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340-Mile Commute


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#1 Cotuit

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 09:42 PM

Don't like the traffic? Try this 340-mile commute
Don't like the traffic? Try this 340-mile commute

By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff, 1/31/2004

SIDNEY, Maine -- Boston commuters who grind their teeth during the patience-fraying gantlet of exhaust-shrouded traffic and bad etiquette should consider the case of Stephen Jordan. The way to work could be much, much longer.

Jordan, a retirement fund analyst in Boston's Financial District, commutes 340 miles a day, 1,700 miles a week, from a 15-acre spread outside Augusta that he praises for its proximity to nature and ultra-affordability.

But there is a price: Jordan spends nine hours a day on the road and the rails, leaving his house at 4:15 a.m. to drive 62 miles to Portland and ride Amtrak's Downeaster train to North Station. After an eight-hour workday and a long trip home, Jordan opens his door to greet his wife at 10:15 p.m.

Although the Downeaster is scrambling for ways to increase ridership, the train's comfort and camaraderie make the trip palatable -- for the right person, he says.

"You have to be very regimented. It's just like doing double sessions" of football practice, said Jordan, 35, a former Boston College defensive lineman.

Yesterday morning, with 8-degree darkness outside his rural home, Jordan moved like an athlete ready to begin a game, his manner slightly on edge, his eyes glancing regularly at the time that regulates his life.

"It feels like `Groundhog Day,' " Jordan said, referring to the Bill Murray movie in which every day begins exactly the same.

"It's ridiculous," his wife, Kristin, said good-naturedly. The couple spend about an hour together each weeknight, catching up on the day's events, before Jordan goes to sleep.

The journey might be the longest daily overland commute in New England, but Jordan says the Downeaster is why he can live in central Maine and work in Boston.

"It's not like riding the commuter rail in Boston, and it sure beats the Orange Line," said Jordan, who moved to Sidney from his native Roxbury last May.

But what Jordan lauds for convenience and cost, the bottom line has yet to bless. The Downeaster route between Portland and Boston registered a 12 percent decline in yearly ridership in 2003, and Maine state officials conceded that continued service is not certain when federal start-up subsidies expire in June 2005.

"Nothing is guaranteed," said Patricia Douglas, marketing and development director of the state agency that has worked in partnership with Amtrak to operate the line.

Greg Nadeau, director of policy and communications for the Maine Department of Transportation, said state officials are gathering statistics they hope will persuade federal authorities to continue subsidizing the line in summer 2005 and beyond.

The Downeaster has received $2 million annually in government backing since its inception in December 2001. About $430,000 comes from Maine each year; the rest is from federal sources. Although the train makes three stops in New Hampshire -- at Dover, Durham, and Exeter -- the Granite State does not help with operating costs, Downeaster officials said.

Although Nadeau said he hopes the service will continue, he said Downeaster officials "don't know yet where the resources will come from."

The Downeaster could receive good news next month, when a federal appellate court in Washington is expected to rule on a dispute over the train's speed. Federal transportation officials have given the green light for a maximum speed of 79 miles per hour, but Guilford Transportation, which owns the tracks between Portland and Plaistow, N.H., has challenged that decision.

Now, the maximum speed is 60 miles per hour, which makes for a 2-hour, 45-minute trip from Portland to Boston. Downeaster officials are working to reduce that time.

David Cooper, a banker who commutes to Boston from Exeter, said the sudden end of rail service would be "devastating." Cooper has ridden the Downeaster since the service began, and the 75-minute trip allows him to socialize with conductors, cafe attendants, and fellow commuters. "It's a three-minute walk from my house," Cooper said. "When I'm going to the train, people are usually brushing snow off their cars."

Besides the convenience, the commute is also relatively affordable. A monthly pass for unlimited rides costs $336 for Jordan, which translates to less than $17 per work day. In a city where daily parking can cost much more than $17, not to mention the tolls and fuel to reach Boston, the pass is like found money, Jordan said.

Even Douglas, the Downeaster development director, acknowledges that Jordan is an extreme case.

"He's a really nice man, but he obviously likes a lot of down time," she said.

Jordan, however, sees his time on the train as a great way to keep work outside the home.

"This commute is the ultimate in time management," he said. "I get a ton of work done."

On yesterday morning's journey, Jordan finished a project due at 1 p.m., and also had time to watch part of a James Bond movie from a laptop powered by an electrical outlet on the train, and chat with a half-dozen of the 56 regular commuters who use the Downeaster

This is the kind of passenger base the Downeaster is trying to build, said Douglas, who cited an increase from 40 regular daily commuters in 2002. For the last three months of 2003, she said, ridership increased to a total of 64,501, from 60,730, for the same period in 2002.

