Rail News Roundup #15

 

Today’s Headlines

• All Aboard for the Hartford Line!

• Final 2018 State Rail Plan Released

• Supporters Hope Hartford Line Will Help Upend Car Culture

• Springfield | New Parking Rates at Union Station Garage

• Northampton | Expanded Station Platform to Move Ahead?

• Northampton | Ceremonial Ribbon Cutting

• Greenfield | Parking Garage Update

• Freight railroads’ key role Western Mass

• WMassPI | Briefings: Baker Climbs aboard Rail Study…

 

Calendar

June 16/17, 2018
Opening Weekend for the Hartford Line
All Hartford Line passenger rail service (CTrail and Amtrak) will be FREE this weekend.

For further information visit
TrainsInTheValley.org/ctrail-hartford-line

 

Wed. June 20, 2018 | 6 pm – 8 pm
Exploring Transit-Oriented Development in Gateway Cities
Theodore’s BBQ | 201 Worthington St, Springfield
[information/registration link]

Free BBQ, a cash bar, networking with fellow smart growth advocates, and a chance to hear directly from the researchers on the possibilities of Transit-Oriented-Development (TOD) near Springfield Union Station

 

July 27–28, 2018
Northampton | Golden Spike 2018
The largest rails-to-trails conference of the year in New England.

 


All Aboard for the Hartford Line!

Ride for free from Union Station to Union Station this weekend!

Free service on the Hartford Line (CTrail and Amtrak trains) all weekend long.

 

And — there will be FREE parking at the Union Station Parking Garage (1755 Main St, Springfield) this weekend.

 

Making plans to ride the Hartford Line from Springfield?

Check out our new Hartford Line page
TrainsInTheValley.org/ctrail-hartford-line

 

For those of you using the new Hartford Line, please keep in mind that this service is unique in many ways. In particular, the service is being provide by two distinct operators — CTrail and Amtrak — which as far as we know, is a first in this country.

All of the details have yet to be totally worked out, in particular a few issues related Hartford Line ticketing (CTrail vs. Amtrak).

Our Advice to You — if you are traveling between Springfield and New Haven on the Hartford Lineif possible, purchase your ticket from a CTrail ticket vending machine — not the Amtrak website.

Why? Because there are still a few open questions related to the use of Amtrak tickets on Hartford Line trains. In a nutshell — Amtrak-issued tickets are for a “reserved coach seat” on a specific Amtrak train on the Hartford Line, which implies that the ticket is valid only for a specific train.

The Hartford Line website does say that “valid” Amtrak tickets can be used on any CTrail train but we have yet to find out what the term “valid” means in this context.

 

If you have comments about the new service please let CTDOT know.
HartfordLine.com/customer-service

 


Final State Rail Plan Released

The final version of the 2018 Massachusetts State Rail Plan was released today.

The document can viewed by clicking on this link
2018 Massachusetts State Rail Plan (PDF)

The final plan includes a new chapter, Chapter 6, which details MassDOT’s public engagement effort and summarizes the updates to the plan from the draft version.

We note in particular MassDOT’s comment (in Chapter 6) that they received nearly 300 emails and letters during the public comment period, including an open letter signed by 667 high school students in Western Massachusetts on their support of a feasibility study for East-West rail.

We will have further comment on the Final version of the State Rail Plan in a future edition of the Rail News Update.

 


Supporters Hope Hartford Line Will Help Upend Car Culture

“Supporters Hope Hartford Line Will Help Upend Connecticut’s Car Culture”
By Rebecca Lurye | Hartford Courant | June 10, 2018

An insightful look at what the coming Hartford Line might mean for the Springfield–Hartford–New Haven corridor.

“Some commuters say the new, $700 million rail line is their way out of a congested car culture that weighs heavily on their wallets, time cards and nerves. The state [Connecticut] Department of Transportation expects thousands of people to trade in driving for the convenience of the Hartford Line, which promises to make the 62-mile trip from Springfield to New Haven in about 80 minutes, and for less than traditional Amtrak tickets.”

