Rail News Roundup #3

 

The latest regional rail news from Trains In The Valley

Today’s Reports

• Hartford Line service to begin in May 2018

• Amtrak Inspection Train Runs North to Montreal

• EVENT | NARP meeting in Springfield | Aug 19th

• EVENT | Knowledge Corridor Transportation Conference | Oct 18th

• Central Corridor Passenger Rail Study Released

• Rebooting New England | UPenn Graduate Planning Studio

• TIV website | Updated station information pages

• TIV website | Northampton Underpass project update

 



Hartford Line service to begin in May 2018

New Meriden station – under construction | June 29, 2017

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has announced that the “Hartford Line” commuter rail service – between New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield, Ma. – will start in May 2018.

When the Hartford Line service launches, a total of 17 roundtrip trains between New Haven and Hartford will operate each weekday, with 12 of those roundtrip trains continuing to Springfield. On weekends, a total of 13 roundtrip trains will operate between New Haven and Hartford, with 9 of those trains continuing onto Springfield.

A joint venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts was chosen over Amtrak and three other bidders as the service provider for the service.

See also
Train In The Valley | Hartford Line

Further reading
“Gov. Malloy Announces TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts Selected as Service Provider for the Hartford Line”
Press Release | The Office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy | July 24, 2017

“Connecticut DOT picks transit team to operate Hartford Line”
By Luther Turmelle | New Haven Register | July 24, 2017

“DOT: Amtrak’s history not a factor in selection of joint venture to operate CTtrail Hartford Line”
By Mike Savino | Meriden Record-Journal | July 25, 2017

 


Amtrak Inspection Train Runs to Montreal

NECR trestle at East Alburgh, Vt. | looking East | July 18, 2017
Photo Credit: Kevin Burkholder | Steel Wheels Photography
Source: http://www.railpictures.net/photo/623639/ | Image used with permission

Amtrak operated an inspection train from St. Albans, Vt. (SAB) to Montreal (MTR) on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 – another clear signal that plans are progressing to extend the Vermonter north into Canada.

In this image the inspection train is seen crossing the upper part of Lake Champlain on the New England Central railroad (NECR) trestle at East Alburgh, Vt. Various reports suggest that Amtrak President & CEO Wick Moorman was on the train along with other U.S. and Canadian officials.

People who remember taking Amtrak’s former overnight train – the “Montrealer” – north may recall that crossing this trestle was the indication that the train was just moments away from entering Canada.

See also
Trains In The Valley | Vermonter Extension to Montreal

 


EVENT | NARP meeting in Springfield | August 19th

‘A Connected New England’

New England Regional Meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP)

Saturday, August 19, 2017
11:00 am – 3:00 pm

Sheraton Monarch Place Hotel – Springfield, Ma.

Keynote Speakers:
Timothy Brennan
Executive Director, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

Jim Mathews
President/CEO, National Association of Railroad Passengers

Note that this meeting is open to the public.

Further information is available on this link
https://www.narprail.org/events/new-england-2017-regional-meeting

 


EVENT | Knowledge Corridor Transportation Conference

Mark your calendar for the special half-day conference, “Leveraging the Knowledge Corridor’s Transportation Assets and Investments to Drive Economic Progress.”

Date and time | Wednesday, October 18, 2017 / 8 am – 11.45 am

Venue | Springfield Union Station

The keynote speaker will be Robert Puentes, President/CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation.  Panelists will include five members of Congress from the region:  Richard Neal and James McGovern from Massachusetts and John Larson, Rosa DeLauro, and Elizabeth Esty from Connecticut.

The meeting agenda also includes plans for talks by Connecticut Commissioner of Transportation James Redeker and his counterpart in the Bay State, Stephanie Pollack, Secretary/CEO of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Further details to follow

 


Central Corridor Passenger Rail Study Released by MassDOT

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has posted a copy of the recently completed Central Corridor Passenger Rail Feasibility Study on their website. The study, which apparently has been in the works since 2014, examines the implementation and operation of  intercity passenger rail service along the Central Corridor.

