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Train Departing Amherst Station

Federal stimulus money might extend rail passenger service throughout the Pioneer Valley, but not everyone is on board.

Comments (37)
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Photo by Mark Roessler
The 4:20 Vermonter departs Amherst station. Soon, the Vermonter may be redirected via Greenfield.

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Long before Interstate 91 tore its way through farms, homes and downtowns along the banks of the Connecticut River, providing a multi-lane ribbon of auto traffic between New Haven and northern Vermont, there were thousands of miles of rail, both steam and electric, knitting communities and industry together. A hundred years ago, people stepping outside their houses in most towns in the Pioneer Valley had far more transportation options available to them than they do today. Without having their own vehicles, they could go farther and to a wider range of places.

A few years ago at the Hadley flea market, I found the September 1909 edition of Stapleton's Valley Guide [to Rail Travel]. The 112 pages of train schedules and advertising was printed by Wm. R. Stapleton Publishing Co., Holyoke, and it boasted a circulation of 15,000. It's thick with ads for hundreds of Holyoke businesses who depended on the rails to bring them customers ("Utley's Wholesale and Retail Manufacturer and Designer, College Novelties—Fraternity Banners—Leather Goods... Specialties and Artistic Decoraters [sic] of all kinds," "La France Hotel, American and European Plan, Center of Theatre and Business District, Rooms 50 cents and Upwards," "R.A. Prentiss, Fine Footwear"), but the majority of the little volume is devoted to detailed listings of all the train times for the dozens of train and trolley lines. Government subsidies weren't required to sustain public transportation then: rail was big business and there were many steam and electric railroads vying for passengers and freight. They laid track, bought cars, built stations and maintained, managed and tried to grow their enterprises. Valley readers needed a clear, comprehensive guide to make sense of all the options afforded, and that's what Stapleton's provided.

Six times a day, for instance, someone in Charlemont could hop a steam train on the Boston & Maine line running the course of the Mohawk trail and be in Greenfield 40 minutes later. Heading the other way, the trip to North Adams, through the Hoosac Tunnel, was only 30 minutes. Riding a train an hour from Greenfield, passengers could arrive in Springfield to the south, Athol in the east, or Brattleboro to the north. An extensive street trolley network ran between Greenfield and Springfield with tendrils running as far as Williamsburg in the hilltowns, and beyond Westfield in the west and Palmer in the east. Different companies owned the rails and employed legions of conductors, engineers, and a multitude of other professions related to keeping engines arriving on time.

In its way, a hundred years ago, the region's rail system was its own kind of Internet, transporting people and their things rather than data. Along with the jobs and shopping made available to someone living within range of a rail station, trains brought students to school, news and information from faraway, and foreign vacationers to the region's hotels, theaters, restaurants, resorts and parks.

In recent months, with the promise of $8 billion in federal stimulus money available for rail transit improvements, an idea that had been percolating at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) for some time has come to a boil. There's a possibility some of the freedom and industry rail access provides will return to parts of the Valley that haven't seen it in decades: Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield.

Others, though, in Amherst and Palmer, may lose what relatively sparce train traffic they've enjoyed.

*

Working for the PVPC, Dana Roscoe has been the project manager for the Knowledge Corridor Passenger Rail Study, investigating how improving passenger train travel between Springfield and White River Junction might be achieved and what its effect on the region might be in terms of population and economic growth.

The project began over two years ago, and in addition to being a "catalyst for regional progress" as the PVPC seeks to be, it was taken on to resolve a long standing problem faced by the last remaining passenger service in Western Massachusetts. Since the mid-1980s, the daily trip the Amtrak's Vermonter makes between St. Albans,Vt. and Washington, D.C.—each day the train travels the length once, turns around and returns the next day—has hit a 45-minute snag between Brattleboro and Springfield.

Roscoe explained the situation.

