What follows is a statement to the press from the Adirondack Scenic Railroad.
“A Freedom of Information filing by the attorney for a supporter of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad provided the public comments received by the APA in response to their DSEIS amendment to the Remsen-Lake Placid travel corridor,” said Bill Branson, President of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. “By a significant majority, the response favored Alternative 1, take no action,” he added.
The comments in favor of Alternative 1 are compelling and well reasoned. A consequence of taking no action in this matter is that the 1996 UMP governing this important mass transportation corridor would not be altered. That UMP provides that New York State invest to upgrade the infrastructure for passenger rail service and invest in pedestrian trails to join communities where feasible.
Branson stated that fully implementing the 1996 UMP is long overdue. Failure to do so has hampered the economic development of communities all along the corridor, especially in the Tri-Lakes. Where the partnership investment has been made, tourism and excursion rail services have benefited communities from Utica to Thendara and Old Forge. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad has demonstrated the economic development value that can be delivered and it stands ready and willing to do the same all along the transportation corridor.
“We hope the Commissioners of the APA take note of and heed the weight of public comment when this matter comes before them,” Branson said in closing.
For more information on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, click here.
What’s of note about this is that the public comments are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the 1996 plan, which called for keeping the rails and developing trails in the corridor. It’s time the state put an honest effort into making it so.
The public comments on the previous attempt to convert the rails to a trail were reported only on a general basis by the state – no numerical information was given if I recall correctly. The explanation was that the public comment period “was not a vote.”
My understanding is that the thousands of postcards submitted in favor of keeping the rail corridor intact were summarily discounted.
What now remains to be seen is how the APA and the agencies will move forward on these comments which clearly spell out the public’s intent. Rails with trails are still the best use of the corridor going forward.
The state should start work to restore the line from Big Moose to Tupper Lake. There are no reasons left for further delay, between Justice Main’s ruling and public opinion. Everyone day the corridor is left idle is another day the state is allowing it to deteriorate. Without the work of the ASR, there would not be a corridor. Unless the state is prepared to provide the constant maintenance the ASR did, replacing the tracks with a trail will only continue the decline.
At the very least the ASR should be allowed to begin rail bike operations and bring visitors back to the tri-lakes to enjoy the rails.
The 1996 UMP for the Adirondack Rail Corridor only said (in bold letters right at the start) that the tracks should remain in place for a “rail marketing period”, and that any development of rail service, “will be largely depend on privately secured funding sources.” In the 22 years since that plan was enacted, all improvements in rail service have been publicly funded. To date, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad has not demonstrated any ability to “privately fund” any additional expansion of rail service. The constant complaints that the State has not “fully implemented’ the the 1996 plan are thus totally bogus claims because the 1996 plan never said the state had to do more than keep the tracks in place for the “rail marketing period”.
After 22 years, it would seem that the “rail marketing period” is over and the state has every good justification to move to “full recreational use” as the plan envisioned . The amendment to the State Land Master Plan’s definition of a Travel Corridor is a necessary step in this process. Comment periods on proposed plans are important, but they are clearly not a “referendum” on the issue. One thousand identical postcards and email messages indicate the support of a particular interest group, but not necessarily the proper course of action. For instance, legions of wilderness advocates, clad in green t-shirts, showed up at all the public hearings regarding the classification of the newly-acquired Boreas Tract. Those speakers/attendees dominated each hearing, but the ultimate classification was much less restrictive.
I therefore believe that Bill Branson’s statement as reported above is in no way accurate. Furthermore, I challenge him to provide some evidence that a restored railroad on a 140-mile route from Utica to Lake Placid would fare any better than the short-lived 50-mile Saratoga North Creek service from Saratoga to North Creek.
Let’s flip this around Mr. Goodwin.
For 22 years efforts to tear out the tracks for a trail have failed. Despite determined (and well-funded) efforts at trail marketing, you have lost in court and are now being rejected by the public in the latest attempt by NY State to ‘win’ by changing the rules.
In that same 22 years the Adirondack Scenic Railroad has restored miles of track and built ridership into thousands of riders a year. They continue to add equipment and improve facilities. They have developed partnerships with other local businesses, created jobs, and brought visitor money into the region. They serve all kinds of people, not just those with bicycles or snowmobiles. (And you can bring your bikes on the train – plus canoes and kayaks.) Without the rails, the Rail Explorers would have never happened. Without the efforts of the ASR, there would be no corridor for you to try to appropriate.
If the hundreds of miles of trails already in the area aren’t enough to entice visitors and young settlers, prove that one more trail will magically make all the difference.
Rails and trails are widely accepted, appreciated, and used in the rest of the world. By demanding trail over rails Mr. Goodwin, you are committing the region to car-centric transportation and development. It’s time to abandon your fixation on getting rid of the trains despite the consequences and start thinking about the bigger picture. Stop trying to destroy what others have built and join with them in building something you both can share.
“fixation on getting rid of the trains”. It only takes two comments to get personal and uncivil.
I was simply commenting on the fact that Mr. Goodwin has been calling for removal of the rail line for decades, and nothing has changed his opinion in all that time. That would seem to qualify as a fixation.
I would also note that civility is as civility does. Mr. Goodwin closes his remarks by implying that Mr. Branson is factually incorrect, or as we used to say, “lying”.
If you think this is uncivil, you have yet to encounter comments by snowmobile partisans.
Let me try and translate:
“civility is as civility does”
“he started it”
“if you think this is uncivil”
“sure it’s uncivil but I have seen much worse so it’s okay”
This debate fell off the proverbial rails years ago.
Perhaps it is another case of read rage ; )
“By demanding trail over rails Mr. Goodwin, you are committing the region to car-centric transportation and development.”
Mr. Goodwin is a realist looking at the corridor WE have, not a corridor elsewhere in the world. The corridor WE have simply would cost to much to support both rail and trail as it exists elsewhere. Are you suggesting routing walkers, wheelchairs, snowmobiles, bicyclists, and skiers out onto roads to bypass wetlands where side-by-side is essentially impossible? That doesn’t sound like a workable alternative. I agree with Mr. Goodwin for the most part.
Thank you for contributing a straw man argument Boreas. I called for no such thing as you suggest.
I am not impressed by your argument that “We can’t do it here because we’re not like the rest of the world.” New York State has a huge economy – that so little of it benefits the North Country is a long-standing bone of contention.
If you’re going to talk about costs, rail operations bring in revenue directly. Whether or not that’s enough to cover all the costs of running the railroad and maintaining the corridor against all the highly subsidized alternatives, it is money that a ‘free’ trail will never produce. A trail is effectively an unfunded mandate.
Rail operations in a shared corridor will help fund the corridor for everyone, including trail users. Trail alone will not.
You have been calling for a side-by-side solution for as long as I have been reading your comments. Re-routing cyclists onto roads to bypass areas of wetlands (that safely do not allow side-by-side) has always been a scenic rail argument to enable side-by-side. But cyclists are not the only people that would be using the trail. That was my point.
You know as well as I do the corridor is currently not suitable for side-by-side through wetlands without circumventing safety or expanding into the wetlands. What are the odds of that happening? This is why Tony and myself feel it is either/or scenario through the 34 miles in question.
And you also know that the trail in those locations can be routed around those wetlands in ways the rails can’t. The rails go where they do because they must for railroading.
Yes I have argued for side by side where possible – because too many trail advocates refuse to accept that. They needlessly refuse to share the corridor with trains even where that is no problem.
I am perfectly willing to route trails where they have to go – in fact needlessly tying them to the rail corridor just because it’s cheap and easy negates their full potential.
There are locations where it makes sense to have the trail go out of the corridor, to connect to other trails, to connect to places of interest not reached by the rails, and simply for variety. I remind you of all the trail supporters who have carped the the train ride is ‘boring’.
And you know what? There are places where diverting the trail to roads makes sense – as in side roads with little traffic or to the small towns and stores along the way. The trail-only plan calls for these connectors. There’s no reason rail with trail can’t use them as well.
The re-routing to roads/villages you mention makes some sense for some activities (biking, running), but not all potential users of the trail. It depends if the spur is a road or a rougher trail. That is why the main trail is important as there are no automobiles on it and it wouldn’t get plowed in winter. I have no problem with loops/spurs off of the rail bed to places of interest, but these loops shouldn’t be expected to detour all users as there are simply some things one can’t or shouldn’t do on a road. And I agree with you that diversions to other trails and sights are certainly a good idea.
Just because you are willing to route trails wherever they need to go doesn’t mean everyone does. Every inch of wetland impacted will need to be mitigated. Every new trail through forest preserve will need to be vetted through public scrutiny and then built to accommodate the user groups. The actual reality of your proposal coming to fruition is unrealistic and a red herring spewed out ad nauseum as a distraction to reality and facts on the ground to which we locals are well aware of.