Behind those numbers lie the exploits of the Downeaster's marathon man.

"This is what life is all about, challenges," Jordan said. "Anyone can do what I'm doing. You just have to be put in the right situation."
Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff, 1/31/2004

SIDNEY, Maine -- Boston commuters who grind their teeth during the patience-fraying gantlet of exhaust-shrouded traffic and bad etiquette should consider the case of Stephen Jordan. The way to work could be much, much longer.

Jordan, a retirement fund analyst in Boston's Financial District, commutes 340 miles a day, 1,700 miles a week, from a 15-acre spread outside Augusta that he praises for its proximity to nature and ultra-affordability.

But there is a price: Jordan spends nine hours a day on the road and the rails, leaving his house at 4:15 a.m. to drive 62 miles to Portland and ride Amtrak's Downeaster train to North Station. After an eight-hour workday and a long trip home, Jordan opens his door to greet his wife at 10:15 p.m.

Although the Downeaster is scrambling for ways to increase ridership, the train's comfort and camaraderie make the trip palatable -- for the right person, he says.

"You have to be very regimented. It's just like doing double sessions" of football practice, said Jordan, 35, a former Boston College defensive lineman.

Yesterday morning, with 8-degree darkness outside his rural home, Jordan moved like an athlete ready to begin a game, his manner slightly on edge, his eyes glancing regularly at the time that regulates his life.

"It feels like `Groundhog Day,' " Jordan said, referring to the Bill Murray movie in which every day begins exactly the same.

"It's ridiculous," his wife, Kristin, said good-naturedly. The couple spend about an hour together each weeknight, catching up on the day's events, before Jordan goes to sleep.

The journey might be the longest daily overland commute in New England, but Jordan says the Downeaster is why he can live in central Maine and work in Boston.

"It's not like riding the commuter rail in Boston, and it sure beats the Orange Line," said Jordan, who moved to Sidney from his native Roxbury last May.

But what Jordan lauds for convenience and cost, the bottom line has yet to bless. The Downeaster route between Portland and Boston registered a 12 percent decline in yearly ridership in 2003, and Maine state officials conceded that continued service is not certain when federal start-up subsidies expire in June 2005.

"Nothing is guaranteed," said Patricia Douglas, marketing and development director of the state agency that has worked in partnership with Amtrak to operate the line.

Greg Nadeau, director of policy and communications for the Maine Department of Transportation, said state officials are gathering statistics they hope will persuade federal authorities to continue subsidizing the line in summer 2005 and beyond.

The Downeaster has received $2 million annually in government backing since its inception in December 2001. About $430,000 comes from Maine each year; the rest is from federal sources. Although the train makes three stops in New Hampshire -- at Dover, Durham, and Exeter -- the Granite State does not help with operating costs, Downeaster officials said.

Although Nadeau said he hopes the service will continue, he said Downeaster officials "don't know yet where the resources will come from."

The Downeaster could receive good news next month, when a federal appellate court in Washington is expected to rule on a dispute over the train's speed. Federal transportation officials have given the green light for a maximum speed of 79 miles per hour, but Guilford Transportation, which owns the tracks between Portland and Plaistow, N.H., has challenged that decision.

Now, the maximum speed is 60 miles per hour, which makes for a 2-hour, 45-minute trip from Portland to Boston. Downeaster officials are working to reduce that time.

David Cooper, a banker who commutes to Boston from Exeter, said the sudden end of rail service would be "devastating." Cooper has ridden the Downeaster since the service began, and the 75-minute trip allows him to socialize with conductors, cafe attendants, and fellow commuters. "It's a three-minute walk from my house," Cooper said. "When I'm going to the train, people are usually brushing snow off their cars."

Besides the convenience, the commute is also relatively affordable. A monthly pass for unlimited rides costs $336 for Jordan, which translates to less than $17 per work day. In a city where daily parking can cost much more than $17, not to mention the tolls and fuel to reach Boston, the pass is like found money, Jordan said.

Even Douglas, the Downeaster development director, acknowledges that Jordan is an extreme case.

"He's a really nice man, but he obviously likes a lot of down time," she said.

Jordan, however, sees his time on the train as a great way to keep work outside the home.

"This commute is the ultimate in time management," he said. "I get a ton of work done."

