad track or a trail– why not both? Most of the line is wide enough to support a small trail running alongside the railroad, which I would be absolutely fine with.
Not at all Phil. Museums benefit multitudes of citizens and those that don’t fail and close unless they have the support. The railroad through the Adirondacks was a long shot and a folly when it was constructed and soon failed. It was resurrected and failed again. How many times are we going to go there? Shall we invest millions of dollars to watch it fail again? Why is there not money coming out of the woodwork to keep this operation going? Why are the numbers of passengers, especially above Old Forge dropping every year? It is a Heritage Railroad, where is the fundraising that should be happening? Every museum in the country survives on fundraising and private benefactors along with public moneys (grants), This operation is on the verge of extinction yet it wants to expand it’s operation under the delusion that more miles will bring more passengers. Their own study debunked that idea. The number of additional riders is miniscule in comparison to the investment required to bring the rails up to Class III standard to be used for passenger service. As far as freight goes we are not even going above class III so freight, especially fuel, is not even remotely a reality.
I don’t know where you’re getting this information from, but tourist traffic on the Central’s Adirondack Division was booming during the 1920s. In fact, there was enough traffic to support a service to GCT that often ran as many as five sections. Yes, ridership declined during the 1950s and 1960s, but this was a problem that ravaged most all of America’s railroads due to the (government-subsidized) airlines and highways.
I believe the train system is an untapped resource that if marketed and promoted in a way that encompasses a multitude of events~ targeting the younger generation’s interests and needs will help revive the small business sectors and enhance the North Woods Expeience! Finding a way to regenerate the use of public transportation that embraces elements of being in the Adirondacks with an affordable way to get there is crucial to NYS economy.
That may well be but no one has been able to make that happen. This operation is not a public transportation operation. Amtrak has no interest in it. The population doesn’t warrant it and it is nowhere near economical transportation. It is a novelty train ride barely supported by ticket sales and grant money.
Active rail lines are NOT being removed all over the country, although the RTC and the bicycle lobby are encouraging this, as is ARTA. Abandoned corridors, yes, many have been converted, and are fine for recreation.
Freight railroads are seeing a surge in use and many are investing millions to upgrade their physical plant, and some are replacing track they removed years ago. Passenger rail has been subsidized for decades, as have all other forms of public transportation. Most economic development agencies in this country preserve and promote railroad assets, because they recognize their key to economic growth. I am beginning to believe many in this debate do not want economic growth, and so instead they promote a rail-trail with misleading information and false claims of propserity; or happen to have a business on the right-of-way and will experience a windfall of prosperity that 99% of the community will not.
The largest group of retired adults, with the most disposable income available this country will ever see is about to be looking for recreation. Transportation options that provide value-added services are likely to be in big demand in coming years. Although there are plenty of physically fit seasoned citizens, far more Seniors will be looking for comfortable travel options, not the seat of a bicycle. With 20K-plus miles of legitimate rail-trails close to home for most people, they can have their hour of trail time any day of the week. I have read where there are plenty of miles of trails now in the AP, for all the recreation mentioned above.
Rarely mentioned here or in any of these forums are the needs of disabled citizens. The ASR now provides a way for all citizens, in any condition or ailment, to experience the beauty of the Adirondacks. Do you think our disabled veterans would like to see the wild and wilderness areas hikers and bikers take for granted? Train rides for Wounded Warriors are sponsored by many tourist lines around the country.
Nostalgia seems to get a bad name in this debate. People that utilized rail travel when it was a common daily event recall those times fondly; these folks are becoming the retirees with available cash to be able to share those experiences with their grandchildren. Removing the railroad assets would be very short-sighted.
ARTA supporter’s largest demographic are folks between 45 and 65. They are our most active supporters. They donate the most money to our cause. I just turned 60 myself. The reason I came to the ADKs over 35 years ago was for outdoor, active recreation. This is what we are about in the Adirondacks. We are not about industry and we are not going to be building any factories inside the Park anytime soon.
