CLOSING THE GAP! -------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc email@example.com www.nyskies.org 1996 October 7
[The electrification of the Amtrak railline between New Haven CT and Boston MA is among the most severely neglected weapons against luminous graffiti, ignored and even debunked by some darksky advocates. Below this piece is a dialog with one debunker.]
New England's massive light abatement scheme passed a meterstone on 3 July 1996. First catenary pole was placed at Providence station, about midway between Boston and New Haven. The work will spread in both directions to these two cities, followed by catenary stringing. When complete in summer 1999 the project will slash automobile and airplane light -- and other! -- pollution in southern New England by as much as 1/3! The project is the fulfillment of a generations-old plan to fully electrify the railline along the south New England coast from New Haven CT to Boston MA via Providence RI. This, the former New York, Bew Haven, & Hartford road, is the northern arm of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor service. The railroad was electrified in 1914 as part of its link into the new Grand Central Terminal. The wires stopped at New Haven with intent to finish the job by 1918. Various factors intervened and the line from New Haven to Boston was worked until today by coal or Diesel trains. Riders from the City must wait in New Haven while the electric engine is uncoupled and a Diesel one hooked on. In the late 1980s, as an unrelated exercise, Boston's Logan Airport hatched expansion plans. These were vigorously opposed and the airport studied its future needs to justify the plans. To its horror it found that fully 1/4 of its customers came from New York City! There was no way Massachusetts will enlarge Logan to accommodate New York!! If somehow these New Yorkers could be shoved out of Logan onto other transport to Boston, Logan could postpone enlarging the airport for several decades. Of all the alternative routes into Boston from the City only one had any hope of draining off New Yorkers in any substantial numbers. This is the Amtrak railline. In its present condition the line does convey about a hundred planeloads per day to Boston, but can it carry more? Logan and Amtrak got together and conceived the 'Closing the Gap' project. Logan would partly support the upgrading of the railline to cut the running time from the current 5 hours to 3 or 3-1/2. The rehabbed line can carry 30 or 40 daily trains to Boston, up from today's 15. This puts Boston within a one-day business or commuter trip from the City. The scheme got underway in 1990 with rebuilt trackbeds, new signals, realignments, second-tracking, and refurbished stations. All these improvements do make the ride quite comfortable and pleasant. But the run still takes at best 4-1/2 hours mainly due to the engine change in New Haven and the slower speed of the Diesel trains. This is actually the first of a three stage manifesto for the line. The second is the electrification itself. Catenary will soon string along the 240Km gap from New Haven to propel trains in one continuous run. It is the nation's biggest electric rail project since the 1930s! Because there is no more swopping of engines and the electrics get to higher speeds, the trip is a welcome alternative to cars or planes. The final step is already is progress. All new supertrains to work the City-Boston line are abuilding right now in upstate New York, Vermont, and Quebec. These, the American Flyer, are based on the French TGV. They'll scoot along at 220Km/h, a mite slower than the TGV yet swift enough for the Northeast Corridor. The removal of an other hundred daily airplanes from the skies, and thousands of daily cars from the roads, of southern New England is no longer some idiotic dream for astronomy. It's happening before the century turns over. No more will New England stargazers suffer from turbulence, smog, smoke and aerosols, noise, noxious fumes, lights in their sky, In the stead they will hear the soft whoosh! of American Flyer.
= = = = = 1996 October 8
From mcdon...@aries.scs.uiuc.edu Mon Oct 7 16:56:36 1996 Date: Mon, 07 Oct 1996 18:53:15 -0600 From: "J. D. McDonald" <mcdon...@aries.scs.uiuc.edu> Organization: UIUC SCS To: JOHN PAZMINO <john.pazm...moondog.com> Subject: Re: Closing the gap
I'm posting this publicly because your questions are valued and can be the foundation of some good discussion on the betterment of astronomy in this country. For starts, let's be honest. The entire Closing the Gap project, all $2 billion dollars of it, has no prime motivation for astronomy. There is nothing in the acts of the airport or the railroad that says, 'Let's darken the skies so stargazers can have more fun'. The benefit for astronomy is a colossal spinoff, a collateral boon, that comes embedded with the air-to-rail displacement. What happened is a delayed derivative of the Sixties Revolution. It is plain socially ridiculous to use planes for the short run of some 400Km. I do grant that the situation in New England is peculiar in that the railline already exists and is in regular use. It's not like a whole new route has to be cut or an abandoned one has to be resusicated. Also the traffic density is, by middle American norms, stupendous, swamping the airlines but handily digestible by the railline. Apart from the 'obvious' amelioration of the skies, the Closing the Gap project overall makes life in the City and southern New england more pleasant, enjoyable, and gentler all around. Astronomers are, despite what some may think, people. So any program that improves the lot for the regular folk will make for better astronomers, too. If I were not an astronomer I would welcome this project for the simple reason that it makes good horse sense to go to Boston by train than by airplane.
