Rail News Roundup #29


Today’s Headlines

• The Valley Flyer, Day 38

• Northampton | New parking arrangement at Union Station

• Springfield underpass project update

• Planned New Windsor Locks Station

• CTDOT Plans for New Cars on the Hartford Line



Green Signals Ahead – the future of rail expansion in the Bay State
Rail Users’ Network Annual Meeting & Public Forum | FREE
Meeting Program & Directions (PDF)
Fri. October 11, 2019 | 12 Noon – 5 PM
60 Temple Place
Boston, MA
registration link

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


The Valley Flyer, Day 38

A lot has happened since the Valley Flyer was launched on August 30th, so we thought we’d take a moment to recap some of the many highlights.


Day 1 | August 30, 2019

At some point in the early morning hours of August 30, 2019 the train information screen in the Olver Transit Center updated itself with the news — that the day had finally come.

Source: asm.transitdocs.com/signboard/GFD


By Paul Franz | Courtesy the Greenfield Recorder

In this image Train 495, the inaugural run of the Valley Flyer, is seen on the platform at the Olver Transit Center in Greenfield.

State Senator Jo Comerford is seen posing for a picture with members of the Amtrak crew as they wait for the scheduled departure time. (Its sort of amazing to see so many people smiling in this picture, considering the time of day, which was about 5:40 AM.)


Video: “All Aboard!” (0:36) via Facebook
Greenfield station | August 30, 2019

And off they go, right on time.


Further down the line in Northampton a crowd was forming on the platform in anticipation of the arrival of the inaugural train.

Trains In The Valley — which had announced a celebration of sorts — had strong coffee and donuts available for all comers.


The inaugural run of the Valley Flyer arriving Northampton August 30, 2019
Kevin Gutting/Daily Hampshire Gazette

As dawn broke over the station platform in Northampton — at about 6:10 AM — the telltale sound of a horn could be heard in the distance as the first train approached the crossing at Damon Road.

Within a few moments one could hear a low rumble, and then the sound of the locomotive’s bell, as the train rounded the historic Union Station building and slowly approached the platform.

Some called for people on the platform to “stand back.”

Stepping off in Northampton were Sen. Comerford and Greenfield Mayor William Martin.

State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa then stepped on the train for a quick trip down to Springfield with her team. (She was back in Northampton or the arrival of train 471 at 8 AM.)


Later in the day Amtrak announced a special 25% off promotion for travel on the Valley Flyer thru October 31, 2019.

To use this discount enter Promo Code v459 when booking your ticket on the Amtrak website [amtrak.com] or the Amtrak mobile app.

Further details, including Amtrak’s Terms & Condistions for this promotion can be found on this link
Valley Flyer 25% Off Promotion


Day 5 | September 3, 2019

Valley Flyer train 471 | Northampton, MA | September 3, 2019

The 8 AM departure from Northampton on the first work day after the launch.

The small group includes a person returning home to Philadelphia, a Yale grad student headed to New Haven, and one person heading to work in Springfield.

Today was also the first day of paid parking in the privately-owned lots at the station in Northampton. (more on this topic below)


Day 6 | September 4, 2019

Trains In The Valley starts promoting use of the Valley Flyer for travel to/from the Hartbeat Music Festival in Hartford, CT.


Day 12 | September 10, 2019

Amtrak’s ticket system is finally updated to reflect the name of the new service.

Until this point their booking system had been listing the new trains with the name “Shuttle” — a train name that Amtrak has now retired.


Day 8–10 | September 10–12, 2019

Valley Flyer and Vermonter rail service north of Springfield is suspended for three days to accommodate long-planned work on the Springfield North End Pedestrian Underpass project.


Day 13 | September 11, 2019

Working with the CTDOT and King Ward Coach Lines, Trains In The Valley starts promoting use of the Valley Flyer and the Hartford Line for travel to the 2019 Big E.


Day 15 | September 13, 2019

Ride the Lake Street Love Train with the River! | 93.9 The River

Radio station 93.9 The River announces a special run of Valley Flyer train 471 on October 8th to New Haven, for a private concert with Lake Street Dive. (Further details on this link — Ride the Lake Street Love Train with the River!)


Day 18 | September 16, 2019

The Franklin Regional Council of Governments and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission issue Request for Proposal 20190930 — “Marketing Campaign for the Valley Flyer Passenger Rail Service.”

Most of the marketing campaign will be paid for using funds that were secured by Sen. Jo Comerford’s during the FY2020 state budget process.

Further reading

“Senate adds $250K to budget for Knowledge Corridor”
By Anita Fritz | Greenfield Recorder | May 28, 2019


Day 25 | September 23, 2019

Amtrak finally issues a combined Vermonter / Valley Flyer timetable. The effective date of September 23, 2019, coincides with a planned update to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor schedule.