Of course they are, Hope. 45-65 is the “anti-rail” era, born 1949-1969, the era when rail was thought of as “old” and cars and planes were “new”.
Well, I’ve got news for you. That era is *over*. I’m 39. People my age and younger want trains. We have zero interest in more trails; there are enough trails.
If you rip out the rails to build a trail, you are killing your future. By ripping out valuable rails to make low-value trails, you are setting the Adirondacks up with obsolete infrastructure for a generation which will soon be gone — and chasing away all the younger generations.
Train service is the transportation *young people* want. If you want young people to come to the Adirondacks, you need to finish building the train service.
No, James, the RTC is NOT encouraging the removal of active rail lines. They closely monitor the abandonment, so that ABANDONED rail lines can be converted to trails. But they do not advocate for the destruction of railroads.
On the other hand, Parks & Trails NY in fact DOES support the ARTA and the Catskill Rail Trail and the consequent destruction of the railroads that operate on those tracks. I used to be a member of P&TNY, but I gave up my membership and stopped donating to them because of their misled advocacy.
How much would you like to bet that they take money from Lee Keet’s foundation??
Russ, I believe we are on the same page, but I will disagree on the RTC. Why would the RTC agree to support ARTA and produce their economic impact statement for an active railroad? Might there be a clue at the end of this post?
The RTC mission statement says one thing, but their actions are another completely. I find plenty of documents authored by the Rail Trail Conservancy that identifies “under-utilized” rail corridors as candidates for conversion. Discernment and common sense need applied, but in the case here with the Remsen-Lake Placid corridor, that subjective term has morphed into trying to convince residents the line has been abandoned.
I don’t have to place a wager: folks can draw their own conclusions.
There are a couple of things to bear in mind when weighing the options here:
1) The train operation from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake is in financial trouble from lack of ridership. In fact, this year, they didn’t open until July, which means it will only be operating for 4 months this year. It takes state funding to keep them operational (reimbursement for track repairs, etc). Without that, the northern most leg of ASR would be shuttered. I live next to the Lake Placid station and work just around the corner. It was rare to see or hear the train, and the parking lot was only sparsely filled during the busiest of weekends.
2) The ASR is not a passenger nor freight line. It would need a massive track upgrade to the whole Utica-LP stretch PLUS the addition of new cars to accomplish that.
3) The section between Saranac Lake and Big Moose Lake is in such poor condition that the ASR is unable to fix them without considerable investment from NYS
4) Whether the entire rail line is restored or it is turned into a trail, the taxpayers will be fitting the bill for construction, repair, and maintenance.
5) Amtrak has begun a bike train that takes recreational cyclists to riding destinations.
6) Active tourism is growing, especially in the Tri-Lakes area.
7) If you’re going to play the numbers game, it’s only fair to require that possible trail numbers be compared to actual rail numbers.
I think the best way forward is to remove the tracks between Old Forge (or Big Moose Lake) and Lake Placid, and to create a world-class rail trail. Since Amtrak has started a “bike train” that shuttles recreational cyclists from cities to riding destinations, it’s possible that ASR could create it’s own bike train from Utica to Old Forge. There cyclists could ride all the way to Lake Placid. I think that it’s a win-win for trail and train advocates. The trail advocates get a popular cycling/snowmobiling trail and the train advocates get a more robust and financially healthy train service between Utica and Old Forge.
The train operation from Lake Placid to Saranac Lake was actually *sabotaged* by unknown persons tampering with locomotives.
Pretty much nobody apart from a few hard-core bicyclists is going to ride the very long route from Saranac Lake to Big Moose. This needs train service.
Yes, the state needs to spend money restoring that section to passenger-train standards. If it is restored as a rail line, it will probably be possible to *maintain* it from ticket sales. But it needs state money to catch up on 50 years of deferred maintenance.
