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After a smooth first day, officials say this is only the beginning for the Berkshire Flyer, expanded passenger rail in the Berkshires

man bumping elbows with another man in crowd

Senator Adam Hinds greets members of the assembled crowd at the Intermodal Transportation Center after disembarking from the first trip of the Berkshire Flyer rail line from New York City to Pittsfield. Friday, July 8, 2022.

PITTSFIELD — The first trip on the Berkshire Flyer ferried more than 60 people from New York City to the streets of Pittsfield, letting travelers off right near North Street.

Berkshire Flyer passengers return home, signaling end of the train's first weekend of operation. Some say they'll be back

And when they got here after a more than four-hour trip, many had already arranged transportation to their ultimate destinations.

Not so for two travelers, for whom an unexpected hiccup during the trip led to their “last minute” transportation plans falling into place.

Eva Jacobs, 26, and Rachel Sobelsohn, 27, both of New York City, said they were among the eight or so “Berkshire Flyer” passengers who missed the train out of Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station.

Sobelsohn and Jacobs had made the weekend trip to see the play “ABCD” at Barrington Stage Company, which was written by their friend, May Treuhaft-Ali.

But the arrival-departure board at Penn Station failed to display the platform from which the train would be departing, so they and the other handful of passengers missed it, and had to take the next train to Albany. There, they linked up with the train en route to Pittsfield.

In the process, they met Eoin Keigher, 23, who hails from Ireland and was traveling to the Berkshires to visit family in Lenox, not far from Sobelsohn and Jacobs’ weekend accommodations. The friends had planned to try to hail a ride-sharing car, until Keigher offered to give them a ride.

“We were going to get a Lyft, now we’re getting a lift,” Jacobs said.

people get off train
passengers board amtrak train
penn station departures board
passengers board train car
adam hinds boarding train

Many people who rode the train in met up with people who gave them rides back to their final destination, said state Sen. Adam Hinds at a news conference following the inaugural Berkshire Flyer journey to the county’s largest community.

Hinds himself was the first off the train, and was greeted by a clapping crowd that included state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, Transportation Secretary Jamey Tesler, and state Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, who is running for lieutenant governor.

Shuttles from Transport the People parked on Columbus Avenue waiting for passengers, with vehicles running to north and south county.

Rebecca Brien, the managing director of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., and a few “downtown ambassadors” from DPI, greeted passengers, handed out literature listing events in the county this weekend and offered directions.

By the time people gathered in the Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center for the press conference, dozens of passengers who took the train in had moved on to their next destination.

“I see no Berkshire Flyer travelers stranded,” Hinds said.

The train represents the latest component of the historical linkage of New York City and the Berkshires, where the tourism industry generated $870 million a year before the pandemic, said Tom Matuszko, the executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

Tesler said the outgoing Baker-Polito administration is focused on building passenger rail service, and looks at the Flyer as a learning opportunity that came together thanks to federal and state partnerships, and the leadership of Hinds.

“I have faith that if we can do this, we’ll be doing a lot more,” Tesler said. “This is the beginning.”

The night was five years in the making, said Hinds, who evoked a round of applause when he voiced his hope the train won’t be just seasonal and run on weekends, but will one day stop at the Pittsfield’s Intermodal Center every day.

“It’s my view that this should be daily, year-round service,” Hinds said. “This is the beginning of the expansion of rail in Western Massachusetts.”

Farley-Bouvier thanked Hinds and said she is “a little freaked out” to be losing him as a colleague in the Legislature. Hinds had put his hat in the ring for the lieutenant governor seat, but failed to secure enough votes from delegates at the Democratic Party convention to qualify for the Sept. 6 primary ballot.

Farley-Bouvier said Western Massachusetts taxpayers deserve passenger rail. She pointed out that one penny of the state sales tax, not including meal taxes, goes to fund the MBTA in the eastern part of the state.

“Every single person in Berkshire County pays the same amount of taxes as the people in the eastern part of the state,” she said. “And we deserve the same kind of service.”

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6296.

Cops and Courts Reporter

Amanda Burke is Cops and Courts Reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.

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