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Thirdrail7

Best passenger rail route from Berkshires to NYC might be through ALB

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I guess this is a start. This route does seem better than dropping down the old NECR towards NLC. However, it seems like it would still be lightly used. The good news is Pittsfield seems to be on board. This could lead to new activity on the old B&A route.

 

Please allow a brief fair use quote from Group: Best passenger rail route from Berkshires to NYC might be through Albany, to start

 


 

The Berkshire Flyer Working Group, led by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, had to get some possible routes nailed down so it could ask Amtrak to price it all out, something t

hat takes about six to eight weeks.

"Amtrak is not in the habit of giving ballpark figures," said Astrid Glynn, MassDOT's rail and transit director. "We need to sharpen what the request is."

After forming last summer under an economic development initiative sponsored by Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, the group has moved swiftly to analyze what Hinds says is a hungry seasonal travel market for work and leisure-related service.

The group is collecting data, too, and will get more figures on how many Manhattan and New York metro area residents have second homes in Berkshire County, for instance. MassDOT did it for Pittsfield already: that's 212 people right there.

And Clete Kus, transportation program manager at the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, said he would have a similar analysis of Airbnb use in the Berkshires by New York City residents, and would also look into data from vacation rental sites like Homeaway.com.

With a March 1 deadline to present its research and a possible plan to the Legislature, the group is getting into the nitty-gritty, like timing for Sunday evening service back to New York.

"There's a 4 p.m. departure at Albany," said Jay Green of the Berkshire Scenic Railway. "You could depart from Pittsfield at 3 p.m. for a 6:30 to 7 p.m. arrival at Penn [station]."

"Later is better," Hinds said.

 

 

 

Perhaps this could a be a Friday-Sunday operation.

Edited by Thirdrail7

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I go to PSF for work, and would love this. The drive from Albany sucks.

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Oh. Oh. The dreaded reverse move maneuver, unless the proposal is to simply run a shuttle between Pittsfield and Albany, with a change there.

 

That could be avoided by skipping Albany and taking the connection between the CSX Berkshire Division down onto the Hudson Division, although the article cites the need for "a new connection" which I believe means a new east leg of the wye currently in place.

 

Before the Post Road Branch was put back, the Boston section of the Lake Shore used to do this, and it involved backing down on the connection so that the train was properly pointed to continue up to Albany to join the New York section.

 

The Berkshire Flyer would be a separate train in that case, and would need a slot on Metro North's Hudson Line. They would probably do well to stop at Chatham, too.

 

The article also mentions the route via the new connection would be faster by 20 minutes. I would say it would save a lot more than that, especially if a change of trains at Albany is envisioned. Somebody better get busy finding funding for the new connection!

Edited by Palmetto

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The only interesting question is: what's CSX's attitude? Open hostility? Positivity? Ransom requests, and if so how large?

 

I'm sure this could be operated reasonably as a standalone shuttle (change trains at Albany) or a push-pull extension of one of the Albany terminating trains (probably along with a shuttle, for equipment positioning) but it's all moot if track access can't be straightened out.

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These days, CSX is losing traffic and trains are becoming fewer. The former B&A seems to be no exception. If CSX puts up a stink about another passenger train on its Berkshire Subdivision, it could probably be considered obstructionism, pure and simple.

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A little progress has been made and with CSX looking to sell off routes, the time to strike is now.

 

http://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/berkshire-flyer-group-awaits-amtrak-prices-for-nyc-to-pittsfield-passenger-rail,532174

 

 

 

By Heather Bellow, The Berkshire Eagle
LENOX — It has been hailed as a $1 billion-a-year solution for a limping rural economy in the Berkshires' postindustrial age.

And it has been criticized as a naive dream.

But seasonal weekend passenger train service from New York City to Pittsfield might yet materialize, and within the next five years.

Some nuts and bolts are now on the table — a working group exploring such a service since September has mapped out its plan in a report for lawmaker review. The deadline is March 1.

The Berkshire Flyer Working Group was born out of a legislative initiative sponsored by state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, to explore such service as an economic development push to get more people and money into the Berkshires.

The group's members have mostly settled on a Friday Amtrak train that leaves New York's Penn Station at 2:20 p.m. and arrives in Pittsfield at 6:10 p.m.

All that's missing is the cost.

The nearly completed report is waiting on operating and capital costs from Amtrak, which would provide the service from July 4 through Labor Day weekend, and possibly extend that to fall weekends through Columbus Day weekend.