The reason the train from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid is doing poorly is that people can only get to it by flying or driving! By contrast, Utica is connected to the national rail network, and also to the intercity bus system. It has been proven worldwide that tourist trains do much better if you can get to them by train. The only thing the Saranac Lake to Lake Placid train needs… is reconnecting it with the other half of the service.
That is absolutely the right idea and a loop can be made by taking a shuttle or riding your bike (on the road) to Westport and taking the train back to Albany for connections to NYC or Buffalo and beyond.
NYC folks do not want to spend all day and night on a train to get to Lake Placid for a few days and then do the same thing all over again.
That is absolutely the wrong idea. First of all, why would it be prudent to fragment the Adirondack Division? Many state that the trackage between Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake should be abandoned, but that particular course of action would essentially divide the Adirondack Scenic into a Utica-Big Moose section connected to the national rail network and a tiny and isolated section of trackage from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid. Would it be ideal to rip that up too?
By virtue of the fact that the Adirondack Scenic carries passengers, it is a passenger carrier. If the Adirondack Scenic begins to carry freight, it won’t need “new cars” because it won’t have to purchase any; I think that the ADSR would serve local industries and the like with other railroads’ cars if it were to start hauling freight. It wouldn’t need to purchase new locomotives either; I imagine that an RS3, two RS18s, an SW1, a GP9, and two F-units can collectively handle freight and passenger duties sufficiently. As for the trackwork, you’d better look up the definition of “Class III.” Not only can freight trains operate on Class III track, they can do so at 40 miles an hour. Passenger trains can operate at 60 mph on Class III track.
Amtrak already has a “bike train” (it’ll really be just a baggage car at the head-end of a passenger train that’ll be able to carry bicycles; people can presently bring their bicycles on the train as a carry-on), but that particular service is available system-wide.
Active tourism may very well be growing, but fewer young people are driving automobiles and Amtrak ridership just keeps going up.
If you’re going to play the numbers game, count the number of active railroads that run into the Adirondacks and compare it with the number of trails in the Adirondacks.
Finally, Amtrak does not take “all day and night” to get to Utica (it takes 4.5 hours), and it’s only 141.29 miles from Utica to Lake Placid according to a New York Central System timetable. That’s perhaps four hours one way on Class III trackage. Four-and-a-half hours plus four hours does not equal to “all day and night.” And here’s one person (out of many, I’m sure) from the NYC area who would ride the train to Lake Placid and back and do the same thing all over again…and again…and again…
I ride from Syracuse to Utica to Big Moose / Old Forge / etc.
I would go on to Lake Placid, but, you know, there’s no rail service in between, so I don’t.
This is just to emphasize Phil’s point: if you do connect Lake Placid to Utica by rail, you *are* going to get a lot of regular tourists who simply would not have gone to Lake Placid at all without train service. Like Phil and me.
Only the state has the money to rebuild the tracks, but it should be self-sustaining after that.
People who want to get to Lake Placid will figure out away to get there. If the only way you want to travel is by train then that is your problem not the State of New York. I get the feeling that you and Phil are train buffs and really are only interested in traveling anywhere by train. Well that is your prerogative but it is self limiting as to the destinations you may travel to. There are many people who make it to the north country without riding a train. Take a bus.
If LP is to ever host the Olympic games again, better transit will need to be part of the equation.
I’ve driven from Connecticut to LP often, and the last 20 miles to the High peaks is the worst in terms of weather.
Has there been a business plan to justify a NYC to LP ski train?
The ski train from Saratoga to North Creek which can be connected to from NYC is not doing so well. That train brings you right into town and shuttles you to Gore Mountain yet it there is questions on whether it will continue this season.
My understanding is that ASR is advocating upgrading the tracks only to class II standards. Thus, the train would have to travel much slower, and the trip from Utica to Placid would be much longer than four hours.
Slower? Class III trackage has a 60 mph speed limit for passenger trains. I’m just estimating based on station stops, etc.
It’s only going to class ii.
For the first time this year i rode the scenic train and although it was enjoyable, I didn’t find it a must thing to do. There were a few nice scenes along the way but nothing to write about.
