Rail News Roundup #30


Today’s Headlines

• Valley Flyer/Vermonter Connections with Metro-North

• High Fares to NYC on the Valley Flyer

• Thanksgiving Travel Update

• Amtrak’s New Valley Flyer Webpage

• Our Elected Officials Want to Hear from You!

• Platform C at Springfield Union Station

• Amtrak’s Onboard Magazine Highlights our Region

• Connecticut’s CT2030 Transportation Plan

• MBTA FMCB Endorses Bold Rail Vision Plan

• Funding Transportation Solutions” Report Released



2019 Northeast Multimodal and Transit Summit
Mon. November 25, 2019 | 11:00 am to 7:30 pm
Yale University
New Haven, CT
registration link

MassDOT East-West Passenger Rail Study
Advisory Committee Meeting #3
Meeting details to be announced
Originally planned for October 2019


Valley Flyer/Vermonter Connections with Metro-North

For those of you who would like to to use the Valley Flyer to connect to Metro-North’s New Haven Line service to get to New York City… we now have a schedule overview for you with all of the rail connections.

The connections between Metro-North and the Valley Flyer are not available anywhere on Amtrak’s website for the simple reason that Amtrak wants you riding their trains, not Metro-North’s trains.

Valley Flyer / Vermonter Schedule Overview
Prepared by Trains In The Valley | As of November 11, 2019

Some might ask why you should consider connecting with Metro-North at New Haven Union Station.

Here are a few of the reasons —

  • The cost to travel from our region to New York City is often much less expensive if you connect in New Haven with a Metro-North New Haven Line train instead an Amtrak train (more on this topic in the post below)
  • Metro-North’s trains run to Grand Central Terminal instead of Penn Station
  • Metro-North’s trains make additional stops in Connecticut at stations that are not served by Amtrak’s trains

For those wanting to give this a try please have a look at the Metro-North Connections section on our Valley Flyer page.


High Fares to NYC on the Valley Flyer

We’ve had reports of very high fares showing up for travel on the Valley Flyer to New York City.

As example, on Friday November 7, 2019, the only available one-way fare for travel from Northampton to NYC was $103 on either of the morning departures of the Valley Flyer.

Amtrak.com Screenshot | November 7, 2019

We are unfortunately at the mercy of Amtrak’s “revenue managed pricing” system which automatically raises the cost of travel on most Amtrak routes based on the demand.

Does this mean that these Valley Flyer trains are nearly full? No it doesn’t.

In all likelihood we are seeing these high fares because the connecting Amtrak trains in New Haven (Northeast Regional trains 95 and 171, in this example) were both almost sold out.

Here are two ways that you can ride and support the Valley Flyer, and not pay Amtrak’s highest fares —

1. Plan ahead — Most of the time, if you book your ticket more than 14 days in advance, you will get the lowest fare (which as example, from Northampton to NYC, is $56/one-way for an adult.)

2. Take the Valley Flyer to/from New Haven and then connect with a Metro-North New Haven Line train to New York City. Metro-North’s fares are fixed so you can be certain what it is going to cost each time you purchase a ticket.


Thanksgiving Travel Update

New York Penn Station | Amtrak.com

Now is the time to plan your trip and book your ticket if are planning to travel by train over the busy Thanksgiving travel period.

The cost to travel on Amtrak during this period will be higher than normal and some trains will sell out — in fact some trains in our region are already sold out around the holiday.

For people traveling to/from points between New Haven and New York City we suggest that you consider taking the Valley Flyer to New Haven and connecting there to Metro-North’s New Haven Line.

Further details regarding train travel in our region around the holiday be found on our 2019 Thanksgiving Travel Update page.


Amtrak’ New Valley Flyer Webpage

Amtrak recently launched a webpage on Amtrak.com to highlight the new Valley Flyer service.

Screenshot from Amtrak.com | November 6, 2019
Source | amtrak.com/routes/valley-flyer-train.html

Oddly the highlighted image on the page is of a harbor scene that we assume is in New Haven, Connecticut in Salem, Massachusetts — a location that is not part of the Pioneer Valley.


Our Elected Officials Want to Hear from You!

By Kalyani Kastor | kalyanikastor.com

Elected officials in our region are actively seeking constituent input regarding the new Valley Flyer service.

If you have any concerns about the new Valley Flyer service we encourage you to contact your state elected representative or senator to let them know.

Elected officials in our region are now part of a twice-monthly call with MassDOT and Amtrak to review and discuss a broad range of issues related to the new Valley Flyer service.

Note though that if you have “real-time” issues with the service, as example, difficulties booking tickets or you want to check the status or a particular train, please check Amtrak.com or call Amtrak on 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).

If you’re not sure who to contact drop us a note and we’ll happily point you in the right direction.

Background information

Valley Flyer update, November 1 | Rep. Mindy Domb

Valley Flyer Facebook post on November 2nd | Sen. Jo Comerford

Valley Flyer Facebook post on November 11th | Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa


Platform C at Springfield Union Station

Good news — the new high-level boarding platform appears to be just about ready to be opened!