The Central Corridor is a freight rail line running north-south approximately 100 miles between Brattleboro, Vt. and New London, Ct., including the communities of Amherst and Palmer, MA. MassDOT conducted the feasibility study to examine potential for intercity passenger rail service along the Central Corridor.

It is unclear at this time what if anything MassDOT plans to do now that this study is complete.

The report can be viewed on this link
http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/planning/Main/CompletedStudies.aspx

 


Rebooting New England | UPenn Graduate Planning Studio

Rebooting New England, a Fall 2016 graduate planning studio convened by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design, sets forth a strategy to rebuild the economy of New England’s cities, which have been bypassed economically and physically for decades.

This strategy is underpinned by a modern high-performance rail network between New York and Boston that would link all of New England’s urban centers with these two global cities and with each other.

The 184-page report, which is audacious in its scope, looked closely at the UK initiative known as the “Northern Powerhouse”, an economic revitalization plan for the North of England and its older industrial cities. Underlying this strategy is the $52 billion high-speed rail project, which will link London with Manchester and Leeds. Another planned line will create a network that links all of the major cities in the North of England with each other.

Interesting summer reading.

The report can be viewed this link
https://www.design.upenn.edu/city-regional-planning/graduate/work/rebooting-new-england

 


TIV website | Updated station information pages

The station information pages on the website have been updated and refreshed.

Direct links to these pages can be found  below:

Amtrak Station | Greenfield, Ma. (GFD)

Amtrak Station | Holyoke, Ma. (HLK)

Amtrak Station | Northampton, Ma. (NHT)

Amtrak Station | Springfield Union Station (SPG)

 


TIV website | Northampton Underpass project update

Construction progress image of the new bicycle/pedestrian underpass
Northampton, Ma. | Behind the Walgreens – looking South | July 16, 2017

Continued progress at the bike and pedestrian underpass work site in Northampton.

Additional new images and commentary can be found on this link
Train In The Valley | Northampton Underpass

The Importance of Buses

PVTA Route 33 bus | Amherst, Ma. | 2011
By Newflyer504 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0] | via Wikimedia Commons
On Wednesday, July 19th, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority Advisory Board will meet to considering significant cuts to the PVTA route network in Hampden and Hampshire counties.

The possible cuts in service (detailed below) are driven by the need to address an operating budget deficit at the PVTA of up to $1.2 million for the coming fiscal year.

Source: http://www.pvta.com/media/pdfs/PVTA%20FY18%20Deficit%20table%2005-19-17.pdf

 

We can’t speak to the details of the PVTA’s FY2018 operating budget but we can speak to the importance of the overall service provided by the PVTA in our region.

Source: http://www.pvta.com/media/pdfs/SystemMap2017.pdf

 

The PVTA is the largest regional transit authority in the commonwealth. During the last fiscal year their fixed-route network carried in excess of 12 million passengers.

Simply put — the services provides by the PVTA are absolutely critical to our region.

The PVTA’s fixed-bus network network of fixed-buses

• are often the only transport option for people who don’t drive, can’t drive, or have disabilities

• are flexible, fast, green and clean

• play an important role in social cohesion, helping people, especially those on low incomes, access education, work and healthcare

• play a crucial and expanding role in connecting different modes of transit (in particular passenger rail)

And with minimal investment, new routes – across town or the region – can be launched.

 

In particular, we are naturally very concerned about the possible elimination of M40 express route between UMass Amherst and Northampton since we know that there are aware of many UMass students who use this bus to travel to/from the train station in Northampton.

We would encourage the PVTA Advisory Board to find other ways to cut costs and enhance their passenger revenue streams before cutting major routes.

 

On a more positive note it must be mentioned that Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) has no plans to cut any of their major routes and instead will be adding two new routes starting in September.

Source: http://frta.org/wp-content/uploads/FRTA_Summary_of_Fixed_Route_Changes_09_05_2017.pdf

Unfortunately though the FRTA fixed-network continues to be one of the only two regional transit authorities in the commonwealth that do not provide service on Saturday, Sundays and holidays – despite the continued efforts of the advocacy group Transportation Justice for Franklin County Mass.