Amtrak is expected to deliver those numbers this week. But transportation officials at Tuesday's Flyer meeting hinted that the busy rail company might not make its deadline.Hinds said this was OK — the March 1 deadline could be loosened a bit.

In the meantime, the group is sharpening its sales pitch to lawmakers. Apart from the report, which says this rail plan is likely to work, Hinds pointed to its role in a nationwide movement of rail resurgence with enormous environmental and economic benefits.

"We're participating in something significant," Hinds said.

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Wow, "in the next five years." What would require waiting up to five years? They don't mention what the return schedule to New York would be. They'd probably have to combine this train to Sunday only 296 in Renssalaer.

Edited by Palmetto

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Amtrak already has a train over the entire route so they should at least make a connection available in ALB so this is at least somewhat of an option at present. As of now, if one searched for Pittsfield-New York the routing is LSL 449 to ALB and the Maple Leaf from there to New York, which takes just over 5 hours. However, going north the only routing listed by Amtrak is via New Haven and Springfield, which has two transfers rather than one and takes over eight hours. There is an Empire Service train arriving ALB just over an hour before 448 leaves, so if this routing was listed on the Amtrak website it could at least make the New York to Pittsfield route more reasonable in the interim and on the days when the direct train will not operate.

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I didn't see a mention of a stop in Chatham. And if they were to, they would have to build a platform at the old B&A station. Formerly, this was two tracks mainline, but the track closer to the station was ripped up many years ago.

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PSF seems like a rather...odd place to terminate the train (not to mention having to deal with the resulting crewing issues and so on), so I have to wonder...are they planning to have the equipment sit there? Go on to Springfield? Or deadhead it back to Albany?

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A followup from the Berkshire Flyer:

 

http://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/adam-hinds-jump-on-board-the-berkshire-flyer,535974

 

Extension of a regular Empire Corridor Albany service it is....

 

I suspect it will be an immediate turn around and head back at least to Albany, since I doubt they can afford to strand an entire consist in PSF except perhaps in a a train late in the day in and very early in the day out the following day, provided there is somewhere to store the train in PSF.

 

It seems to me that even Berkshire County by itself may be able to dig out the $235K estimated net cost.

 

Now about the virtues of a stop at Chatham, which will cost real money....

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The feasibility study for the proposed Pittsfield service is available on a MassDOT webpage: Berkshire Flyer Study.

 

The study describes 3 options, 2 through Albany and one using the Schodack Subdivision Route with a new connector track. Reviewing the study, the new connector track would be a significant project and thus expensive.

 

What are the odds that Massachusetts would actually pay for or contribute to a train through Albany, even with a limited Friday, Sunday only schedule?

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The $235K per year number puts it within reach of more local funding than MassDOT though.

Edited by jis

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I saw a youtube video of the recent meeting. It was stated that they chose the option that they did because it requires no capital cost. All the infrastructure is there. As for Chatham, I suppose that if Chatham want service badly enough, they'd cough up the money to build a short platform out to the track.

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They must be fairly certain of the economic benefits of this service if they're going to pour that kind of money into a train with such limited service. I'm generally for more passenger rail service, but when it exists only to shuttle wealthy people to their weekend getaways, I'm a bit skeptical of putting public funds into it.

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I have to say I'm pretty impressed with the ability of someone to get this organized so quickly. The letter JIS posted (Adam Hinds was the author I think) was pretty passionate about population loss and the desire for it to be a daily, year-round service to help stem population loss and economic stagnation in the region, which I think is putting it's hopes in tourism.

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Here's another concern of the committee: how do people get to their final destination after alighting the train?

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The CapeFlyer, which is a similar summer-weekend-only service offered between Boston and Cape Cod (Hyannis), has some sort of coordinated local bus (Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority) service (as well as nearby ferry service). Presumably a BerkshireFlyer would involve similar coordinated bus service from Pittsfield to wherever, whether via the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority or some other service provider.

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There isn't a lot of support for that routing in Connecticut right now, apparently. Connecticut is bankrupt.

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Yup. Requires a lot of Capital funding. What they are trying to do at present is essentially a close to zero capital budget proposal.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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That was the main reason for choosing the option that they did: the infrastructure is already in place.

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If Pittsfield used a fraction of its art & entertainment money the cost shouldn't be an issue. As it stands only two trains go through PSF, one in each direction. It's almost impossible to get on at PSF & expect to really get anywhere the same day. I hope this plan sees the light of day.

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Since the operating costs are low, that won't be an issue (they might even find a private donor for that low of a cost). The big issue is going to be CSX who has zero history of just letting a passenger train onto their tracks without some form of kings ransom.

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