Train expert criticizes billion-dollar plans

  • Advocate and consultant of passenger rail trains, Carl Fowler speaks at the John W. Olver Transit Center Thursday night. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

Recorder Staff
Thursday, February 01, 2018

GREENFIELD — An advocate who helped to establish the Vermonter Amtrak service, a well-regarded consultant for train service in the country, came to Greenfield to urge the public on two fronts.

One: Continue to push forward with the train service in Greenfield, as it attempts to expand its services to include more daily trips between here and New Haven.

Two: Push your local and state legislators for “rationally scaled service” and not a billion dollar, high-speed rail from Springfield to Boston.

“When the transit planners tell you to spend a billion dollars, howl,” Carl Fowler said. “It’s not necessary.”

The event, “Lessons from the Vermonter for northern New England rail passenger service,” at the John W. Olver Transit Center Thursday night, came in the days following a state announcement of high priority plans to expand train service into Greenfield. Meanwhile, state Senator Stan Rosenberg’s has been pushing for more community input on state plans to further study of the “East-West” train service from Springfield to Boston, which has become a political wedge for legislators, particularly west of Interstate 495.

Fowler focused his presentation on pushing for passenger train ridership in the region that he believes is realistic. He offered a history of passenger train ridership in the region to a full and engaged audience in the Transit Center, and by the end of his hour-plus delivery, he offered his pitch.

“The planners in Boston need to hear, number one, western Mass. wants service and, number two, it’s not demanding a billion dollars to be spent on (high-speed trains). It is asking for a rationally planned, accomplishable service,” Fowler said.

He briefly bashed state leaders, saying, “We need to avoid the overbuild syndrome in Massachusetts,” referring to legislators’ push for a high-speed project of up to a billion dollars.

“These projects get gold plated because planners plan. It’s always best to do the best possible, ultimate build out, or is it?” Fowler said. “Or is that a way to make sure it doesn’t actually happen?”

Franklin Regional Council of Governments Transportation Planning Manager Maureen Mullaney said that’s an “unfair characterization” and that in Greenfield officials work in a “financial and realistic context and don’t actually advocate for the billion-dollar plan, because we’ll never get the billion-dollar plan.”

“And I applaud you totally,” Fowler responded. “What’s being proposed here is exactly what I think will get done,” he said, speaking to the passenger-friendly moves toward increased service.

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at: