It's time to address some misconceptions.
Occasionally someone will say there isn't enough population in Vermont to justify train service.
Does anyone say there isn't "enough" driving to "justify" quiet interstate 91? Of course not.
There were almost 100,000 Amtrak trips in Vermont during Amtrak's 2012 fiscal year. Trains are sometimes sold out (around holidays and at school breaks). Even in the slackest off season times, the Vermonter fills multiple coaches. Ridership has been rising significantly over the last 10 years. 2012 was up more than 5%.
What makes "enough" ridership?
How do you even answer a question like that? You can't, and the reason is the question pre-judges that some places and some trips are "justified" and others are not. Of course there are valid criteria for planning service, but this conversation isn't about that, it's about people in larger metro areas not understanding the scale of Vermont.
We can't go down that road. We are one country and Vermont matters as much as Oklahoma or Montana or New York.
Furthermore, Vermont has put it's money down to support a good transportation network in our state. Vermont pays Amtrak to run here, recognizing the public benefit that transportation connections bring for the economy and future vitality.
It's appropriate for Vermont to have good service at a scale that fits the state.
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The next misconception is that the remedy for not having "enough" ridership is to cut service.
Also often not true.
Consider the planned extension of the Vermonter an additional two hours north to Montreal. Right now people board at each station until the train becomes full. But a shopping mall works best with anchor stores at both ends and so does a train. Starting with a full train at Montreal, Quebecois would get off at each stop, replaced by those who now board. A considerable increase in efficiency with a short extension.
Consider the planned extension of the Ethan Allen an additional hour and forty minutes to Burlington. According to Amtrak serving the larger population of Chittenden County would grow the train's ridership by 50%, bringing more extra revenue than additional operating cost.
Consider the effect of two frequencies instead of one. Does a second train half ridership on the first? No, because now you have not one option, but four (the first train, the second, and the two possible combinations). The rule of thumb is that the second train attracts as much ridership as the first without hurting ridership on the first, the third brings a 50% increase and returns diminish after that. Meanwhile many costs (for stations and other facilities) are further spread between more riders.
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Another misconception: that we spend "a lot" of money for trains.
In the world of transportation programs, rail projects are cheap.
Three miles of the Bennington bypass highway just cost $95 million. The just completed ARRA funded upgrade of the Vermonter rail line the *entire length* of the state (190 miles) cost $52 million. One single bridge between Oregon and Washington state will be a $4 billion project.
No question, infrastructure price tags seem large, but they produce public benefits to match.
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Lastly: It is true we have less trains than other places, being that we are indeed a rural state, but even if a railroad line seems quiet one should still expect a train at any time and thus stay off it! Safety first!
Would you walk down the middle of a quiet state highway, even when there are no cars around? You shouldn't. (If I do say so, myself) Give the railroad - and yourself - the same respect.