With all due respect to Mr. Nizlek, I bristle at the idea for federal funding for a backwater state whose only purpose in life is to provide a ski resort for wealthy New Yorkers. It is in the states interest to fund its trains, but if it wants to dump $40 million into its train, it can do it on its own. I mean really. $40 million wouldn't cover New Jersey's transit system for 5 days.
I could think of much more useful purposes for $40 million. Like restoring service to Phillipsburg. Or better, restoring service to Scranton.
Now, now, I wouldn't write off all of Vermont in that manner. Though, you could write off most of it....I love the state, but Burlington is the only place I'd ever live.
But your argument brings up three points:
1) Right now, the Ethan Allen is effectively what you describe, a train that really serves a backwater - Rutland. Rutland is a fine little place, but honestly, there's not a whole lot there, and while I know they very much appreciate the service, they also have alternatives - there's no way that you could live in Rutland without a car - so pretty much everyone there has the option to drive over to the Adirondack line (not far) and take the train from there.
Burlington, on the other hand, is a very viable place. It's the only thing that comes close to being a real city in Vermont, there is a large population base, and it's a place with very viable transit. I live perfectly fine without a car here (though I do take advantage of a car-sharing service from time to time) and I know a great many people who do so also. There are a very large number of students here who live here without cars, also, and would provide a large market for the train.
So in essence, for $40 million, you're taking an Amtrak route that serves a backwater, and making serve a great destination. And you'd be sorely mistaken if you didn't think that people from the Metro NY area regularly come to Burlington for all manner of things, especially in the summer, which is when Burlington really shines. I don't think too many people come from that area to visit Rutland, unless you're going skiing, which goes back to your original argument.
2) Burlington is a small city. I'd argue that it's a great small city, and I'll back that up with the fact that we regularly win awards for being one of the top small cities to live and work
. But, it is nonetheless small, especially compared to the New York Metro area. So are you arguing that only major metro areas deserve transportation funding? I believe in encouraging urban development and moving towards more compact, efficient forms of living and so I in general support projects that help to strengthen cities of suburban areas or even rural communities. But what you're arguing is that since I live in a smaller city, I'm undeserving of having rail service that comes to my city? Why should those who live in NYC be given a disproportionate amount of funding over those who choose to live in smaller cities? I just don't think that's an argument that makes any sense. I think it benefits everyone to have a wide-ranging and expansive rail network that covers a variety of destinations. If you were arguing that $40 million could build the Lackawanna cutoff versus extend the Ethan Allen, by all means, I'd vote for the former. I'm not arguing that Burlington and New York City should get an equal amount of transportation funding - but I am arguing that they should get a reasonably proportionate amount.
3) I'm sure there are alternatives to getting between NYC and Scranton. They may not be alternatives that you're interested in (i.e. a bus) but I'm sure they exist. Right now, there is absolutely no transportation link on the corridor in question (between Burlington and Albany). I think that bringing transportation to a corridor that needs and does not have it is in some ways a priority over bringing additional transportation to a corridor that already has service, albeit service that is not very good.