From New Haven northward, the train follows the river along what had once been the main rail thoroughfare, but when it comes to Springfield, the track that crosses the river into Holyoke and beyond has fallen into disrepair. For decades, Guilford Rail owned and operated the track, maintaining it only for infrequent freight trips, and now, on some stretches of the route, cars can only travel at 10 miles per hour. It is now maintained by Pan Am Railways. Coal is brought up from Rhode Island for a plant in Holyoke, Roscoe said, and another manufacturer north of Northampton occasionally makes rail shipments that inconvenience Damon Road traffic. Other than that, the line's little used. The previous owners haven't been interested in attempts to work with Amtrak, and a major update and overhaul of the track was needed if passenger service was to continue.

Amtrak was forced to turn to plan B and look for alternate routes. Instead of heading north, the train switches to a line owned by CSX Railroad and speeds along east for 15 minutes away from the river to Palmer—making its way through Indian Orchard and Ludlow. At the Palmer switching yard, once a busy nexus, the train switches track again. After waiting 10 minutes with the doors shut, the engine begins pulling the cars off slowly through the hills to Belchertown and beyond on a rail owned by the New England Central Railroad. It makes its one and only passenger stop in Amherst, and then gradually makes its way back to the river via Millers Falls. Near Northfield, it crosses the river, and just shy of the Vermont border the train reconnects with the original rail. On a good day, a 45-minute detour.

The $2.6 million spent to keep the Vermonter running is paid entirely by the state of Vermont. Once the train went all the way into Canada (and was known as the Montrealer), and expenses were shared, but now the taxpayers of the Green Mountain State keep it running as a connection to points south, hopefully one that attracts visitors. 12,679 passengers got onto the train at the Amherst station stop in 2008, but, as Dana Roscoe points out, "not all of those people live in Amherst."

The small brick station down the hill from Emily Dickinson's house was always intended as a spur off the main line, and it was only an accident of fate that turned it into the exclusive rail stop in the upper Pioneer Valley. Roscoe was tasked with finding a way to revive the main line in order to improve traffic and bring the advantages of rail to as many communities as possible. From the outset, he says, for the good of the Pioneer Valley as a whole, there was no question that adding three station stops in Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield on a revamped river line was worth losing Amherst's stop on the scenic detour. Asked whether the PVPC ever considered including Amherst in the study, he said, "No."

*

The March 22 Springfield Republican, quotes Blake E. Lamothe, chair of the Palmer Redevelopment Authority, as saying the region around his town has more train passengers than the proposed station stops. "They should be looking at Palmer and putting that on the front burner," he said, adding that plans for the river line should be scrapped. The April 27 Daily Hampshire Gazette reports that Amherst's town manager, Larry Shaffer, is equally firm, but more philosophical.

"We want to be positive about this," he said. "We don't want to prevent anybody from getting a benefit that they think makes sense for their communities, but we don't want that benefit to be at the expense of Amherst."

Roscoe insists that he and the PVPC are working for a solution that's in the best interests of the Valley as a whole and meets the needs of Vermonters, who keep the train running. Though the planning has been going on for two years, people are only starting to take notice now because funding has suddenly appeared, coinciding with the near completion of Roscoe's work.

He and his team have established the feasibility of updating the rails to support the Vermonter, and they are currently working with the municipalities involved on reports that project economic and population growth. These impact studies will include two public meetings, one to be held May 19 in Springfield at the TD Banknorth Conference Center on Main Street, and the other on May 20 in Northampton at the Clarion Hotel on Atwood Drive. Both events start at 7 p.m.

Roscoe believed that the $30 million for this project was the only funding the state intended to request as Massachusetts' slice of the $8 billion federal stimulus pie. In addition to these funds made available by President Obama's recovery act, coincidentally, longtime efforts in Connecticut for a new commuter rail between Springfield and New Haven are beginning to move forward. If the improved Vermonter route and the Connecticut commuter rail both come to fruition, Roscoe believes extending the commuter service (more trains, more rides, more often) to at least as far as Northampton is within reach.

