Letter: Portland-NYC bus service is the way to go

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Harry Blunt, principal of Concord Coach Lines, deserves a transportation sanity award for his recently announced intention to operate direct, non-stop, first-class bus service from Portland to New York City, starting next month. While TrainRiders/Northeast clamors for a multi-stop train in that market, requiring massive expenditures for physical plant improvements and equipment – and an undetermined ongoing subsidy – Blunt chooses to risk his own capital on an innovation to be supported solely by (gasp) its users.

The special 30-passenger motor coaches promise to set a new standard for inter-city ground travel that should preempt further agitation by the “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a train?” crowd to institute rail service that would not be competitive in time, comfort, or price without inordinate taxpayer support. Most importantly, if Blunt’s plan doesn’t work, Concord is left with a couple of buses that can be used elsewhere, not an entire rail route upgraded to an impractical speed standard for freight service that would be a national “white elephant” for imprudent judgment.

Blunt’s initiative proves that the competitive spirit is alive and well. Bus operators are far better positioned to take advantage of perceived market opportunities than those whose mission is finding ways to spend taxpayers’ money on highly speculative passenger-rail ventures requiring massive outlays for single-purpose infrastructure. As a general rule, if a given route can’t support a bus, there is no reason even to think about a train.

George C. Betke Jr., president
Transport Economics