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.
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.