A reliable daily train commute between the cities and towns along the Connecticut River would burst the region's job market wide open, creating all kinds of interesting new opportunities for employers and job-seekers, while the local tourism trade could begin serving a much wider audience.

The mayors in Greenfield, Northampton and Holyoke are already working with the PVPC to pick out new station stops. Holyoke's Mayor Sullivan has recommended a spot at the intersection of Dwight Street and Main Street. In Northampton, where the former station now houses two restaurants and a bar, the plan is to construct a temporary station nearby at the back of the adjacent parking lot. Roscoe said that he and Northampton's Mayor Clare Higgins had discussed other, more permanent possibilities, but he didn't think any were firm enough for an announcement. The rail lines run parallel to King Street, and given the many empty lots, there are many possible locations. A recently announced $12.8 million transit hub for buses and taxis in Greenfield is to be located in the former Toyota dealership near the Energy Park. It also stands directly adjacent to the rail line, and Roscoe points out it would make a fine train station stop.

*

The Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum houses, along with a museum and many train relics, the only functioning trolley car in the Northeast that runs on its original rails.

For nearly 30 years, from the end of the Victorian era until after the First World War, a trolley system ran between Shelburne Falls and Colrain, making stops in Charlemont, Griswoldville and Lyonsville. While the cars included seating for passengers, half was reserved for freight. The rail system was built by the local cotton mills chiefly to get their inventory to the Boston & Maine Rail Road that still runs through Shelburne Falls. The region was the chief supplier of gauze during "the war to end all wars." The mills built the power generators, laid the track and provided the cars. When trucking became cheaper than trolleys, the trolley closed down.

Sam Bartlett, an electrical engineer by trade, manages the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum. While he and the volunteer crew he works with clearly love their last-of-its-kind trolley car they keep running on the less than a mile of original track, he's not counting on the return of light electric rail any time soon. Though romantics at heart, a lot of train enthusiasts are practical, technical people who understand that commerce and efficiency are what governs a rail company's success or failure. Indeed, rail history is one of routine technological achievements causing both great triumphs for those who discover them and miserable defeat for those who don't.

Bartlett went to UMass, and sometimes when the weather was warm, he used to head down to the Amherst station for lunch, where he'd watch the trains go by. His father had also gone to school in that town and had also eaten his sandwiches there. Bartlett promised to send me some pictures his dad had taken when steam engines still rumbled through the Amherst station, but he didn't offer much encouragement when asked whether he though maybe Dana Roscoe and the PVPC should consider adding Amherst and Palmer to his plans for the Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield stops.

"Maybe," he said. "The new commuter line between Boston and Portland, Maine is gaining riders. It could work here." But, he added, "People like their cars. From what I hear, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority does a good job down there." As someone whose goal is to build a masonry trolley shed and to extend the rails further down the hill into town, he knows the expense involved with keeping cars running on the rails. A lot would have to change, he says, for the Valley to be able to accommodate a main line and a spur.

*

But a lot is changing if mayors are beginning to start picking out locations for train stations.

The money's not yet in hand and nothing's finalized, but even the promise of recovery money has started to stimulate some exciting activity. Given the two years the feasibility report has been in the works and the relative quiet from local politicians about the possibility of train travel returning, it would appear that while they are hopeful, they've adopted a prudent wait-and-see attitude. Until very recently, no one had any reason to expect that the government was going to spend $8 billion on rail infrastructure.

Now that expanded passenger rail service is a possibility and perhaps even a likelihood, maybe it's a good time for Pioneer Valley planners to update their thinking beyond a time when the world lived happily within a housing bubble and gas prices hadn't yet quadrupled. Instead of abandoning the time and money spent over the years to keep the Palmer-Amherst line functioning, why not consider occasionally including it once a week in the current Vermonter itinerary? Similarly, if Greenfield's going to become a rail destination again, why not investigate opening the east-west Boston & Maine Rail Road to resume traffic between North Adams, and perhaps, one day, Boston? While $30 million once seemed an unattainable goal, perhaps asking for $50 million would allow the region to begin thinking beyond the Vermonter to a day when train travel in the Pioneer Valley isn't just a means for leaving the state, but traveling inside it.

