Back in April, a locally run website known as ‘Urban Corning’ published an April Fool’s Day prank article claiming a passenger train connection from Corning to New York City had been finalized. The article went viral online, and garnered more support offline, as people thought that such a connection would be a great idea.
On Tuesday night, Urban Corning helped put on the first meeting to try and make this once false claim become a reality.
The meeting, held at the Southeast Steuben Library in Corning, featured a 45 minute presentation given by Rob Piecuch, the Southern Tier Coordinator for the Empire State Passengers Association Inc., followed by a ‘question and answer’ session.
As the meeting started, Piecuch recalled past public attempts as far back as the 1970’s and as recent as 2009, in order to bring a passenger rail service to the Southern Tier. But those attempts failed, due in some part to the public’s loss of enthusiasm for the project over time.
“I think that’s why this hasn’t progressed before, there’s been studies done for it and it kind of fizzles out,” Piecuch said. “There’s nobody kind of cheering it on, saying, ‘let’s keep going, let’s get this to happen,’ so it has to be a public effort.”
But since Urban Corning’s prank in April, widespread interest has been expressed to bring passenger rail to the area, and it could be this enthusiasm which makes the difference this time around.
“I would like to see it expanded between New York City and Buffalo, I think there’s a missing market down here,” Richard Martin, a train enthusiast who is pushing for local passenger rail, said.
“It would probably mean a lot for the area as far as tourism, and for those people who don’t like to fly or drive, I’m sure it would be beneficial,” Paul Ambrosone, a train enthusiast and hopeful for passenger rail in the Southern Tier said.
It’s a project which could pay off. Even if Corning became connected to New York City via passenger train, a rail service throughout the area would connect other cities through the Southern Tier could mean a bigger boost to the economy.
“If you link into different communities, passenger rail links into a lot of small towns that don’t have other services or other ways to travel in other cases and it brings people to areas they might not be able to go to,” Piecuch said. “I think having a service like this would be another option, it’s not to take away from what we have.”
According to the National Association of Railroad Passengers, the average return of every dollar invested in passenger rail is $3.
However, the next challenge for those pushing for the project, is finding the funding for a feasibility study. As many of the questions brought up in past attempts to bring passenger rail to the region remain unanswered.
“You have identify which route you’re going to use to get here, where the stations are going to go, where parking is going to be, a lot of different factors go into this,” Piecuch said. “Who’s going to run the service? What kind of trains will be run?”