Why Passenger Rail In NH Is A Bad Idea.
About a year ago Amtrak cancelled service between New York and Atlantic City on a train called the Atlantic City Express Service or ACES. New Hampshire should learn from this.
ACES was started in 2009 as a “public-private partnership” between Amtrak, NJ Transit and several AC casinos. It featured double deck coaches, leather seats, full bar service and cost $19 million in startup fees followed by yearly operating subsidies and capital leases of some $9.5 million. ACES was a idea of passenger rail service that should have been successful. Except that it wasn’t.
Initial ridership was at capacity, the idea was working New Jersey politicians were ecstatic “ACES has a future” they beamed. If only this were to be the case. Because when the declines came, and they did, it was like a burst of casino magic gone bust. Service delays in New York, track and weather conditions and more empty seats. ACES lost $5.9 million dollars in the first year of operations alone. More financial subsidies were pumped in, marketing was increased and ticket prices were slashed down to $29.95 and expansive, subsidized, money losing trains would roll down to the seashore for another two years.
New Hampshire should learn from this. In Concord the Rail Transit Authority is pushing a “capitol corridor” of passenger rail from Boston to Nashua, Manchester and on up to Concord. Gov. Hassan and the Executive Council hired a consultant that is still working on the idea but the known reality is both certain and dire: the capitol corridor will cost more than ACES, exponentially more. And unlike New Jersey there are no casinos to help offset the capital costs or even subsidize the financial losses if the trains go bust for lack of ridership.
This is why passenger rail in New Hampshire is a bad idea.