On yesterday morning's journey, Jordan finished a project due at 1 p.m., and also had time to watch part of a James Bond movie from a laptop powered by an electrical outlet on the train, and chat with a half-dozen of the 56 regular commuters who use the Downeaster

This is the kind of passenger base the Downeaster is trying to build, said Douglas, who cited an increase from 40 regular daily commuters in 2002. For the last three months of 2003, she said, ridership increased to a total of 64,501, from 60,730, for the same period in 2002.

Behind those numbers lie the exploits of the Downeaster's marathon man.

"This is what life is all about, challenges," Jordan said. "Anyone can do what I'm doing. You just have to be put in the right situation."

Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
From The Boston Globe


 

#2 Allan

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Posted 01 February 2004 - 11:32 PM

340 Miles? And to think that I thought my neighbors were crazy when they drove 60 miles to Downtown Detroit every morning, and then 60 miles to get back home at night!

#3 Scott

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 05:11 PM

As was mentioned on another forum, deep in this article is this:

"The Downeaster route between Portland and Boston registered a 12 percent decline in yearly ridership in 2003, and Maine state officials conceded that continued service is not certain when federal start-up subsidies expire in June 2005.

"Nothing is guaranteed," said Patricia Douglas, marketing and development director of the state agency that has worked in partnership with Amtrak to operate the line.

Greg Nadeau, director of policy and communications for the Maine Department of Transportation, said state officials are gathering statistics they hope will persuade federal authorities to continue subsidizing the line in summer 2005 and beyond.

The Downeaster has received $2 million annually in government backing since its inception in December 2001. About $430,000 comes from Maine each year; the rest is from federal sources. Although the train makes three stops in New Hampshire -- at Dover, Durham, and Exeter -- the Granite State does not help with operating costs, Downeaster officials said"

#4 Cotuit

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 05:30 PM

Cow Hampshire's gonna get itself kicked out of New England if it doesn't smarten' up!

Another problem for attracting commuters to the Downeaster is that Guilford (the frieght company that owns the tracks) has been limiting the speed of the Amtrak trains. Amtrak seems to be about on the verge of winning this fight, so we could soon see a significant drop in travel time.

#5 tocoto

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 06:33 PM

When the speeds go up, I might move to Portsmouth or southern ME. It's beautiful up there and so much less expensive. I like the city though.....

#6 Cotuit

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Posted 02 February 2004 - 06:39 PM

I almost moved to Portsmouth when I was leaving New York. I ended up deciding on Providence quite at the last minute.

When I live in Portland in 1993 the Downeaster was supposed to be done very soon. I don't think it actually started operation until 2001. :rolleyes:

#7 tocoto

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 08:32 AM

Maybe off subject since this is not the "psychologist forum". I've been to Sydney ME. Its about 3 hours from Boston by car on a real "good" day. My unprofesssional opinion is that this guy is nuts.

#8 M. Brown

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 11:49 AM

340 MILES!?!?! wow. That is a lot.

#9 Allan

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 05:01 PM

340 MILES!?!?! wow. That is a lot.

Yeah...and to think that at one time I thought one of the SSP forumer's 120 mile long commute was ridiculously long!

Seriously though, I don't think I could ever commute more than about 60 miles. When I get a job, hopefully my commute will only be a few blocks. I do not want to have to endure the traffic of a long commute.

#10 monsoon

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 08:29 PM



#11 DruidCity

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 09:19 PM

That is mind-boggling.

I have heard that the CEO of one of Birmingham's largest and best-known corporations lives in Memphis, which is over 240 miles away.

#12 Guest_donaltopablo_*

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 09:44 PM

That's just insane.

Oh, and on the subject of the CEO living far away. A lot of times, that's not that uncommon. Most big company CEOs spend very little time in their office. They are usually on the road away. Also, it may be possible his primary residence is in Memphis, but maintains and apartment, or even a hotel, for the days he's in Bham.

#13 Cotuit

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Posted 22 April 2004 - 10:28 PM

Oh, and on the subject of the CEO living far away. A lot of times, that's not that uncommon. Most big company CEOs spend very little time in their office. They are usually on the road away. Also, it may be possible his primary residence is in Memphis, but maintains and apartment, or even a hotel, for the days he's in Bham.

That's very common in New York. It's called a pied-a-terre. There are executives in NYC, who live in Connecticut and commute on MetroNorth, yet have a place in the city in case they work late, or want to socialize in the city and don't want to go home later.

#14 HowardL

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Posted 27 April 2004 - 11:50 PM

I once met a man who lived in Grand Rapids, MI and drove into Chicago, through the Loop and up to LakeView to work. Four times a week, every week.

Screwy thing isn't the +/- 200 miles that he drove, but that he woke up in Eastern time, worked in Chicago time, then drove back to Eastern.

Wears me out just to think about it.