And just because you are willing to rip up every mile of track doesn’t mean everyone does.
That includes local people too. You do not have the sole and undisputed truth just because you keep repeating it over and over again.
There is nothing unrealistic about putting trails through the forest preserve – as witness all the mountain biking trails being proposed and built.
Tony Goodwin the 1996 plan was flawed when NYS required private development of rail service on a rail corridor owned by the state that needed substantial upgrade and investment. ARPS would not agree without gaining control or ownership of the corridor and thus the 30 day permit system was implemented with no chance of long term private investment. You always spin this as a failure of ARPS/ASR and this is wrong. Rail service and corridor ownership are two different things. ASR has been very successful servicing 1.5 million riders despite the poor condition of the physical plant. Every other public and private rail service partnership works with public investment in the property asset and private service to grow the business. While you fuss over NYS funding to maintain the corridor as a railroad, you fail to mention that every year ASR is responsible for millions in economic gain to the state from those tourists they service. You want ASR to be completely responsible for private development and yet your trail alternative is sourced 100% from the taxpayers wallets; what other example of a double standard can be used here? Are you still an officer of the ARTA organization? Can you provide one example of the “educational” mission listed as part of your 501(c)3 charter that is not involved in attacking another non-profit organization?
Tony, during the public comment period held prior to adopting ARTA’s plan, the DEC presented to the APA the public comment was roughly equal, about 15,000 comments each pro and con. The truth was that the DEC discarded out of hand 35,000 pro rail comments, signed and dated, and hand delivered by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. There seems to be evidence that another 20,000 pro railroad comments were discarded by the DEC. True, we don’t have referendums, and there is no home rule in the Adirondacks, but the facts remain that New Yorkers, and some tourists, by an overwhelming majority want restored rail service.. Second point. The DEC falsely presented that NY State owns the underlying land through the Right of Way, having taken it via eminent domain during the 1970s. There are over 50 private parcels between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake. I am personally familiar with 6 of the deeds. The wording is that an “easement is granted for railroad and associated purposes”. If the rails are removed, the easement is extinguished, and the State would have to condemn and acquire an easement for a trail at fair market value. The US Supreme Court has upheld that convincingly in several recent rulings regarding Rail to Trail conversion. Costs around the US are running 1 to 5 million dollars per mile for such easements. Why not use your considerable expertise and energy to work together with rail supporters to bring a rail with trail to fruition. Rails with Trails are a win/win for all New Yorkers.
In the areas between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, where side -by-side rail and trail are not feasible because of wetlands, how about a pre-fabricated, elevated bike trail over the tracks, accessed by a gradual ramp at both ends? What could be simpler?
The 1996 UMP recognized that side by side rail and trail would not be feasible in numerous places, and placed the responsibility of connector trails on the DEC, who have done nothing towards that end in over 20 years. It will require some outside the box thinking to connect the dots, for sure, but where there is an honest will, there is a way waiting to be discovered. By the way, the travel corridor includes a wider swath than just the 100 ft right of way, if you carefully read the definition.
None of the above comments answered any of my basic questions about the actual statements in the UMP or whether there really was any market for rail transportation between Utica and either Tupper Lake or Lake Placid.
My comments on why a parallel trail along the corridor (again as clearly stated in the 1996 UMP) are on the record.
Tony, those are legitimate and worthwhile questions. I think I could give you some reasonable answers, particularly one the question of a market for rail transportation connecting Saranac Lake with the nation’s rail system. For the moment, I defer, with the hope that someone connected with the ASR might step up to the plate and answer on behalf of the RR. I’m not a “Choo-Choo Head” or what ever term some like to apply to railroaders, but I have spent a good part of the past 40 years involved in group and mass transportation, and study a lot of the reports and trends around the US.
According to Mr Branson, …”an important mass transportation corridor.” Seriously? So people will drive to Utica, park their car, take a train to Tupper or Lake Placid, and then what? Take Uber to the High Peaks I suppose. Nice thought but its time to get reaistic.
I agree. If it was so important, why was it discontinued decades ago? I suppose all sides of the argument embellish as needed.
Why was it discontinued decades ago?
Have you every heard of Henry Ford or the Eisenhower Interstate? How about the fossil fuel industry or the highway lobby?
My point exactly Larry. The IMPORTANT mass transportation corridors are still operating and doing fine. But mass transportation is not effective unless you have masses of people or freight to transport.
Within the Park, once rail service was discontinued, people and businesses gradually dispersed away from areas that no longer provided rail service and built a dependency on the roadways. This is the situation we find ourselves in 50 years later. Whether the tracks go from Utica to TL or LP, it isn’t likely to reverse 50 years of migration away from this line when perfectly good roads and oil still exist.
Your point is not my point.
My point is that those main transportation corridors are doing so well because they are heavily subsidized and protected by politically potent lobbies where rail is not. The rest of the world invests money in rail as well as in roads – and that makes the difference.
Rail service wasn’t discontinued so much as it was driven out of business.
But my point is it WAS essentially driven out of business on this corridor – decades ago. Can we agree on that much? We know autos and roadways made a big dent in RR usage. Who did it and why is no longer much of a discussion point – it is done and the roads and autos still exist. Unless we tear up the roads, I don’t see the corridor becoming an important transportation corridor like it was in the late 19th and early 20th century.
If you are arguing for cars now and forever, just say so.
It didn’t happen because it was inevitable – it happened because of choices that were made back then that no longer look so good.
Things are changing. We can choose again – and we have to or that change will not be for the better.
Just being realistic, Larry. I don’t believe the solution to mankind’s problems lie in the final disposition of this rail corridor. Both road and rail currently depend on a shrinking supply of oil. Mankind has a lot of things it needs to address, not simply rails vs. roads. The final solution will likely result in neither.
Realistic – or defeatist?
The important thing is not finding the perfect place to start. It’s getting started. You don’t need oil to run trains, as the Dutch prove every day. You just need to invest in the way forward.
You sound like you are resigned to a dystopian future where everyone walks – because there are no longer any other choices.
“You sound like you are resigned to a dystopian future where everyone walks – because there are no longer any other choices.”
7 billion and counting Larry. I guess I am thinking longer-term.
Considering all the problems that came with the mobility of cars. . .the accidents, the deaths, the air pollution, the oil dependency leading to oil wars, and so on. . .was the movement away from rails, at least to the extent that we did so, a wise decision? Knowing what we know now, would we have pursued that option to the extent that we did?
And is it a good idea to continue to pursue that course?
In particular, is it a good idea to continue this option when we have overbuilt the road system to the point we can’t properly maintain it? Is it a good idea to continue this policy, considering the motorist has never paid the full cost of the road system in user fees, but instead is subsidized by property, income, and sales taxes?
Unlike some other people, I’m not saying cars are evil. What I am saying is maybe we went for too much of a good thing.
You might say cars are like chocolate. Too much makes you sick.
Cheap oil is the evil, not cars. Cars pollute, trains pollute. If we are going to diminish our thirst for oil worldwide, I simply don’t think the place to start is along this corridor.
As you say, the problem is we are running out of oil, and the internal combustion engine drive both auto and rail. When the oil is gone, it is likely that rails and roads will be replaced with something better. Monorails? High speed magnetic elevated trains? In other words, if rail becomes important well into the future, it may not ride on these existing steel rails anyway. The expense to convert may also be so prohibitive in a different economy that leisure travel may be a thing of the past. There are a lot of future scenarios that can be argued – some pleasant, some not so pleasant. Perhaps bipedal locomotion will be our only option – and who likes tripping on RR tracks. Truth is – no one can see the future.
You do know that railroads can be electrified?
It’s a nice, mature technology–no unpleasant surprises.
A lot less expensive than magnetic levitation, too.
And you have low rolling friction, about a fifth that of rubber on pavement. . .which is what monorails mostly use, and their power consumption per passenger shows it.
And you have simple, elegant passive self steering better than any self driving car on pavement, tremendous reserve capacity, interoperability with the national network, and simple, effective, and proven switching mechanisms, something harder to come by in anything else.
The only problem with railroads is that they’ve been around for 200 years. They don’t have a ‘gee whiz” factor.
Yes, I am aware of that in commuter lines, and it has also been around about a century, yet still has not overtaken diesel. But where does the bulk of that electricity currently (no pun intended) come from? CARBON. How would the conversion logistics be implemented along this corridor, and at what expense to the taxpayers? Would this be realistic to supply the needs of the few villages and people along this line?
As I have said before, I am a BIG fan of rail in the right places for the right purposes. I am talking about the future potential for only 34 miles of this corridor being re-purposed. But yet every time someone brings up re-purposing 34 miles of THIS rail corridor, the arguments by rail supporters attempt to ridicule these opinions by attempting to obfuscate worldwide rail potential with this tiny corridor. To me, it has no bearing on this discussion. Please stop trying to portray people wishing to re-purpose these 34 miles as idealistically anti-rail. It simply isn’t true.