Comments (37)
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I don't think they should shut Amherst out. It is very unfair to the people of Amherst.
Posted by thisisit on 5.5.09 at 19:16
You never mentioned that going to Palmer requires Amtrack to use 2 engines, one at each end of the train (it reverses not turns). Expensive! But, if the the train were to split in half in Palmer, you could send 2 cars to Boston and another 2 into Springfield with no additional equipment costs..
Posted by Tom Donovan on 5.5.09 at 21:09
I know when the students are here they give the station a lot of bussines and it would be truely missed by the town's people.
Posted by Kathy on 5.6.09 at 5:17
This is great work being done by the PVPC! I am convinced that the rebirth of efficient commuter trains in our State and beyond is the most powerfull economic development tool there is. Springfield would undoubtedly become a destination for residents and businesses if and when the Union Station development is complete and commuter rail to Northampton ,Vermont,New Haven and some day Boston is a reality....It is not only a great idea..It is the answer to Springfields and the regions economic woes!!! The Business community and city leaders need to be "All Aboard" on this one! Evan C Plotkin Let me know what I can do
Posted by Evan Plotkin on 5.6.09 at 8:10
Many of the 5 College area's ca. 25,000 students commute to points south and east. It seems downright silly to deliberately exclude them by putting the nearest station in 'Hamp, to which there is no public transport.
Posted by John Ragle on 5.6.09 at 18:32
There is plenty of FREE public transportation to Northampton on the PVTA for Amherst/Umass residents to get to the train if it moves. The people of Holyoke and Greenfield have to drive 20 minutes or more, or pay for a bus to catch the train. Holyoke and Greenfield need all the economic incentives they can get. I think Amherst can stand to lose a train stop.
Posted by youthelectronix on 5.6.09 at 19:36
As usual, folks from Amherst focus on keeping what they think they're entitled to (and already have plenty of). So they lose a train stop. But they still have an incredible *free* bus network to get them to Northampton or Springfield to catch a train. Of course, they don't care about the larger, and poorer, population to the South... "keep `em there!" Amherst, of course, is much more important than "those towns south of the `Range". Liberal, progressive, elitist, racist Amherst... never failing to live up to its reputation.
Posted by Joe K. on 5.7.09 at 7:39
The state of Vermont has threatened to cut funding for the "Vermonter" more than once over the past few years. If that happens train stations in Pioneer Valley are a moot point because all Amtrak trains would terminate at Springfield. Maybe the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should consider financing this train service to ensure its survival.
Posted by Samuel Augustus Jennings on 5.7.09 at 16:36
Hey Joe K, You know, the people of Northampton can also take the bus to Amherst. You know there is plenty of public transportation for the people of Noho to get to Amherst. I really want to stand and wait for a train in Holyoke and Greenfield. Just because someone lives in Amherst doesn't make them rich. The train station is a part of the Amherst history. When I was a child we would watch the trains. It was magical. Do we ask other towns to tear down something that is being used in their town? Why should the people who live in Amherst, Sunderland and other areas always have to go to the "big" cities to get services. And calling the people of Amherst racist, and elitist what the hell does that make you? You should be ashamed of yourself. Why don't you work to have them "add a train stop" to your town instead of taking service away from another. It sounds like you are bitter and greedy. If you don't like where you live then move. And also it doesn't help your cause to resort to immature name calling. I think a little growing up needs to happen on your part.
Posted by me on 5.7.09 at 22:24
I don't care for Joe K's exact language, but I share his sentiment that the Amherstite comments reflect a painful shortsightedness akin to the way Boston treats Western Mass. If we ask the question of what is best for our Valley, not just our own square mile, the overwhelming choice is the River route. A rail station in Amherst is like Boston having its airport on the harbor - convenient for those on the Blue Line, but a pain in the butt for everyone else. To quote the German expression, "there are people on the other side of the hills, too!" I don't know what to think of someone complaining about a 6-mile drive to Noho versus their 2-mile drive across town, especially in a nice car; do you even ride the train once a year? Do you even leave Amherst? The rail stops mean so much for Holyoke and Greenfield, much like the return of rail service to Brockton in 1997. These places need help, especially since Amherst is buying their Chinese-made tools and textiles from the Hadley big boxes. So I look forward to the River route, and hopefully one day Amherst will overcome its "opposed to anything (from parking garages and golf courses to American flags) groups" and open a 50 mph light rail spur past stalled Route 9 traffic. That, as the article suggests, is the best vision. Though I guess, for now, Amherst coughed its last dime on a school superintendent and will need 6 mill in stimulus money to fix its potholes and keep its schools open.
Posted by Tim R. on 5.8.09 at 6:55
Tim it seems like you are a bitter man. Amherst is nothing like Boston so that is really reaching for it. And again you assume all people in Amherst are rich. Hey I am not. And you also assume that we don't use the train system, and I do. If you read the article quite a few people do use the train system. As much as I respect Holyoke and Greenfield I still think it is wrong to take away something Amherst has had all my life. Hey and it isn't Amherst's fault that Hadley is full of Big Box stores. Are you blind Greenfield and Holyoke are not big box virgins. And don't tell me no one in Greenfield and Holyoke frequent them. Because that is a lot of BS. Amherst has the right to decide how their town will grow. If you want parking garages go to Noho the Mayor wants to build another one. I think you are just jealous that Amherst is a quaint town. And it doesn't have any big box store. If they decide to build the rail in other towns that will be great. But Amherst would be a fool to lay down and take it. Hey I will wave to you at Walmart and Home depot when you are picking up your toilet. Because what you wrote and your hateful attitude will need to be flushed so pick up the toilet that can flush the BUCKET of golf balls because you will need it when you flush your rude post. Oh and if you look around you most of the communities will need to decide on an override! lol And honey what does that superintendent have to do with train service. Good try!
Posted by thisisit on 5.8.09 at 7:29
Interesting article, Mark. Thanks for all of this good information.
Posted by Mary Serreze on 5.8.09 at 10:12
They really should try to fit the Palmer and Amherst depots in. If they open the casino in Palmer they will make a lot of money having people hop on the train to get to the casino. Hey I would and so would tons of seniors too.
Posted by holly222 on 5.8.09 at 13:25
Hey never thought of that. I love the train and I could take it to the new casino!!!!!!!!!!!! yes.
Posted by thisisit2 on 5.8.09 at 13:28
Okay silly-billys: the current situation of having to switch tracks and change directions near Palmer takes 45 minutes, which is longer than it takes to ride the bus to Northampton. It also deters people from choosing Amtrak during times when the Peter Pan rates to places like New York might be comparable (more recently I found the train to be a few dollars cheaper if I switched to MetroNorth in New Haven, but this wasn't the case at least 2006-2009 and probably not around school holidays). I wouldn't be surprised if the old Amherst station could become a quaint historical site with some museum pieces that you can still enjoy on weekends (minus the whopping two trains per day you might have seen pass). And Northampton has more people, not that either town has a terribly high population density considering that we manage to run buses at all. I just hope that the new station stops will be adjacent to town centers and multiple bus routes no matter what.
Posted by TabithaBos on 5.8.09 at 23:14
Some posts pitch this as a Amherst versus Northampton/Greenfiled/Holyoke debate. It's not. The rail stop in Northampton BENEFITS Amherst for several reasons: 1)As TabithaBos mentioned, it decreases overall transit time: 65 minutes from Amherst to Springfield (assuming no delays on the most delay-prone route in nation) versus 25 minutes Northampton -Springfield, plus time to get to Northampton 2)Vermont State will fund 1-3 daily trips through Northampton, and threatens to stop funding if trip is through Amherst. 3)Many many more passengers will ride this line, ensuring survival of train in Upper Valley. (For example, Northamptoners like me will get on at Noho instead of at Springfield) People mention this hurts UMass students. Not true. Almost none ride the train at Amherst since it's too expensive. Increased ridership should help spur demand for cheaper MetroNorth to Springfield. This will break monopolistic price of Peter Pan Bus. Benefits students. AMHERST RESIDENTS: Please consider these points when forming your opinion.
