Today, we’d like to introduce the Train Campaign’s 2020 summer interns, Graham Lewis (below right) and Ethan Michalowski (below left), who are working with the Train Campaign this summer. Graham is in Georgia and Ethan is in Wisconsin, but they couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the projects underway in our region. You’ll also find a summary of a webinar hosted by the Environmental League of Massachusetts and links to several online events. Upgrades to the Housatonic Line continue and we’ll be filming some of the work so you can get a look at what’s going on to prepare for the future and for economic recovery.
Hello Everyone! My name is Ethan Michalowski and I will be working as an intern with the Train Campaign this summer! I am incredibly excited to contribute to this organization and help bring increased rail service back to New England. I was born and raised in central Wisconsin before starting school at Yale University, where I am studying economics and political science.
After living in New England for just 2 years, I have already experienced how important passenger trains are to the towns and cities of this region, as well as the difference they make in people’s lives. I remember my first time on a passenger train, traveling from New York to New Haven. I had spent my whole life traveling by car or plane, and I was quite surprised by how fast, easy and affordable it was to travel those 80 miles by train. Since then, I have jumped at any opportunity to ride a train and I’m so happy to be working for an organization dedicated to expanding rail service in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
I wanted to get involved with this organization because I believe their mission to increase rail networks in this region is incredibly important and more pressing now than ever. Long distance public transportation is a service that helps nearly everyone. Growing up in a small town, I have become passionate about connecting rural communities to cities and metropolitan areas.
I was also attracted by this organization’s emphasis on climate issues. I am incredibly committed to sustainability and environmental protection and enjoy researching modern climate solutions. Increased rail development will help reduce carbon emissions, pollution, and traffic congestion throughout the region.
I am especially looking forward to connecting with community members and learning more about the intricacies and history of New England rail travel. I am excited to engage with each and every community and understand how we can help advocate for their unique needs. As an intern, I will be conducting economic, climate, and COVID-19 impact research. I am also hoping to work on community outreach events such as webinars and film showings. I am so excited to be part of this team and can’t wait to help research and share more information about these great projects!
My name is Graham Lewis. As a student at Georgia Tech, I’m currently planning to double-major in Economics and Mathematics. My interest in the incredible potential of trains began in China. As a study-abroad student, I was in awe of the ease and convenience of the high-speed rail system. A feasible alternative to carbon-intensive air travel offered a glimpse into a reality I had not experienced growing up in America. The positive experience I had in China helped to instill a curiosity as to why a similar system had not been adopted in the United States.
I started researching why high-speed rail infrastructure was not already existent. I began to try and find different research opportunities in transportation. Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, my summer plans were changed in the late spring. During the final weeks of spring semester, I came across The Train Campaign. What drew me to the movement was feasibility and economic reasoning behind the campaign. With already existent rail infrastructure and the potential to create economic growth in rural communities, the project seemed like a no-brainer. After reading through the website, I immediately applied and am very thankful to have the opportunity to join the team.
I hope to benefit the organization through experience researching and writing. Having experience in forecasting and research on equity issues such as the effect of household income on high school graduation rates, I am ecstatic at the opportunity to look into potential impacts, costs, and revenues of rail lines. The potential to learn about strategies for building a movement and different methods used to accurately account for the impacts of rail infrastructure is beyond exciting. The Train Campaign has already proven to be a great place to learn and develop and I hope to contribute to the team.
No outdoor events planned for 2020, and we look back nostagically on events like this one in New Milford, CT, with last year’s interns. But we’ll be with you in spirit and online, and look forward to our conversations.
The Future of Transportation webinar report
By Ethan Michalowski and Graham Lewis, Train Campaign
This past week, the Environmental League of Massachusetts hosted a webinar with Monica Tibbits-Nutt, a member of the MassDOT, MBTA, & 128 Business Council. She spoke on the future of transportation post COVID-19 and presented some wonderful insights and updates relevant to our campaign:
The public transportation sector is expected to experience two separate challenges. On one hand, decreased demand will cause a sharp decline in revenue and cash flow. State budget forecasting is expected to be revised multiple times throughout the duration of the crises. In addition, taking different components in the public transportation system offline in order to be properly cleaned adds a logistical and fiscal challenge to already burdened transportation systems.
In the rail industry, decreased ticket sales is the primary challenge due to the high fixed costs of the sector. Currently, both state and federal funds are being used to help eliminate the gap between actual revenue and what was budgeted. Ridership is forecast to see a monthly 10% increase going into the fall, with ridership increasing for bus services first, then trains. It is critical that public transportation services, especially rail, show the public that proper safety and cleaning policies are being strictly followed.
Funding for future projects is currently being maintained, with an emphasis on capital improvements for rail as it provides an alternative to cars for those who cannot walk or bike to work. Given the decrease in ridership, some capital improvements may even be completed at a quicker pace.
As of now, staggered work schedules and proper ridership monitoring are essential in maintaining social distancing precautions. In the future, COVID-19 has made clear the discrepancy between lower income areas with higher pollution rates compared to areas with higher income. Transit oriented development and expanded rail networks offer solutions to this problem. Furthermore, this pandemic has exposed an infrastructure development gap between the rural western areas of Massachusetts, which lacks widespread regional rail services, and the more densely populated eastern areas. Transportation officials need to prioritize working with local community leaders to meet the service needs of western Massachusetts. Click here for a recording of the entire webinar.
Did you know that the idea of the Harry Potter stories came to J. K. Rowling on a train? And here’s another article about great train movies. Check out the interior of Grand Central Terminal in North by Northwest, released in 1959. In many ways, it looks just like the modern, restored station, but you’ll see at least one notable difference. (Our movie list is here.)