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Editorial: Rail service support grows

Like just about any public transportation option, passenger rail depends upon meeting the needs of the would-be traveler when it comes to convenience, schedule and price. Done right, though, there is no question that a Greenfield connection for passenger trains could give powerful impetus to moving some commuters from roadway to railway.

Getting the right people together who are willing to make it happen is how it all starts.

The decision to reroute the Vermonter Amtrack train from the route that takes it through Amherst and Palmer to Springfield to one through Greenfield, Northampton and Holyoke, along with the plan to bring improved passenger service between New Haven, Conn., and Springfield is a solid beginning. And we’re glad to learn that the money is in place to upgrade and improve these particular rail lines.

In addition, as reported in The Recorder last week, there’s an attempt to build on this.

Massachusetts lawmakers and other state officials are examining the idea of establishing train service between Greenfield and Springfield beyond the once-a-day stop by the Vermonter going north or south. This plan would include refurbishing MBTA trains formerly used to carry commuters from the Boston suburbs into the city for use here, and to work on finding an operator for these trains.

We realize there are people, including a number in Congress, who take a dim view of passenger rail transportation. Thankfully, that thinking does not include our state legislators or members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation. They see increasing passenger rail as a forward-thinking proposal.

“This could impact all sectors of the economy. Many studies have shown that where there is passenger rail service, economies find lots of new opportunities within a short distance of the railway depot,” said state Rep. Stephen Kulik, who sits as vice chair of the House Ways and Means. “It’s a boon for people in the neighboring communities as well. We think it brings a lot of opportunity.”

As FRCOG Executive Director Linda Dunlavy said, “... It just really opens up another opportunity for transportation and huge opportunities for economic development.”

If you have lived anywhere where there is viable passenger rail, you know that people will use trains, especially if they run frequently and reliably enough to be more than just an alternative to the car or bus but a true convenience. Potential riders would be people commuting to a job, visiting somewhere along the rail-line, going shopping or making a connection to a destination elsewhere.

It’s an opportunity that should be acted upon with all the resources that can be mustered.

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