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A northbound Amtrak “Vermonter” is about to enter the Brattleboro freight yard on its way to its stop at Union Station last summer. For now, the Vermonter remains the only daily rail service for Brattleboro riders.

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More options coming for local rail users

Shuttle trains will begin routes between Greenfield and Springfield, Mass. this summer

BRATTLEBORO—Rail passengers in southern Vermont will soon have more travel options, but they will first have to travel to Greenfield, Mass. to take advantage of them.

Starting this summer, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will expand passenger rail service between Greenfield and the newly renovated Union Station in Springfield, Mass.

According to a Feb. 1 report in the Springfield Republican, MassDOT plans to use Amtrak trains and personnel to provide two round-trip trains each day, one in the morning and one in the evening.

They will extend current Amtrak shuttles that run between Springfield, Mass. and New Haven, Conn. and connect with Metro-North trains to New York City.

These extra trains — which will begin running in June or July, depending on how quickly other work on the rail line can be completed — will supplement the Amtrak’s once-daily Vermonter between St. Albans and Washington, D.C.

The Greenfield-Springfield shuttle trains will make stops at stations in Northampton and Holyoke, Mass.

The fare structure for the new service has not been finalized, but it will reportedly be similar to the current pricing for the Vermonter.

According to MassDOT, the new service costs $1 million per year to operate, and is expected to carry about 24,000 passengers yearly. MassDOT has committed to funding the service for two years as a pilot project. If the routes do not attract enough riders, the service will be discontinued.

Service to Boston?

Greenfield used to be a major junction point for passenger trains going to New York and Boston.

As late as the mid-1950s, six daily trains operated between Greenfield and Boston, and four daily trains went from Boston to Greenfield before continuing north to Brattleboro and Bellows Falls.

While MassDOT does not plan to extend service north to Brattleboro or Bellows Falls, a move is afoot to extend the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s current commuter rail service from Boston’s North Station past its current stopping point in Fitchburg, Mass.

On Jan. 17, state Sen. Jo Comerford introduced a bill in the Massachusetts Senate to direct MassDOT to do a feasibility study on extending service from Fitchburg to Greenfield and North Adams.

Comerford’s bill has support from other western Massachusetts lawmakers, but she told the Greenfield Recorder that extending the MBTA trains to Greenfield will likely depend on how many people ride the Greenfield-Springfield shuttles.

Plenty of parking

One of the keys to expanded rail service in Greenfield has been access to long-term public parking.

With the completion last fall of a new parking garage on Olive Street not far from the train station, that goal has been met.

More information on rates and long-term permits can be found at greenfield-ma.gov/parking.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #496 (Wednesday, February 6, 2019). This story appeared on page A1.

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