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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions2019-06-17T19:59:42+00:00

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We’ll be adding common questions, and answers, to this page, and you’ll be able to add comments and help us refine the information we provide here and elsewhere on the website.

How many trains will there be?2019-08-14T02:02:20+00:00

Housatonic Railroad has proposed operating 8 trains per day in each direction. Operating 8 trains per day would provide a service that will enable visitors to the region and others to use the train service to move between towns in the Berkshires and to enable better coordination with regional bus services.

Will there be express trains?2019-08-14T02:10:41+00:00

Plans call for all trains to serve all stations between Pittsfield and Danbury. There may be express service between Danbury/Southeast and Grand Central Terminal.

Are the old train stations along the route going to be used again?2019-08-14T02:25:46+00:00

Berkshire Regional Planning Commission has completed a study about station locations. In today’s world stations need to provide easy access to trains using high-level platforms and good parking. Each town has its own views of where stations should be and each town may have a different approach. Some of those approaches could involve using an existing station that is in private hands, while others may involve building a new station that fits in with a town’s development plans. There may well be circumstances where stations are privately operated, providing public train services complemented by private businesses.

Will I have to transfer?2019-08-14T02:12:00+00:00

The current plans envisage some trains operating through to Grand Central and others stopping in Southeast where passengers will transfer from Housatonic trains to Metro North trains. The plans also provide for a transportation hub in New Milford, Connecticut where passengers can transfer from Housatonic trains to Metro North trains for service to South Norwalk and Stamford.

How about food, and other amenities?2019-06-17T19:52:27+00:00

The service will offer seating and services consistent with longer haul passenger coaches, not commuter rail. Some coaches will be equipped for bicycles and skis, and attractive food services will also appeal to today’s passengers.

Where will the trains stop?2019-08-14T01:51:56+00:00

While the exact locations of stations is yet to be determined, Housatonic Railroad has proposed stops in Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee, Great Barrington, and Stockbridge in Massachusetts, and a regional station at the Massachusetts/Connecticut State line. Residents of Canaan, CT want the historic downtown station to be used. Further south in Connecticut, stations could be located at Cornwall Bridge, Kent, New Milford, and Brookfield/Danbury North. A 2015 study by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission recommended stations in Pittsfield, Lee, and Great Barrington, and strongly urged that stations be located in town centers due to the economic and environmental benefits this would offer.

What’s the current status of the Housatonic Corridor passenger rail project, from the Berkshires to Grand Central Terminal in New York?2019-08-14T01:32:05+00:00

Massachusetts funding was approved by legislature, 37 miles of track in Massachusetts was purchased by the Commonwealth from the Housatonic Railroad, and a phase 1 rehab project was approved by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Board of Directors. Initial work is the laying of new ties. Efforts continue to get the full amount of commitment from Massachusetts and Connecticut, and a number of funding options and arrangements are being considered.

How much will a fare on the Berkshire (Housatonic) Line cost?2019-06-17T19:51:30+00:00

While a detailed fare structure has not been developed, the rHousatonic Railroad in its 2010 financial projections has assumed a per-mile rate that is consistent with the fare structure on Metro North, which generally is in the range of 24 cents per mile. A NYC-Pittsfield ticket would then be about $36 each way.

How much will tickets cost?2019-08-14T02:20:31+00:00

While a detailed fare structure has not been developed, the railroad in its financial projections has assumed a per-mile rate that is consistent with the fare structure on Metro North, which generally is in the range of 24 cents per mile. A one-way ticket from Pittsfield to New York City might be in the range of $35-40.

Will there be a connection with Metro-North and/or Amtrak?2019-08-14T02:21:19+00:00

There will be connections available in both Danbury and Southeast to Metro-North trains to New York City and other destinations along the New Haven and Harlem Lines. Metro-North service is financially supported by Connecticut and New York. In order for the Housatonic service to operate the trains must travel over Metro-North tracks. Coordination between railroads is normal in the railroad industry and arrangements will be necessary for such things as crew changes so that trains can be handed off seamlessly. Amtrak operates intercity service on the Northeast Corridor and would not be a participant in the proposed service.

What can be done to speed up the process?2019-08-14T02:38:23+00:00

Right now the Commonwealth is working to develop a long-term funding mechanism to finance transit needs in Boston. The MBTA presently gets 20% of the funds generated by the state sales tax but it needs more. The Governor and the legislature are working to find a new long-term funding source for the MBTA. One way to expedite rail development here is to get a small portion of that long-term funding dedicated to Berkshire County’s transportation needs. To do that we need our legislative delegation to secure the funds and we need Governor Baker to support it. You can help by contacting Senator Hinds and our state Representatives, and particularly by contacting Governor Baker, and urging their immediate support. Once a commitment is secured the loans can be secured and construction can begin.

Finally, to get rail service in Massachusetts work must also be completed in Connecticut. The railroad has proposed a very quick and possibly self-funding approach to extend rail service now from Danbury to New Milford. Housatonic is waiting for the Commissioner of Transportation to support the proposal. Once completed the remaining work between New Milford and Canaan will all take place on state-owned rail lines. The same funding approach as proposed in Massachusetts is being proposed in Connecticut. Support for the service is very strong in Connecticut, but it will be very helpful for constituents and friends to contact Governor Lamont!

