09 December 2007

Make Me an Offer

Ten days ago, I wrote about some of the reasons the reactivation of the West Trenton rail line doesn't make sense. Chief among these is the cost. It's hard to get around the idea that this 27 mile railroad will cost $220,000,000 - and will benefit only a few hundred commuters, and a handful of weekend day-trippers. Is it really worth it?

Today's Courier News is full of articles touting the benefits of bring passenger train service back to Hillsborough, Montgomery, and the Hopewells - and I agree with most of those also. So, lest you think I'm all negativity on this, here are some reasons to get the trains a-rollin'.

First of all, building this kind of project always seems to make sense in the long run. Twenty years from now, people will likely say "they should have built this ten years earlier"! And they would probably be right. The cost of building only goes up, and patrons nearly always materialize to fill up the infrastructure. You never hear about highway authorities removing lanes!

People want to live in towns that have rail service. It's no good if the station is in the next town, four or five miles away - it needs to be here. And this is true even for people that have no plans to ever ride the rails. Residents feel that having a train station in town adds to the value of their properties - and they are correct! The added value of the station gets built into the selling price of your home, even if the home is never sold to a commuter!

A Hillsborough train station and "transit village" opens the door for new business opportunities. In a town that has been trying to attract commercial and industrial development for 50 years, and has not had a lot of success, the promise of economic prosperity through redevelopment sounds promising, and should be tried.

Finally, we know that Hillsborough residents pay more than their share of state income tax, but do not receive much back - in state aid to schools, for instance. So, despite that whopping $220 million price tag, this is a chance to get some of Hillsborough's money back in Hillsborough. And that's an offer I can't refuse.

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