 


Springfield | New Parking Rates at Union Station Garage

“Springfield Union Station offers commuter parking rate as CTrail service begins”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | June 14, 2018

At long last, the City of Springfield offers a Commuter Rate for parking at the Union Station Garage.

Effective Mon. June 18, 2018 the commuter rate for parking in the garage will be $5.

Effective for July 2018 the monthy parking rate will be $65.

This is really significant news because until now the parking rate had been $20/day — which is a level which was simply not attractive to people in this area.

Thanks go out to Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno the executive leadership of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority for making this happen.

 


Northampton | Expanded Station Platform to Move Ahead?

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

Late today we received word that the delayed project to expand the station platform in Northampton may finally be ready to move forward.

We don’t have the details yet, but as soon as we do we’ll be sure to let you know.

Further Reading
Infrastructure | Northampton | Trains in the Valley

 


Northampton | Ceremonial Ribbon Cutting

Northampton Underpass Ribbon Cutting
Mary C. Serreze | Special to The Republican | June 8, 2018

“Northampton celebrates completion of rail trail underpass”
By Hannah Nelson | Daily Hampshire Gazette | June 8, 2018

One June 8th MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack joined Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, MassDOT staff, local leaders, and members of the public to celebrate the ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the new bicycle/pedestrian underpass beneath the MassDOT owned Connecticut River Line in Northampton.

This new $4.4 million underpass in the area of Woodmont Road and King Street connects the Mass Central Rail Trail – on the east side of the railroad tracks – with the Northampton Bike Trail on the west side of the railroad tracks.

It was a 43 years ago (i.e., in 1975) that the idea of a bicycle tunnel under the Connecticut River Rail Line was first floated, said Mayor David Narkewicz.

Specifications were first developed 25 years ago, and construction finally starting in 2016.

Further reading
Northampton Underpass | Trains In The Valley

 


Greenfield | Parking Garage Update

Pre-cast Traffic Route | Olive St Parking Garage | Greenfield, Ma.

The parking garage across from the Olver Transit Center is coming together.

Concrete pours for the footings and foundations have been completed. The crane (300-ton lift capacity) arrived on Mon. June 11th and the contractor began installing precast concrete panels on the site on Wed, June 13th.

The garage should be completed before the end of 2018.

Further Details on this link
greenfield-ma.gov/index.cfm?p=p.330

 


Freight railroads’ key role Western Mass economy

CSX GE-ES44AC Locomotive #0948 on the headend of a Freight | Springfield, Ma.
By CORNELIUSSEON | Wikimedia Commons | License: Attribution 3.0 Unported

Freight railroads’ key role in moving the Western Mass economy
Opinion | By Tim Brennan | via MassLive | May 30, 2018

Tim Brennan, the Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, makes a strong case for moving more freight over an improved and modernized rail network in Western Mass.

 


WMassPI | Briefings: Baker Climbs aboard Rail Study…

Western Mass Politics and Insight | June 13, 2018

“Briefings: Baker Climbs aboard Rail Study…at Yorktown…”
Western Mass Politics & Insight | June 13, 2018

Western Massachusetts Politics & Insight this week took a fresh look at Senator Lesser’s four-year effort to get the state to study East-West rail. Their work is a masterful piece of political analysis.

As always, a must-read for people in the Valley who are following the ins and outs of this long running story of political intrigue.

Rail News Roundup #9

 

Today’s Headlines

• TIV Springfield Event Recap

• TIV Greenfield Event | Feb 1st

• TIV’s Hartford Line Comments

• CT Plans Possible Cuts in Rail Service

• New Springfield Union Station website

• How a State Senator Championed Constituent Testimony

• New Greenfield Parking Garage

• MassDOT Meeting | State Rail Plan (NEW DATE)

• Vermonter Performance Report | 4Q2017

• Holiday on the Property

 

Calendar

State Rail Plan Information Meeting
– Meeting organized by MassDOT –
Mo. January 29, 2018 | 6 pm – 7:30 pm
*** NEW DATE ***

