Save Cornwells Heights


August 28, 2006


Right now, the major Cornwells Heights action is here:

It's 10 days of Amtrak fare hike protest rides, August 22-31, 2006.

Just 3 more days to publicize the commuter cause!

See also

The Amtrak "Who Needs To Go To College?" Calculator.


[The remainder of this page is a copy of the July 4th, 2006, Save Cornwells Heights main page.]



Independence Day, July 4, 2006


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Site Top Ten Links

Understanding the Damage to Commuters' Lives

Amtrak Board of Directors Bid

Final Pre-3/1/2006 Amtrak Funding Cutoff Warning

"Buying" Senators for $1.10 to $3.40

September 2005 Station Information Kit

Union Station and... $$$ CASH REWARDS $$$

The End of the Beginning

Acela Research

The Saint and the Station

Remembrance and “Recessional”




The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen-or-so Remaining New York City Monthly Pass Commuters


When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people [Amtrak’s monthly pass commuters] to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another [Amtrak’s Union Station management in Washington, D.C.] and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all railroad stations are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Signage, Service and the pursuit of Ridership Growth. — That to secure these rights, Government Railroads are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government Railroad becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Commuters to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government Railroad management, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Government Railroads long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government Railroad, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Commuters; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former System of Government Railroading. The history of the present management of Amtrak is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these Commuters. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


The Facts will be submitted online, beginning later this month, on the website  On March 31st, 2006, I [Rick Booth] spent $74.60 to buy 30 tickets for interstate Amtrak rides for all 16 U.S. Senators from the states along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.  All of their tickets were sold to me at 90% discounts, far below commuter rates, by Amtrak, in clear violation of Amtrak’s 2006 subsidy law, the penalty for which is the cutting off of federal subsidy money to the railroad.  The law’s language was only intended to kill off the Northeast Corridor commuters with unaffordable $5,000+ increases in yearly commuting costs.  But since Amtrak arrogated to sell me those tickets in March, the law now also has the effect of killing off Amtrak.  Four at a time, the Senators are invited to ride into and out of their own home states in late August with my family and me, a state a day, while I present the case for either shutting down the railroad as per their own Public Law 109-115 or else changing the law, forgiving the railroad, and restoring affordable commuting to the Northeast Corridor.


The ten-day Corridor trip (which also includes the Virginia extension, plus an August 31st return to Cornwells Heights from Washington on the one-year anniversary of my published promise to help fix Union Station after saving Cornwells Heights) will be blogged for Internet and media attention.  Whether or not they actually ride with me, I will solicit the endorsement of all the Senators for a change in Amtrak’s anti-commuting policy, which Congress wrote into law last year at Amtrak’s urging, without the Senators’ realizing what the law’s language actually meant.  A 40%-subsidized national railroad has no business playing such dirty tricks.


Forty years ago, in 1966, a full fare round-trip ticket [on the Pennsylvania Railroad, Amtrak’s direct ancestor via the Penn Central merger] between Philadelphia and New York City cost $8.60.  When adjusted for inflation using the government’s own online inflation calculator, that is equivalent to $53.75 in 2006 dollars.  A year ago, discounted commuter tickets cost, effectively, $35.17 for the same round trip, an effective 35% discount off the historically-adjusted full fare – quite a reasonable discount ratio for a guaranteed daily rider, month in and month out.  On September 9th, 2005, Amtrak gave its commuters 11 days’ notice that their effective daily fare would increase to $56, 4% higher than adjusted historical full fare tickets.  At the same time, Amtrak increased its full fare round trips to $112, 108% higher than the inflation-adjusted historical level.  Amtrak’s main commuter trains have since then risen to a round-trip full fare of $148, 175% higher than the inflation-adjusted historical level!  And in order to now comply with Congress’ Public Law 109-115, Amtrak is expected to raise the commuting fare yet again to $74 per day ($1,332/month), 38% higher than the inflation-adjusted historical full fare level.


It is so time for a revolution!


