Additional Service

The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) and many elected officials in the region have been advocated for additional passenger rail service north of Springfield for many years.

The existing Vermonter service, while greatly preferable to no service at all, has drawbacks that are not easily overcome. Simply stated,  the existing train: only operating once a day in each direction, is timed (scheduled) and priced for long-distance travel and departs at a time of day that makes it impossible to travel south past Springfield and return in the same day.

Efforts to expand service north of Springfield stem from the completion of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s “Knowledge Corridor Passenger Rail Feasibility Study” (attached below) in 2009. The study assessed the feasibility of future passenger rail improvements intended to reduce travel time, maximize accessibility, and provide viable transportation alternatives within the Knowledge Corridor.

The study found there to be strong opportunities and benefits for restoring and enhancing passenger rail along the Connecticut River Line in the Pioneer Valley.

Various parties have been exploring a number of potential options, including:

Option 1:
Extend a few of Amtrak’s existing Springfield–New Haven Shuttle service trains north to Greenfield, e.g. so you could board a train in Northampton in the early morning and travel as far as New Haven — without changing trains. This would allow you to get to New Haven as example — and connect with Amtrak, Metro North, and Shore Line East service.

Option 2:
Refurbish a number of unused Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) engines and coaches and use this equipment to provide service between Greenfield and Springfield.

Option 3:
Extend a limited number of Hartford Line commuter service trains from Springfield north to Greenfield after the service opens in early 2018.

 

All of these options come with issues and costs that are not trivial — such as:  who will own and operate the trains? where will people park? how much will a ticket cost and what kind of government subsidy would be required to support the operation of such a service?

In early February 2016 it was announced that Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the PVPC would develop a memorandum of understanding for a “demonstration project” on the Knowledge Corridor rail line. Conceptually this would be a pilot service to test the feasibility of providing expanded service along the line.

The initial plan seems to be that 2-3 trains a day would be run during peak commuting hours to collect data on ridership, ticket revenue, and other information to see if the service would be made permanent.

Stay tuned for updates.

 


Further Reading

Knowledge Corridor Feasibility Study (2009)
Pioneer Valley Planning Commission

“Greenfield could see added passenger trains within 5 years”
By Richie Davis | Greenfield Recorder | June 26, 2016

 

Page last updated: November 3, 2016
Page last reviewed: June 29, 2016