David Blittersdorf’s Train

August 23, 2017

by John McClaughry

Last week’s issue of Seven Days carried a long and informative story from reporter Terry Hallenbeck about the prospects for recreating commuter rail in Vermont.

Never mind that Howard Dean’s fabled Champlain Flyer cost the taxpayers $28 million dollars fifteen years ago, in the vain hope of getting commuters from Charlotte, Shelburne and South Burlington to travel to their well paid jobs in Burlington, to arrive at a waterfront rail station remodeled to handle the arriving hordes.

It is a canon of Green theology that irresponsible, selfish Americans must be taxed or subsidized out of their personal vehicles and into a group carriage like a rail car, all to save the planet from the menace of global warming.

Guess who is behind the new push for commuter rail? Mr. Green enterprise himself,  VPIRG donor David “Wind Farm” Blittersdorf. He laid out $6 million for some reconditioned rail cars from Dallas in the hope of marrying them with the state owned rail lines and stations, to whisk commuters to Burlington from Rutland and maybe Montpelier.

And here’s the inevitable kicker: Blittersdorf “readily acknowledged that he won’t get this project rolling without public or private subsidies, or both. He imagines that some of Vermont’s large employers such as UVM, Global Foundries and state government will subsidize the trains in exchange for free transit for their employees.”

Oh, really? Are Vermonters dumb enough to fall for this costly foolishness all over again?

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

H. Brooke Paige August 3, 2017 at 7:41 pm

“Pardon Me Boys is that the Blittersdorf Boondoggle?”

At $3 to $5 per passenger mile, Blittersdorf’s latest scheme should vacuum up taxpayer money by the boxcar load ! Dave, once again, is setting the cart before the horse (of more precisely the caboose before the locomotive) buying up derelict RDC self-propelled passenger railcars that should be spending their last days in a museum rather than struggling down the tracks in hopes of conning the gullible Vermont Legislature into taking a fast ride down a dead-end siding.

The Budd RDC (Rail Diesel Cars, also known as Buddliners) that Blittersdorf has been rescuing from the Texas railroad scrap line, were revolutionary when they were first introduced in the late 1940’s – one experimental model even sported jet engines mounted on its roof ! ! Riding these antiques 70 years later, every passenger will be listening for the railcar’s final death rattle; knowing that the demise has doomed them to an hours long wait for rescue by a reliable GMTA bus after having walked the tracks to the nearest highway!

Of Course this will be of no concern to the “revolutionary” railroad magnate, Dave Blittersdorf, he’ll already have the taxpayers cash safely in the safe at the depot !

(BTW – John, the only thing that will be “whisked” away will be the taxpayers hard earned money as it is sucked out of their wallets !)


j paul Giuliani August 5, 2017 at 12:03 am

Here’s a prediction. Our Montpelier Worthies will impose a “temporary” gas tax “adjustment”. The revenue derived is funneled to Efficiency Vermont (or some equivalent public trough) with an earmark to be used as incubator capital for Dave’s Interurban Acela. Once ridership reaches a self-sustaining critical mass, presto, the state support (think Skippie’s $28,000,000 boondoggle) goes away. What possibly could go wrong.

What I find jaw-dropping astonishing about this nonsense is that, according to media reports, VTrans is leaving the door open for further “discussions and study”. Don’t these people have some real work to do?

During my college years, I rode Boston & Maine Buddliners quite a lot. On two memorable occasions the diesel engines burst into flames, resulting in remarkably unorganized exits.


William Hays August 5, 2017 at 4:41 am

Let Blittersdorf try it, as long as no public funds are involved. Our ridgelines can breathe easier. BTW, I love Budd RDCs! Many great memories, from many years ago.


Willem Post August 5, 2017 at 10:11 am

Any foreign tourists would look at these ancient railroad cars and compare them with the local commuter cars used in Germany, Switzerland, etc., countries that are vastly more densely populated than Vermont.

They would be convinced, Vermonters are playing at being third world, or are so poor that that is all they can afford.

Being uncompetitive on the world stage resulting in decades of $600 billion trade deficits may have something to do with it,


Willem Post August 5, 2017 at 10:13 am

Blittersdorf should start a trolley museum in Burlington.
He likely would qualify as a train conductor and docent, after some training.


Jim Bulmer August 5, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Bittersdorf is no dummy. He knows where the free money is and knows how to con the gullibles in Montpelier. He could have shown PT Barnum some tricks. Why is it that when the Dem/Progressives head for Montpelier they leave what little common sense and reason they posse at home?


Willem Post August 8, 2017 at 2:10 pm


They become infected with group think, AKA, party loyalty producing knee-jerk behavior. One has to “fit in”, be “PC”.

Mantras, such as “green is good” are sung at caucus meetings to counter “greed is good”.

Here is a subsidized green project that would be another nail in the Vermont economy coffin, if more of them were built.


Scott is putting a major crimp on that behavior by having:

no increases in taxes, fees and surcharges.

no off the books financing of programs.

no wind on ridge lines.

his pro-growth agenda.


Fred August 5, 2017 at 3:08 pm

and then, when they GET to this wonderful train station way downtown, from UVM and Global, they WALK to their workplace? Or hire taxis ??? I’d rather pay for another “Bridge to nowhere” as in Husky


Fred August 5, 2017 at 3:08 pm

and then, when they GET to this wonderful train station way downtown, from UVM and Global, they WALK to their workplace? Or hire taxis ??? I’d rather pay for another “Bridge to nowhere” as in Husky


Laurie Smith November 19, 2019 at 5:51 pm
Rob November 19, 2019 at 11:49 pm

August 3, 2017.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

Latest News

VT Left Wing Media Bias Unmasks Itself

July 24, 2020 By Rob Roper Dave Gram was a long time reporter for the Associated Press, is currently the host of what’s billed on WDEV as a...

Using Guns for Self Defense – 3 Recent Examples

July 24, 2020 By John McClaughry  The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal last week published eleven news stories about citizens using a firearm to stop a crime. Here are...

FERC ruling on solar subsidies could help Vermont ratepayers

July 21, 2020 By John McClaughry Last Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finalized its updates to the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), in what the majority...

The Moderate Left’s Stand for Free Speech

July 17, 2020 By David Flemming Harper’s Magazine, a long-running monthly magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts, is hardly what you would call a ‘politically...

Trump’s Regulatory Bill of Rights

July 16, 2020 by John McClaughry “President Trump [last May] issued an executive order entitled  ‘Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery.’ The executive order includes a regulatory bill...