The Real "Third Rail" For Commuter Rail - Granite Grok

The Real “Third Rail” For Commuter Rail

Old TrainAny good liberal will tell you this.  Never talk about how much something really costs, or who will have to pay for it, until after you have convinced them it will be good for them.  You do this by creating an overwhelming desire for fairness, or appeal to some moral phantom named equality, or in the case of massive infrastructure projects with storied histories as terminally bankrupt taxpayer propped up boondoggles, convince them of the “Benefit.”

Such is the case for commuter rail in New Hampshire, a liberal fantasy that is a solution looking for a problem. And, apparently, it has found one but not the one it hoped.  A recent report has revealed some of the thinking behind the cost and revenue options available in forcing commuter rail down the throats of New Hampshire residents, and it’s filled with words and phrases and clauses that might just derail conjunction junction before it ever leaves the station.

John DiStaso reports in this morning’s Sunday News the details of costs and taxes proposed to prop up commuter-rail in the Nashua-Manchester-Concord Corridor, along with an apology by Transportation Commissioner George Campbell for releasing the report.  This is like apologizing to a family member for asking about a deceased relative when they didn’t even know they were dead.

The report lays out recommendations for funding the project by bumping up against the third rail of higher property taxes, more vehicle registration fee increases, and phrases like, “”(the) “concept of this business improvement tax was that if they were going to have a benefit, then we could tax them on that benefit,””  this from Steve Williams a former executive director of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission.

Steve (Williams) is wielding the reality of pure “government knows best” logic for us.  First, you imagine a benefit, and then you tax people for the privilege of their having imagined it for you.  The unfortunate reality, however, is that commuter rail in America is just another unfunded welfare program, a public transit money pit that will forever need filling with taxpayer dollars.


[A] business improvement assessment” of $1.02 per $1,000, on top of existing local and statewide property taxes, could be levied on all properties in a mile-wide corridor along the track, a half-mile on each side.

They could also choose “…to add a 16 cents per $1,000 property tax surcharge on all properties in 27 communities in the Nashua-Manchester areas.”

Then there’s “a vehicle registration fee [which] “has actually been a pretty common approach across the country. You basically tax what you want people to avoid if you will,” Williams said He said that with 528,273 vehicles in the 27 communities in the region, a $15.82 charge would be needed to raise $8.3 million.

This all courtesy of Steve Williams.

After the details were made public, New Hampshire Commissioner of Transportation George Campbell says he committed “a major mistake” when he released the balance sheet detailing new taxes and fees as possible ways to help fund a passenger rail line for the southern part of the state.

The mistake was not the information, but the revelation, perhaps epiphany is a better word, separating reality from fantasy.  You have to pay for the privilege of commuter rail, even if it means taxing you out of your car to get you to pay to use the train you never actually needed or wanted.  It’s a boondoggle, and we owe Commissioner Campbell our thanks for his “major mistake.”  He has unveiled the third rail of commuter rail; that it will cost taxpayers a lot of money for something they’ve managed to live without, and some of them a lot more than others.


Cross-posted from NH Insider (Link no longer works)