Thursday, February 13, 2003
Dean's "Champlain Flyer" to appear on TV's "Fleecing of America" http://rutlandherald.nybor.com/News/State/Story/60542.html
MONTPELIER — The Champlain Flyer, a money-losing commuter train recently canceled by Gov. James Douglas, will make its third — and likely final — appearance on a national news program dedicated to government boondoggles.
Crews from NBC Nightly News were in Montpelier Tuesday to film a story on the Flyer for the program’s “Fleecing of America” segment, which is devoted to exposing wasteful government spending programs.
The commuter train between Burlington and Charlotte — championed by then-Gov. Howard Dean — made its initial appearance on the show in 1998, two years before it even began regular operation.
Now Douglas has proposed ending the train’s run in March, and NBC plans to air a segment next Thursday documenting the move.
“They’ve been here a day or so, they rode the train yesterday to experience it themselves,” Douglas said. “I said (to them) what I said the other day, that ridership did not meet expectations, that revenue has been insufficient, and it’s been operating at a loss. I like trains, but when we’re facing such tight revenue times it’s just not a priority.”
Even the most charitable analysis by the Joint Fiscal Committee put the projected capital cost of the project at nearly $4 million, while the actual expenses were almost $15 million. And the projected annual operating cost of about $1 million turned out to be closer to $2.6 million.
Ridership was projected at 214,562 passenger trips annually and was expected to generate more than $160,000 in revenue. Instead, the train has managed about 83,000 riders annually and taken in about $53,000 in the last year.
Attempts to reach Dean for comment were unsuccessful, but Rep. John Tracy, D-Burlington, said he was “very disappointed that our commitment to public transit and to rail is taking a hit under this administration.”
He blamed many of the train’s opponents, who pushed for restrictions on the use of the train’s horn at crossings — necessitating costly gates — with driving up the project’s cost, and said that taxpayers heavily subsidize the airline industry and the highway system, yet balk when the subject of rail subsidies come up.
Given that Dean runs as a budget-balancing fiscal conservative, this issue is perfect fodder for attack. It is almost certain that there are other failures in the closet (after all, being Governor for 6 terms, you are bound to have some slipups). Dean's emphasis on his executive record (rather than the legislative backgrounds of all his opponents) is especially vulnerable to this kind of thing.
UPDATE: edited a typo, to read "6 terms" instead of "6 years". Thanks to DaveB for pointing out the error.
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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.