From what we understand they are just waiting now for the final inspections.

Springfield Union Station | looking east | October 24, 2019


The concourse level at Springfield Union Station | October 24, 2019

The entrance to the stairway that leads to Platform C is partially visible in this image, behind the temporary fencing.

The dark structure in the center of the concourse is the shaft for the new elevator.


The main waiting room at Springfield Union Station | October 24, 2019

Its nice to see that Greyhound’s bus departures are now listed on the main information display.

Who knows, maybe even Peter Pan’s departures will be added before to long.


Amtrak’s Onboard Magazine Highlights our Region

A local Amtrak rider pointed out to us the other day that our region is featured in the current edition of Amtrak’ on-board magazine, The National.

The National | Oct-Nov 2019 | Page 71

The one-page insert is part of a promotional section in the magazine with the headline “The beauty of New England.”


Connecticut’s CT2030 Transportation Plan

Governor Ned Lamont last week released his long awaited proposal for improving transportation in Connecticut.

The plan, linked below, includes an interesting list of rail-related improvements for the Hartford Line.

They include,

  • The purchase of 132 new rail cars and 30 new locomotives to create a pool of new equipment for use on the  Danbury Line, Hartford Line, New Haven Line, and Shore Line East,
  • The construction of a 2nd track from Windsor north to the state line,
  • A new station in Windsor Locks with a dedicated bus shuttle connection to Bradley International Airport,
  • A new station in Enfield, CT, and
  • A light rail connection between the new Windsor Locks CT station and Bradley International Airport, as envision in this 2016 study.

It important to note that Governor Lamont’s proposed 10-year plan is largely unfunded at the moment.

It will undoubtedly be a subject of a vigorous debate in the Connecticut Legislature as the governor makes yet another attempt at trying to find a ways to pay for transportation improvements in the Nutmeg State.

Further reading

CT2020 (Official site) [archived link]

Governor Lamont Presents CT2030: A Realistic, Fiscally Responsible Plan to Transform Connecticut’s Transportation System
Press Release | Office of Governor Ned Lamont | November 7, 2019


MBTA FMCB Endorses Bold Rail Vision Plan

The MBTA’s Fiscal Management Control Board (FMCB) on Tuesday November 4th, 2019, unanimously approved an ambitious plan that calls for the MBTA to “transform the current commuter rail line into a significantly more productive, equitable and de-carbonized enterprise.”

The path forward that was approved by the FMCB last week is the outcome known as “Alternative 6: Full Transformation” from the Rail Vision Study.

At its core, the plan calls for the conversion of the MBTA Commuter Rail network into a an electrified Regional Rail system, with frequent service operating every 15 to 30-minutes.

The FMCB directed the MBTA to first implement Electric Multiple Unit powered service along the Providence/Stoughton line, the Fairmont line and the line from Boston to Everett to Chelsea to Revere to Lynn (the so-called Environmental Justice line).

How quickly any of this will happens remains to be seen, but clearly this is a very bold step on the part of the FMCB.

Congratulations goes out to our friends at TransitMatters who have been doggedly advocating for this level of transformation since publishing their “Regional Rail for Metropolitan Boston” report in 2018.

Further reading

“MBTA Board Endorses Ambitious Slate of Upgrades For Commuter Rail System”
By Christian MilNeil | November 4, 2019

Full text of the Rail Vision Resolutions (PDF)
Fiscal Management Control Board | November 4, 2019

Rail Vision Presentation
Fiscal Management Control Board | November 4, 2019


“Funding Transportation Solutions” Report Released

Funding Transportation Solutions: A Comprehensive Transportation Finance Plan (PDF)
A Better City | November 2019

There’s been lots of talk about the many “big steps” that should be taken to improve transportation within our state, but few people have been talking [out loud] about how these ideas are going to be paid for, until now.

Last week A Better City, a business organization with members from a variety of industry sectors, released a transportation finance plan calling for a minimum of $50 billion in new investment over the next two decades.

While A Better City’s plan supports statewide improvements, the $50 billion investment is in line with other recent transportation initiatives undertaken by U.S. cities, including Seattle, which passed a $54 billion package over 25 years, and Toronto, which passed a $60 billion package over 20 years.

A Better City proposes generating new revenue from seven sources: expanding roadway pricing, phasing in toll increases (which haven’t been increased in 15 years), and achieving toll equity; raising the gas tax; capturing revenue from the Transportation Climate Initiative multi-state effort; raising Uber/Lyft fees; closing the auto trade-in loophole; increasing RMV fees; and instituting a new surcharge for businesses on commercial parking.

A Better City said that in pursuing this strategy, it will be critical that the legislature build in equity protections such as rebates and/or tax credits for low-income residents, as well as regional investment targets to ensure equity across the state.

Further reading

“Biz group outlines roadway pricing proposal”
By Bruce Mohl | Commonwealth Magazine | November 7, 2019