A Berkshire-NYC Train That Doesn’t Stop in Great Barrington Is a Non-Starter

A WORKING GROUP empaneled by the Massachusetts state legislature met earlier this week to once again explore the possibility of restoring passenger rail service between New York City and the Berkshires.

The plan the new group is studying would have trains use the Amtrak line that runs along the Hudson River, going to Chatham, N.Y., or Albany, and then veering eastward through West Stockbridge and Pittsfield. This is quite different from a plan a few years ago that would have seen trains running through Connecticut with stops in Great Barrington, Stockbridge, Lenox, and Pittsfield.

Speaking as one who has lived and worked all over the Berkshires – from Williamstown to Pittsfield to Hinsdale to Great Barrington and elsewhere, the new plan sounds like a non-starter from the get-go. The idea of having a train to the Berkshires that doesn’t stop in Great Barrington — the most New York City-oriented town in the Berkshires — is nonsensical. It makes one wonder if the people who came up with this plan really know the Berkshires well enough to be trusted with this project.

Read stories in Berkshire Edge; iBerkshires; Berkshire Eagle.


  5 comments for “A Berkshire-NYC Train That Doesn’t Stop in Great Barrington Is a Non-Starter

  1. September 28, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Agreed! And also Stockbridge!!

  2. Dee Dee Acquisto
    September 29, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    “Yeah and Housatonic and Glendale and Lenox and Sheffield and on and on…..”

    Of course, the wishlist is that this train could stop EVERYWHERE, but the plan being proposed takes advantage of all but a half mile of additional proposed track, making it a feasible and affordable option. Having to extend tracks to Great Barrington and/or other towns father away from the existing track infrastructure would entail hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding—not to mention accommodating the requisite parking facilities. Perhaps those who have input might attend the public meetings in order to educate themselves as to the realities of this plan, rather than attacking the dedication and Berkshires-knowledge of State Senator Hinds and others who have spent countless hours—mostly unpaid—to initiate a project that will contribute substantially and ultimately to the viability of Great Barrington (the acknowledged epicenter of South Berkshires) and the whole of Berkshire County.

  3. Eddie Sporn
    October 2, 2017 at 10:32 am

    I am a resident of West Stockbridge and a member of the “Berkshire Flyer Working Group” that is examining the feasibility of seasonal passenger train service between Pittsfield and NYC via New York State. This views I express here are my own.

    Here is a quick comparison between the proposed Berkshire Flyer route and the Berkshire Line route that passes through Great Barrington:

    New or Replacement Track and Signaling:
    Berkshire Flyer: ½ mile
    Berkshire Line: approximately 100 miles
    New or Rebuilt Stations:
    Berkshire Flyer: estimated at 3
    Berkshire Line: estimated at 8
    New or Upgraded Grade-Level Road Crossings:
    Berkshire Flyer: 0
    Berkshire Line: 90 or more

    Berkshire Flyer: less than 3-1/2 hours
    Berkshire Line: greater than 4 hours

    Berkshire Flyer: The route travels west to east through Columbia County via Chatham. The city of Hudson’s revitalization was in large part due to its
    connection to NYC via Amtrak. Chatham and nearby communities in Columbia and Rensselaer Counties could likewise benefit from a direct rail connection with
    NYC. This potential for development and growth in Columbia County could provide New York State with an incentive to buy-in to the plan.

    Berkshire Line: The plan offers little if any tangible benefits to western Connecticut given its proximity to Metro North’s Harlem Line stations. This reality has
    been reflected in the state’s refusal to pay for the required track and related infrastructure work. Additionally, Connecticut will be dedicating nearly its entire
    passenger rail funding to the Northeast Corridor and the line between New Haven and Hartford. Thus, the probability that within the next 5 years they
    would consider paying for Berkshire Line work is essentially zero.

    The cost of building the Berkshire Flyer route has not yet been estimated. However, it will certainly require significantly less infrastructure work than the Berkshire Line route; therefore, it will cost significantly less.

    With respect to the lack of a train station in Great Barrington along the Berkshire Flyer route:

    Today’s passenger railroad stations require space for long- and short-term parking (like Wassaic). Additionally, to attract visitors who do not own cars (greater than half of metro NYC’s population), stations will require space to park rental cars.

    To quote the “Berkshire Passenger Rail Station Location and Design Analysis” report published in 2014 by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, “The location [of the Great Barrington station] is relatively constrained by existing development, making configuring sufficient parking a challenge.” Additionally, the station and its adjacent property are privately owned. Thus, we do not know if the property owner would be willing to sell the property and at what price. If eminent domain is used, the process could be lengthy and messy.

    Although there has been no discussion yet by the working group about the number and location of stations (except for Pittsfield), I believe that a station should be located in West Stockbridge’s State Line section where MA 102 crosses into New York. This station would serve southern Berkshire County and eastern Columbia County. There is plenty of space in this area for a station with adequate parking.

    It takes 15-20 minutes to drive from central Great Barrington to that location. Most people would not view this as an inconvenience. I certainly do not fathom how this could be considered a “non-starter” especially given the benefits the Berkshire Flyer would bring to all of Berkshire County.

    • shiprock
      December 1, 2017 at 12:52 pm

      Your analysis makes a lot of sense.

  4. Ed Townes
    October 15, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Mr. Sporn’s analysis is excellent. It boils down to the adage, “The best is the enemy of the good,” where “best” here means serving “the most people.”

    Only HIGH SPEED rail will give even a ray of hope when it comes to “take the train, not a car!” A 2 or 3 day weekend cannot start and end with 5 hours of travel “door to door.” THINK ABOUT IT!

    GB’s best hope – and it’s viable, not dismissive – is that the County & State (of MA) beef up BRT, so that people wanting to end up in Stockbridge or GB get there 20-40 minutes later, courtesy of buses that “ferry them” the way buses did for 5 (?) years via Wassaic.

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