The American Declaration of Independence, on which the title and first two paragraphs of this essay are modeled word for word, ends with the sentence, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”  Though there are, these days, some thirteen or so monthly pass riders still left at the Cornwells Heights station, this Declaration of Independence is, in point of fact, my own.  Yet I believe that it mirrors the desperation, anger, and angst felt all along the Northeast Corridor by the roughly 2,000 ordinary job commuters who once put their faith in the stability and moral rectitude of the government-backed railroad – but no more.  It is now time to put our faith in a higher power, that a government of the people, by the people, for the people will not now abandon the people who once put their faith in that government’s own railroad, Amtrak.


To slightly modify the closing line of the American Declaration of Independence, for the support of this Commuter Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, I pledge three full months of my Life (since I’m taking a summer leave of absence to fix Amtrak, to be followed by available time as necessary), my Fortune (a few tens of thousands of dollars when all travel, media, and lost income is accounted for) and my sacred Honor.  And not that I’m hedging my bet while trusting in Providence this August, but I will also arrive there quite physically in Rhode Island on August 23rd, the first day of riding down the Corridor – possibly with Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry in tow at $1.10 each out of Boston!  ;-)


See you soon at


 -- Rick Booth



 Adams, Jefferson, Bunker Hill, and Powerball


It’s the Fourth of July now, and in keeping with this website’s tradition of writing of things other than trains on special days, important days, herewith is a July 4th story, connected this day from the dots of history, some certain tracings of which you will probably not find written of anywhere else.


You may well have heard of the story of the simultaneous deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  But did you know that America’s first railroad, in mid-construction, was on hand for the event, too?  Or why it was being built at all?  What are the odds?


To review a bit of history, in 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of five men to draw up the Declaration of Independence.  Within that committee of five, two men were chosen to actually write the first draft: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.  So why is it that Jefferson gets all the credit for writing it, and John Adams none?  According to an 1822 letter from John Adams to a friend, the following conversation – following Jefferson’s having suggested to Adams that Adams write the Declaration – settled the matter:


JOHN ADAMS: “I will not.”


THOMAS JEFFERSON: “You should do it.”


JOHN ADAMS: “Oh! no.”


THOMAS JEFFERSON: “Why will you not?  You ought to do it.”


JOHN ADAMS: “I will not.”




JOHN ADAMS: “Reasons enough.”


THOMAS JEFFERSON: “What can be your reasons?”


JOHN ADAMS: “Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business.”


JOHN ADAMS: “Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise.”


JOHN ADAMS: “Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.”


THOMAS JEFFERSON: “Well, if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.”


JOHN ADAMS: “Very well.  When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.”


And the rest, as they say, is history.  John Adams went on to become the second President of the United States, and Thomas Jefferson the third, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to subsequently be elected to the presidency.  They ran against each other for that office in 1800 as Adams was seeking his second term, with horribly dirty politicking on both sides, not unlike the current election year attack ad mentality – and some of it was even dirtier.  For years after Jefferson won that election, neither was on speaking terms with the other.  But in old age, they became pen pals again and enjoyed their final years in friendly and frequent correspondence.  And both knew they were dying as the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence approached in the summer of 1826.


At some point in the evening of July 3rd, Jefferson roused from a coma and asked if it was the Fourth of July.  Just past noon the next day, the Fourth, as the sound of the celebrating church bells of nearby Charlottesville rang out in the distance, he died at his home, Monticello.


A few hours later, John Adams died at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts (sometimes referred to as Braintree; the boundary of jurisdiction between Quincy and Braintree having moved at some point).  He is often quoted as having said on that last day, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”  These were not his last words, and it is sometimes disputed whether the word after “Jefferson” was actually “survives.”  (The final word may have been indistinct, with others later interpolating the word “survives.”)  In any event, he was aware that it was the Fourth, and he thought to speak of Jefferson.  He heard both the sounds of cannon fire in celebration and the thunder of a summer storm in his final hours.


So what were the odds that two men yolked together by history at the ages of 33 and 40 might die separately but together on the fiftieth anniversary day of their grandest creation?  Roughly half-a-billion-to-one, if one believes death is a random stalker.  I actually tried calculating it a couple of ways – just ballpark calculations – as follows:


Suppose you assume that a man at any given age has about an equal chance of dying on any given day between his current age and 100.  (Some few did live past 100 in the 18th and 19th centuries, but negligibly few.)  As of July 4th, 1776, Jefferson had 24,388 days left to go to age 100.  Adams had “only” 21,666.  The odds that both would die on the same specific day, 18261 days later (and yes, I’m accounting for 1800 not being a leap year), is…


1 in 24,388 x 21,666, which is…


1 in 528,390,408, which is…


about 1 in half-a-billion.


The likely distribution of death dates, though, is not a linear function of time, but rather starts out low, peaks between about ages 50 and 70 (for people of that era), and tails off toward zero at age 100.  Given, though, that both men died past the peak zone, at 83 and 90, the linear approximation would not seem to be biasing the odds unduly high (towards specious rarity).


Then I tried another way of calculating the odds, using historical life expectancy tables for the 1700s and the 1800s, and trying to correct for median-age-at-death vs. average-lifespan-until-death (the usual form of life expectancy reporting, though median age at death is often 15% or so higher due to fast statistical drop-off affecting averaging on the high age end).  Fiddling with the statistics in as unbiased a way as I could think of, I came up with another set of numbers…


1 in 18120 [Jefferson] * 22784 [Adams], which is…


1 in 412, 846, 080, which is…


also about 1 in half-a-billion.


The two calculational techniques were fundamentally distinct in their inputs and assumptions, but they largely agreed in the end, somewhere near 1 in half a billion.  Put another way, if every American citizen who was ever born was paired with exactly one other American citizen at a random day when both were in early middle age, the number of such citizen pairs you would expect to have seen die on the same day fifty years later would, at this point in history, be just about 1.  Funny, that 1 pair just happened to be Jefferson and Adams.  No wonder people throughout the country in 1826 seemed to sense the hand of Divine Providence somewhere tucked back behind the odds.


Put in perspective another way, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery are 1 in 146,107,962, about three times better than the odds of two middle-aged men dying on the fiftieth anniversary of their bet.



So how does America’s first railroad fit into all of this arcane odds-making?  Maybe it wasn’t just the 50th Fourth that John Adams was waiting around for.  Bostonians had decided, the year before, to build a great granite monument to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill – the bloodiest battle of the Revolutionary War, which happened a full year before the Declaration of Independence on the town’s outskirts (part of the “shoot first; declare independence later” ethic of the time).  The granite for the monument was to be mined in Quincy, not far from John Adams’ home.  But how did they plan to get 6-ton carted loads of granite slabs from Quincy to Bunker Hill to build the monument?  Answer: Build a railroad.  Ground was broken to build the Granite Railway of Quincy on April 1st, 1826, three months and three days before John Adams died.  He surely knew it was coming.  Three months and three days after he died, the railroad was officially opened for business.  It had wooden rails topped with iron plates, and its only “locomotives” were horses, as steam engines for railroad use were still a few years away in America at that time.  But it was nonetheless a working railroad – America’s first – standing watch in Quincy for the death of Adams.  What are the odds?


Five years to the day after Jefferson and Adams died, James Monroe, America’s fifth President, also died on July 4th, 1831.  And in 1836, James Madison, America’s fourth President and the “Father of the Constitution” died on June 28th, a full six days before the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.  After that, and perhaps somewhat happily for the nervous loved ones of American Presidents, the art of synchronized presidential dying seemingly just faded away.  Calvin Coolidge (or perhaps his mother), in a bit of a trend-bucking coup, managed a synchronized birth for himself on July 4th, 1872.


So, for all this, is the world really random – like winning Powerball – or is there something else afoot?  If dead Presidents, America’s half-finished first railroad, and the coming of Calvin Coolidge have anything to say about it…  Well, you decide.  What are the odds?



In closing, I have to note just one more very, very important July 4th birthday – that of my wife, Joyce.  Today marks the twentieth time her birthday has come around since we met nearly two decades ago.  It has been her support throughout this past year which has allowed me to work the Cornwells Heights problem and politics to the extent that I have.  It is with her support that we continue.  And year after year now, I’m grateful that America, on July 4th, always comes through with an appropriate show (fireworks!) to celebrate her role in my life – not to mention the birth of the once and future greatest country on earth.


What are the odds?


Have a wonderful Fourth of July!


       Rick Booth,