I’m in favor of them replacing the train with a trail. I think the revenue derived from the trail would be much greater. Snow mobiles in the winter generate a huge amount of revenue for the ADK region in the winter when the trains aren’t running. I think if the state promotes the new trails you could see a lot more visitors to the adks. Also there are some very beautiful sections along the tracks through the rollins pond area that people would love to hike / bike / run.
The snowmobile hobby appears to be dying, with sharply declining licenses every year.
A trail generates no (zero) revenue directly. A train does generate revenue directly, thanks to ticket sales.
It is clearly proven that trains bring more visitors in during the summer than trails — because very few people like to take really, really long hikes.
“As far as freight goes we are not even going above class III so freight, especially fuel, is not even remotely a reality.”
A couple things about the AAR Classification of Track. The classifications reference speed limits, as noted by Mr. Brown. Class I allows freight at 10 MPH and passenger at 15 MPH. Class II is good for 25 MPH for freight trains and 30 MPH for passenger. Class III as mentioned by Hope are 40 MPH freight and 60 MPH passenger. The classification of “Excepted track” allows freight at 10 MPH and passenger trains are prohibited. Up to five (5) cars of hazardous material are allowed to be hauled in a train on even the lowest classification of “excepted track”. A carload of fuel oil is certainly permitted with the planned upgrade to Class II trackage for the ASR.
The likely hood of fuel or other volatile freight being shipped on this rail corridor is for all intensive purposes not going to happen. The hue and cry over fuel along Lake Champlain, where the is at least some accessibility, doesn’t bode well for fuel cars traveling along protected Wilderness areas in the Park. Seriously, not going to happen.
I don’t believe anyone expects there to be a factory building spree in the Adirondack Park. The potential in the future for a couple freight cars of fuel oil, propane, aggregate, or other commodities for a local distributor or light commercial industry would be a different story.
You can’t predict the future needs of the region. You are not willing to let the railroad haul this, even though the rail industry has far less incidents per ton-mile than trucks on roadways. Now we may be getting the root of the cause; the best way to ensure there is never any potential commercial development is to rip up that rail corridor.
Have we included our federal senators in this discussion as of yet?
My own personal opinion is that where you fall on this argument comes down to your own personal opinion. I haven’t seen any facts that trump either point of view. I love the idea of trains and I can see the appeal of preserving an historic train route, and there is some thought in the back of my mind that we would never get that train route back if removed. However, my gut tells me that it would see more use and bring more tourists as a year-round multiuse trail, though in practice for me it wouldn’t be used in the winter as I don’t like skiing or snowshoeing on something that allows snowmobiles to go 60mph, whatever the speed limit will be. So my vote is for the trail, but I would also like to see passenger railroad travel upgraded whenever and wherever possible. Again, my personal opinion based on anecdotal observations is that very few scenic railroads seem to be successful or else we would see a lot more of them. There are old tracks everywhere, yet most are abandoned.
I want to tell you that your gut is wrong. A “year round multiuse trail” is going to attract pretty much no tourists; there are already lots of trails in the Adirondacks.
The train attracts a different crowd. That crowd wants to go to the Adirondacks without a car, which is why the Lake Placid – Saranac Lake stub train is doing poorly, but the Utica-Big Moose train is booming. (You can get to Utica by train. Or bus.)
Actually..all of the above, trail & train can utilize the corridor and share usage to the benefit of all involved. Here in Pennsylvania we have the Lehigh Gorge Scenic RR that incorporates train/bike service along the Lehigh Gorge State Park corridor, a huge tourist attraction that only grew when the train service started running excusrsions, and also the Heritage Rail Trail in York, Pa…shared Rail with Trail doing the same thing. I own a bike shop here in Pa and I see all ends of the debate, but I will honestly tell you just a plain trail only will not bring in the dollar amount that some are touting here. It just doesn’t happen. Granted, if the rails have been long removed by all means put a trail in, at least save the history, but to tear out existing rails that are being operated on, and one that just had over 11,000 PAID customers in 2 weekends utilize, is just sheer stupidity, and I believe the NYS will see that.