 

Just to say it one more time – buses are important for the Pioneer Valley.

Next time you take the train ask yourself, “can I take the bus to the station instead of a car?” Chances are, the answer is yes.

 

> Updated on July 20, 2017 at 8 a.m. <

“The PVTA Advisory board voted Wednesday to eliminate or cut bus service on 20 routes, saving $838,000 in the coming year on the way toward closing a $1.38 million gap in its total budget of $48.21 million.”

A full news report from the meeting can be found on this link:

“PVTA approves bus service cuts, spares some routes while decrying state budget that forced its hand”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | July 19, 2017

 

 


Further Reading

“Riders troubled by PVTA’s proposed service reductions”
By Rebecca Mullen | Daily Hampshire Gazette | July 9, 2017

“Colleges balk at bus service reductions”
By Rebecca Mullen | Daily Hampshire Gazette | July 12, 2017

“PVTA bus service loses out in state budget”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | July 12, 2017

Rail News Roundup #2

 

The latest regional rail news from Trains In The Valley

Today’s Reports

• Union Station is Open!

• Senator Eric Lesser’s “Rally4Rail” Whistle Stop Tour

• Democratic Party Platform Includes Support for East-West Rail

• Strong Vermonter Ridership in Northampton Reported

• Design for Expanded Northampton Station Platform Released

• Vermonter Extension to Montreal Takes Another Step Forward

• New Rail Dropped along the Conn River Line

• Track Washout in Vermont Affects Vermonter Service

 



Union Station is Open!

Springfield Union Station re-opened to the public on Sunday morning June 25th.

Main waiting room | Union Station
Springfield, Ma. | June 25, 2017

The first Amtrak passengers in over forty years to enter though the main waiting room — captured in the image above — were spotted in the building shortly after it was opened at 10 a.m.

 

Public Open House at Union Station
Springfield, Ma. | June 25, 2017

An open house was held from 10 a.m until 3 p.m. for the public and then at 4:30 p.m. the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority moved the hub for their bus operations in Springfield to the station.

(Yes, that is the Cat in the Hat in the middle of the picture.)

 

Trains In The Valley & Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop at the Open House
Union Station | Springfield, Ma. | June 25, 2017

Trains In The Valley and the advocacy group Citizens for a Palmer Rail Stop shared a table at the open house.

We talked with people all day long about the rail service in our region and we thank everyone who stopped by to say hello.

 

Union Station | view from the parking garage roof | looking East
Springfield, Ma. | June 26, 2017

 

Bronze rededication plaque at Union Station
Springfield, Ma. | June 25, 2017

Further Reading

“Union Station grand opening honors Springfield history”
By Elizabeth Roman | The Republican | June 25, 2017

Video | “Springfield’s restored Union Station filled with history”
By Kait Walsh | WWLP-22News | June 24, 2017

2017 Union Station Open House (48 images)
Flickr album | Spirit of Springfield | June 25, 2017

Infrastructure | Springfield Union Station
Trains in the Valley

 


Senator Eric Lesser’s “Rally4Rail” Whistle Stop Tour

On Monday, June 19, 2017, State Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) embarked on a “whistle stop” tour across the state to make the case for expanded East-West passenger rail service.

Making stops in — Boston, Framingham, Worcester, Palmer, and Springfield — Lesser spoke of the benefits to all of making this rail connection.

Focus Springfield Community Television joined the senator and his staff for the tour and recorded each of the public events.

Credit:
Focus Springfield Community Television: Stephen Cary, Executive Producer | Brendon Holland, Producer | Josue Vazquez, Editor

Further Reading

“State Sen. Eric Lesser rallies for high-speed rail study at Springfield’s Union Station, last stop of day-long tour”
By Brian Steele | The Republican | June 19, 2017

 


Democratic Party Platform Includes Support for East-West Rail

The 2017 Massachusetts Democratic Party platform now includes support for East-West rail service between Springfield, Worcester, and Boston.