You don’t need to see the future if you can see what’s happening right in front of you.
Every “Now” was once a “Someday” – and the Future isn’t what it used to be. How’s your flying car working out?
“How’s your flying car working out?”
Depend on how fast I drive over a RR crossing!
My guess is that most of the tourists who visit Lake Placid are seniors, who are not destined for the high peaks, and would prefer riding to driving.
Locals could use the railroad, for example, to visit hospitals and doctors, especially in the winter.
I know folks who don’t own cars who live in Saranac Lake. They can’t work a night job in Lake Placid.
No actual commuter transportation is proposed because they know it’s not economically viable. The majority of visitors to Lake Placid are certainly not seniors. It is mostly families and athletes. Huge hockey tournament for kids right now, Iron Man coming up, lacrosse, horse show, skiing, biking, etc. take a walk down the main drag tonight. Not to many seniors unless they are grandparents of athletic families or active themselves. I’m sure there a some average sedentary seniors but certainly not the majority market. Anyway to my generation 60 is the new 40.
Public ridership cannot sustain the cost of railroad maintenance. When rail service was open for the 1980 Olympics, it ran a couple of years and then went belly up. Only massive public funding and eradicating all beaver north of Big Moose will keep it open another couple years before history repeats itself.
The railroad folks still want it all. Some of the above post tout the economics of businesses along the corrdior, that is BS. Once the train enters the park, other than maybe a bump in business in Old Forge, it has done nothing for the towns of Forestport, Otter Lake, or White Lake. Hell it has done nothing to help the Big Moose area either. Their best business rides only go to Remsen or Holland Patent. The state has made a decision to rip the tracks out from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid. I doubt it is going to change its mind. They should NOT let the ASR step one foot north of Big Moose. If the ASR wants the status quo & keeps throwing the 1996 UMP around, fine, you can run a train to Big Moose, but no farther! If the tracks fall apart north of there, so be it. But then again, I’d make the ASR foot the entire bill to run on the southern end also. Stop using tax dollars to prop them up. See if they can survive on their own!
Let’s make an even more antiquated transportation route along this corridor…
… build a canal!
Great idea! It worked wonders for Buffalo in the 1800’s.
We can all keep jumping up & down & sprouting why our OPINION is better than the next, or why OUR facts are better than the rest. Fact is: The railroad is not going to survive on its own without HEAVY tax payer money. That is a FACT! Their best ridership is for trains that don’t even enter the park (i.e. they go to Remsen or Holland Patent. That is a Fact! The state never fully implemented the 1996 UMP. That is a FACT! And if they haven’t done it by now, why does the ASR think they’ll do it in the future. They live in a fantasy world! The state made a decision to remove the rails north of Tupper Lake & build a trail. The state hit a small speed bump along the way in the idea. The judge didn’t say NO you CANNOT remove the rails, period; he just said no because of A,B,C, & D. The state is addressing his concerns. Once those issues are addressed, I’m sure the rail folks will be right back in court arguing again. So, it’ll be another 2-3 years or longer before anything happens. SO in the mean time, the rail folks who want it all, are standing in their own way of getting a train running to Tupper Lake. If option 7 had been allowed to go forward the ASR could be running trains right now to Tupper Lake, but no they had to want it all. In the end, one of three things will occur: (1) a trail will be built north of Tupper Lake & a train will run to Tupper Lake; (2) The status quo will stand & the ASR will only run as far as Big Moose & the rest of the corridor goes to hell; (3) The state digs it’s heels in & doesn’t give the ASR any further permits to operate period, and in the end we get a trail the entire corridor.
So the real question is, how much longer are the rail folks going to fight to keep a train from running to Tupper Lake. The state wants to make that happen, seems the rail folks don’t!
Well said. Put the issue up for a taxpayer/voter referendum – let the people decide.
Oh? The trail will be free? In other words, the beavers will quit building washout causing dams, and the deer and moose will eat the encroaching vegetation that blocks drainage?
The bridges will paint themselves, and pay for the paint, too?
Mr. Lubic – who said anything about ‘trails’? The issue at hand is rails. Do the taxpayers want tax dollars to go to their maintenance? A voter referendum would decide that.
One could make the case that the referendum has already taken place, based on the public comments.
And the vote is for taxpayers to support maintaining both rails and trails.
6 or 7 people on a public blog hardly constitute a voter referendum.
The comments I was referring to were the comments referred to in the article above. The vote wasn’t even close.
Au contraire, my points are VERY important.
You may not know this, but the MAJOR cost of any corridor is the substructure. Weeds need to be cut, drainage ditches have to be kept clear, bridges need work, in your area you have beavers making dams and causing washouts, there is frost action, erosion, corrosion, all sorts of things. All these jobs are the same, they all cost the same whether the substructure supports a railroad, a trail, or a secondary highway.
The cost of maintaining the superstructure–rails for a railroad, pavement or a path surface of some kind for a trail or a road, is relatively minor.
To help you visualize this, take note of how often the embankments of a road need mowing–and how often patchwork is needed (a good deal less often) and how often repaving is needed (which may be years between such jobs).
Oh, the comparable superstructure work for a railroad with relatively light to moderate traffic–indeed traffic a good deal heavier than what this one sees–is routine tie replacement for some (not all) ties (treated ties typically last about 30 years, sometimes more), and a line and surface job (typically once per year).
These tasks are dwarfed in cost compared with all the other work you routinely do.
There is no saving to speak of for a trail. Indeed, a study prepared by Camoin Associates for ARTA predecessor Adirondack Action Committee some years ago estimated a low but realistic budgeted cost of $1,500 per mile for the trail–while the state had spent, at the time, an average of about $1.200 per mile for the railroad.
On that basis, there is no case.
Now, explain to me how another old trail, the same as what you have for thousands of miles, is justified, especially with the snowmobile contingent shrinking for the last dozen years or so. . .
Oh, I forgot to mention, on a railroad with relatively light traffic like this one, even with a fair amount of traffic more than this one, it’s not unusual for the rail to last decades, even longer. There is a railroad down my street that had, until the last few years, rail rolled in 1917. I’ve seen Amtrak passenger trains back around 2010 running on rail rolled in 1944.
And there is a shortline railroad, now a heritage road, with rail rolled in 1882, and laid without tie plates to boot.
I understand a lot of the rail in this line is from the 1920s, which isn’t what I would call really new.
How long has the pavement in any highway in your area lasted?
I guess we could always just go forward with the rail/trail concept. Don’t fund fixing the rails, just fund to build the trails where needed & if you cannot run the trail next to the rail, just use the UNUSED rail at that point. Nothing said the state had to fund both, the rail folks just want both. So I say give it to them, but don’t give them a permit to use, but use state money to build the trail, since the state is going to have to fund both, let the state choose which to fund! Since the state owns the corridor it can decide what to fund & what not to fund. Fund the trail not the rail!
As an owner of a vacation rental property in Lake Placid for 12 plus years, I can tell you not 1 of our hundreds of guests have stayed in Lake Placid because of the scenic railroad despite the fact that the LP station is within easy walking distance. Between late April and October, we do get lots of cyclists. All one need do is take a drive on almost weekend during this period and count the bikes as you narrowly pass by them. Imagine if LP could truly promote safe cycling.
I can understand Lake Placid not wishing to be connected to the nation’s rail network. On the other hand, here in Saranac Lake where half the retail stores are vacant, and more planning to close soon, many of is feel diffrently. If the restored railroad ends in Ripper Lake, Saranac Lake is the big loser
Retail is dead. Seriously the train will not bring back the retail stores. People are collecting stuff anymore.
There’s no evidence the scenic RR will bring more retail business. None. Cyclists spend money wherever they go. As an example, 10 yearsabo my wife andI circumnavigated most of Lake Champlain by bicycle. During this trip on a somewhat organize bike trail, we stayed in 5 B&Bs and ate in restaurants at least10 times plus, stopped wherever we could find a place offering snacks, cold drinks and daily use stuff we’d forgotten to bring with us.
Saranac is getting a new vibe that is and will be appealing to cyclists. I’d be interested in learning about a comparable experience from you. And by the way, the scenic railroD isin noway shape or form connected to the national RR network. I say this as the son of a former RR man and someone who much prefers trains for commuting to work andtravelling cross country.
No one has denied cyclists spending money – though the numbers that have been claimed here have been wildly exaggerated. How many other cyclists did you encounter on your trip doing what you were doing – and how many were simply local riders?
The rail corridor connects with the national RR network at Utica – they share the station with Amtrak. The only thing holding back restoration of service to the Tri-Lakes and rail with trail are the priorities of the current governor.
