On board with increased rail service

  • The Amtrak Vermonter stops in Northampton en route from Springfield to Greenfield along the “Knowledge Corridor.” photo/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 5/15/2019 7:50:28 AM

Here’s something useful to look forward to this fall: expanded rail service for passengers between Greenfield and New York City.

The plan is to up the trips to New York City, so people could leave Greenfield early in the morning, get some business or pleasure done, and then return that night. Of course, they could stay longer.

Likewise the increase in service could encourage New Yorkers and others to hop the train to visit our fair city and the towns around it.

Think of the possibilities.

The plan is to add two extra trips to and from Greenfield during weekdays and one extra on the weekends. Currently, the train leaves the John W. Olver Transit Center at 1:30 p.m. A train from NYC pulls in 4:30 p.m., which means an overnight stay.

Having more convenient forms of rail travel could mean a fun getaway to the big city without having to get in a vehicle and deal with traffic. It would be better for the environment as well.

This expansion is made possible by the state, which is kicking in $1 million a year. After two or three years, the state will evaluate the program to see if it is financially viable. Fares are still being discussed.

According to Franklin Regional Council of Governments officials, ridership from Greenfield rose from 2015 by 1,182 passengers. The numbers are even higher — 7,245 passengers — farther south for stations in Amherst Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield.

“More and more people are taking the train,” Maureen Mullaney, program manager for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments Transportation Planning and GIS Program.” We believe we can market this so that it continues to happen.”

Certainly, marketing and local buy-in will be important to keep the trains running.

This north-south route is being billed as the Knowledge Corridor. Well, as the saying attributed to philosopher Francis Bacon, goes: “Knowledge is power.”

And for Franklin County that could mean economic power.

The communities in our county have a great deal to offer visitors via year-round outdoor recreation, festivals, arts and entertainment venues, sugar houses, the Bridge of Flowers, oh, the list goes on.

Franklin County is filled with people who possess an entrepreneurial spirit to create and sell what they create. Then there is the scenic charm of its rural areas.

(And although in the beginning stages, our local legislators are pushing for passenger train service running east to west through Franklin County.)

Of course, train riders will expect some traveling amenities when they disembark in Greenfield such as easily available rental cars and info about the area. This could present opportunities for local businesses, especially downtown.

Increased rail service to and from Greenfield? We say: all aboard.




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