Quinn takes the A train
Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, was recently named one of MaineBiz magazine’s 2011 “Women to Watch.”
“When I started this job I had never ridden a train before,” Quinn told MaineBiz. That was 11 years ago. Today she is recognized as an expert on developing passenger rail in rural markets and for making a lasting impact on Maine’s transportation infrastructure and economy. The mission of the Portland-based NNEPRA is to bring back passenger rail to the state.
MaineBiz reported that she and her five-person staff have transformed a fledgling Downeaster train between Boston and Portland into a viable, popular transportation mode. Last year, the Downeaster served 500,000 annual passengers, a ridership increase of 8 percent over the previous year. Since 2005, ridership and revenue have grown by more than 100 percent. NNEPRA’s annual operating budget is $15.2 million, 54 percent of which is generated from ticket, parking and food sales.
Quinn has also led NNEPRA’s expansion of the Downeaster to Freeport and Brunswick, a $38 million construction project now under way. That project is being funded with a competitive $35 million federal grant.
Quinn told MaineBiz she’s currently concentrating on cutting the travel time between Portland and Boston to just over two hours. The service will add two more daily round-trips for a total of seven. She’s also determined to make the Brunswick expansion a success, using the same tactics she brought to the original Portland-to-Boston service: niche marketing to college students and professors, patients of city doctors, sports fans and shoppers.
For all her successes, Quinn admits she’s disappointed train revival hasn’t come along faster, and acknowledges the critics who’d rather have a commuter train — something she wants as well — when there’s funding for it.
Quinn grew up in Norwich, Conn., attended Eastern Connecticut State University, then spent seven years working her way up in the hotel business. She eventually became general manager for the DoubleTree Hotel in Portland. NNEPRA first hired her as a part-time consultant in 2000. She was promoted to executive director in 2005. Throughout, Quinn has held on to a philosophy she learned as a child: “If you’re going to do something, do it well. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.”
Looking back, she says her greatest accomplishment at NNEPRA was adding the fifth train between Portland and Boston in 2008.