Posts Tagged ‘Berkshire mountains’

Berkshire Flyer Eyes May 2020 Launch

February 10, 2019

An effort to build another generation of visitors to the Berkshire mountains is behind an effort by Massachusetts officials to launch a pilot Amtrak service to western Massachusetts in 2020.

The plan is to have one of Amtrak’s Empire Service trains that now terminates at the Albany-Rensselaer, New York, station continue operating to Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The target market for the service is primarily young couples ages 27 to 47 who live in the New York City metro area who don’t own cars and have a household income of more than $100,000.

“We’d love to see rail as an option for the next generation of Berkshire visitors,” said Jonathan Butler, co-chair of the Berkshire Flyer subcommittee and president and CEO of 1Berkshire, the economic development and tourism agency of Berkshire County.

Butler said another market for the train is older people who might already have a second home in the Berkshires.

The train would operate seasonally on weekends and officials hope to launch it by Memorial Day 2020.

The service would be funded by the State of Massachusetts.

A key to making the project work will be offering transportation for the “last mile” from the train to Berkshires resorts.

That could be anything from car-hailing services to rental cars to taxis and local buses.

The Berkshire Flyer is expected to leave New York City on Fridays at 2:20 p.m., arriving at 6:10 p.m. in Pittsfield.

Return trips would leave Pittsfield on Sundays at 2:45 p.m., arriving at Penn Station at 6:45 p.m.

The pilot program is projected to last 20 weeks and cost the state about $237,000.

Pittsfield is already a stop for Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and Boston.

Another task force is looking at adding passenger rail service to Pittsfield from Boston. It is expected to meet in the spring to consider six possible alternatives for that service.

Berkshire Flyer Group Already Seeking Brand Identity

December 23, 2018

The train isn’t expected to begin until 2020, but members of the Berkshire Flyer committee are already brainstorming ideas for branding the service, transporting passengers who arrive in Pittsfield, and fretting about whether the train will operate on time as it travels CSX tracks.

The Berkshire Flyer is expected to begin seasonal weekend trial service between New York City and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with funding from the state.

It is expected to make the trip in 3.5 hours and offer a fare of $80 one way.

Trains would depart New York on Fridays at 2:20 p.m. and arriving in Pittsfield at 6:10 p.m.

The Sunday train will depart Pittsfield at 2:45 p.m. and arrive in New York at 6:45 p.m.

Pittsfield is already a stop for Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and Boston and some on the committee are already concerned that the Berkshire Flyer might run late as Nos. 448 and 449 often do.

But the primary issue that the committee is seeking to tackle is transportation for those who arrive from New York by rail.

Pittsfield has limited public transportation, including taxi service and rental car options.

The city of Pittsfield has said it will provide space for Enterprise Rent-A-Car vehicles.

Another option is to make use of such ride-share services as Zipcar, Uber and Lyft.

Berkshire Regional Transportation Authority’s Robert Malnati said the authority has applied for grants to create different routes.

Berkshire Regional Planning Commission member Anuja Koirala also has been examining transportation options and said Transport the People is willing to carry passengers from the Intermodal Center in Pittsfield to other points.

Committee member Jonathan Butler, president and CEO of 1Berkshire, expects ride-share options to increase, saying that during the peak season there is relatively decent Uber service in the more metro areas of the Berkshires during the day.

But one issue is that it is unclear where in the Berkshires most of those riding the Berkshire Flyer will want to go.

The Berkshire Flyer is expected to use existing Amtrak routes, including that of the Lake Shore Limited between Pittsfield and Albany-Rensselaer, New York, and the Empire Corridor into New York City.

Options Shown for Pittsfield-NYC Service

April 18, 2018

A study has laid out three options for reviving intercity rail passenger service between Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and New York City.

One option is to use existing Amtrak Empire Service from New York Penn Station on Friday afternoons to Albany-Rensselaer, New York, with a new schedule to Pittsfield and on Sundays, doing the reverse.

Option two would involve a new schedule from New York to Pittsfield on Friday afternoon and back on Sunday afternoon.

The third option calls for building a connecting track between the CSX Berkshire Subdivision and its Schodack Subdivision, to connect the new train from the Amtrak Empire Line just north of Hudson, New York, to the line to Pittsfield.

This project would cost between $18 million and $36 million. This includes the need to install positive train control on freight-only tracks on the Berkshire Sub.

The connecting track would be more than a half-mile long and meet CSX’s standards for a curve at 40 mph, the same speed as the Schodack Subdivision.

The route would be 18 miles shorter than operating via Albany-Rensselaer and feature a running time 20 minutes shorter.

Most of this would be time saved from avoiding adding a locomotive and reversing the train at Albany-Rensselaer.

Depending on the option chosen, the proposed service would have a New York to Pittsfield running time of three-and-a-half to four hours.

The study of route options was conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation at the request of Massachusetts State Sen. Adam Hinds of Pittsfield.

Hinds has in mind a weekend service similar to the Boston to Cape Cod Cape Flyer.

The Pittsfield-New York train would not serve any stations in Connecticut.

With adequate funding and operational support from Amtrak and CSX, the service could begin in 2019 or 2020.

Pittsfield is currently served by the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited.

Consultant Says Getting New Intercity Rail Passenger Service Takes Persistence

March 28, 2018

A consultant told those seeking rail passenger service from western Massachusetts to New York City that the process is all about finding money to fund the service.

“The list is long where there was no money,” said Vinay Mudholkar, an international transportation consultant. “There will be no railroad if you don’t push hard.”

Mudholkar said that advocates for the service must use finesse and tenacity in dealing with government bureaucrats and railroad companies.

“You have to have that fire in you — don’t say you don’t have the money,” he said during a public hearing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The campaign to start the rail service is being headed by Karen Christensen, who is on a quest to restore intercity rail passenger service over the Housatonic Line between Grand Central Terminal in New York and Pittsfield.

The line lost passenger service in 1972 and is now operated for freight service by the Connecticut-based Housatonic Railroad

The State of Massachusetts has acquired 37 miles of track between Pittsfield and Canaan, Connecticut, with the idea of restoring passenger service.

But the project has lagged due to doubts about Connecticut’s ability to invest in track upgrades.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has estimated it could cost $200 million to rebuild the track between Pittsfield and Danbury, Connecticut.

Massachusetts transportation officials may use The Berkshire Flyer, a seasonal weekend line, as a pilot to test the New York-Pittsfield market.

That service would offer service from New York Penn Station to Pittsfield via Albany on Amtrak.

Some lawmakers also want to upgrade rail service between Boston and Pittsfield, which is current provided by on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

Mudholkar said government officials need to act quickly and not let the existing rail fall apart.

He also urged building a working relationship with the freight rail company using the line. “Don’t create animosity,” he said.

Acknowledging that it won’t be easy, Mudholkar said getting money for rail service is never easy. “You’ve got to have that spirit,” he said. “It’s easy to say, ‘We can’t do anything.’ ”

Berkshire Passenger Study Set

September 30, 2017

A working group seeking to bring intercity rail passenger service to the Berkshire Mountains recently held its first meeting.

The group is studying establishment of seasonal train service between the Berkshires in Massachusetts and New York City.

The NYC/Berkshire Passenger Rail Working Group is overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and was included the state’s fiscal 2018 budget bill.

The group will conduct a study to identify and evaluate the economic and cultural benefits, while also identifying any legal, logistical, or political challenges that may knock the project off track.

Members of the group include federal and state transportation officials, local representatives, industry leaders, and transportation advocates. Their report is due by March 1.