From my perspective, there really is only one rail proposal for travel to New York City that makes sense. My main concern is that with limited funds pursuing a sub-optimal alternative (e.g., Berkshire Flyer) will delay and short change other better approaches, or even worse, offer unintended reasons for the politicians and other skeptics to delay all approaches significantly into the future for more study. Therefore, I think it is of paramount importance, assuming there is a real commitment, to determine the best approach now and move forward with the one that will provide the greatest benefit to the largest number of people in the long run; short term approaches like the Berkshire Flyer are only diversions and will tend to confuse those with little knowledge of the challenges involved.
In my opinion, The Berkshire Flyer is truly wrong-headed as I have said before for many reasons. For brevity, I will just mention one major problem I see though there are many others of equal import. The idea that millennials who don’t have cars will use the Berkshire Flyer to get to the Berkshires is very questionable, especially since New York millennials are typically quite able financially to rent a car, and if necessary do so with friends to split the costs. Moreover a car rental will alleviate the need for transportation upon arrival in Pittsfield and provide greater flexibility while in the Berkshires. More importantly, the limitation of one full day in the Berkshires when traveling on the Flyer can be extended by one or two more full days and still allow time to return for work on Monday. Conversely, traveling by the Flyer potentially exposes a traveler to the possibility of missing the 2:45 departure time on Sunday which could strand that person in Pittsfield until another alternative transportation method can be found, probably at a far greater cost.
My greatest concern is the fact that the Flyer has already (or soon will) receive some funding from the State to conduct a seasonal test expected to take place in 2020. For obvious reasons, the politicians and other skeptics will be focused on whether the test ultimately is successful or not. I am afraid, however, if the test proves to be a failure (and I think it very well could happen) it will taint other rail transportation alternatives to NYC and may setback more sensible alternatives e.g., the Housatonic Line, bus to Wassaic.
I wish there is a way to put more pressure on those involved with the Berkshire Flyer, but I believe the decision makers have been convinced by the study group, MassDOT and external consultants that the Berkshire Flyer is the best first step in the eventual expansion of the Flyer to daily rail service to New York. Quite honestly, I don’t believe pursuing a sub-optimal approach in the hopes of expanding it in the future is the way to go. I think, however, that Karen Christensen’s efforts (as President of the Train Campaign, a project of the Barrington Institute, Inc.) in facing the obvious challenges of returning daily rail transportation to the Berkshires is the more professional approach, and with proper financial backing and political support, is more likely to result in long term success.”
Pieter Ruig, Lenox
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