Will there be wifi?  How about on-board ticketing?2019-08-14T02:15:58+00:00

Housatonic Railroad plans to provide wifi on all trains. Ticket kiosks will be available at stations and other ticketing points. Mobile ticketing like that of Metro-North will also be available.

How much will it cost to get the service running, and what will the money buy?2019-08-14T02:37:48+00:00

The estimated cost to restore passenger service to the Berkshires is $200 million. The funds will enable the railroad to rehabilitate the 90 mile rail line between Danbury and Pittsfield to passenger standards, recondition passenger locomotives, refurbish/purchase passenger coaches, and build some stations. When the work is completed the railroad anticipates operating 8 trains per day in each direction, some of which would operate through to New York City, while others would enable seamless transfer to Metro-North trains for continuing service.

What stands in the way of restoring train service?2019-08-14T02:21:54+00:00

At this point the proposed service has had broad support by local town governments, although more detailed planning is necessary to reflect local input. The primary issue that must be resolved is securing funding to upgrade the tracks so they can accommodate passenger trains at passenger speeds. The upgrade work includes upgrading the tracks and road bed as well as placement and construction of stations. It is likely that most stations will be run by local towns, though some could be operated privately. The railroad has located older surplus locomotives and coaches that could be overhauled and used in the service. Since trains will operate on diesel power on the Housatonic Line and electric power on much of Metro-North they will need to accommodate both systems.  There are few impediments to completing the track upgrades except funding.

As of 2019, MassDOT has begun a $21 million overhaul of the Housatonic Line, consisting of replacing ties and rails along the 37-mile stretch of the line in Massachusetts. This is a huge step in the right direction for restoring passenger service, but repairs conducted in Massachusetts are of limited use if funding is not secured for similar upgrades to the remainder of the line in Connecticut. Therefore, securing funding for track and other infrastructure upgrades in Connecticut is extremely important for restoring service, and remains a major obstacle to doing so.

Where is the proposed route?2019-08-14T01:43:09+00:00

The Housatonic Railroad Company (HRRC), a privately owned company based in Canaan, CT, provides freight service on the line between Danbury, CT and Pittsfield, MA, as well as along the Maybrook Line from Danbury to Southeast, NY. HRRC has proposed adding passenger service on the rail line they use, which would between Pittsfield, MA and New Milford, CT, and on to Danbury, CT. From there the line continues west to Southeast, NY, a station on Metro North’s Harlem Line. Upon arrival at Southeast, Housatonic has proposed that some trains continue on directly into Grand Central Station under the operational control of Metro North, while others would stop at Southeast and passengers would cross a platform and board Metro North trains. Following this route enables the proposed service to take advantage of faster transit times between Southeast and Grand Central.

How about food, and other amenities?2019-08-14T02:18:29+00:00

The service will offer seating and services consistent with longer haul passenger coaches, not commuter rail. Some coaches will be equipped for bicycles and skis, and attractive food services will also appeal to today’s passengers.

How long will it take to restore rail service to the Berkshires?2019-08-14T02:31:48+00:00

There are two issues: time for construction (or reconstruction) of the train system and time to secure funding to build it.

The actual time to complete the reconstruction of the rail line, purchase and fit rail cars and locomotives, and build stations between Danbury, Connecticut, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is three years. Service could be extended as far as the Canaan (Connecticut) / Sheffield (Massachusetts) area more quickly (about two years).

Housatonic Railroad has determined that once the full system is completed it can operate the railroad without a public subsidy, but the proposed service will not generate sufficient funds to finance the cost of construction. The company therefore has proposed a funding approach that blends the private and public sector: accessing a special loan program that enables the company to borrow at low rates and yet using private-sector approaches to rail construction. We need to support a public sector contribution to the annual principal and interest payments on the loan.

In Massachusetts, that annual public cost will be $5–6 million. To put that in perspective, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts presently pays over $1 billion annually to subsidize operations for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Boston. Significant taxes are generated in the Berkshires that pay MBTA costs. This hybrid approach will simply keep a little of the tax revenues generated in the Berkshires to fund passenger rail here. In order to build the system, the loan funds need to be secured, and to do that we need the support of the Commonwealth. This is where every citizen can help, by pressing the governor and our representatives to Bring Back the Trains.

How long will it take to get from Pittsfield to Grand Central?2019-08-14T01:57:57+00:00

Service between Pittsfield and New York City is expected to take 3 hours and 55 minutes. Housatonic Railroad has created some sample schedules that assume some trains will operate directly into Grand Central and some will stop in Southeast, where passengers will transfer to Metro North trains. The sample schedules assume track upgrades to permit speeds consistent with the geometry of the existing rail right of way, and making significant adjustments to the right of way is not considered realistic. It may be possible to generate some additional time savings with the use of high-level platforms.

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