Mr. Worthington, your bike experience that you relate here to support your statement the railroad will not increase business is certainly not the average trail user experience according to NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Released in 2016 “An Analysis of the 2015 Trail User Survey & Count” was conducted statewide on no less than 15 established recreational trails.
As a rental property owner you would know that the most important user demographic that generates economic activity for your business and others is the “primary-purpose, overnight user”. On page 53 of this recent report is the following statement: “However, only 2% of trail visits captured in this survey involved an overnight stay. Seventy-one percent of those nights were at a second home or a friend or relative’s home.”
This statewide survey revealed only a small number of trail users actually booked a room. The overnight stay is where the money is for economic growth from tourism. The NYS report results are similar to most other trail results nationally. The promise of economic growth occurring from a rail trail is overstated by trail boosters and lobbyists.
Given that the railroad would only have been bringing you guests from Saranac Lake, I can see why you would not have many coming by rail. You also don’t account for those who discovered the railroad once they arrived. I also wonder how many rode the rails because they came for the fall foliage.
Get trains connecting Lake Placid with Amtrak at Utica, let travel operators put packages together, and see what happens.
It’s ironic. The last time I was in Saranac Lake, the Trudeau Museum was having an exhibit on the Great Hotels. One of the things that killed them all off was the rise of the automobile and Motels that could be built anywhere, not just along rail lines. Your rental property would not be viable without cars.
As it is, the demise of the Great Hotels meant the loss of all the jobs they supported and hurt all the businesses around them that drew on their customers and supplied them. The best thing that could happen for the Hotel Saranac – and Saranac Lake – would be the return of regular rail passenger service via the national passenger rail network. Until then, letting the rail bikes run couldn’t hurt.
So true. And over the last few weeks a new vacation rental by the tracks in the Junction in Tupper Lake has been occupied by people wishing the Trail was here already. They cannot believe that anyone would stand in its way. They just don’t understand and think it’s rediculous.
Yes – it’s amazing how the refusal of trail advocates to share the corridor with anyone has led to this stalemate.
No matter how many times you say it, it isn’t going to make both happen the way you envision it. Both could have happened already but nope you guys got to have it all or nothing. Well maybe nothing will be just what you get for your efforts. The side by side proposal is a red herring thrown out by you and your save all rails at all costs no matter what the communities want.
I can understand Lake Placid not wishing to be connected to the nation’s rail network. On the other hand, here in Saranac Lake where half the retail stores are vacant, and more planning to close soon, many of is feel diffrently. If the restored railroad ends in Ripper Lake, Saranac Lake is the big loser
“… nation’s rail network…”
Hahahaha, wow, get out much?
What are the options on the Mohawk Valley for short distance passenger service?
Todd, I don’t know if you really want an answer or not., but yes, I do get out a little, my work in the transportation business has gotten me all over the US and Canada, and I lived in Europe for 3 years. In the past two years alone my wife and I have traveled to 34 states, and visited many of the highly touted rail to trail conversions and tourist railroads. I just returned from 3 months working with the Long Island Railroad..
Here’s what you may not know, but if you take a few minutes to educate yourself, you can know.. Passenger rail service has increased in the past 20 years by over 80%. Last year it was at its all time high since the end of World War 2. Each year, AMTRAk shows greater ridership, currently at about 83 million riders per month. Last year, it was 97% self supporting for operating expenses.
The Adirondack Scenic Railroad is one of the few tourist trains in America that shares a station with AMTRAK, and AMTRAK has already gone on record as saying that NY State will commit to rebuilding the tracks through to Saranac Lake, the will sell tickets from any where they serve to Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid. Many studies of the Millennial generation show that they prefer inter modal mass transit for recreational and business travel as they work to lower their carbon footprint. Other states around the Northeast are working hard to restore rail service to rural areas. Vermont, being more progressive, is ahead of the pack.
Thank you Keith. It’s always good when new information can be added into the conversation.
America spent the last century destroying railroading in this country. The massive highway building programs, the highway and fossil fuel lobbies, the auto industry – all of them sold the dream of ‘freedom’ that cars deliver, but the bill is now coming due.
We have endless miles of highways, bridges, etc. that are nearing the end of their expected life – and no clue where the money will come from to repair and replace them.
25% of the greenhouse gases produced every year in America comes from transportation – only a tiny fraction of that from rail. Our cars are killing the planet. The Dutch electrified their rail network; it runs on 100% wind power and moves thousands of people every day.
One reason rail ridership is rising is because Millenials prefer multi-modal transport – as you note. One of the things driving that is that cars are not the status symbols they once were AND they are an expense at a time when most people are not seeing their standard of living keeping up with those expenses. If you can do without owning a car, you can save thousands of dollars a year.
Restoring the rail line to full service would help decrease the total dependence the region now has on highways. It would create jobs. It would help preserve the Adirondack environment. It would make the local economy stronger by making it more diverse.
It is ironic to see people commenting here who are complaining that they don’t want their tax dollars ‘wasted’ on the rail line – but they can’t wait to see the rails replaced with a “free” trail that will also eat up tax dollars.
Yes Keith, I am aware that railroads in general are in much better shape than they were 40 years ago. A big part of that improvement was the ability to more easily abandon money-losing, dead-end branch lines through “thin” territory such as the New YorkCentral’s Adirondack Division. Yes, Amtrak is carrying more passengers than ever, but like rail systems all over the world still needs a government subsidy for at least equipment and any other capital improvements.
Furthermore, many Amtrak routes do receive a significant operating subsidy from states that request service on a particular route. The “Adirondack” service along Lake Champlain, linking the metro areas of NYC, Albany, and Montreal receives an approximate 50% subsidy to cover operating losses.
The Saratoga North Creek also shared an Amtrak station and initially even scheduled trains to meet the two daily Amtrak trains that came through Saratoga. Those were soon discontinued because of low patronage.
Millenials might be a bit more inclined to use public transportation, but they are not going to fill up a daily train from Utica to Lake Placid.
As for Vermont, they tried commuter service south of Burlington as an alternative to the very crowded Rt. 7, but quickly discontinued it due to low ridership. Vermont did some work to improve track speed on the route of the “Montrealer” (which still only goes to St. Albans), but I am not aware of any other Vermont initiative to improve rural rail passenger service.
In the June issue of “Trains” the editor, Jim Wrinn, wrote enthusiastically about the new “Brightline” service in Florida. He concluded his editorial with, “My best guess is…that in 10 years we’ll be talking about Brightline-type operations in far-flung areas of the nation. Such a concept won’t work everywhere, but in regions where millions of Americans live, work, and play…it will happen.”
Counting the city of Utica, the Adirondack Rail Corridor has a population of less that 100,000, not millions. It will be a lot more than 10 years before there is any sustainable demand for new passenger rail service. Let’s use it as a trail in the meantime.
C’mon Tony – don’t obfuscate the issue with reality and facts. Everyone knows as soon as us boomers with cars die off the millenials will eschew roads for rails and canals.
And here we are yet again with the “subsidy” issue concerning railroads. Railroads are to always be completely self supporting and profitable, while highways exist as if by magic. No, highways (in fact all modes) are very heavily subsidized and will remain so. It’s also a fact that users only account for half of the direct costs of the nation’s highway system and that Congress has had to bail out the Highway Trust Fund since 2008 to the tune of $68 billion and counting, because user fees have not kept up.
Likewise, we also have what’s called an Essential Air Services program for service to remote areas and smaller towns. Lake Placid has service as a part of this program. It’s also heavily subsidized.
Vermont is working on reinstating train service, as is Massachusetts for service in the western part of the state.
You can pooh-pooh the railroad all you like, but the actual facts are not as you present them. I, for one, am concerned that we have put our eggs in one basket and depend totally on a autocentric transportation “system”, which crowds the roads and is an environmental concern. It also makes it harder for those who can’t or don’t want to drive to see the Adirondacks. Lastly, the Adirondacks are a major tourist draw. I find it had to believe that rail service which is well conceived of executed can’t succeed.
I would have thought that Judge Main’t decision would have engendered a more conciliatory stance on the part of ARTA and its allies, but no. The old anti rail attitude is still there and is just as bad as ever. ARTA is really just an anti rail organization bent on destruction of what others spent years building up with their hard work.
As a side, I believe a lot of the “subsidy” issues lies in the history of road and rail in the US. As the country developed, the new concept of “public” roads and highways took over from private tollways and turnpikes beginning in the late 18th century I believe. In the early 19th century roads began to be built with public funds. This expanded exponentially and has carried on ever since.
However rail began with PRIVATE enterprise – oil, coal, and rapid transportation were all extremely important, and were all OWNED by the richest people in the country who held virtual monopolies in their respective enterprises. This lasted into the 20th century until these monopolies eventually were broken up into smaller, for-profit corporations.
