To the Editor,
An interesting thing happened in Brunswick, Maine last year. On Nov. 1, 2012, Amtrak extended two of its five daily Portland to Boston round trip trains north to Brunswick. The city has a population of about 20,000 with light industry, tourism attractions and is home of Bowden College – a well known arts college.
A year after Amtrak’s arrival, the State of Maine Office Policy and Management announced that taxable retail sales rose four per cent. Lodging and restaurant sales jumped nine per cent and some tourism sites reported a growth of 12 per cent during the year. Building supply sales were up 13 per cent indicating new home construction and population growth.
An article in the Brunswick Times Recor newspaper reported that a fair number of people were coming in from Boston on the train. “They like Brunswick because they can land right in the centre of town and can walk to everything: restaurants, shops, museums, and Bowdoin College.”
As Maritimers wonder about the decimation of their Via service, perhaps they should ponder what an asset a well-marketed, frequent, train service could do for their towns, small cities and colleges. But the stations in Amherst and Sackville, N.B. are locked. The 3,000 passengers that used the station serving Mount Allison University have to wait outside in the cold, damp winds off the Tantramar Marsh. Trains no longer pass through New Glasgow on their way from Truro to Antigonish and Cape Breton.
In Amherst, Maritime Bus calls at an Irving convenience store on South Albion Street with two return trips to P.E.I. and six through buses on the Moncton to Halifax route, while the historic Via station downtown remains locked.
What if the Town of Amherst were to buy the station, get free office space there and turn the passenger waiting room into an intermodal bus-rail facility from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.? Buses could serve the station on a through route via South Albion and LaPlanche streets.
It’s time to think about what an improved Via service could do for our local economies.
John Pearce, President Emeritus, Transport Action Atlantic