Amtrak offers ticket sale; reduced fare good Aug. 11 to Jan. 31

  • The Amtrak Vermonter line pulls into the station at the John W. Olver Transit Center in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/31/2019 12:04:10 PM

GREENFIELD — A current Amtrak promotion could end up inadvertently helping increase train ridership from Greenfield to New York City, which is exactly what legislators and transportation leaders are hoping will happen through the Valley Flyer rail pilot program.

According to Franklin Regional Council of Governments Transportation Planning and GIS Program Manager Maureen Mullaney, the Knowledge Corridor has been renamed Valley Flyer.

On Wednesday, July 31 and Thursday, Aug. 1 only, people can buy Amtrak tickets at reduced rates for travel along the north-south corridor — Vermont to New York City and Washington, D.C. The tickets will be good from Aug. 11 through Jan. 31, just in time for the launch of extended train service from Greenfield, which is expected to happen at the end of summer.

According to Amtrak, if a rider buys tickets online today, they can ride one way, for instance, to Washington, D.C. for $59 or New York City for $40. In comparison, prices currently range from $54 to $67.

It was recently confirmed that Greenfield will have expanded rail service to New York City by the end of summer, allowing people to travel back and forth to the city on the same day. Currently, there is only one trip out of Greenfield to New York City, so people have to make arrangements to stay overnight, but the Valley Flyer rail pilot program will add two more trips a day, which means people can leave in the morning and return at night.

The state House and Senate earmarked $250,000 to market the program, which Gov. Charlie Baker approved when he signed the 2020 budget on Wednesday.

The state Department of Transportation has indicated the pilot program will become permanent if it can achieve a ridership of 24,000 new riders each year.

“That’s what we’ll be aiming for,” Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, said. “We want to make sure that ridership keeps going up, so that it does become permanent.”

Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, said she is delighted the House and Senate thought the pilot is important enough to vote unanimously to fund it. The expanded train service is the result of years of work by many state lawmakers.

The state has an agreement to provide extended daily train service — two in the morning and two in the evening — both stopping in Greenfield, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield. There will be one extra trip on weekends and holidays.

According to FRCOG, Greenfield and the other Pioneer Valley train stations have seen steady increases in ridership since passenger rail service returned in 2015. Greenfield had ridership of 5,315 for the year in 2015 and now, ridership is up to 6,497 — an increase of 1,182. The other stations in Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield have also seen steady increases.

The program will cost the state about $1 million a year to operate. It plans to evaluate the program at the end of two or three years to see if it is financially feasible to make it permanent.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@gmail.com.


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