Posted by Amtrak_Rider on 5.10.09 at 4:45
First of all, Mark, reading your article once again, I have to say you did a really great job with this, a thorough coverage of past, present, and possible future. It's very nostalgic and exciting at the same time. It reminds me that we are seeing many "old" concepts returning - family farms, glass containers, etc - that are suddenly practical once again. Second, TabithaBos, I think you made the most insightful note, that in fact the new line is also quicker for Amherst, too! You know, in my limited view I was focused on the angle that the River route was better for the Valley overall, with a slightly longer drive from Amherst. But you're right - if I think of the places I've lived in town over the years, from my "quaint" confines in Southwest, to my North Amherst "six-family," or even the Strong St place where I walked to Amtrak and Peter Pan, a 45-minute savings on the train pays off. From where I am now, I could even pump up my bike tires, ride to Noho, and still save time. I'd have to live on the far side of Belchertown before the drive would lose me time on this deal. Sorry to my not-so-far neighbors over there if I offend(!). Re-reading the article, though, I guess our sentiments are probably all moot because of the almighty dollar. I mean, if Amtrak takes 2.6 mill a year from Vermont to keep this train running in the first place, I find it highly unlikely that Amtrak will balk at offering better service at lower operational cost, any more than a broke hamlet will come up with the cash to justify its detour. Granted, this is a strange netherworld where even Boy Scouts selling Christmas trees find stiff opposition, but I have to expect that this project will get railroaded along because the logic and practicality are so strong and extend far beyond Boltwood Walk ....
Posted by Tim R. on 5.10.09 at 4:49
If there hadnt have been such a short-sighted rush to turn rail lines into near-useless "recreation trails" then there could be a RAIL link between Amherst and Noho and have a station in BOTH places on the same route.(the train could cross back to greenfield up at East Deerfield ) Those 'bike paths' are just a PC waste of tax money for 'feel-good ' politicians. I ride a bike a LOT and those paths are a total waste.would much rather have trains.
Posted by woody on 5.12.09 at 4:35
It is unfortunate that this piece (and similar pieces in the DH Gazette and Amherst Bulletin) portrays this as a win-lose situation. In addition to the over 12,000 passengers who take the Vermonter to and from Amherst each year, there are many thousands more Amherst-area residents who take the more frequent trains to and from Springfield. If more frequent trains also come further north, then all of us - even those of us in Amherst - will benefit. But it is crucial to have good public (express bus) transportation connections to these trains, and that's what needs to be argued for at the same time. It's also important to be future-thinking: rather than fearing this as loss of north-south rail service through Amherst, this is also an opportunity to improve east-west rail service between Springfield, Palmer, Worcester and Boston. Thousands of UMass students travel back and forth to the eastern part of the state on a regular basis, as do many others in the area, so why not upgrade the 18 miles of track between Amherst and Palmer for a connecting rail shuttle to serve the many existing and potential riders in our area? Our focus should be not so much on what Amherst might *lose* if AMTRAK moves its Vermonter to the other side of the river. Instead, our focus should be on what we could all *gain* (in terms of both economic and human development) by improving Amherst-area passenger rail service to the east (as well as the south). That would be a win-win, and isn't that what folks on both sides of the river should be working together to accomplish?
Posted by Rob Kusner on 5.14.09 at 19:20
HeREnever thought of that. I love the train and I could take it to the new casino.
Posted by AVI to DVD on 5.19.09 at 22:35
Speaking as an outsider here (I live in Los Angeles) with no vested interest in the Vermonter staying through Amherst or being re-aligning via Northampton. It seems the interests of the upper Pioneer Valley as a whole are served better by the more direct route through bigger population centers. This is in addition to the benefits of quicker rail service to points south for the Vermont taxpayers. But.... Could Amherst still be served by a simple cheap railcar that picks up passengers at the existing depot and make the 7 mile journey to Northampton station (on an existing line) to meet the Vermonter? Even picking up a used railcar from some transit system anywhere in North America shouldn't be too expensive and they only take one person to operate. Electrifying the stretch would make operating costs even cheaper (and better for the environment).
Posted by Erik on 5.19.09 at 23:30
Just to update my post above, looking closely at a railroad map of Amherst, I see the the line between Northampton and Amherst does not directly link to Amherst station, which is both surprising and unfortunate. It would require a time-consuming "switch-back" as the Vermonter currently does in Palmer. Despite the Amherst-Northampton "shuttle train" no being a workable idea, it still appears that the re-routing through Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield to be the more beneficial option the whole of Pioneer valley residents as well as Vermont taxpayers.
Posted by Erik on 5.21.09 at 14:59
Using the Holyoke/Northampton line would make much more sense for the Vermonter through traffic, and would provide great economic benefits to the region. But since the Palmer/Amherst line is already upgraded for passenger traffic, why not just run a short shuttle train from Worcester to Palmer, then to Amherst, then up north to make a connection with the Vermonter. This train would not need to make a switchback at Palmer (meaning you'd only need one engine), would provide Amherst with a direct connection to Boston, and would still provide a relatively cheap option to keep passenger rail service going. For service south, if the New Haven-Springfield commuter service is expanded to Northamption, then a bus from Amherst to Northamption would suffice.
Posted by Art on 5.24.09 at 13:37
As a former Amherst resident, I would miss the train - but let's be realistic. Adding three stops, with greater access, is better than one stop now. PLUS, as a former rider of the trains to and from DC, I always got on in Springfield. Why? Because the delay going through Palmer was much longer than just driving down to Springfield and the cost was always higher. Amherst folks - Catch the train Northampton. Even if you took the PVTA bus and got on the train there, the trip will probably be faster than getting on the train in Amherst and going through Palmer! Have a friend drive you and your time would probably be cut in half!
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Posted by bratz on 6.14.09 at 18:38
this is intresting :)
Posted by Lys Sinavlari on 6.16.09 at 4:56
Interesting article, Mark. Thanks for all of this good bro :)
Posted by Pc Donan1m on 6.16.09 at 5:07
Rerouting the Vermonter back to its predecessor's original route makes a lot of sense. It's not far from Amherst to Northampton and the big speed-up in running time would compensate for the inconvenience of a local bus or taxi transfer. Additionally, serving more population centers hugely helps the economics of the line. If Amherst wants direct rail service, it's better to think about it in terms of a route to Boston, rather than New Haven, because that's basically the direction of the track through Amherst. A Vermont-Amherst-Boston train in addition to the Connecticut Valley service we have today would not have to reverse direction at Palmer and it would provide an important new rail connection in central Massachusetts.
Posted by DBX on 7.3.09 at 11:29
I live in Amherst. It seems obvious to me that the Vermonter should run along the river and stop in Greenfield, Holyoke and Northampton. As other posters have said, it's not that hard to get to Northampton from Amherst. I would miss the trains, but seriously, this is a no -brainer. A line that ran more frequently would be great for the Valley. Also, not everyone likes their cars. I hate my car and I hate my commute. I would love to do my daily commute to Springfield on a train or bus, but public transportation is just not a viable option for me. Believe me, I would use it if it were available.