Day 28 | September 26, 2019

Trains In The Valley and the Northampton Jazz Festival work to promote the use of the Valley Flyer, and the Vermonter, for travel to/from Northampton.


Day 37 | October 5, 2019

Governor Charlie Baker and other officials celebrated the launch of the Valley Flyer at Springfield Union Station on Sat. October 5th.

Video | “Governor Baker celebrates new Valley Flyer service lines” (0:58) By Katrina Kincade | WWLP-22News | October 5, 2019


Springfield Union Station | October 5, 2019
Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Jo Comerford.


Further reading

Amtrak and MassDOT Announce Start of New Valley Flyer Train Service in Western and Northern Massachusetts
Amtrak Press Release | August 28, 2019

“A new dawn for rail? Valley Flyer pilot makes its debut”
By Bera Dunau | Daily Hampshire Gazette | August 30, 2019

“Pioneer Valley Rail Advocates Celebrate New ‘Valley Flyer’ Service”
By Christian MilNeil | Streetsblog MASS | August 30, 2019


Northampton | New parking arrangement at Union Station

Union Station lot | Northampton, MA | September 9, 2019

On Tuesday, September 3, 2019 an automatic 24-hour parking control system was switched on for all parking in the Union Station lots.

The rate to park in these lots — including those near the station platform — is now $0.75/hour.

This hourly rate is equal to what the city charges at the E.G. Gare Parking Garage. For those looking to park for a longer period of time, this works out to $18 to park for 24-hours.

Note that there is a 15-minute grace period for people picking up and dropping of passengers at the station.

Its important to note that the entire parking lot at Union Station is privately owned by the entity that owns the historic Union Station building. The lot is not owned by the City of Northampton.

Trains In The Valley and others continue to be concerned about the lack of reasonable priced long-term parking near the train station in Northampton.


Springfield underpass project update

Springfield underpass work site as viewed from Birnie Ave | September 19, 2019

Work on the planned new pedestrian underpass in the North End section of Springfield continues.

Further reading

Springfield underpass project | Trains In The Valley


Planned New Windsor Locks station

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) hosted a public information meeting on Thursday, September 19, 2019 to discuss the Windsor Locks Station Project.

The new station, which will be located near the center of the town, will include a single high-level platform, a multi-use trail with connections to the Canal Trail via Bridge Street, parking, and other amenities similar to the newly constructed Hartford Line Stations.

The projected cost for the entire project, which includes other elements besides the new station, is a staggering $65 million.

Work on the project is expected to start in late 2020 — with the new station expected to open two years later, in late 2022.

These three slides, from the meeting presentation, summarize the project.

Windsor Locks Public Meeting Presentation – page 8 | September 19, 2019


Windsor Locks Public Meeting Presentation – page 20 | September 19, 2019

The design for the new station involves construction of a 500-foot elevated platform to the west of the existing track, the construction and temporary use of what will become a utility building to house ticketing machines, a shelter for those transferring to the Bradley shuttle, and parking facilities.

Initially, both northbound and southbound trains will utilize the new platform. Once the track improvements north of Hartford are completed, CTDOT will expand the structure to include a new northbound platform to the east of the tracks and the “up and over” feature to provide a passenger connection to both northbound and southbound platforms.


Windsor Locks Public Meeting Presentation – page 21 | September 19, 2019


Further reading

Windsor Locks Station Factsheet (PDF)
CTDOT | September 2019

Windsor Locks Station Public Meeting Presentation (PDF)
CTDOT | September 2019

“Delay seen in bonding for Windsor Locks train station”
By Anthony Branciforte | Journal Inquirer | September 2019


CTDOT Plans for New Cars on the Hartford Line

CTrail Hartford Line Ex. MBTA Coaches at New Haven | By Interstate Railfan
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CTrail_Hartford_Line_Ex._MBTA_Coaches_at_New_Haven.jpg

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) has announced its intention to purchase a fleet of new rail cars to replace its existing push-pull coaches on the CTrail Hartford Line, CTrail Shore Line East, Danbury Line, and Waterbury Line.

CTDOT plans to release a formal Request for Proposals for the new coaches in late 2019 and award a contract some time in 2020.

Generally speaking, the manufacture of new passenger rail vehicles in this country takes about 3-4 years so we shouldn’t expect to see these new cars in service anytime soon. With that said, its great to see CTDOT moving forward with plans for new coaches on the Hartford Line.

Further reading

CTDOT Solicitation #19CTrail-1 (PDF)
RFI for Procurement of FRA-Compliant Rail Cars