Rail News Roundup #31

 

Today’s Headlines

• Virginia Creates Model for East-West Rail

• ‘Super Commuters’ in Western Mass

• Marketing Agency Named for Valley Flyer

• GoNOMAD’s Valley Flyer Travelogue

• News from Springfield Union Station

• New Schedules | eff. November 11, 2019

• Longmeadow | Birnie Rd Crossing Re-opens

• Holyoke | Historic Station Property Sold

• Our End of Year Appeal for Donations

 

CALENDAR

Advisory Committee Meeting #3
MassDOT East-West Passenger Rail Study
Now planned for early Spring 2020
(was planned for October 2019)

 


Virginia Creates Model for East-West Rail

Courtesy Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

“Major Amtrak, VRE expansion set under $3.7B Virginia-CSX deal”
By Max Smith | WTOP-FM | December 19, 2019

On Thursday December 19, 2019 Governor Ralph Northam announced a landmark agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and CSX to expand service on Virginia’s rail lines — creating a pathway to separate passenger and freight operations along the 110-mile Richmond to Washington, D.C. corridor.

So what does this have to do with east-west passenger rail in Massachusetts you ask? In our view, a lot.

The elephant in the room with with MassDOT’s east-west passenger rail study CSX — the owner of the rail corridor that runs west from Worcester, to Springfield and Pittsfield.

What the agreement in Virginia shows is CSX’s willingness to negotiate what on the surface would appear to be a win-win deal that will allow both freight and passenger service to flourish along a major CSX own rail corridor.

To quote from the official press release —

” ‘CSX is proud of the innovative agreement reached with the Commonwealth of Virginia which will advance our goals for increased safety, efficiency, and volume growth while meeting the public’s desire for more passenger rail service to relieve commuter traffic congestion in the I-95 corridor,’ said Jim Foote, President and Chief Executive Officer of CSX.”

The exact same quote could be used to announce an agreement between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and CSX regarding the east-west rail corridor between Worcester, Springfield and Pittsfield.

The agreement in Virginia shows CSX’s willingness to work with its state partners to move forward major projects that benefit both freight and passenger service along its rail corridors. To say that this is encouraging would be an understatement.

Now we wait to see if the Baker Administration is willing to think big and negotiate a similar win-win deal with CSX in our state.

Further reading

Virginia and CSX Announce Landmark Rail Agreement
Press Release | Office of Governor Ralph Northam | December 19, 2019

 


‘Super Commuters’ in Western Mass

Ricarte Burgos warms the car before his 85-mile drive to work in Cambridge. (Douglas Hook / MassLive)

“He spends $230 a week to get from Western Mass. to Boston and he’s not alone; meet one of the state’s more than 10,000 ‘super commuters’”
By Tanner Stenning | The Republican | November 12, 2019

This article from MassLive highlights the plight of the many residents of western Mass who commute to Boston from our region.

The article highlights a little known 2017 Boston Metropolitan planning organization study (linked below) which estimated that roughly 10,000 residents of Hampden, Hampshire, Berkshire and Franklin counties [currently] travel to Boston regularly for work.

The article also looks at the recent history and support for establishing east-west passenger rail service in the state.

Of particular note are these comments from State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa (D-1st Hampshire) in the article:

“The investment is so important, but … we need to make sure it’s not just something for wealthy people,” said state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, a Northampton Democrat.

“We need to make sure we’re not just gentrifying Western Massachusetts. Anytime a transportation hub is created, there’s always gentrification around it.”
Sabadosa is also a member of the east-west rail advisory group, and a ‘super commuter’ herself.

She says she averages about 1,000 miles a week. Additionally, congestion heading into Boston plays a role in the scheduling of meetings in the state legislature, Sabadosa said.
Sabadosa says building a rail link to the western part of the state is not just about convenience — it’s a necessity.

“We are 80 miles outside of Boston,” she said. “I mean 80 miles out of New York City, you have trains.”

In 2020, with the completion of the long awaited MassDOT East-West Rail Study we should finally know whether or not the state will move forward expanded rail service along the east-west CSX rail corridor in our state.

Further reading

Long-Distance Commuting in the Boston Region: Necessity or “Strategic Mobility Choice”? (PDF)
Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization
September 2017

 


Marketing Agency Named for Valley Flyer

First southbound Valley Flyer | Greenfield, MA
August 30, 2019 | Courtesy the Recorder

“NYC firm to begin marketing Valley Flyer train service”
By Anita Fritz | Daily Hampshire Gazette | December 1, 2019

The watsons — a branding, advertising and design firm based out of New York City — has been selected to develop and manage the marketing campaign to promote the Valley Flyer.

An in-person meeting with the watsons was hosted by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments on November 22nd in Greenfield.

In attendance were regional stakeholders, including area chambers of commerce, regional planners, representatives from cities along the route, elected officials and their staff members, and Trains In The Valley. Notably, there were also stakeholders present from southern New Hampshire and Vermont.

The firm is working through the “discovery phase” of the project and will soon be working on brand strategy development.

Further reading

the watsons | company website

 


GoNOMAD Valley Flyer Travelogue

Screenshot of the GoNOMAD website | December 22, 2109

Valley Flyer Brings Train Service Back to Western Mass
By Jared Shein and Callum McLaughlin | GoNOMAD | November 2019

For those thinking about a taking the Valley Flyer, here’s a great online travelogue that highlights the journey from Greenfield to New Haven and return. The trip review was written by a pair of writers from GoNOMAD.com, a leading travel website.