Posted by Amber on 7.18.09 at 19:42
You want to spend 30 million fixing a busted old set of tracks, so that NoHo & Greenfield can have passenger service?? Geesh, you could fly everyone who'd actually take the train from those towns, on a private jet, for that amount of money. Do the math. Let's say 2000 people/year ride from NoHo & Greenfield, for 15 years. That's $1000/person we're underwriting this for. Smart public policy you're pushing for folks. The current riders are largely college students from metro NYC & other parts of the Washington DC <-> NYC urban areas. UMass has 25K students, add another 3K for Amherst College & Hampshire. Holyoke residents are going to ride from the Springfield station anyway - more departure times to more destinations. The Vermonter is once a day. I'm ALL for building the infrastructure of Holyoke & Greenfield, but there are much better targeted ways to do it. How about business incubators, or expanding Greenfield Tech? Maybe add a genomics robotics tech program to HCC - those graduates would sell like hotcakes. Windpower in the Quabbin or Mt Tom might not seem attractive to all, but how about a incubator building saltwater-hardy windpower components for use off the New England coast (one of the best windpower sites in the world, and a steady source of clean power & tax revenue). But no, instead, let's spend 30 million to move rail service to 8 miles to NoHo, instead of Amherst, where the riders are. You folks are always thinking, I can tell that.
Posted by Bill on 8.26.09 at 18:57
I don't know if there's any point in commenting on this article at this late date, but I really enjoyed it, and appreciate the news. Bill, it might help you to remember that this line is entirely subsidized by the taxpayers of Vermont, so folks in Amherst are essentially the lucky beneficiaries of a routing accident. Cutting an hour off the transit time to New York would make the Vermonter a *huge* win for me, coming from Brattleboro. It's the difference between wasting most of a day on the train, and just taking a long-ish train ride. I wish they would cut the dwell time in Springfield down to five minutes to make the trip even shorter, but maybe that's overly optimistic. And the idea of train service in Greenfield? That's revolutionary! So I know it stings a little to lose service in Amherst, but it makes the Vermonter as a whole *so* much more efficient as a transit solution, both in terms of energy and in terms of time. And who knows, maybe someday they'll repair the tracks in Vermont!
Posted by Ted Lemon on 12.1.09 at 17:34
I think we Should all stop fighting over which station would win the train/s instead we should look to see if we could have both stations open. For Example Amtrak should instead have the train split in Springfield and have 1 half go to Palmer and Amherst and 1 half go to holyoke, Northampton and greenfield and meet back up in Brattleboro so the can unite back in to 1 to continue North.
Posted by Ed on 1.2.10 at 6:23
Please bring back the Connecticut River Line for Amtrak. So what if Amherst loses it's station. So be it. Amherst was a side track station to begin with. Greenfield needs this more than Amherst.
Posted by Curtis Dunbar on 1.11.10 at 8:45
Thank you to all those of you who are working to return passenger service via the Connecticut River Line !! In the long run Amtrak and others will be saving time and money. What more can you ask for? Isn't this why it's being done?
Posted by Curtis Dunbar on 1.11.10 at 8:49
I just saw in the Greenfield Recorder today 1/29/10 that Amtrak passenger trains are coming back to Greenfield......YES!!! I hope you know how much easier it will be to get to New York CIty and points south and west. If only the Hoosic Tunnel was open....but now adays it's too much to ask for. Thank You President Obama.
Posted by Curtis Dunbar on 1.29.10 at 17:37

In the grander schme of things, the return of the Conn. River LIne will be excellent. As for Amhearst Station: the author should look to the historical picture he painted at the top of the piece. With a revitalized Conn River LIne, why couldn't an entrpenureal Amhearst citizin (of the town thereof) set up a private railway to run from Amhearst and connect to the CT River Line or over to Springfield? If done correctly it could have tourism generating potential all on its own. Perhaps the Norwottuck Rail trail should once again have rails along its length?

Posted by Daniel on 4.13.10 at 16:01
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