How many towns in America with a population the size of Durham can claim TEN AMTRAK trains per day, everyday, stopping in their town? Not many, if any.
How many towns our size can claim a train ridership of 55,000 to 60,000 per year boarding and de-training in their town's station? Probably none.
How many towns our size have easy direct access via just one passenger train (with no changes) to two cities (Boston and Portland) and nine additional towns, and all they have to offer, every day of the year? (Except for Old Orchard Beach, of course, which is a seasonal stop.)
How many townspeople in America have access to comfortable modern AMTRAK coaches (have you noticed the great re-modeling in Downeaster coach interiors?), including both Business Class as well as Coach Class, and comfortable sit-down-at-the table big window cafe cars stacked with all manner of local (i.e., Maine grown and produced) food product? With skilled and friendly conductors and cafe car staff? With super-friendly train hosts on-board? With good on-time performance (barring occasional exceptions which are outside the realm of the Downeaster's control)?
How many towns can boast an historic 1880s heated and cooled train station which itself contains a good eatery - UNH's Dairy Bar (with some food grown on UNH farmland within walking distance of the train station)? A station built with the design of the great architect H.H. Richardson (hence "Richardsonian architecture"), and built with a host of materials, including original imported Italian terrazzo floors which we could never afford to build with today. And check out the many historical posters.
Yes, Durham is in a tiny minority of American towns when it comes to passenger rail service. Let us appreciate the special town we live in and the value-added to our homes and businesses because we have this wonderful train service - with the added knowledge that, thanks to Wi-Fi on board, our Downeaster is a serious value-adder for those passengers who work on board in those expansive comfortable seats with drop-down trays (or at full-size tables in the Cafe Car). For some, riding time is work time, recognized as such by some Boston and other employers of Downeaster passengers. Talk about productivity and value-added! The train actually creates wealth - and jobs! Such economic value is formidable. And, through the AMTRAK ticket machine at the station, or through one's personal computer, an AMTRAK ticket to anywhere USA that AMTRAK serves is just a keypunch away.
Why stop in Boston? Why not stay on board for New York, Washington, Miami, New Orleans, or Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle? For many Durhamites are within walking or a very short driving distance of all of those places (not to mention many of the great National Parks of the West - Glacier National Park in Montana actually has three AMTRAK stations within the National Park itself with trains arriving and departing there every day of the week!)
Durham resident John E. Carroll has represented Durham on the AMTRAK Downeaster Operations Committee since its inception in 2001, and is also a member of the Board of Directors of Train Riders Northeast. He is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Conservation at UNH.