GREAT BARRINGTON — The Chartocks would love to have a convenient train into New York City from Great Barrington.
There once was such a train, and we would be overjoyed to see it again. There's an ongoing campaign for such a train, and our state legislators and others have been recruited into the effort.
Several plans have been put forward, some of which offer no good alternative to what we and so many others already do. We drive to the Wassaic, N.Y., station, about an hour south, and park if we can find a spot.
The train takes about two hours. It has its ups and downs, mostly ups. There is inevitably a young person speaking way too loudly who is a "likester" (defined as one who injects the word "like" as often as possible between their other words). But these trains, even the old ones, are terrific, and we are grateful for them.
Our neighbor down the street, Karen Christensen, has been leading the train campaign. She recently sent out a letter urging folks to get involved and to make themselves heard in this ongoing effort. The Berkshire Eagle described her efforts suggesting that "regular passenger rail service could provide what is touted as a $1 billion-a-year solution to a depressed region's economic woes."
Karen encouraged us to write our state legislators before it is too late for the solons to file new legislation. She offered up some talking points, one of which is that train service to and from Great Barrington will increase tourism.
Now, I am a huge supporter of tourism in the Berkshires. Simply put, tourism is our meal ticket. Tourism gives us the rationale for keeping the bad guys out of our beautiful area.
But, and this is a big but, if you try to get through Great Barrington these days, it is getting harder and harder to do, because there are so many tourists and second-home owners here. Of course, that's great, but it is all a matter of balance.
Then there is another matter she mentions, and that is what she calls "home values." I am almost embarrassed by what we are being told our house is now worth. Trust me, we paid far less for it when we bought it.
As it is, the children raised in Berkshire County can't find a house that they can afford to buy. Should home values actually increase, that unfortunate situation will continue to grow.
In addition to all of that, there is the question of the various plans and routes. While lots of solutions have been put forward, they are not really all that good for South County folks. Some would have us get to Pittsfield from whence we would be transported to Albany and then to New York. That ain't gonna work for us.
Others would have us going through Connecticut. Still others would involve a train that only goes back and forth a few times a week and presumably on weekends.
OK, there is a pretty good answer and we all know it. Take the old rail trail from Wassaic and combine a resuscitated exercise path with the train and bring the train back to Great Barrington and on up to Pittsfield. It's practically ready to go. Then in Pittsfield, the east and westbound trains could take people back and forth to Boston.
With four pot shops slated to open in Great Barrington, we'll have to wave off all the tourist business that will be coming our way. We won't be going by train, we'll be practically flying. (Sorry about that, couldn't resist.)
As for the Wassaic stop on the current line, I love it. Of course, everything can be improved. Maybe someone could open a little coffee shop there and maybe, just maybe, some restrooms?
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.