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Portland Maine

After a meeting in Portland Maine, we decided to stay the weekend and see the city and were very glad we did.
Portland is a wonderful city for a weekend getaway - historic buildings, picturesque (working) harbor, interesting shops, a large number of unique coffee shops, ferries to the islands in Casco bay, hiking trails, museums and very friendly people.
Portland is easy to get to with 5 trains daily on Amtrak's "Downeaster" from Boston.  While the station is a little out of town, the local bus system METRO operates to downtown from a stop right next to the station.  Service on Sundays is limited but doable with a little bit of advanced planning.  Once downtown, Portland is a very walkable city.
I highly recommend Portland for a weekend getaway if you live in the Northeast, or as a wonderful side trip for those visiting Boston.
We will definately be returning as we only touched the high points.

Green Line Shutdown

The Green Line shutdown on Wednesday during the height of the rush hour with windchills below zero only serves to emphasize the importance of implementing the transportation plan proposed by Governor Patrick in last weeks State of the Commonwealth speech.  If more emphasis is needed, the Red Line had two train breakdowns during the same time period.  While not picked up by the media, these breakdowns added to an already horrendous commute.
For those of you unfamiliar with Boston, the Green Line is a light rail subway serving a major chunk of downtown Boston and essential to many commuters.  On Wednesday, an aged electrical cable caught fire at Arlington St. Station, neccessitating the shutdown of the entire downtown portion of the line so firefighters could safely locate the source of the fire and so "T" officials could determine if more was affected.  Riders were evacuated to the street and onto substitute shuttle buses.  Service substitutions, an inconvenience at any time, were made more difficult with sub-zero windchills and rush traffic.
Heading to a dental appointment, I managed to get right in the middle of both the Green Line shutdown and both Red Line breakdowns.  After trying to use the shuttle bus to get to my appointment, I realized after it took over 1/2 hour to get from Park St. to Copley Sq. (normally less than 10 minutes), I wasn't going to make the appointment and had to reschedule.
Governor Patrick's plan calls for major (billions) investment in the states transportation system and the resulting tax increases to fund it. It is outlined in the link on my previous post. It is too soon to know whether the state legislature will pass this or any similar plan, but Wednesday's fiasco only proves that the governors plan is essential.  With a system as old as Boston's, maintenance is necessary and has been sidetracked for much too long.
Patrick pushes for tax hikes to overhaul transit system

Finally - someone is ready to do what is
needed. Today, Patrick said he prefers increasing the income and/or
sales taxes. Thats great for raising the necessary funds, but does
nothing to urge the public to drive less. I would prefer to see an
increase in the gas tax (it hasn't been raised since 1991 - can you say
that for anything else?) or even better, a VMT tax (vehicle miles
traveled).

MBTA

Cash-strapped T proposes 23 percent fare increase

http://www.boston.com/yourtown/somerville/articles/2012/03/29/mbta_unveils_23_percent_fare_hike_limited_service_cuts_also_proposed/

While not totally happy (there is still a fare increase and minimal cuts to service), I breathed a sigh of relief to see the T's "final" plan to attack its spiralling deficit.  This will have only a minimal impact compared to the scenarios put out a few months ago that would have involved fare increases of up to 43% and cuts in service of up to 50% or more.
But this is only a one year fix.  The deficits will only increase if a long term solution is not found.  First, the amounts allocated to the T required under federal law to offset the environmental impacts of the Big Dig must be taken off their balance sheet.  This should have never been allocated to them as the Big Dig was to benefit drivers.
It it now time for the state legislature to address our transportation funding for all modes.  Transportation is an important issue that we can't continue to punt on.  We need to find a stable way to fund our vital transportation resources, whether it a raise in gas taxes, more tolling or some other innovative idea.  I know gas tax or toll increases are not popular, but are probably necessary. 
It is time for drivers to pay more of their share of transportation costs.  Gas, excise and other similar taxes only cover about half of the costs of highway construction and maintenance.  And consider this - a deficit in road funds will not mean roads will be closed or torn up.  Those of us who use public transportation don't have that guarantee.

