Faced with a higher-than-expected cost estimate from Amtrak for restoring passenger rail service between Vermont and Montreal, the Green Mountain State is looking into providing service by some other means, including the operation of its own train. St. Albans is now the end of the line for the Vermonter. Amtrak says it would cost about $2.2 million a year to extend the trip to Montreal. To quote Gregory Maguire, the head of the state Transportation Agency's Division of Rail and Aviation: "That is a lot of money for us. We might have to look at another way. One way to do it is to run our own trains."
According to Maguire, it's not unusual for a state to have a transit authority that runs a commuter train.
We shudder at the thought of Vermont state officialdom trying to run a railroad. But Maguire is apparently talking about something like the situation in Maine, where that state will contract with Amtrak to run passenger service in and out of Portland. In Maguire's words, Maine "did it through a bid process. You do tend to get a better price when it's competitive."
We're happy to hear a state official talk about cost containment. But we have a better idea, Mr. Maguire. Forget about the state subsidy, period. If there really is a demand for passenger rail service in Vermont and up to Montreal, the Vermonter should be able to pay for itself. If not, scrap the train..