Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Waiting for a Slow Train: The Poconos Today

There’s an old David Mamet play called “Things Change.” Nowhere have things changed so much as in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Bucolic, serene, gentle on the eye and sparsely populated has given way to population growth, traffic, long commutes and the attendant problems. The New Poconos is characterized by rising crime, larger police departments, high real estate taxes due to overburdened schools, and a rudeness and lack of civility which would have been unthinkable thirty years ago.

The forces of economics and human nature which have catalyzed this change are a story in themselves but let’s cut to the chase. It is estimated that about twenty to thirty thousand people commute by car or bus every day to New York City or to the nearby metropolitan communities in New Jersey.

The Poconos long ago had excellent train service to Hoboken, NJ and from there it was easy to take a ferry or other transport to NYC. The trains went bust in the sixties, but now the stopped trains have been recognized as a misstep and several groups are pushing hard for renewed train service. That’s so far been a matter of putting your shoulders to the Rock of Gibralter bureaucracy and pushing hard against the immoveable object: federal and state bureaucracy. It’s also touched off some conflict between different factions, including some who oppose the resurgence of public transportation in the form of trains. Here’s a sampling of public opinions in regard to train service from the local newspaper, the Pocono Record:

Guess Who posted: Everyone's' learned to play the "game" and now everything's caught up in unprecedented layers of inefficient bureaucracy. It's hard anymore to tell the forest from the trees. Or the pork-barrel projects from the ones that really ought to be done. Harry Reid doesn't have any trouble building a pork-barrel road through the desert so that his real estate properties can have access to the casinos, but over here where we have thousands of people who have to get to NY and NJ for work, it will take about 20 years to do what simply needs to be done. As sniper says, gas prices will go to $4.00 per gal but I'd have no trouble believing you're looking at $5.00 per gallon gas a year from now. Outside the U.S., people have been paying those high petrol prices for years. There's no hope in the bio-fuels direction, either, since ethanol producers are competing with cereal producers.

This from a poster named “cabin”: Rip up 80 and 33 and put high speed trains in the right of way. The highway right of ways were designed for higher speeds then the rails.

And this from “Reyered”: If we ever get a train it will be no good the bad guys from Bloombergs ville will come up to sell there drugs and steal our cars for the trip back to the city to sell them and get ready for there next trip up on the train.The train will cost to much and be to slow so if it was any good the slot and turnpike sellers would be pushing it.

Not to leave out OICDB: Well at least you commuters will have an option other than driving your gas guzzelling SUV's 100 miles to work everyday. If you weren't squandering fuel maybe our kids wouldn't be over there dying.

Or Wazup: Has anybody factored-in that global warming will cause the east coast (incoluding Hoboken) to be under water within 20 years? I for one do not want to fund a train to nowhere.

So there you have it…in a nutshell, so to speak. With the emphasis, of course, on “nutshell.”

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