JOHN PAZMINO wrote: > The removal of an other hundred daily airplanes from the skies,
WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT? lOGAN IS SATURATED. NEW YORK WILL JUST ALLOW MORE FROM ELSEWHERE.
This is exactly the instigation for the expansion plans. Logan is full to the brim with airplanes. I abbreviated the account. The idea was that Logan should accommodate more overseas flights being that Boston is a major East Coast town. This is impossible in the present airport. Either enlarge it into Massachusetts Bay or build an allnew airport west of Cambridge. Both options are glatt nonos. The solution is in deed to remove the New York flights, these being so huge a portion of all flights, so the gates are free to bring in overseas flights. The airport may end up just as full but with a new mix of traffic.
> and > thousands of daily cars from the roads,
WHAT MAKES YOU THINK IT WILL DO THAT?
A car travelling from the City to Boston invariably has but a single person, the driver. The portion of multirider cars is obscenely small. Hence, a train, with 300 riders, can displace 300 cars. The trick is to make the rails as attractive and convenient as the automobile. With the circulation between the City and Boston, this is a thoroly viable goal.
> of southern New England is no > longer some idiotic dream for astronomy. It's happening before the century > turns over. No more will New England stargazers suffer from turbulence,
HOW SO? REMEMBER, IT WON'T CUT TOTAL FLIGHTS.
This may be true; the Logan traffic is redistributed. However, the present pattern brings planes from the City right over southern New England on a line along US1, I95 and the NYNHH railline. They fly directly over the fields of Connecticut and Rhode Island, where the greater percent of New England stargazers practice. The replacement planes would come from across the Atlantic Ocean over water and fly into Logan from offshore. Except for some localized circling over Logan, they will not impede stargazing over the 400Km reach between Boston and the City.
> smog, smoke and aerosols,
HOW SO? WILL ALL THAT ELECTRIC POWER COME FROM NUCLEAR, OR FROM COAL OR OIL, WHICH ARE GENERALLY MUCH DIRTIER THAN CARS AND NO DIFFERENT FROM DIESEL TRAINS.
Airplanes spew their wastes directly into the sky with no cleanup or collection. These ingredients sift thru the air and disrupt stargazing, filter into people's lungs and skin, and cut the concentration and attention to the observing. The electricity for American Flyer will demand no new power plants. The present ones have sufficient excess capacity to provide the additional power. And New England is a mass purchaser of hydroelectric power from Quebec and Canada. Moreover, the pollution from plants in New England is under control and can be further reduced. It is vastly easier to stifle emissions from a few major sources, the power plants, than from a zillion ones, cars and planes. > noise,
Go live in an airport motel for a week. I promise to sign out your body from the morgue. The noise in and around Logan will probably remain the same after American Flyer starts flitting to Boston. The noise along that City-Boston route will decrease because the planes flying that route are displaced by the trains.
> noxious fumes,
SO THE ELECTRICITY COMES FROM NUCLEAR?
See above. The combustion gases from planes are dumped into the sky over the entire path of the plane. There is utterly no attempt to clean or collect them or otherwise neutralize their effects. Power plant gases can be, and are, trapped, scrubbed, reduced at the plant site. And, yes, New England does have substantial nuclear generation. If you speak with any advocate of outer space life, even science fiction writers, every alien civilization is presumptively based on electricity, however many centuries advanced beyond ours it may be.
> lights in their sky,
POLLYANNA! You'll scream other words when your arduously exposed sky photo has airplane streaks all over it. There is an intriguing case history about the effects of roadbased traffic on stargazing. The Winter Star Party, in February in Florida, convenes on a Girl Scout camp alongside of US1. The site is simply the one the party's operator can obtain and is not at all an ideal site. US1 in this area is the one and only road connecting the keys and has very heavy traffic at all hours of the night. The highway is litterally adjacent to the grounds with a tree row between the two. The upthrow of light, noise, smoke, vibration, fumes, turbulence, is awesome. When I go I deliberately pick a viewing spot as far from the road as possible (near the breach). While this gives an open prospect on the southern skies, it also distances me from the assault from the highway. Doug McDonald, you actually enjoy a whole nation of company in your doubts about light abatement for stargazing. The notion sure as hell looks like some star freak's whining and bitching. When you consider that in any town, even quite large ones, there may be but a dozen people who really exploit the skies for astronomy, the chants for light abatement can be extremely annoying. Oh, you want that thirty thousand homeowners should turn their lights off so you can go and stare at the stars for an hour a week? Boy, have we got a special place for you. It's nice and dark.