Home Travel Ditching the Car and Enjoying the View on a Trip to the Berkshires

Ditching the Car and Enjoying the View on a Trip to the Berkshires

by Jersey Lady

Evan Gottesman and his fiancé Gabrielle Kleyner met friends in Berkshire one weekend in early July. The couple, who lives in Brooklyn, was looking for ways to get to the western Massachusetts countryside. With mountains, lakes, and countless cultural centers, it attracts thousands of hikers, theater lovers, and music lovers every year.

A friend told me about Amtrak’s new train, the Berkshire Flyer, which connects New York City and Pittsfield. The couple quickly booked tickets and hopped on the 3:15 p.m. sold-out train from Manhattan’s Moynihan Train Hall on July 8.

Before they knew it, they were on the Flyer’s maiden voyage. It’s a milestone in at least four years for him, resulting in countless emails, meetings, and phone calls between Amtrak and state legislators and transportation officials eager for a more direct railroad. The line connecting New York and Massachusetts.

When Gottesman and Kleiner arrived in Pittsfield that night, dozens of people were on the platform, cheering enthusiastically and taking pictures. State and city officials held a triumphant press conference. Someone popped a champagne bottle.

“The welcome I got off the Amtrak train was the best I’ve ever been,” said 27-year-old Gottesman.

For the first time in 50 years, a passenger train from New York arrives in Pittsfield. Pittsfield is a city of more than 40,000 people and is often overlooked by tourists visiting famous sites in the county like Pittsfield. Tangle wood Lenox, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra or Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, is located in North Adams.

More than 60 people arrived that night on the Berkshire Flyer, which operates only once on Friday and returns on Sunday afternoon. Some business owners and state officials were encouraged nonetheless.

Also, the number of sold-out trains is reassuring. After the first trip, trains to Pittsfield continued to fill up regularly, with Northbound seats remaining in August, but trains back to New York Amtrak say tickets are limited and some sold out by Labor Day weekend. Due to the possibility of cancellations, travelers should check to see if seats are available.

“We’re just getting started,” said Lindsey Thaler, 42, co-owner of the Berkshire General Store in Pittsfield, about two blocks from the train station. “But I think it could be a big problem.”

The flyer is one of many new services and restored rail lines Amtrak has announced in recent months.

On July 29, the Ethan Allen Express from New York to Rutland, Vermont, will extend 100 kilometers northwest to the city of Burlington. As part of another new program.

Amtrak has added daily rides to Washington from Roanoke and Norfolk in Virginia.

International flights closed due to the pandemic are booming again, including the Maple Leaf train between New York and Toronto and the Cascade train between Seattle and Vancouver, which will reopen in September.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, a $10 million bus depot opened in June To pick up passengers to Wilson’s Amtrak station, about 84 miles north.

According to Anthony Prinz, the city’s transportation services director, planned by Jacksonville officials in 2010, the project is funded by the Federal Transportation Administration.

A similar project would be funded, among other things, by the bipartisan infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law last year, said Amtrak President Roger Harris.

“It starts with local interest,” Harris said. “That’s why it’s so important that the community gets involved in the game and says, ‘Yes, please, we want to be in this.'”

made by amtrak’s vast map, It presents a vision for how to bring dozens more routes to over 160 cities and towns across the country.

New law to secure $66 billion for railroads comes at once when travelers are looking for ways to save on fuel costs, Move around the country more sustainably.

The funding also comes as Amtrak recovers from a pandemic-induced decline in passenger numbers. Between October 2021 and June 2022, the rail service recorded about 16 million trips, according to Amtrak.

Nearly 20% of total rail funding, or $12 billion, has been set aside for services outside the Northeast, Amtrak officials say, giving cities and towns a big boost to participate in the proposed expansion.

North Carolina already has plans.

Over the next decade, the company’s goal is to work with the state of Virginia to build a 180-kilometer-long, one-hour new rail line that will free up anything from congested highways, said Jason Orthner, director of railroads at the North Carolina Department of Transportation. To separate millions of people.

“It’s different than looking through the windshield of a multi-lane highway from a train,” Orsner said.

Berkshire Flyer required no new infrastructure, just an Amtrak train from Albany to Pittsfield (typically about an hour’s ride) and a contract with CSX, the freight carrier that owns the rail line.

These tracks from New York to Pittsfield have existed since the 1850s when private companies operated passenger and freight trains, said Jay, a former Amtrak employee and now town manager of Adams, Massachusetts. Mr. Green said.

However, trains became less profitable as cars and planes became the country’s preferred mode of transportation.

Amtrak, a federally subsidized passenger train system, was founded in 1971.

“This is the end of passenger traffic to Pittsfield and many other cities across the country,” Green said.

Seeing people flood the Pittsfield platform on July 8, many in their 20s and 30s, Pittsfield state senator Adam G. Hines said the flyer would become a year-round service. I imagined.

One of those young people, Kareem Wedderburn, is a regional planning student at Westfield State University in Massachusetts. On Friday morning, I took an early train from Springfield, Massachusetts to New York to catch the Berkshire Flyer on a self-proclaimed transit geek.

“I wanted to be a part of history,” says Wedderburn, 20, adding that he was amazed by the scenery along the way. The Hudson River, rolling hills, sprawling homes, and more.

He recalled opening a cold bottle of white wine in the business class car while other passengers read or worked on their computers.

Some were staring out the window at drivers zipping up the highway.

“People were saying, ‘We can avoid all this traffic now,'” Wedderburn said.

John Riley, manager of the Mission restaurant and bar in Pittsfield, said a steady stream of tourists would benefit the city’s eclectic mix of antique shops, coffee shops, and restaurants.

“The biggest thing Flyer can do, not just for us, but for everyone, is get more traffic and more people heading downtown on North Street,” said Riley, 29. “I would like to see more young people, more people using the bike paths.”

Thaler, the Berkshire General Store co-owner, said the train could also help other parts of the local economy.

“I know people in the area who tried to be Uber drivers, but they didn’t have enough calls, so it wasn’t worth it,” she said.

State Senator Eric Lesser, who represents neighboring Hampden and Hampshire counties, said the flyer might encourage New Yorkers who can work remotely to move to western Massachusetts.

Its success could also revitalize plans for a train between Boston and Pittsfield. Tozai Line once a passenger railroad stop, hungry for tourist money.

“They are ripe for a Renaissance,” Lesser said. “The potential is immense.”

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