Mt. Washington Cog Railway

It has always struck me as ironic that one of the oldest public transportation lines in North America, The Mt. Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire required a car to access and ride.  I have just found a way that a visit can be done without driving  if you don't mind walking a bit.
The Appalachian Mountain Club operates a hikers shuttle to hiking trails throughout the White Mountains during the summer and weekends in the fall.  The stop at the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trailhead is 2/10ths of a mile from the base station of the cog railway.
It may be a little late for this year, but if you can do a weekend in the next few it may work or you can start planning for next year.
Coming from outside of the area, it will require an overnight stay in Pinkham Notch in both directions where bus service is availale from Boston once a day via Concord Coaches.http://www.concordcoachlines.com/
This years schedule from Pinkham Notch leaves 810am changing shuttles at Bretton Woods Irving at 910am and arriving at the trailhead at 920am.  Return leaves the trailhead at 440pm and arrives at Pinkham Notch at 630pm.
There is a hotel right at the bus stop in Pinkham Notch, the Joe Dodge Lodge.
Another possibility is taking the Concord Coach to Lincoln NH where the AMC Shuttle makes a connection to the Highland Center at Crawford Notch, staying at the Highland Lodge and leaving the next morning at 900am arriving at the trailhead at 920am. The return leaves at 440pm and arrives at the lodge at 515pm.  The next day, the shuttle leaves at 930am arriving in Lincoln at 1110am where a same day Concord Coach connection at 125pm travels south to Boston.  This assumes that you aren't going to spend more time seeing the rest of the area.
I know this is a little complicated, but for those who do not or chose not to drive it permits a visit to this historic site.

Poplular Places - Glacier National Park


Popular Places - Glacier National Park


Getting There


Amtrak - Amtrak's “Empire Builder” operating between Chicago and Seattle serves Glacier National Park with two stops, E. Glacier near the Glacier Park Lodge and W. Glacier about three miles from Apgar Village. The Belton Station Shuttle provides a connection from the W. Glacier station into the park to Apgar Village Inn and Lake McDonald Lodge.


Getting Around


Glacier Park Shuttle - Seasonal (early July to early September) two-way service along Going-to-the-Sun Road between the Apgar Transit Center and St. Mary Visitor Center. Buses run every 15 or 30 minutes dependent on location and time of day between approximately 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m  


East Side Shuttle - Operates from the Glacier Park Lodge, near E. Glacier Station along the east side of the park continuing to the Prince of Wales Hotel in Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park.  Connections to Glacier Park Shuttle available at St. Mary's Visitor Center.

http://www.sfweekly.com/2011-06-22/news/public-transit-trip-san-francisco-los-angeles-joe-eskenazi/

Another example of how much public transportation exists especially in California, notoriously famous
for its car culture.  Who would have thought that you could do a trip like this all on local transit.  As the
author points out "who would want to do this" considering the availability of Amtrak, several intercity
bus lines and flights, but the point is, it is possible and points out the large amount of public transit
that exists, much more than most people realize.
The King City to Paso Robles segment mentioned in the article as only available in December is now
possible year round (weekdays only) via MST (Monterey-Salinas Transit) routes 82 (Salinas and King City
to Fort Hunter) and 83 (Fort Hunter to Paso Robles).  The buses operate twice a day in each direction
and make connections in both directions outside the gate of Ft. Hunter.
Thanks to San Francisco Weekly reporter Joe Eskenazi for doing the "crazy" expedition.

Poplular Places - Sedona AZ



The colorful buttes, pinnacles, mesas and canyons surrounding Sedona are famous the world around for its red rock vistas. The remains of ancient wetlands, these crimson cliffs have been carved by the forces of the desert into one of natures most magnificent masterpieces. US Forest Service In addition to its spectacular natural beauty, Sedona is know for its thriving arts colony with numerous shops an galleries throughout the town.  Sedona isn't as well served by public transportation as some other popular destinations, but it is possible to visit without a car.  For areas near Sedona that are not served by public transportation, many tour companies provide service.  Visit Sedona provides a comprehensive list of tour operators in the area.

Getting There

Sedona Phoenix Shuttle – Shuttle from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to Sedona. Nine departures daily with additional stops at nearby towns of Cottonwood, Oak Creek Village and Camp Verde. Reservation required. Sedona stop is in West Sedona. With connection via Verde Lynx to Uptown Sedona. Flight connections to points worldwide.

Arizona Shuttle - Twice daily shuttle from Flagstaff Amtrak station to Sedona. Operates March to October. Connections in Flagstaff to points nationwide.

Amtrak Thruway Bus - Thruway bus from Flagstaff. Connection to points nationwide in Flagstaff.

Getting Around

Sedona Roadrunner - Free shuttle in Uptown Sedona. (** Have just learned this service has been discontinued**)

Verde Lynx - Local bus between Cottonwood and Sedona serving W. Sedona, Uptown Sedona and the Poco Diablo Resort.