Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’s Vermonter’

Valley Flyer Gets Ridership Goal for Continued Funding

February 14, 2020

Preservation of Amtrak’s Valley Flyer will hinge on the experimental service handling 24,000 passengers a year by 2021.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has set that ridership goal that must be met if the state is to continue it funding of the service between Springfield and Greenfield.

The Valley Flyer began operations on Aug. 30, 2019, and also stops in Holyoke and Northhampton.

The line is also used by the Vermonter, which is funded by the state of Vermont.

Massachusetts is paying $1 million a year to support the Valley Flyer.

The ridership goal is double the number of passengers that were being handled by the Vermonter before the Valley Flyer began service.

Dana Roscoe, principal planner with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in Springfield, said supporters of the Valley Flyer are trying to determine how ridership has been going.

They have sent staff to station platforms to count the number of passengers boarding and disembarking.

Compiling ridership data is complicated by the fact that Amtrak only publishes that information once a year.

“We can’t just have an annual number and go with that,” Roscoe said. “At this point I honestly can’t tell you how we’re doing. My sense, completely anecdotal and word-of-mouth and from visiting stations, is that we are probably doing OK but we are absolutely are not where we need to be.”

Officials do know from Amtrak ridership data that patronage of the line between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield has been growing at a rate of 25 percent a year.

The ridership information gleaned from hand counting Valley Flyer passengers will be used as part of a $350,000 marketing and branding campaign seeking to boost business.

In the meantime, the Connecticut Department of Transportation plans to improve stations in that state at Windsor and Windsor Locks.

The work will include installation of platforms on each side of the tracks, sheltered waiting areas, real-time train arrival displays, snow melt systems at ramps and on platforms, parking on both the east and west sides of the tracks, and security cameras and emergency phones.

That work is expected to be completed in 2021.

The work at Windsor Locks station includes a single platform, a multi-use trail with connections to the Canal Trail via Bridge Street, parking, and other amenities.

The 510-foot-long platform will comply with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, with level boarding from every train car.

Other work being undertaken by CTDOT includes adding a second tracks north of Hartford to increase the frequency of service in the region.

A connecting is being built in Windsor Locks to link to Bradley International Airport and digital displays are being installed at stations on the Hartford Line station to provide real-time train arrival and departure times.

Work Continues on Vermont Rail Line

January 22, 2020

A rail line between Rutland and Burlington, Vermont, is expected to be rebuilt for Amtrak service sometime within the next year say Vermont transportation officials.

They said that the track work is needed to extend Amtrak’s New York-Rutland Ethan Allen Express to Burlington.

The work involves 75 miles of rail and a new tunnel in downtown Middlebury.

The work has been underway for a few years and also involves grade crossing upgrades and new stations.

The Ethan Allen Express is funded by Vermont. Burlington has never been served directly by Amtrak although nearby St. Albans is the northern terminus of Amtrak’s Vermonter to and from New York.

Vermont Town May Buy Bellows Falls Station

January 9, 2020

The town of Rockingham, Vermont, is considering buying the Bellows Falls station used by Amtrak’s Vermonter.

The Rockingham Select Board has before it a proposal to spend $120,000 to buy the station, which is in poor condition.

The station was once owned by the State of Vermont, but is now the property of the Green Mountain Railroad.

Rockingham Development Director Gary Fox told the Board that the station is a key to boosting tourism in the community of 5,282 which includes the incorporated village of Bellows Falls.

Fox said if the town owned the depot it could maintain the waiting room for Amtrak and rent the rest of the building for other purposes, such as a a cafe, restaurant or brewery.

Vermonter Stranded After Hitting Tree

January 2, 2020

Passengers aboard Amtrak’s southbound Vermonter were stranded for seven hours on Monday after the train struck a tree near Claremont, New Hampshire.

Service in both directions on the route was canceled on Tuesday but restored on Wednesday.

There were 175 aboard the Vermonter when the locomotive pulling the train struck the tree and became disabled.

The incident occurred just south of the Claremont station. An Amtrak spokesman said the Vermonter was eventually rescued by a northbound train.

Liz Niland, a passenger aboard the stranded train were kept in the dark about what was going on.

“We just kind of came to a slow stop, as far as I was concerned, and we just sat there. And all of a sudden all the engines went down and everything in the car went down,” Niland said. “We are sitting here, you know, saying what’s going on?” she said.

Niland said passengers had to buy food on the train rather than receive complimentary service.

“It’s a big corporation. They knew we were stuck. I mean, the right thing to do, like I said, call ‘ahead to a station once we get started or even provide food to us where we’re stuck,’” Niland said.

An Amtrak spokesman told WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vermont, in an email, “We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers.”

The TV station said the email response included social media accounts where passengers can track schedules and service updates.

Springfield Station Work to Be Completed Soon

November 23, 2019

A platform construction project at Springfield Union Station in Massachusetts is expected to be completed soon, perhaps in time for the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel periods.

The Springfield Redevelopment Authority, which owns and manages the depot, said the last work to be completed includes installation of an elevator to take passengers to the boarding platforms and completion of work on a pedestrian tunnel to the platforms.