Bravo! Plains Bike, thank you for your comment. Your perspective as a trail-related business owner is something I hope Adirondack business owners that have been drinking the cool-aid sold by ARTA directors pays attention to. Several of our trail towns on the GAP have been losing population, and there has been little or no increase in recreational businesses in the last 15 years along a mature, well funded and publicized trail system. There is no reason for the Adirondack communities to limit their economic growth opportunities by removing one of their most important economic assets.
You’re welcome. I’ve been following this saga for over a year and for what it seems to me the powers that be from the mayor of Kingston NY to Mr. Heim, between blocking the tracks with a dump truck to witholding funds earmarked legally for the RR should be in jail, period or at the least removed from office by the voters. ALL parties need to approach this with thoughtful insight and not pie in the sky numbers pulled out of whatever hat is lying around. The facts are there on the RR’s side, as plain as the light of day, and although this may sound strange coming from a trail advocate, trust me there is no way these usage numbers will even come close to what the trail only people are stating. Both can survive and thrive together and make the tourist attraction all that much more enjoyable for everyone on both sides.
You’re thinking of the other tourist train in NY which is being attacked by anti-rail nuts — the Catskill Mountain line.
I don’t know where these rail-haters come from, or why we have so many in NY.
Hello – I am glad NYS is taking public comment into consideration. I believe both a trail and train can co-exist where opportunities present themselves. NYS needs to take a page out of MassDOT’s playbook and follow their lead concerning their tempered approach to restoring regular service to Cape Cod. A partnership should be created with current operator ASR to establish minimal Utica-Lake Placid service that connects with Amtrak. Should NYS not be satisfied with ASR, find another operator or contract it out to Amtrak, Iowa Pacific Holdings, Myles Group, LLC. There are many operators who will provided good, realible service so long as the government will provide decent funding. A trail will destroy this vital corridor. It is a shame that the issue is now one where interests are pitted against one another rather than working together. Removing the tracks for a trail is like removing an expressway for a driveway. A high-grade piece of infrastructure has been diverted to a low-grade purpose. Promoting NYS’s existing vast network of trails in conjunction with train service to the Adirondacks in the way to go. Save those rails. Thank you kindly.
no reason in the world both train and trail shouldn’t coexist. NYS owes a great debt to all the citizens who have invested their time talent and treasure on both sides of the issue. Common sense dictates we shouldn’t throw away one or the other facility but clearly removing the RR row would be irreversible.
There are trails all over the Adirondacks, don’t spend money ripping up tracks to put another trail in. Instead, revitalize the railroad to the point trains can run at 79MPH or 110MPH on parts of it then introduce intercity passenger rail traffic to it and run the intercity trains up to Lake Placid either in sync with or alternating with Amtrak’s Adirondack. Furthermore, place several small freight transfer facilities (doesn’t have to be much more than a siding and a small loading dock or intermodal tractor) along the line so that freight can be brought into this part of the Adirondacks by train and then the trucks can take it from there the short way to its final destination. This will reduce trucks on our highways.
Unless UPS, FEDEX or Amazon .com build a distribution center in Tupper Lake you won’t see any freight coming into the Adirondacks by train. One of the largest wholesaler In the ADKs says that there is no way that getting deliveries or shipping by rail would be beneficial to his business and those that say so do not know the realities of product distribution and related costs.
There is booming railroad freight business less than 15 miles south of lake Placid.
I believe that if the proper upgrades were made you could make this line a great tourist attraction. These type of operations have done well in other states that dont offer the beauty of the Adirondacks . A lot of the comments ive read here in opposition seems to be about whats best for keeping this just for the exsisting residents and outsiders can stay away .