Highlights of their trip included a visit to the Yale University Art Gallery , New Haven’s Little Italy, and Jordan’s Furniture, home of the world’s largest indoor adventure ropes course.

 


News from Springfield Union Station

Union Stations Wins Award

Image Courtesy of Retrofit Magazine

“Vacant for 40 years, the Historic Springfield Union Station Now Is a Gateway to the Future”
By Robert Nieminen | Retrofit Magazine | November 4, 2019

Springfield Union Station has won a 2019 Metamorphosis Award – in the Historic category – from industry journal Retrofit magazine .

The article about the award provides a unique overview of the station’s renovation, which was 40 years in the making.

 

Union Station Book Kiosk Opened

Springfield Union Station | December 20, 2019

Do you have extra books you’d like to donate? How about dropping them off at the new book exchange at Springfield Union Station?

All of the books have been donated by friends of the station and the selection is expected to change over time. Ideally, the donated books will circulate along with the bus and train passengers, and then be returned for others to read.

The book exchange kiosk is located on the east side of the station concourse.

 

New High-level Platform — Ready this year?

We continue to hear mixed signals on when exactly the new high-level platform at Union Station (Platform C) will be opened to the public.

A report in the Republican on November 12th indicated that the platform would open in “three or four weeks,” but as late as last week there was still work taking place at the platform worksite.

What the hold up is now we do not know, but all indications suggest that Amtrak is very close to finally giving its okay so that the new platform can be opened, at long last.

Further reading

“Springfield Union Station platform nears completion”
By Jim Kinney | The Republican | November 12, 2019

 


New Schedules | Effective November 11, 2019

Scanned copy of schedule markup | November 2019

New schedules for the Hartford Line, the Vermonter, and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service went into effect back on November 11, 2019.

There were no significant changes to the schedule for service in western Mass, but even so the schedule change required us to recheck all of the information on our Valley Flyer / Vermonter Schedule Overview sheet that we produce and distribute. Its a rather tedious process as you can see from the markup shown above.

A clean copy of the schedule overview can be found on this link:
Valley Flyer / Vermonter Schedule Overview (PDF) | November 11, 2019

 


Longmeadow | Birnie Rd Crossing Re-opens

Birnie Road crossing | Longmeadow, MA | November 15, 2019
Courtesy the Republican

“‘For too long, this site was ignored’: Safety improvements complete at railroad crossing where Longmeadow DPW worker died in train collision”
By Greg Saulmon | The Republican | November 15, 2019

On November 15, 2019 Amtrak reopened the Birnie Road railroad crossing in Longmeadow, Mass.

This crossing, which is now protected by active traffic control devices (flashing lights, bells, and gates) — where none existed before — carries Birnie Road across the busy Amtrak-owned north-south rail line.

Further reading

Railroad crossing of Note | Birnie Road
Trains In The Valley

 


Holyoke | Historic Station Property Sold

Former Boston & Maine Railroad station | Holyoke, MA
Courtesy the Daily Hampshire Gazette | November 15, 2019

“Next stop for landmark Holyoke train station: Restoration”
By Dusty Christensen | Daily Hampshire Gazette | November 17, 2109

The former Boston and Maine Railroad station in Holyoke has been sold.

The station building on the property, which was designed by prominent American 19th-century architect Henry Hobson Richardson, was built in 1883 for the Connecticut River Railroad.

It was sold by its recent owner, the Holyoke Gas & Electric Department, to Race Street Properties LLC for $10,001, according to the deed filed on October 24, 2019 with the Hampden County Registry of Deeds.

Future plans for the property have are yet to be determined according to the article.

Members of the public are encouraged to send ideas for the future use of the building to the new owners using this email address –
holyokestation@holyoke.com

Further reading

Holyoke Station Feasibility Study and Site Analysis (2011)
This study was prepared to evaluate the options for a new passenger rail station in the City of Holyoke, Massachusetts.

 


Our End of Year Appeal for Donations

Northampton station | looking south
Tues. December 3, 2019 at about 10:30 am

About a week ago we sent out our end of the year appeal for donations. We are happy to report that as of today we have received donations — ranging from $10 to $200 —  from 23 individuals.

For those of you how may have not seen the appeal we have repeated it below.

What we do as a group takes the time of volunteers as well as a modest amount of money — and now is the time when we need to ask for donations.

Your contribution today will help us to:

  • Enhance and maintain our website. This includes the on-going expense of hosting the site and the software that we use to manage and edit the content that we publish.
  • Produce printed materials to promote the use of passenger rail in our region — as example, the Valley Flyer / Vermonter Schedule Overview that is printed and distributed by us at the stations in Greenfield and Northampton.
  • Expand the reach of the Facebook advertising that we use to raise the awareness of the available passenger rail services in our region, and the work of Trains In The Valley.
  • Launch a volunteer station host program, for Greenfield and Northampton, modeled after the successful host program in place today at station stops along the Amtrak Downeaster line in Maine.
  • Establish Trains In The Valley as a non-profit, tax exempt, 501(c)(3) organization.
  • Support our continued volunteer efforts to improve and expand passenger rail service in the Pioneer Valley.

To make a donation please follow this link:
Trainsinthevalley.org/donate

No donation is too small and any amount will be greatly appreciated by us and used to directly support our work.

And with that we wishes everyone best wished for the holiday season and a nice start to the new year.

Sincerely,

Ben Heckscher
Co-founder

Zane Lumelsky
Co-founder

 


Happy Holidays to All!

The southbound Vermonter on a snowy day in Chicopee, Mass.
YouTube user Masswolf | February 2, 2015