Of course RRs are supposed to produce a profit – as no one in this country uses the rails for free. But taxpayers subsidize both rail and road. As long as rail charges per-use fees and roadways do not, the status quo will likely continue. Shifting tax dollars and infrastructure emphasis from road to rail isn’t likely to occur soon due to currently cheap oil in the US and our gigantic past expenditures on our immense road system. I feel this at least partially explains the differences in expectations between the two separate systems. Whether right or wrong, this is deeply ingrained in our economy.
Yes, that background partially explains the current mindset, but when people who ought to know better—or have been told repeatedly—that all modes are subsidized and continue to espouse a double standard regarding the subsidy issue, I and others, will reply.
Maybe all rail services should be “free” to the public the same as roads in order to level the playing field? On the other hand, how about having to swipe your card every time you leave your driveway so you pay all the costs of the roads you use? Hyperbole, yes, but it illustrates my point: All modes are subsidized; roads massively so. In any event anti-rail types like to conveniently roll out this argument and it’s bogus.
And even more hyperbole – who here is an “anti-rail type”? We are discussing 34 miles of track. Advocating for re-purposing 34 miles of rail corridor is not and “anti-rail” stand, and never has been. My point is bringing up all the cuts and lashes to the US rail system over the last century doesn’t really have a place in the discussion over this section of track.
Don’t let your EZ-Pass expire… That’s as close to swiping a credit card as I can see. And don’t forget the gasoline road taxes in NY with every gallon of gasoline purchased – even for my lawnmower, chainsaw, and generator!!
Boreas, I’m looking at your arguments, and more and more I think Larry Roth has you pegged right.
You are accepting of defeat, that this country is what it is, and short of some huge disaster, it will never change.
Maybe that’s so, but if you think things aren’t right–and you sound like you recognize that, even as you accept them–then have the courtesy to stand out of the way of those who are working to change things.
As to an anti-rail type: If the shoe fits, wear it. You are very skillful at trotting out all manner of “whataboutisms” to defend then indefensible actions of the trail crowd. And YES what went on regarding the national rail system DOES have a lot to do with the situation in the Adirondacks. maybe if we had a more thoughtful transportation policy in this country we would not be where we are with the Adirondack line today.
Thanks for all the supportive comments after my second post. Glad to know I’m not alone in the online environment.
To briefly respond to a few of the additional pro-rail comments, let me first say to Larry Roth that ASR has not funded the expansions-it has ben weather the state or the feds who have put up the money for the Saranac Lake-Lake Placid expansion the Big Moose extension, or even the upgrade from Remsen to Thendara. Furthermore Larry, as others noted above, most ridership gains are on trains that never go beyond Remsen and are thus near even on the Adirondack Rail Corridor. The latest financial statements of ARPS include the amount of the payments to license the “Polar Express” name, and those indicate that about half or more of ASR’s income derives from that operation that never goes beyond Holland Patent.
James Falcsik: The 1996 UMP was guided by the work of a Citizens Advisory Committee that met in 1992. There were 25 members of that committee- 24 were pro-rail and one was pro-trail – me. Clearly, on the committee the deck was not stacked against rail restoration; but the result was no private ownership of the corridor and limited, if any, government funding of rail expansion. There was a promise of a long-term lease agreement for any operator chosen to use the corridor. According to Ray Hessinger, currently DOT’s “point person” on this issue, a long-term lease was offered but ARPS did not accept that offering – hence the current 30-day agreement. No one seems to know what the terms of that offer might have been, but after DOT’s experience with Frank Menair and his Adirondack Railway Corporation, could anyone fault DOT for being cautious when dealing with a new operator. So, my question after all of the above is:Why did the ASR continue running on the Adirondack Rail Corridor if the UMP and the lease agreement were so much not to their liking?
Keith Gorgas: Again, comment periods are not a referendum, so would any additional helpful information have been contained those thousands of comments you claim were never presented? Finally, in my research on property recordsand land ownership, I have found that deeds are often not updated for many years after some major change has taken place. I have read many of the disputed deeds alongLake Clear and those deeds refer to the “Adirondack and St. Lawrence”, the “Mohawk and Malone”, the “New York Central”, and few even reference the “Penn Central”. This designation indicate when that property might have first been acquired in it’s current size. Those properties acquired most recently, describe the land between the highway (Rt. 30) and Lake Clear astro separate parcels – clearly indicating a break in ownership due to the State’s acquisition of the property in between. The owner was, of course, granted a right-of-way across the state’s property .
Tony, thank you for your response. It will indeed be interesting to see how this all plays out. You are privy to deeds that I am not. The handful I’ve seen grant an easement to the RR and its heirs for RR and associated purposes. You and I can legally “steal” land from each other via ‘adverse possession” with the help of an unscrupulous tax assessor. The 5th amendment of the constitution keeps the states from being able to do that. There must be just compensation for any public taking. Underlying land owners can not have standing in court until they become an “injured party”, which will only occur if the tracks are removed and the State tries to lay claim to a trail.
Tony-an original deed providing easements to the railroads you mention may have been transferred to the new railroad entity (in corporate succession or in this case, NYS) so long as the railroad remained. Quoting from a source online “The transfer of easements in gross for commercial uses such as telephones, pipelines, transmission lines, and railroads is often permitted.”
If NYS had acquired (purchased) the property from Penn Central in 1974 or 1975 as news reports indicate, they may have received those easements by transfer, since at that time the NYS intention was to maintain the railroad. Either by ED or outright purchase, the state would have had to “perfect” the deed by paying a fair price. I agree with Keith’s comment, there is no problem until the rails are lifted. Easements can be complicated.
Behind every public service, and many private services, is a government subsidy. That is a purpose of good government. No one complains about subsidies for ORDA.
We need more subsidies, not fewer subsidies. The argument that such and such activity doesn’t pay for itself is disingenuous.
The trains once ran from Tupper Lake to Montreal. I’m for that too.
Imagine if everyone in central and western New York – not just Utica – knew they could visit beautiful, peaceful, friendly Canada without driving.
The state should do what it takes to build a decent rail line and a decent bike trail, and we all should stop treating one another like the enemy.
Hello? AMTRAC Adirondack? Goes near my house every day about 1/3 full on a good day. What happened to the freight & passenger spurs that linked central Adirondack communities to the D&H? Were they ripped up because of overuse? If they can’t fill a train between NYC-Albany-Plattsburgh-Montreal, it ain’t gonna happen from Tupper.
It’s really simple, the state made a decision to rip the rails out north of Tupper Lake & build a trail; the railroad community cried foul & went to court. The judge said you cannot rip the rails out because of this, this & this. The state is addressing those issues now & correcting them. The original UMP option 7 included train service to Tupper Lake. So the rail folks ended up killing their own train to Tupper Lake. They could have been proving the state wrong on how many people would use the train to get into the Adirondacks, but instead they choose to argue with the state & they lost! We may not have gotten the trail at this time, but the state is working on fixing that. Tell me railroad folks, what is the state doing to help you work on getting the train to Tupper Lake. Not a dam thing right now! Bite the hand that feeds you & you may not like the results. We’ll get our trail in the end, but will you get your train to Tupper Lake? I seriously doubt it now!
Let the wants of the public be damned and we shall have tyranny reign.
In previous posts, both Tony and Boreas refer to the demand for passenger rail service in the R-LP corridor in the context of regional population, as though it were for local or commuter rail service. I don’t think I have seen much of a rational to employ the R-LP line in this manner. Visitor attraction and tourism is where the corridor has value if it is in good condition, especially for the heritage and rail vacation traveler market. The public ownership-private service provider partnership model works very well in many areas with regional rail carriers.
Thanks James – point taken. I believe many of my comments are in regard to people using the general term “passenger service”. It connotes many different types of service from simple out and back scenic rides to commuter service to regional transportation. If we are not specific in our terminology, it muddies the already murky water.
More Fake news from the ASR. Just because the hoi poloi of railfans from outside of our beloved ADKs and NYS, as well, drown the APA in postcards means nothing. The folks that count are the residents, businesses and locals along with support from the environmental community which has been received. The current last ditch attempt of ASR to throw shade on Albany and keep trying to derail progress to our communities is sad. The 1996 UMP’s 5 year marketing test is way overdue and it is about time that the DEC sets them straight. It’s been a long time coming when Albany has paid much attention to the Adirondacks and we are grateful that he has taken an interest and listened to the people living here and trying to survive and grow their communities. ASR is not interested in what these hard working folks have to say and what their guests and constituents want. They only want what they want and dam anyone else.
“Hoi polloi of railfans”…are we just common folk or did you mean the “lower order” in your mind? First time I saw that. Yes, no secret I do not live in the AP or NYS for that matter. Hope and ARTA doesn’t mind support when it comes from out of state folks, but nary a word should be spoken against the campaign to destroy the ASR and the railroad plant no matter where you live, NYS or otherwise. Out of state snowmobilers are welcome to comment; railroad folks anywhere, no comments please.