I’m amazed at the pro-rail comments here. Nothing but the same old overly optimistic claims that were made in the 90’s that haven’t come to fruition now and won’t in another 20 years. Let’s end this failed ASR experiment. Cut the taxpayer funding, the free loans and all the nonsense. If it can’t stand on its own then let it fail and move on. Sell the rails for scrap to help recoup at least a fraction of the taxpayer money sunk into this mess and then let the whole thing sit without another dime put into it. The taxpayers will win, finally.
We’re sick of the rail fans holding this up. You guys are selfish. You are denying recreational users access to what will be a great trail. There will be more trail users than rail riders.
Right Brian, the railroad supporters are selfish. The APA wanted the railroad preserved preserved years ago so that is what you have. The railroad and its supporters believe the with rail-with trail is the best option that does not limit the possibilities of economic growth, by having both where possible. Trail supporters are the only group here who wants exclusivity and destruction of community assets. And for all the passionate but civil discussion above on both sides of the issue, you are the first to start name calling. Yeah Brian, the rail supporters are selfish.
Can someone on the pro-rail side explain who they expect will pay for all the rail traffic they imagine will come there some day? Should this be a completely subsidized venture–state paying for upkeep of the railroad itself, for the trains, engineers, etc.? Do you imagine some angel corporation will come in and find a way to make a go of it, when none has over the past 100 years? I understand that Amtrak as it exists now is heavily subsidized, but at least there is actually demand for train service to the cities (!) it now serves. Where is the evidence that any kind of new or expanded train service would draw substantial numbers of passengers? More to the point, how many passengers would justify all the expense? My sense from reading the comments here is that a few hundred passionate train folks getting a chance to ride a slow and beautiful train once in a while is enough for them.
I’m all for mass transit, and trains should be a bigger part of the national transport system, but there is no way that trains can ever be a part of mass transit in the Adirondacks. There is no mass to transit.
A rail trail will also be heavily subsidized for exactly the same reasons, AND tear out substantial infrastructure.
The passengers riding the train, or in the case of freight, the businesses consigning the rail service for delivery, will pay for the railroad service. The state of New York owns the right-of-way and is responsible for maintaining it a railroad, and not letting it be absorbed into the natural setting.
An improved railroad plant, the entire length from Thendara to Lake Placid, has the best chance to attract those desired services. This was part of the 1996 UMP that never happened. Do you think the developers of the new resort planned for Tupper Lake would perhaps partner with ASR to market special trains and lodging/travel packages? You bet. The same beneficial marketing is available for the small mom-and-pop B&B as well.
Right now ARTA is floating misinformation that ASR is the recipient of huge sums of taxpayer dollars. ASR receives a payment for corridor maintenance; payment for services rendered on the physical plant. The state of New York owns the corridor and cost are incurred to keep it a railroad. ASR is a private non-profit corporation hired as an operator. They sell tickets to paying customers to cover the expenses of operating their trains, which includes upkeep of their equipment, advertising, payroll, etc. Everything any small business concern would do, that incidentally, contributes to the regional economy. I am sure there is a local fuel company benefiting from the ASR every time the locomotives need a fill up. ASR, or any other third party railroad operator would do the same.
The recreational trail, on the other hand, will provide no service and generate no revenue, not even a small fraction of a percent. The trail will require public funds forever to keep it a trail. Look at your Gov. Cuomo yesterday distributing $70M in federal tax dollars for bicycle and pedestrian projects across the state. Citizens of NY need to fork over the remaining $33M out of their pockets to pay for the rest. ARTA directors posting rhetorical questions about spending priorities vs. the Adirondack Scenic Railroad omit all reference to the millions of dollars being spent on dirt road paths. ARTA directors are like a ghost when you ask for a real discussion on financial facts.
That doesn’t answer my question, John. It seems to me self-evident that a rail-trail is MUCH less expensive than an operating rail system. And what good is infrastructure that isn’t used?
No, a rail trail is not less expensive than the current operation which is used by tens of thousands of paying people each year.
Your question “what good is infrastructure that isn’t used”, fails to appreciate that it IS being used. It also fails to appreciate that rail is an increasingly important part of the American transportation system, it is far more efficient than other forms of transport, and you don’t know the future.