Worcester Regional Transit Authority
60 Forster St
Worcester, MA 01608

Further details
Massachusetts State Rail Plan (Mass.gov)

::

Lessons from the VERMONTER for
Northern New England Rail Passenger Service

– Event organized by Trains in the Valley –
Thurs. February 1, 2018 | 6 pm – 7:30 pm
(Snow Date Wed. February 7th)

Olver Transit Center
12 Olive Street
Greenfield, MA 01301

Registration link
https://trainsinthevalley.eventbrite.com
(Further details below)

 


TIV Springfield Event Recap

A big thank you to all who turned out on a very cold December evening for our “Hartford Line – Coming in May 2018” event in Springfield!

Our guest speaker was John Bernick, Asst. Rail Administrator for Rail Design, Construction and Maintenance of Way at the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

For those of you who couldn’t make it to the event we’ve embedded (and linked) a video of the event below.

 

“The Hartford Line – Coming in May 2018”
Trains In The Valley | Springfield Central Library | December 13, 2017

Here are the video start points:
0:00 – Opening Remarks | Rebecca Townsend, Trains In The Valley
01:30 – Introduction | Ben Heckscher, Trains In The Valley
07:40 – John Bernick’s presentation
36:00 – Questions & Answers

Thanks goes out to Stephen Cary, Station Manager/Executive Producer, of FOCUS Springfield Community Television who was on hand to record the event.

We had great media coverage of the event, including crews from all three local TV channels.

Selected Media coverage

Springfield to Hartford rail service discussion held to answer questions” (0:47)
By Hayley Crombleholme | WWLP-22News | December 13, 2017

“Hartford Line meeting discussed at Springfield meeting” (1:44)
By Jeff Cramer & Jamie Leslie | Western Mass News | December 13, 2017

 


TIV Greenfield Event | Feb. 1st

Amtrak station stop | Greenfield, Ma. | 2014

Trains In The Valley’s next event in this series will be in Greenfield on Thursday, February 1st (6 pm  – 7:30 pm).

Our topic on this evening will be
Lessons from the VERMONTER for
Northern New England Rail Passenger Service

Our guest speaker will be Carl Fowler, Owner/President of CHF Rail Consulting

Carl Fowler has been an advocate for passenger rail service for over 45 years. He ran a worldwide rail tour company for 33 years and is a long time member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (now known as the Rail Passengers Association) and was for many years a member of its Board of Directors.

He made the original proposal to Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s administration for the daylight schedule that became the Vermonter, when Amtrak decided in 1994 to discontinue its overnight Montrealer service.

Carl will share some history of northern New England passenger service and offer insights for a much more positive future in our region, drawn from his experience with other corridors like the Cascades and Capitol routes on the West Coast.

Further details and registration information can be found on this link:
https://trainsinthevalley.eventbrite.com

 


TIV’s Hartford Line Comments

Back in November the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) hosted three hearings — in New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield — to solicit public input regarding the proposed fares for the planned Hartford Line rail service.

Trains In the Valley attended the Fare Hearing in Springfield on November 15th and submitted the following set of written comments to CTDOT.

Comments Submitted by Trains In The Valley to CTDOT | November 24, 2017 | 3 pages
https://pvraildotorg.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/comments-for-ctdot-2017_11_24.pdf (PDF)

 

The final determination of the fare hearings will be posted on this page [www.ct.gov/dot/hartfordlinecomments] at the conclusion of the review process.

 


CT Plans Possible Cuts in Rail Service

“New and old Metro-North train cars wait on lines at New Haven’s Union Station”
Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant | January 9, 2018

“State Plans Big Rail, Bus Fare Increases”
By Gregory B. Hladky | Hartford Courant | January 9, 2017

The Hartford Courant is reporting today that the Connecticut state government has proposed a “reduction of weekday off-peak service on Shore Line East, Danbury, Waterbury and New Canaan branches and elimination of weekend service on these rail lines.”