For the record, I have never sent a post card to the APA. When there has been a comment period I have participated by email. They can look at my zip code in my address label and toss if if they care to; I am not bashful about my Pennsylvania residence. My guess is there are other of out-of-state comments both in support and against the trail plan. Reports from the DEC and your news sources all through the debate indicate the pro and con voices are about equal. That indicates to me Hope doesn’t speak on behalf of as many people as she claims. Perhaps with the APA trying the end run around the court ruling it may have touched a nerve with a broader field of interest about changing the SLMP with a cavalier approach when someone or group with influence doesn’t get their way.
And what about Fake News? If ARTA had not paid the Rail Trail Conservancy to produced such fake economic data with such blatant errors about rail trails in Pennsylvania that I use I would probably never had heard of the Adirondack Rail Trail. If you want show concern for people and what’s in their best interest tell them the truth.
The difference between ARTA folks and you and your buddy Larry Roth is that we are advocating for our communities and are talking about 1 particular rail corridor that affects them. Meanwhile, you guys, really don’t care about the communities, only the railroad. You advocate extensively for the preservation of any and all railroads regardless of were they are located and what constituency that is served. It is a travesty to you that any rail or tie be removed no matter what. Very few local folks have stepped on your bandwagon and many that have think that we can have both due to the false narrative you’ve been spinning. The only plans for both resulted in a train to Tupper and trail beyond, and that would have shown just how popular the trail would be. That is your greatest fear, I know because one of your very own supporters told me.
There will not be a side by side with diversion or otherwise no matter how much you wish it so. That is the reality of it. You do know what “wetland mitigation” means in the whole Trail next to the Rail? Yes, let’s find and build alternate wetlands to supplant the ones filled in along the tracks. How wide do you think the base of fill will need to be to allow a trail safely alongside the rails with no fence between them. Yeah, I thought so.
Hope if you advocate so much for the communities you accuse me of being uncaring toward, why were you so vicious to Rail Explorers? They brought a ton of new business to the AP. You are attacking me stating I don’t care about your communities because of my opinion, but your actions against a block-buster business in Saranac Lake was far worse.
You seem to be directing your rant squarely at me because of my opinion on your organizations attempt to convert an active railroad to a rail trail. I do not support you and ARTA in that effort. It is my opinion that your organization is trying to accomplish this 1) by misleading the public with false claims of free or low cost conversion; 2) with multiple economic impact studies produced with a bias to inflate the projected trail economy and confuse the public about the difference between a user and a visitor; 3) when one of your founders was caught and admitted to presenting erroneous data about the often cited Virginia Creeper Trail in an effort to persuade readers of his numerous OpEd pieces; 4) by attacking a nonprofit organization that has worked for more than 20 years to bring visitors and their economy into the AP and provide them with a quality experience; 5) with a shortsighted vision because trails are used by local people far more than visitors and that is a net zero gain for your beloved communities.
I am more opposed to your methods than your mission. If you would prefer to say you want to tear up the tracks because you want local folks to have a place to ride a bike, accept it will cost a lot of taxpayer money indefinitely, admit it will not create many jobs or generate much in the way of economic revitalization, then I may have a few less reasons to oppose the effort. I would still likely support ARPS in its mission and would prefer the rails remain. I am a railroad historian and advocate. And there is no excuse for how ARTA has absolutely gone after the folks at ARPS. The division in your communities will last several lifetimes.
I have no fear at all your trail would be popular. Most are; with local folks and a small percentage of people who are passionate about cycling. That is what I see in my community. But I also see the falsehood of the Rail Trail Conservancy narrative of economic growth from rail trail conversions. My area is over $100 million in cost after 30+ years on one trail, and little to no growth to speak of.
Let me set the record straight. The very first “informational “ meeting that I attended before I got involved with ARTA, before the Rails to Trails Study was even done, ARTA was under attack by the ASR. Prominent ASR members both locally and from Utica spread the word to attend and disrupt these meetings. It was rude and embarrassing to them and backfired. At that point, after that meeting I could see exactly were the self interest was and it wasn’t with the communities. I got involved within a week.
Rail Explorers just showed that train service is not the draw the rail enthusiasts want us to believe and more people showed up to peddle the corridor than ride the train. If you can come peddle the corridor on your own or a rented vehicle at you own pace and preferred time then that opens the venue up to more people. It also provides a alternative transportation/recreation corridor to what ROOST calls the largest resort in the Adirondacks, Fish Creek- Rollins Pond Campgrounds.
Rail Explorers offered a very unique way to use a rail vehicle to tour the corridor. It is not even close to a bicycle experience. The fact their venue was sold out every weekend with people paying a moderate fee to ride is all the proof anyone needs to understand. And RE provided something additional to the corridor a dirt path does not: revenue and actual job creation.
You can keep fooling yourself by claiming RE it is justification to remove the railroad asset. Judging by their success in the other locations they are now operating, the Tri Lakes lost a terrific source of economic growth. I really hope ASR is just as successful with their plan to operate their own version of this unique activity.
“And RE provided something additional to the corridor a dirt path does not: revenue and actual job creation.”
Ever see how many bike rental businesses there are along most bike trails? Snowmobile rentals? Ski rentals? Food? Lodging? Trail maintenance jobs? Your statement is laughable. No, a dirt path does not generate income, but neither do steel rails or roads for that matter. It is human enterprise, not mere infrastructure, that generates revenue and job creation.
If you are correct that neither roads nor rails generate income, then transportation policy in this country is seriously messed up.
If you are correct, we should be tearing up the roads as well as the rails. All trail, all the time.
Larry, I think you you missed the last sentence:
“It is human enterprise, not mere infrastructure, that generates revenue and job creation.”
They ALL can generate revenue, but not without entrepreneurship, business, and the patrons willing to use them.
And if you pray hard enough, you can make water run uphill. If it doesn’t, you’re not praying hard enough.
Dismissing infrastructure as ‘mere’ ignores how critical it can be for that entrepreneurship, business, and patrons to flourish. I didn’t miss that last sentence – it struck me as a huge gap in logic.
You can laugh if you wish. I agree with your statement. I have said many times before the railroad is a tool to transport people. The creativity of the vendors and businesses of those who use the resource is the difference.
RE does nothing for winter tourism. We have to start paying more attention to winter activities that drive tourism and interest or the large hotels in SL and numerous small operations throughout the Park will not thrive. Any new tourism development needs to start focusing on winter venues and activities if these new resorts plan on surviving. Whether you like it or not snowmobiling is an activity that is very popular and tends to spread significant money around the whole Adirondack Region.
Snowmobiling was addressed in the Camoin EIS produced for Empire State Development. This report was heavily influenced by Lee Keet/ARTA
because it referenced previous studies produced by this duo. Here are excerpts of the snowmobile result projected by Camoin in this 2015 report:
“While under Scenario 1 (rail only) the railroad tracks would remain in place for the length of the corridor, additional snowmobile trails have been proposed that will connect the rail corridor to some of the small communities along the way as well as their individual snowmobile trail systems. The appeal of the corridor for snowmobilers is the connectivity it provides to these various trail systems. Currently, snowmobilers can only use the corridor when snow cover is deep enough to ensure that their sleds are not damaged by the underlying tracks. Based on feedback from the interviews conducted, the snow cover is sufficiently deep for about 6 weeks in the average year. With the provision of these new trails, snowmobilers will no longer have to rely on the corridor for connectivity and will induce additional out‐of‐state snowmobilers to use the trails. This will allow connectivity for the entire duration of the snowmobiling season, which is about 12 weeks on average.”
Under the trail (only) scenario, it is assumed that snowmobile use of the corridor will be a continued allowable use. As such, net new spending by snowmobilers would be the same in the trail scenario as estimated under the rail scenario. Whether or not the tracks are removed, snowmobilers will have the new snowmobile trails that will provide connectivity and access and induce out‐of‐state visitation.
Under the combination scenario, it is assumed that snowmobile use of the corridor will be a continued
allowable use. Net new spending by snowmobilers would be the same as under the Scenarios 1 and 2.
Whether or not the tracks are removed, snowmobilers will have the new snowmobile trails that will provide connectivity and access and induce out‐of‐state visitation.
Camoin projected the same annual economic impact for the three scenarios at $576,530 from Out of State snowmobilers (not local) whether or not the rails remain or if they are removed.
The assertion by trail boosters that sleds will create more economic impact with the rails removed appears to be a fabrication, at least according this this report accepted by the DEC.
Why don’t you just go out and talk to the business along the corridor and ask them. The majority of Snowmobilers are not local. They are from all over and more would come if the tracks were gone. So site any study you want. The real facts come from the businesses themselves and snowmobiling community. It’s overwhelming obvious to all when the corridor is covered enough for riding. I don’t even ride but I can see the difference in business by The filled motel parking lots and snowmobiles parked by the restaurants. It’s not rocket science.