Once you tear out the only railroad that traverses the Adirondacks you can never go back. There are plenty of abandoned rail lines in the Adirondacks where the tracks have already been removed – there is no need to destroy our existing, in use infrastructure to build a trail for your hobby.
“you can never go back”
Really? Now you’re predicting the future while chiding others for doing as much. The corridor is a state held asset, title in hand, etc. Finally, that is established, after continuous attempts by rail boosters to cloud that simple fact(disingenuous, but lets call it water under the bridge now). WE own it, and we don’t know what the future holds, so we must plan accordingly. If we’re going to make a fair comparison of use and benefit options, lets call rail fanning a hobby, as you’ve called cycling and snowmobiling hobbies. Fair?
Amtrak has no interest, so rail travel on this corridor falls squarely into the “hobby” department.
This is really about rail fans fighting for their deeply held personal interest. Good on them. No amount of positive data from other comparable rail to trail conversions will satisfy rail fans that a trail could be a better public use in our circumstances. Even their own studies show a trail being more viable, but it’s irrelevant. I have nothing against rail fanning, but when I hear rail fans making sincere arguments for saving the ties and tracks as critical infrastructure for future use other than their tourist train, I become skeptical. The desperation in their argument is obvious, and fails to consider the context of this line in the grand scheme of our broader transportation network. Even with the line fully functional, It still does not rise above a tourist train, and that won’t change even if the whole thing gets upgraded to class 2 or even 3. My more cynical side wonders if some of the more well connected rail fans are pushing especially hard on this line because they know that the NY coffers are significant when they need to be, and putting in a good show could pay off here, when other states would have sent out the polite “sorry” letter long ago, and cashed in the steel. I’m quite certain this whole debate would have a notably different tone if it was happening in one of the New England states to our East. The historical significance? I get it. There is an argument there, but loosing the rails and ties doesn’t mean we’ve lost the opportunity to interpret and share this important piece of Adirondack history, it means we need a new strategy to do it in a way that fits into it’s new use. ANCA should be all over it. It’s been a dogs age in this trial period, with very little return. Time to try something new.
My argument is not about “rail fanning” – its about transportation infrastructure. Your suggestion otherwise shows the rest of your comments to be intellectually dishonest. I don’t debate with anonymous internet commenters who can’t use honest persuasion and facts to make their point.
That may be what you are talking about, John, but even the DOT says that there is no significant demand for rail transportation or freight on this line. They also say that ASR is a heritage railroad and not a railroad capable of running a passenger service without partnering with a bigger passenger operator. They also indicated past failures and dubious future of bonafide passenger service other than tourist type trains.
Hope, we get it, you want to tear out the only effective railroad we have so people can ride their bikes and snowmobiles on it.
Because we don’t have enough places to ride bicycles and snowmobiles.
That is not solid reasoning.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but my participation in this debate has nothing to do with my hobby. Hobbies are for fun and relaxation. The idea this is a debate over hobby vs. hobby is trivializing an important issue. It is about economics and a group that is misleading the public to support their ideology. I also owned a retail business 100 feet from a bike trail and our parking lot doubled as the parking for the trail access. I can tell you first hand the volume of trail patrons to our building cost more in water for the bathroom compared to bottom line profits.
To set the precedent of removing an active railroad from service in favor of a recreational trial is not a good one. You will destroy a small business and affect many others that directly receive a financial benefit from doing business with the ASR. Amtrak may not be interested in this line, but that proves nothing. The 4.5 mile long Strasburg Railroad hauls a half a dozen freight cars each week for one customer. It also handles 340,000 riding visitors each year that is a huge part of the Lancaster County, PA, economy; call it a hobby or heritage railroad if you want, it gets results.
