Train Service Could Bring Cyclists To Western Massachusetts

The Berkshires in Western Massachusetts is a popular recreation destination for New York City residents. Housatonic Railroad is investigating bringing back passenger service on its line from Danbury, Connecticut to Pittsfield, Massachusetts [map]. This could have big benefits for biking and cycling related businesses in Western Massachusetts.

The Housatonic Railroad began investigating reinstating passenger service last year by commissioning a feasibility study with Northampton’s own Market Street Research. Housatonic Railroad released the results last September, with Colin Pease, Vice President for Special Projects writing to officials in the towns which the rail service would connect:

If we use the median ridership information (accounting for seasonal trends) we have a ridership of two million one way riders per year. This is extremely encouraging.” Hanlon further noted “Outwardly, it would appear that a combination of public/private investment could create a service that requires little or no operating subsidy.”

You can view Market Street Research’s report slides online.

Following up that initial study, Housatonic Railroad did more research on potential ridership, including the kinds of amenities potential riders would like on the trains. Those results were released this week.

I heard Mr. Pease’s interview with the local National Public Radio station, WFCR  yesterday morning. At one point, what he said made me shout so loudly, the other people in my house came running to find out if I’d been hurt. Nope, just excited. Pease’s answer to a question about the importance of ground transportation upon arrival in the Berkshires:

Interesting – one of the most important factors that people thought would attract them to the train is the availability of a bicycle. Many would like to bring it on the train, or they’d like to have it available when they get here.

Whoot!

Follow the link and you can hear for it for yourself. It begins at about the 1:35 mark.

Housatonic Railroad’s study suggests an annual ridership of 2 million. If only a tiny fraction of that number are interested in cycling in the Berkshires, that could be a huge boon to all kinds of businesses. Bike shops of course in rentals and repairs, and touring companies arranging trips, but also lodging, attractions, other local transportation options, and especially the food and beverage industries.

As Velo Quebec’s  super successful regional outreach to cyclists La Route Verte proves, when you put out the welcome mat for cyclists, they will come and spend money in your area.

More information on Housatonic’s findings and plans can be found in an article in the Litchfield, Connecticut Register Citizen newspaper, and in the Berkshire Eagle newspapers.

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About Pedal Paradise

Cyclist, Mom, Travel Nut, Bike Riding Empower-er!
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4 Responses to Train Service Could Bring Cyclists To Western Massachusetts

  1. justincascio says:

    I’m following news of rail developments in the Valley with great interest. Your pull quote from the NPR interview made me leap, too. I just wrote this pie in the sky article on Examiner saying, in a dreamy kind of way, don’t you think we have a strong community here for a bike share program? Big cities do it, and we’re smaller, sure, but in bicycle interest, we’re mighty. From students to leaf peepers to the local hippie-types like myself, there’s demand. When the train connects Northampton to Springfield, I hope to get my husband making the intermodal commute–bike to the station, train, then pick up, oh, I don’t know, a bike share bike?–to finish his commute to the office. A dream? Today, but I bet it will be possible in just a few years.

  2. Justin,

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s excited by this. Post a link to your Examiner posting.

    Gina

  3. Pingback: New England Governors Agree Bikes Aid Tourism | Pedal Paradise

  4. Pingback: Berkshire Cycle Path Development Gets Funding | Pedal Paradise

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