Nor is it rocket science to note when the snow doesn’t come, neither do the snowmobilers.
To commit your local economy to snowmobiling is to make yourself hostage to the weather. They have no loyalty to the region. None. They go where the snow is – if there is any.
That’s the advantage of trains. They go where the rails run, they run on schedule, and weather is only a problem when its so bad everything shuts down.
You are arguing you don’t care what the studies say – you know what you know and you see what you see. That’s your privilege. I would simply ask that you step back and acknowledge the bigger picture.
Hope you either missed the point of the study excerpts altogether or are ignoring it on purpose. Rails, no rails, or compromise, there is no change to the economic impact of snowmobiling beyond what you already have. The study clearly indicates the most important part of the equation is “connector trails” not the corridor status.
The Camoin/Empire State Development study, although biased as I believe it is, did clarify the only measure of economic growth considered was to New York State, not just the local Tri-Lakes communities.
All the numbers were based on out of state sleds because that is the only group that brings in new money to NYS; all other sled expenditures are already accounted for in the statewide economic body. Hope your statement “The majority of snowmobilers are not local” is incorrect. First, using a total average number of 100K sled registrations (the number has varied considerably from season to season) out-of-state registrations historically only account for 15% or 15K sleds. Second, there is no “local” context to DOT/DEC for this corridor and snowmobiles; they are either OOS or not.
Snowmobilers follow the weather patterns to ride; they simply transfer their economic spend to the area that has the most snow or good riding conditions. To capture more sleds in any particular community is simply transferring the wealth from one area to another. You are correct that it is not rocket science; what is your gain is someone else’s loss.
Nobody ever said snowmobiling wasn’t popular and didn’t spread money around. Why would they when snowmobilers constantly remind everyone?
So you’re saying that we should get rid of RE and the business they bring in during spring, summer, and into fall so that the snowmobilers will have a a better 1 or 2 months for winter tourism, the way winters have been going lately?
Have you considered what it might mean for winter tourism with year-round rail service? No more having to brave the treacherous roads in the winter – a whole new class of winter visitors. Think of what it would mean for big winter sporting events and drawing spectators.
Year around rail service will do nothing for tourism. What does it do now for Old Forge compared to their snowmobiling market? If given a choice do you think Old Forge would give up their snowmobiling to have winter train service? I sincerely doubt it.
1) Who says they would have to give up snowmobiling to have winter trains? False choice – plenty of snowmobile trails in the region – and have you forgotten the year they had to shut down because they had no snow? Winter rail service might have made up for some of that.
2) What happens if Old Forge can start marketing ski trains to Mt. McCauley?
ASR still doesn’t have a permit to operate their rail bikes & I see no reasons for the state to give them one.
Ben, I don’t know where you live, but I live in Saranac Lake. I own a retail location. No matter what the APA winds up doing, re-writing the Master Plan to allow the destruction of the railroad or not, it will take a minimum of 3 years to get this through the State legislature, and then secure easements through private property to allow for a trail if the rails are removed. If the underlying land owners fight in court, it could take much longer. Meanwhile, more than half of our storefronts are vacant, with more local businesses planning to close this fall. When the ASR and Railexplorers were chased out of Saranac Lake by the DEC, we lost 40,000 plus tourists, as well as almost 40 jobs. For a village of 5,000, that’s a huge economic hit. Granted, a good portion of the jobs were 1/2 the year jobs, but they were better paying than most seasonal jobs. If for no other reason, the ASR should be allowed to run the rail bikes while the courts and the legislature sort out this matter. THis is why 350 people showed up to support the rails here in Saranac Lake, and why 30 some of the remaining businesses in town have tried to get a hearing with mayor and village board.
Nope give ASR a foot & they’ll want a mile. If they want to run rail bikes, there is a lovely track between Thendara & Big Moose that hardly if ever gets used. Run them down there.
May you always encounter people just like yourself.
Here we go again – the idea that riding a rail bike is just like riding a bicycle. Not even close.
And the difference is this: the Rail Explorers and the ASR are putting money directly into the corridor and the community with everyone who rides. The ‘free’ trail won’t – especially if the majority of users are local.
I would not make the assumption that most users will be local. You do not know that. Typically in tourist areas most users are tourists during the season. We have have tons of mountains and lakes here and the locals are not the majority users of these venues, tourists are.
Which is not to say those hordes of tourists are all bike riders any more than that they would all come by train.
There’s room for both. Let’s try it and see, ok? Start building some trails along side the rails where it can be done, and see what happens. You have nothing to lose.
You know that is exactly what the compromise was about. Rail and Trail but you guys don’t want to try it. So here we are. You’ve been told time and again that there is no interest at the govt level to fund the rail and a side by side trail. We’ve been told that the compromise was what Albany was ready and willing to do. You guys screwed that up. Not ARTA.
Sorry Hope, but here’s the actual deal.
The ASR was able to stop trail conversion because it was not legal for several reasons. That part of the ‘compromise’ was stopped – but not the other part of it, restoring the track to Tupper Lake.
There is NOTHING to stop NYS from carrying out that part of the plan – and you could still keep pushing for your trail. The region would at least be getting some benefit from the corridor. If you support the so-called compromise, why aren’t you urging the governor to do at least that much of what he promised for the area?
As I recall, ARTA was still going to continue working to get the track removed all the way back to Thendara, regardless. Your compromise was nothing but a Trojan Horse to get the trail built – with no guarantee the state would ever get around to the rest of it.
Sorry – but you have no one to blame but yourself for the current stalemate. Your continued opposition to anything that keeps rails in the corridor, your refusal to consider rail with trail anywhere, is as big a stumbling block as any.
Get away from the keyboard and go out and enjoy the day. Surely there is somewhere you can go for a bike ride. You’ll feel better after some healthy exercise. I know I would.
Hope, the ASR hand delivered 35,000 signed pro rail post cards to the State at one time, and they were counted as one comment. About 15,000 more were sent in, and not counted. All were signed, dated, and had the address of the signer. That’s roughly 50,000 comments counted as one. Many of those who signed are New Yorkers, but if the idea is to draw tourists and their dollars to the area, their voice should be considered. For the DEC to present to the APA that comments were roughly 50/50 for and against was nothing but blatant dishonesty. I researched the businesses in Saranac Lake and Ray Brook that ARTA claimed supported your plan. Many have gone out of business or changed hands. Some never existed, some are located in other States, and at least 1 in another country. Some have changed their minds after seeing the contribution that the RR and Rail Explorers had to the local economy in 2015 and 2016. Others had no idea that they had signed to have the rails removed. They thought they were signing to have a side by side trail with rail. So far, there’s been close to 50 responses to this press release, and most of the dialog has been civil and respectful. Hopefully it can stay that way.
They all said the same thing. It’s not about the quantity, it’s about the content. I’m sure it was noted what was said. And really, captured audience riding a ASR train with nothing else to do but oblige the conductor passing out and collecting cards. It’s not a numbers game is quality of the comments and concerns.
I wish you a wonderful evening, and an enjoyable summer.
You as well. No worries about SL. They are in the cats seat for the trail. The Hotel and new resort will great bases of operation for trail enthusiasts and new business catering to them will evolve.
Keith; whether they list the same statement for railroad support or not, 50K in comments from individuals who elect to sign a card and send to the DEC or the APA is a solid amount; especially when trail boosters claim nobody rides the train.
No election and ASR submitted the cards. They were not mailed directly from the person. We also have done the post card thing and were basically told the same thing.
What do you mean “no election”? Are you suggesting ASR…forced…patrons to sign a card so they could mail it in?
“It is not an election”. It’s not a vote. But basically signing a postcard that says the same thing as the rest of 10 or 10,000, for public comment is not counted the same as individual comments. We also did the same way back in the beginning and were told the same thing.
All this lovely banter is moot at this point. The state made a decision to go with the trail. The rail folks didn’t like that so they sued. If they had gotten on board & worked with the DOT/DEC/APA they would be running a train right now to Tupper Lake, but they cannot get out of their own way. In the end the state will build a trail or nothing will get done & the train will end at Big Moose. So if we really want to place the blame on someone, it’s not the trail folks; they didn’t want it all, they just wanted a trail north from Tupper Lake; The rail folks are the one’s who wanted it all & in the end they may get nothing! How app, they argue for everything & get nothing!
Obviously, both sides have an agenda. Those who believe that restored rails service along the whole length of the corridor, with scheduled service from AMTRAK in Utica through Tupper Lake , Saranac Lake, and Lake Placid, combined with local commuter service between the Tri Lakes villages and Tourist trains, dinner trains, etc with a side by side where possible recreational trail is the best economically, environmentally, historically, and socially for the Northern Adirondacks are not likely to be persuaded otherwise, without solid proof.
