Amtrak Will Go Faster in the Valley Starting Dec. 29

In a grassroots victory, Amtrak trains will be getting faster in the Valley starting December 29. The trip from Springfield to Brattleboro will be 25 minutes faster than it is now. This is the result of the work of members of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP). Their web site is www.NARPrail.org.

The trip from Springfield to New York City on Amtrak is expected to get faster in 2016. It is likely that more trains will run in the Valley, and that Amtrak will soon have direct service from the Valley to Montreal, Canada.

Starting December 29, Amtrak will open stations in Northampton and Greenfield. By April, Holyoke's station will open. The Amherst station will close December 28.

For people who live in the Amherst area, there is a bus from Umass Amherst to downtown Northampton (where the Amtrak station will be) that takes 30 minutes. The schedule for this bus (route Maroon 40) is at www.pvta.com. The fare is $1.25.

There is a bicycle path between Amherst and Northampton. Cars are kept away from the path by a physical barrier. Details are at:

www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-west/norwottuck-rail-trai...

The path is almost completely flat. According to the Los Angeles Times, an average bicycle rider travels at about 18 mph on flat ground. At that speed, the trip between Amherst and Northampton would take about 20 minutes. That's faster than cars usually travel that route during rush hour.

Bicycles are allowed on Amtrak. Details are at:

www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard

Riding Amtrak, rather than driving a car, prevents pollution, and is safer.

The speed of the new train service, and its start date, were confirmed in Valley Post interviews this week with Tim Brennan, director of www.pvpc.org ; Amanda Richard, spokeswomen for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MDOT); and Natalie Blais, spokeswoman for congressman Jim McGovern of Northampton. An Amtrak spokesman referred questions to MDOT.

Amtrak's web site will have the new schedule in early December, Blais said. www.amtrak.com shows the current travel time between Springfield and Brattleboro.

More information about trains in the Valley is at:

www.valleypost.org/node/135

During the 12-month period ending in September, 2014 more than 83,000 people took the Vermonter Amtrak train in Vermont. That train runs daily between Washington, DC and near Burlington, Vermont, with stops in New York City; New Haven, CT; Springfield, Mass.; and Brattleboro.

The number of passenger trains traveling daily between Springfield and Greenfield -- and possibly Brattleboro -- may go from the current one round trip per day to six round trips per day. "The best case timetable would be launching expanded rail passenger service by mid-2015 or 2016," Brennan told the Valley Post last winter. The train would stop in Northampton and Holyoke.

In 2016, Amtrak will start traveling significantly faster than it does now between Springfield, Massachusetts and New Haven, Connecticut, Brennan said. That train trip will take about as long as the same trip by car. Amtrak's Acela trains already travel much faster than cars between New Haven and New York City.

Dan Delabruere works for the Vermont Agency of Transportation. He told the Valley Post that his agency is working on getting Amtrak to go from Brattleboro to Montreal, via Burlington, Vermont. He did not know when that will happen, but said it will happen eventually. Passports will be checked by U.S. and Canadian officials at the train station in downtown Montreal, rather than at the border, he said. This will eliminate the problem of the train having to wait at the border for hours because one passenger doesn't have a passport.

Train service from Brattleboro currently goes through a town that neighbors Burlington and ends in Vermont near the Canadian border. Buses connect the train station nearest Burlington with Burlington.

The MDOT is doing a $5 million study to decide whether to make passenger train service between Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts much faster than it is now.

Amtrak tickets could be made cheaper if the government would raise taxes on billionaires. NARP is lobbying for that.

Comments

Trains to Brattleboro

In addition to all this very positive news and hopefulness, and as regular passengers of AMTRAK, we need to speak to the need for direct (or at least timely transfers) connection from Boston to VT (including Brattleboro). This would take a lot of cars off the road.

Another very ended improvement would be the implementation of a real multi-nodal connection at the Hartford/Springfield Bradley Field airport. Currently the train stoops just a few miles away, but there is almost zero information about that possible connection and no regular bus service. More train service is good, but we need more integration as well. The lack of this extends to Brattlebor0's "Transit center" being blocks from the train and closed to waiting passengers without even a rack for schedules of the various bus lines.

As one who lives care-free in the rest of my life, the time I spend in VT (the summer months usually) I know the the Valley and S VT can do much better.

Joe Berry, Jamaica, VT

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