Matt, the complimentary data supporting trail conversion presented by ARTA is skewed, and facts have been presented to illustrate this. I could just as easily say trail supporters are ignoring factual data that proves ARTA is misleading the public over the proposed economic benefits of a rail-trail and the cost of conversion. Every user of the trail will not affect the economy of your region. Only a small category of the users will make a difference and this category has been exaggerated by ARTA and is easily documented. The rail-trail movement is constantly promoted by the bicycle and environmental lobby, with small-sample projections, but finding actual results that match the promotion is more difficult.
There is no desperation in discussing the future viability of the railroad. Many of the little used branch lines spun off by the Class I railroads in the 1980’s and 1990’s have been removed and converted to legitimate rail-trails. Those railroad lines that survived, regardless of the reason, are important. In my area the shale-gas industry did not exist eight to ten years ago, yet today our little branch lines are very busy supporting a host of related commercial activity and jobs. In the context of your region this may not be likely, but you do not know what might be necessary or what opportunity may appear. In this same context, your region will be better prepared for the long shot of commercial activity as well as complimenting tourism, if you develop the railroad to its full potential. In the context of your region, with thousands of miles of existing trails that apparently do not attract enough tourists, why destroy this one remaining railroad instead of using it as a tool for development?
The current operation is almost solely from Utica to Thendara, isn’t it? The DEC is not suggesting that this rail line be torn up. The real question is about lines that are rarely used, and/or have no economic future as rail lines.
With all due respect, John, you have no idea about what my “hobbies” are. I personally have little interest in using the line/trail either way. I’m interested in the topic as someone who is interested in the Park (as wilderness and as a place where people live and work) in general, and I’m trying to learn more about the issue. I haven’t made up my mind one way or the other–there’s a lack of information in the debate here, which is what prompted me to post my question. I suppose the lack of information has to do with the fact that the future both sides are imagining is completely hypothetical: upgraded lines will bring new trains and passengers; or a new trail will bring bikers, hikers, and snowmobiles!
The entire line is being used by trains, just not all the time.
The future of the rail-trail is hypothetical. The active rail line is being used now and draws, as I said, tens of thousands of users each year (and also snowmobilers already).
You can read a lot more about this issue here:
[…] York State is trying to decide what to do. They have asked for comments and already have […]
The natural endpoint of the rail corridor is Lake Placid. To cut the line back to Tupper Lake would be short-sighted. It will leave the hoteliers and B&B owners in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid out of any opportunity to offer creative travel and lodging deals that will exist for those businesses in Tupper Lake.
If the DOT is ready to make the promised investment in rebuilding the line to Tupper Lake, which it appears they are, the SL & LP business community need to get on board with ASR and make sure they don’t get the short end of the deal by having the rails pulled up. They will surely get the message the first time ASR hosts a Thomas event in Tupper and they are left out on the trail.
Rip them up, make a trail!
Lets start fracking in NY and get some needed tax relief!
I urge you to keep the railroad intact and aid in the restoration of passenger service all the way from Utica to Lake Placid. I have myself vacationed in the Adirondacks several times in recent years and the highlight of each trip had been a ride on the existing trains. I also enjoy hiking and biking but there are ample opportunities for both already. To loose the railroad would be a disaster for many people who due to age or physical limitations cannot do strenuous activity. I am 66 years old and have a chronic condition (vasculitis) which causes me to tire fairly quickly. The train is so good for me because it allows me to spend a full day enjoying the wilderness that I simply would be unable to do otherwise.
My experience with trails in my area (Orange County) is that they are well used around populated areas where a variety of activities such as skateboarding, dog walking, short excursions with the kids, etc. takes place. But away from towns there is much less use. Some bicyclists and a few long distance walkers are about it. I stongly suspect that, as some propose, putting a trail through the wilderness would benefit only a handful of real die-hards. It would be expensive to build and maintain. It would end for all time the chance for people like myself to enjoy a relaxing train ride to Lake Placid. And last, but certainly not least, it would end the chance of taking trucks off the roads by putting freight trains back on the line.
In short I think it would be most unwise and short-sighted to tear up any of the existing railroad.
Thank you for your attention.