The new wording, quoted below, was adopted at the quadrennial platform convention that was held in Worcester on June 3, 2017.

“Investment in transportation infrastructure that links communities to each other and to jobs across the Commonwealth, including: increasing the expansion of capacity and reach of the MBTA, including the Green Line Expansion; the construction of the North-South Rail Link to unify north-side and south-side commuter rail systems and to extend the Northeast Corridor; building high speed rail along the East/West route between Springfield, Worcester, and Boston; and construction of the South Coast Rail Project.”

 


Strong Vermonter Ridership in Northampton Reported

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz announced on June 23, 2017 the follow news regarding passenger rail service in the city.

• Northampton station has become the 3rd leading station for passenger traffic on the Amtrak Vermonter line since rail service resumed in the city on December 29, 2014

• Northampton ridership has increased to over 18,000 people annually which is 20% of the Vermonter’s total rail ridership of 88,006.

• Travel between Northampton and New York’s Penn Station is the leading travel “pair” for passenger arrivals and departures.

• Unofficial ridership data for April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2017 shows that Northampton ridership is up 20% with 15,781 passengers in 2016 to 18,980 for 2017.

• The 2009 HDR Knowledge Corridor Study projected that realignment of the Vermonter to its original CT River corridor would result in 28 riders per day in Northampton. In 2015, Northampton station averaged 44 riders per day and in 2016 that increased to 50 riders a day.

Further Reading

“Northampton’s popularity among rail riders boosts push for more service”
By Amandra Drane | Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 26, 2017

Vermonter Performance | Ridership
Trains in the Valley

 


Design for Expanded Northampton Station Platform Released

It has been announced that the passenger station platform in Northampton will be be expanded to a length of 120-feet by the end of the year.

Architectural rendering of planned expanded rail platform
Northampton, Ma. | June 2017

The expanded station platform will allow for two pairs of passenger car doors to be opened on the platform, which would basically double the speed of boarding (and deboarding) passengers in Northampton.

The platform expansion project will go out to bid soon and if all goes well the project should be completed by the end of 2017.

Further Reading

Infrastructure | Northampton
Trains in the Valley

 


Vermonter Extension to Montreal Takes Another Step Forward

On June 21, 2017 the House of Commons of Canada adopted Bill C-23, the “Preclearance Act, 2016″, which among other things would allow for establishment of a preclearance facility in Central Station in Montreal. The passage of this bill is is one of the many things that must happen before Amtrak’s Vermonter service is extended to north to Montreal.

The bill has been sent to the Senate of Canada, where it will sit until the Senate returns to session on September 19, 2017.

Further Reading

Vermonter Extension to Montreal
Trains in the Valley

 


New Rail Dropped along the Conn River Line

New pieces of continuously welded rail have been laid along portions of the MassDOT owned Connecticut River Main Line over the past two weeks.

Connecticut River Main Line | looking North
Keets Road crossing | Deerfield, Ma. | June 26, 2017

In the image above, new rail has been dropped next to the so-called Deerfield Siding. Presumably this siding will be rebuilt, with new ballast, ties and new rail, in the near future.

 


Track Washout in Vermont Affects Vermonter Service

> Updated on July 5, 2017 at 4 p.m. <

Amtrak’s Vermonter was temporary replaced with bus service between stations north of Springfield, Ma. from Sunday, July 2nd through to the morning of Wednesday, July 5th.

WCAX in Burlington reported that about 800 feet of New England Central Railroad’s track in West Hartford, Vt. had been “compromised” after heavy rain on Saturday, July 1st caused an embankment to become unstable from the saturated ground.

Amtrak service was restored when the northbound Vermonter (Train 56) departed Springfield on Wednesday afternoon, July 5th. It is expected that the Vermonter will operate normally in both directions tomorrow.

Further Reading

“Vermont Amtrak passengers bussed, rail track unstable”
By WCAX News | July 2, 2017

“Amtrak Service Restored in Hartford”
By WCAX News | July 5, 2017