Our focus is bringing back passenger train service but at the Train Campaign we are interested in other forms of transport, too. And we welcome discussion and debate, so we’re sharing a debate about whether bus service could be a substitute for trains – or, as we believe, an essential adjunct to rail. Please join the conversation by commenting here!
Dear Karen and Nat,
Let me start by complimenting you on an extremely well-organized campaign that may actually succeed in bringing back the train. As Karen already knows, however, although I support the development objectives that the proposed train service is meant to address, I believe that the proposal — if it became reality — would be a huge waste of public resources.
There is a much better way to achieve or exceed the same development objectives within a much shorter time frame and for a tiny fraction of the cost: a bus-rail link. The Metro-North Railroad runs a speedy, reliable, inexpensive service between Wassaic and Grand Central 13 times in each direction on weekdays and 9 times on weekends. If four buses (or as many more as ridership warranted) were put in dedicated service on a direct north-south route from Williamstown to Wassaic, beginning with a bus that would deliver passengers to the 5:10 a.m. train and ending with a bus that would pick up passengers from the last train that arrives in Wassaic shortly after midnight, there would be no need for spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on a less flexible system.
In addition to the cost savings, the bus-rail link would have important benefits to Berkshire County beyond the objectives meant to be achieved by the Train Campaign. There has long been an imbalance between where the jobs are and where most workers live. Most of the riders on the bus link wouldn’t be going to the train, but would instead be taking advantage of the frequent, reliable early-morning/late night service along the Route 7 backbone of the Berkshires to expand their viable employment radius, or to attend theatrical productions and concerts from one end of the county to the other.
I would like to hear your thoughts on this idea, which I doubt is novel, but which seems to me to be compelling. In support of its feasibility, here’s a link to an article from yesterday’s New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/10/business/to-save-on-rail-lines-market-the-bus-line.html.