PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Flyer returns to Pittsfield on Friday afternoon, kicking off its second pilot season and the start of the summer tourist season in the Berkshires.
The fledgling Amtrak train service between New York and Pittsfield returns with an extended season.
Every Friday afternoon between May 26 and Oct. 6, the Berkshire Flyer will shuttle passengers from the Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station in New York to Pittsfield’s Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center at the heart of downtown.
The line makes its return journey from Pittsfield to New York every Sunday afternoon until Oct. 9 — barring two special Monday holiday return trips for the Memorial and Labor Day weekends.
The season represents the second of a two-year pilot program meant to show proof of concept for interest in a direct link between New York and the Berkshires. Making that link was a feat more than six years in the making and required a meeting of the minds between the departments of transportation for both Massachusetts and New York, Amtrak and CSX Corp. and local officials.
In 2017, the Berkshire Flyer Working Group — brought together by the state Department of Transportation — started to create the early framework for the Berkshire Flyer off of the state’s Cape Flyer model.
The following year the working group passed the torch to the Berkshire Flyer Subcommittee which studied the market conditions and drafted a plan for how to put the Berkshire Flyer into action. A pilot was set to begin in the summer of 2020, but legal questions and the beginning of the pandemic caused leaders to pump the brakes on the line.
A sudden deal between Amtrak and CSX Corp. — which owns tracks on the Berkshire Flyer line — put the pilot program back on track. Last summer, the pilot kicked off in early July to much fanfare.
A release by the state’s Department of Transportation in April termed the first year of the Flyer a “success” but said its future still relies on the interest and loyalty of riders this season.
“The Berkshire Flyer service will continue to be evaluated this year to further understand the feasibility and demand of the service before continuing service in future seasons, deciding on its schedule if it is to continue, and identifying specific infrastructure improvements or service changes that may be necessary,” the release said.