Valley Train Activists Celebrate

In June, more frequent passenger train service is scheduled to start between Greenfield and Springfield with stops in Northampton and Holyoke. It will connect with trains to New York City. “I'm cautiously optimistic that it will start in June,” Tim Brennan told the Valley Post on November 5. He runs the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, a government agency with 47 employees.

This victory is the result of the work of volunteer activists in Northampton who have a web site at www.TrainsInTheValley.org. One of the activists is Ben Heckscher. “If people think that the prices are too high then they should let their elected officials know,” he told the Valley Post on November 3. “Changes come when people speak up for what they want.”

The challenge now is persuading the state to keep fares low on the new commuter trains. Brennan said the state is planning to charge the same fare Amtrak now charges to get between Greenfield, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield. “We want the fares to be the same, or close to, the fares on commuter trains between Springfield and Hartford,” Brennan said.

On November 2, a state official told Brennan the state had chosen a company to find out what it would cost to make Amtrak trains between Springfield and Boston take 90 minutes, and run more frequently than they do now. The company has a web site at www.wsp.com. Two other companies will help WSP. The study will be done within 18 months, Brennan said. The study will cost $1 million.

A Connecticut state official told Brennan recently the official is considering adding more trains between Springfield and New Haven, with connections to New York City on MetroNorth and Amtrak, at a date to-be-determined, Brennan said. Info on the Springfield to New Haven commuter train is at www.hartfordline.com.

Between Springfield and New York City Amtrak is faster and more expensive than the commuter trains. From Brattleboro to Springfield, Amtrak is the only passenger train option.

Meanwhile, the nation's first bullet train is under construction between Los Angeles and San Francisco. On November 6, the Democratic candidate for governor won. He said he'll finish the job. The Republican candidate said he would have abandoned the project. Trains there will go 200 mph. At that speed from Springfield it would take about 45 minutes to get to New York City and about half an hour to Boston. Details on the California train are at www.hsr.ca.gov.

Traveling by train rather than by car is better for the environment and safer. Roads are bad for the environment even if no one drives on them.

Brattleboro town manager Peter Elwell told the Valley Post he is optimistic that the state will soon install crosswalks and continuous sidewalks on one of the busiest roads in towns, Putney Road, between exit 3 and the West river bridge. State workers have been taking soil samples under the road in recent weeks. Elwell said this is in preparation to replace the pavement and make the long-promised pedestrian improvements. Traveling on foot or by bicycle is good for ones health, and the environment.

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