The $11 million state-funded project includes a new ADA compliant high-level platform.

Although the new Platform C has been ready to use for some time, but stairs and elevator have not.

Most of the work on the station was completed in June 2017, but Platform C and the rest of the $103 million refurbishment of the station was not.

An inspection found the original platform was too narrow to meet ADA standards and replacing it was a lengthy process involving coordination among the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the railroads and the redevelopment authority.

Amtrak moved its ticket office last summer to the main concourse where it is near Greyhound, Peter Pan Bus Lines, a Subway sandwich shop, Dunkin’ Donuts, an auto rental counter and a convenience store.

In an unrelated development, Amtrak released ridership figures showing an increase in patronage on routes serving Springfield.

The New Haven-Springfield route — which operates in tandem with the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s CTrail Hartford Line — had a 26.5 percent increase from 286,477 in fiscal 2018 to 362,442 in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Ridership of the Vermonter up 1.4 percent from 97,909 to 99,280.

The Lake Shore Limited saw patronage rise 5.9 percent from 337,882 to 357,682.

Project Affects Vermonter, Valley Flyer

September 10, 2019

A bridge project will disrupt service by Amtrak’s Vermonter and Valley Flyer Service between Sept. 10 and 12.

The Vermonter will operate between Washington and Springfield, Massachusetts with alternative transportation provided by Buses 3055 and 3056 to all intermediate stations between Springfield and St. Alban, Vermont, except Claremont, New Hampshire; and Windsor and Randolph, Vermont.

The Valley Flyer will operate only between New Haven and Springfield with no alternative service provided north of Springfield. Affected are Trains 471, 478, 494 and 495 between Springfield and Greenfield, Massachusetts.

The bridge project in Springfield involves construction of a pedestrian underpass between the Brightwood and North End neighborhoods.

Trial Service to Greenfield to Launch Aug. 30

August 27, 2019

A two-year pilot program begins Aug. 30 in which Amtrak will extend shuttle service to Greenfield, Massachusetts.

The shuttles currently operate between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts.

The test will examine demand for expanded rush-hour service in the Knowledge Corridor connecting with Northeast Corridor trains. It will add 40 miles to the route of the shuttles.

The pilot program will have two weekday round trips going south in the morning and north in the evening.

This service will be addition to the daily Vermonter that operates between Washington and St. Albans, Vermont.

Trains will depart Greenfield at 5:45 a.m. and 7:35 a.m., and return at 10:23 p.m. and 12:38 a.m.

All trains will connect in New Haven with other Northeast Corridor trains.

On weekends, northbound train No. 400 departs the newly refurbished Springfield Union Station at 7:50 a.m. without a connection from New Haven, then turns back south as an extension to train 461.

In the evening, northbound No. 488 from New Haven heads to Greenfield at 6:45 p.m., but returns only as far as Springfield as train No. 499, departing at 8:10 p.m.

The State of Massachusetts is not underwriting the fare being charged for the new service. Instead, Amtrak is using its “saver” and “value” yield management fare system dictate pricing.

It is not certain how the program will be evaluated to determine its success.

Track Work to Affect Eastern Corridor Trains

August 7, 2019

Amtrak Resumes Serving Springfield Union Station

June 13, 2019

Amtrak has resumed using the Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts, following the completion of a station renovation project.

In a news release, Amtrak said that features of the station include passenger information display boards, train announcements and a customer service desk that is staffed from 5 a.m. to noon daily.

The depot also serves the CTrail New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line and various bus routes.’

Springfield is served by Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains, the Lake Shore Limited and the Vermonter.

Amtrak had been using a temporary facility during the station upgrade project.

Greenfield Still Awaits Date for New Service

May 5, 2019

Officials in Greenfield, Massachusetts, are still awaiting a date for when expanded Amtrak service to that community will begin.

They are hoping that it will get underway by the end of summer.

“We don’t have a firm date yet, but it is going to happen,” said Franklin Regional Council of Governments Transportation Planning and GIS Program Manager Maureen Mullaney.

The new service has already been delayed, having once been planned to start in June and then in July.

But now, Mullaney said, Amtrak and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation have told the city it needs more time.

The new service will link Greenfield with New York City and include two extra trips on weekdays and one extra trip on weekends and holidays.

The trains will depart the John W. Olver Transit Center at 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and returning in the evening.

The existing service to Greenfield by the Vermonter leave Greenfield southbound at 1:30 p.m., and returns at 4:30 p.m.

“People have to make plans to stay overnight if they want to go into the city,” Mullaney said.

The additional service was made possible by an agreement with Connecticut and Amtrak to for a pilot program to provide the two extended daily CTrail trains from Springfield with stops in Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield.

This service would be in addition to the existing Vermonter schedules, which are not expected to change.

The pilot program is expected to cost about $1 million a year to operate.

Greenfield has seen rising Amtrak ridership of late. It has increased from 5,315 in 2015 to 6,497 last year.

Ridership has also been rising at stations in Amherst, Northampton, Holyoke and Springfield.