On March 11, trains between the Massachusetts-Vermont border near Brattleboro and White River Junction, Vermont – a trip of about 75 miles -- will travel at speeds of up to 79 miles per hour. That’s faster than ever before. This is the result of improvements made to the tracks. By April, the trip on Amtrak from Brattleboro to Burlington will be about 24 minutes faster. The trip will take 3 hours and 10 minutes and cost $26 on Amtrak. By car, the same journey takes about 2 hours and 23 minutes.
Passenger rail service between towns and cities in the Valley, and between the Valley and New York City and Montreal, Canada, is getting faster and more frequent. Ticket prices may go down, if activists succeed in pushing the government to tax the rich for this purpose. Earlier this month, government officials announced they would invest $121 million to make trains go much faster and much more frequently between Springfield and New Haven, Connecticut.
The Valley will soon be home to another world class path for walking and bicycle riding. Last year, Chicopee, Massachusetts created a path for recreation and non-motorized commuting. Soon it will extend the riverside path by more than a mile, at a cost of about $1.4 million, almost all of which will be paid for by the federal government.
On September 17, 19, 20, and 21, there will be rallies in Springfield and Northampton calling for better public transportation, for peace, and for justice. On September 20 in Springfield, a 90 minute rally will start at 11 a.m. at the corner of Main Street and Liberty streets. The rally will oppose a plan now in Congress to cut 35 percent of federal funding for public transportation. Details are at www.SupportTransit.org
On May 20, a mini-van gravely injured a woman who was riding her bicycle in Granby at about 5:30 p.m. It was a “hit and run” crime. Police are trying to find the driver. Granby borders Amherst. A police spokesperson said that the impact sent the woman flying off her bicycle and into a telephone pole. The bicycle rider was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Police are asking anyone with information about the vehicle or its driver to the Granby Police at (413) 467-9222.
There is also good news for local bicycle riders and walkers.
On August 10, there will be a public hearing about a government plan to provide better local bus service in the Keene and Brattleboro region. The relevant buses will serve Keene; Claremont, NH; Putney, Vermont; and other towns.
The Southwest (NH) Region Planning Commission will hold the hearing at the Charlestown, NH public library at 226 Main Street from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Traveling by bus or train, rather than by car, reduces global warming, suburban sprawl, acid rain, lung cancer, and other problems.
Brattleboro residents defeated a plan by the administration of lame duck Republican governor Jim Douglas and lieutenant-governor Brian Dubie – the Republican who wants to be elected governor in November – that would have narrowed already-narrow sidewalks in downtown Brattleboro. The goal was to make cars, trucks, and SUVs drive faster through the world-famous, historic downtown on the shore of the Connecticut river. Dubie-Douglas also wanted to cut down trees on Main Street.
Police say there has been a rash of bicycle thefts in recent days in Keene. Perhaps the nation's leading experts on how to prevent bicycle thefts, the staff of the group Transportation Alternatives (TA) in New York City, can help concerned Keene residents. From recommending the best bicycle locks, and the best way to use the locks; to helping draft local laws that require builders of apartment and office buildings to install indoor, locked bicycle parking; to ways to persuade cities and towns to install more on-street bicycle parking -- TA can help. Details are at www.transalt.org
On April 25, a 19-year-old woman, Brittney Frank, was crossing Main Street in Keene in a crosswalk when a car hit her. She was taken to Dartmouth Hitchcock hospital in Keene, where she was treated for a leg injury. Police spokesman Steven LaMears told the Keene Sentinel newspaper that police would not file any charges or traffic citations against the driver who hit the pedestrian.
Traffic congestion on the main route between UMass Amherst and downtown Northampton is often so bad that it’s faster to ride a bicycle than to drive the nine-mile trip. Soon, public transportation will also be faster than driving.
“Later this year, technology will be in place so that buses on Route 9 will be more likely to get green lights than cars -- similar to the technology that allows ambulances to always get green lights,” David Elvin told the Valley Post. He’s senior transit planner at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.