ARTA members who believe that the rails must be removed fall into several different categories. The big money behind the notion endorses the creation of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. A component of the REWILDING project, part of UN Agenda 21, these people believe in the methodical depopulation of rural areas and the creation of vast swaths of land undisturbed by man for the free migration of apex predator species. They envision an Adirondacks with large areas where man is a trespasser. In their ideology, this is what will save the planet and humanity. They believe that the earth is overcrowded, and that human population must be decreased by 80% for the race to survive. I am not finding fault with them, or even disagreeing with them, just stating the position.
A “strange bedfellows” union between these preservationists and the snowmobile lobby, which I suspect will be only temporary, has given rise to the DEC’s attempts to destroy the Railroad. As a NY Post article said a couple of years ago, nothing happens in Cuomo’s Albany without money changing hands. Judge Main found ARTA’s plan, accepted without question on orders from the top by the DEC to be “arbitrary and capricious”. In other words, it lacked any logical basis to adopt it..
A lot of false information has been injected into this dialog by ARTA members, SO, I’m going to include a link to the Stone Consulting report, prepared in 2011 for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which serves as a template for further rail improvement, going forward. Read it through for yourself. Those of you who familiar with the Cammoin Ass. report, paid for by the founders of ARTA, and adopted without question by the DEC, will find that the two reports are not really factually at odds. Sometimes the devil is in the missing details. http://www.adirondackrr.com/adkrr/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/economicImpact-3.pdf
Appreciate the comments. What has disturbed me all along is the “two sides” overview of this argument. All rail or all trail. Yes, there are two vocal groups – ARTA and ASR – with their opposed agendas. But that is an overly simplistic and overly touted analysis of this controversy. WHO speaks for the citizens of NY and the local residents? I don’t feel either of these vocal groups necessarily have the best interests of NY or local residents in mind, but rather place their organizational agendas over the wishes of taxpayers and regional residents and businesses.
When NYS released their compromise plan to develop the southern portion of the line for rail and the last 34 miles for trail, there was no large-scale public outrage. I believe the public at large along with local communities and residents viewed the plan as a good compromise. The public would ultimately get a long scenic RR in the south and an exceptional and uniquely flat recreational trail in the north.
This is when ASR pulled out all stops in vigorously trying to re-educate the public in the potential historical and financial losses in addition to overstated potential of rehabbing and even expanding the line in the future. ARTA was villainized – primarily because they were an organization that could be attacked in public without attacking pro-compromise public opinion directly. ASR was derided by ARTA for the same reasons.
Rail Riders were then used as an illustration of ‘bad policy’ by the state – making them ‘victims’ as a business being forcibly kicked out by the state decision to compromise. This is despite the fact that Rail Riders took a chance by setting up a business in an environment that was obviously very unclear in the long term. If ASR was historically only given short-term leases by the state, why would Rail Riders fare any better? Were they duped by the lessor into thinking this would be a long-term commitment, or were they simply capitalizing on a short-term plan that could possibly become long term? The Rail Riders didn’t fail and were not kicked out by the state – they simply saw a rocky future with the line and went elsewhere. They simply showed up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When that didn’t raise enough public outcry, ASR lawyers capitalized on legal flaws in the state’s compromise plan and by lawsuit had the plan stopped by a court decision. The state currently seems to be in the process of conforming to the legal objections specified in the court decision by various means, but seems to be holding their cards close to the chest.
The parallel trail/rail argument came up again, despite being rejected as too expensive and unwieldy because of wetlands issues. This plan required expenditures to rehab the entire rail line in addition to significant expenditures required to build an entirely new trail alongside the rails. It was a plan that would essentially give ASR everything it wanted while only offering an expensive, POSSIBLE implementation of a workable trail for public recreational use.
So who was by and large left out of this conversation? NYS taxpayers, local residents, and local businesses (both present and future). They have no collective voice, so have basically not been able to weigh in on the conversation except as individuals such as myself. I firmly believe public opinion rests somewhere between ARTA’s and ASR’s positions. I believe this is why the state developed the compromise plan. Neither ARTA nor ASR gets everything they want, but the public stands to benefit from both rail and trail. It seems like a good plan to me assuming the legal issues can be remedied. ASR can develop a plan to develop ridership and local entrepreneurship up to TL, and new entrepreneurs can develop the trail opportunities from TL to LP. ARTA gets 34 miles of smooth snowmobile trail that also contributes to the year-round local economies. Are these scenarios a bad thing?? I certainly don’t think so.
But unfortunately, this situation always reverts to a loud, ugly argument between ASR and ARTA, leaving public comment as a squeaky little voice in the background. It is the public that has the most to lose here, not ARTA or ASR.
ALL – have a nice summer and STAY COOL!!
Boreas thank you for the congenial manner in which you disagree with me., and for thinking through this issue and examining both sides. I will take your advice and go swimming to keep cool. Just a small factual correction; i worked for Rail Explorers for three years, including last year at their new headquarters in Rhode Island. NY State refused to give them a contract to operate in either Saranac Lake or Tupper Lake, and without a contract it was impossible to get financing to expand. In three new locations, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Nevada, the Governors all came and welcomed the company to their states. After a little over 1 year, they are the #1 Family tourist attraction in Rhode Island, as per TripAdvisor. They were the #1 EcoTourism destination in the Adks before leaving. They will do fine and prosper, Saranac Lake is the big loser.
I am not trying to downplay the loss of Rail Explorers (for some reason I thought it was Rail Riders – sorry), nor am I saying they weren’t an important group. It is just the state has a different plan for that section of rail – feasible or not. I don’t believe the state simply wanted to push them out of the Park. In fact there are other lines that aren’t in as much contention that they could likely have leased after leaving SL. In a few years, after some of the dust has settled here, perhaps they can give it another go on another section. Or perhaps expand their business model to incorporate bike rentals and shuttles if the 34 miles of track are removed.
As I side, I have always enjoyed looking at the various contraptions used at Beaver River to ride the rails over time – albeit illegally, I assume.
“… A component of the REWILDING project, part of UN Agenda 21, these people believe in the methodical depopulation of rural areas and the creation of vast swaths of land undisturbed by man for the free migration of apex predator species. They envision an Adirondacks with large areas where man is a trespasser. In their ideology, this is what will save the planet and humanity. They believe that the earth is overcrowded, and that human population must be decreased by 80% for the race to survive.,,”
No that’s some crazy shit!
Just an interesting mud-throwing diversion from the issue here, Todd. What bearing do these purported beliefs of some individuals in ARTA have to do with the development of rail OR trail here in the Park? I may believe in fairies and unicorns, but it has no bearing on the overall issue of a rail/trail compromise.
I believe Todd is poking fun at Keith here.
We need to save the rails to escape the bicycle riding population reduction squads committing genocide with weapons disguised as air pumps!
It is what it is folks. Both sides have their points & counter points. Both sides have their views & counter views. Both sides think they walk with angels & they are both right and wrong at the same time. It’s in the hands of the state now. We already know that one side will go right back to the courts, if they don’t get their way. That’s sad, because all it does is drag this issue out. Neither side is going to be happy with what-ever the state does.
The state hasn’t seen the NEED to invest in the rails since the mid 80’s, other than what they have today. Was that money a waste? In my opinion yes & no. Running the train to Old Forge has been a slight tourist boon for that area, but what was spent to fixes the rails to get from Old Forge to Big Moose was a waste, for the use it gets. Why not run the rail bikes on that section of tracks. Both the ASR & rail bikes could co-exist on that section.
It’ time to move on. I am all for a trail north of Tupper Lake. Would I like to see a trail, go all the way to Old Forge, why YES, but I am also a realist. The train somewhat works on the southern, so let’s have the state invest in making that better, while investing in a trail north from Tupper Lake.
In the end that state will get what it wants & neither side will be happy. So does the ASR & rails folks want to gamble with their continued existence or are they willing to work with the state & implement/improve the rails where they currently run & allow a trail to be built to the north.
Someone above also made the comment that the state should still go ahead & rehab the tracks north to Tupper Lake because that was in option 7 to begin with & no one is arguing that point. My answer is no, the state should not spend a dime on track maintenance north of Big Moose until a FINAL decision is made. The rail folks should not be allowed to benefit from Option 7, while the trails folks are in limbo!
As I said above, It is what it is at this point in time!
CNN Travel just published an article about what a wonderful place Saranac Lake is. Right off the bat , they make this observation. “Getting there:
Despite its location in fourth most populous state in America, Saranac Lake is not the easiest place to visit using public transit. The nearest Amtrak station is in Westport, New York, and you can book a connecting shuttle to nearby Lake Placid via their website.”
And the truth is, coming from the West, Amtrak’s web site will not you book north of Albany, because it requires a day layover in Albany. The eastbound train arrived after the northbound train leaves each day.