Hey, Western Mass, the trains are coming back! Beginning late 2014, train service will return to Northampton, MA and Greenfield, MA, when trains heading north from New Haven, CT and Springfield, MA will follow the route of the Connecticut River on up to stops in Vermont.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation rail service officials and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission presented plans for the service at a meeting before the Northampton rail service advisory committee appointed by Mayor David Narkewicz on Tuesday, July 7, 2012. The
The Vermonter train is the service which took the place of the former Montrealer which ran this same route but continued across the border into Quebec, Canada.
So what does this have to do with bikes? Two different points of interests to cyclists: bikes on the trains themselves; the impact of the new trains on existing bike routes.
How cool would it be to take the train either north or south on this route and be able to bring your bike along? You’d have transportation at your destination without need for taxi, or car rental. So does Amtrak allow bikes on trains? Well, that depends on the specific train. There is an official Amtrak policy on bikes on trains with a corresponding chart showing the number of bikes allowed:
We offer several options for transporting your bicycle with you on your Amtrak journey.
- Bicycles stored onboard in bike racks.
- Bicycles as checked baggage in a box or other secure container.
- Bicycles as checked baggage secured by tie-down equipment (not in a box).
- Folding bicycles brought onboard as carry-on baggage. Availability varies.
I raised the question of whether bikes would be allowed on this train service and was told that would be something discussed later. The MassDOT reps said, while Amtrak runs the service and would determine what is allowed, that the state would be supportive of bike service because it would be in line with state policy encouraging alternative forms of commuting.
After the meeting, several people in the audience came up to me and told me they had also come to the meeting wanting to hear about bike service on these trains and were glad that I had raised the issue. One of those people was a co-owner of Ride-Noho, which does cycling vacations and skills camps out of Northampton. His business would use the service to get customers to Northampton for rides, and to get to ride destinations.
As to the train infrastructure impacting local cycling, well, I’ve got four words for you:
The Tunnel Is Coming!
The tunnel under the rail tracks along the Northampton section of rail trail along King Street. This connection will allow cyclists to avoid dragging bikes across the tracks behind Taco Bell (illegally) in order to connect to the Norwottuck Rail Trail across the Connecticut River. DOT officials said the actual placement of the tunnel would take one week, but the accompanying grading and lighting would take longer.
This was just the first meeting of many, but I’m glad bikes are on the table from the start. I should also tell you that several committee members are people who will place emphasis on bikes being included in the planning and implementation of this service, including Craig Della Penna, a frequent commenter here and someone who’s understood for a very long time the importance of all of these pieces coming together.
I’ll be following this as it develops.