The proposed reduction in service (and increase in fares) is part of an effort to manage a significant shortfall in the state’s Special Transportation Fund.

“Governor Malloy called on lawmakers to move quickly to enact new revenue measures such as electronic highway tolls, higher gasoline taxes or dedicating more sales taxes to transportation – all politically unpopular options the legislature has rejected in the past.”

What is unclear at the moment is whether the transportation budget crisis in Connecticut will impact the planned launch of CTrail Hartford Line service in May 2018.

Stay tuned.

 


New Springfield Union Station website

 

Springfield Union Station now has its own website
http://www.springfieldunionstation.com/

and

Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/SpringfieldUnionStation/

 


How a State Senator Championed Constituent Testimony

“How a State Senator Championed Constituent Testimony”
Quorum Analytics | January 3, 2018

An interesting overview of how Sen. Eric Lesser has engaging constituents in the debate over the East-West Rail.

“We often get very bogged down on the how and we forget the why so the debates quickly devolve into the nitty-gritty of which bill, which coalition, which interest group is against it, who’s for it, who’s up who’s down, who wants it, who doesn’t, who’s jealous, who’s not,” Lesser said.

“Its very easy in that kind of a situation to forget the why — why is this important, why are we doing this, what’s at stake for actual people.”

 


New Greenfield Parking Garage | Under Construction

“Construction crews work through frigid temperatures drilling the foundation for the Olive Street parking garage”
Dan Little / The Recorder | December 27, 2017

Much progress has been made at the site of the planned Olive Street Parking Garage in Greenfield over the past few months. Work at the site will soon close down for the rest of the winter and then will restart in mid-March.

The Olive Street garage will relieve parking congestion in Greenfield’s downtown and providing capacity for new commercial and residential growth.

The garage will also service the John W. Olver Transit Center, which provides multi-modal transit connections for the upper Pioneer Valley.

Further reading
Olver Street Parking Garage Project (official website)
City of Greenfield

 


MassDOT Meeting | State Rail Plan (NEW DATE)

>> Updated January 11th and 23rd

 

The public information meeting on the draft update to the Massachusetts State Rail Plan has been moved from January 23 to Monday, January 29, 6 – 7:30 PM.

If you have noted the earlier date in an electronic calendar, please update.

It is our understanding that the updated State Rail Plan will be released for public review next week, on the link noted below.

We have now been told that MassDOT intends to released the draft State Rail Plan Update on Friday, January 26th.

MassDOT will open a three-week comment period after the January 29th meeting in Worcester.

Further information will be provided once MassDOT releases the plan to the public.

Further details
Massachusetts State Rail Plan (Mass.gov)

 


Vermonter Performance Report | 4Q2017

Here’s the quarterly summary of how well the Vermonter has been doing relative to the published timetable.

The southbound Vermonter continues to be delayed by temporary slow orders along the New England Central Railroad’s main line in Vermont and issues related to winter weather.

A word to the wise — we strongly recommend that passengers boarding in Northampton, Holyoke and Greenfield (on weekends, when the Olver Transit Center is closed) check the status of their train before arriving at the station — to limit the amount of time standing outside on the platform.

We are hopeful that later this year we will finally — after three years of passenger service on the Knowledge Corridor — start to see some consistent on-time departures from our stations in the Pioneer Valley.

Further reading
Vermonter Performance (Trains In The Valley)

 


Holiday on the Property

Amtrak Train 55 in Northampton
December 12, 2017 | 2:35 pm

In early December we replaced the cover photo on our Facebook page with this image of southbound Vermonter standing at the station in Northampton.

On most days this train stops in Northampton for just 2-3 minutes but in late December — when holiday travel overlaps with the end of the semester for Smith College and UMass Amherst — the dwell time increases due to the increased number of passengers getting off and on the train.

As example — we know that the southbound train was stopped in Northampton for six minutes on December 20th and the 21st and for seven minutes on the December 22nd. How do we know this? We’ll explain that in the next edition of the Rail News Update.

 

 

Last updated: January 24, 2018