Letter: Berkshire Flyer isn't best rail link solution
To the editor:
Mr. Dew's June 12 letter to the editor headlined "Passenger rail service will boost county population" is very likely correct, but the Berkshire Flyer is not the proper vehicle to accomplish this worthwhile objective.
My main concern is that with limited funds, pursuing a sub-optimal alternative will delay and shortchange better approaches, or even worse, offer unintended reasons for the politicians and other skeptics to delay all approaches into the future for more study. Therefore, I think it is of paramount importance to determine the best approach now and move forward with the one that will provide the greatest benefit to the largest number of people in the long run.
The Berkshire Flyer is wrong-headed for many reasons. For one, the idea that millennials who don't have cars will use the Berkshire Flyer to get to the Berkshires is questionable, especially since New York millennials are typically quite able financially to rent a car, and if necessary do so with friends to split the costs. Moreover a car rental will alleviate the need for transportation upon arrival in Pittsfield and provide greater flexibility while in the Berkshires. More importantly, the time limitations when traveling on the Flyer can be extended and still allow time to return for work on Monday. Conversely, traveling by the Flyer potentially exposes a traveler to the possibility of missing the 2:45 departure time on Sunday which could strand that person in Pittsfield until another alternative transportation method can be found, probably at a far greater cost.
My greatest concern is the fact that the Flyer will receive funding from the state to conduct a seasonal test expected to take place in 2020. For obvious reasons, the politicians and other skeptics will be focused on whether or not the test is successful. I am afraid if the test proves to be a failure (and I think it very well could happen) it will taint other rail transportation alternatives to NYC and may setback more sensible alternative, such as the Housatonic line bus to Wassaic.
I believe the decision makers have been convinced by the study group, MassDOT and external consultants that the Berkshire Flyer is the best first step in the eventual expansion of the Flyer to daily rail service to New York. I don't believe pursuing a sub-optimal approach in the hopes of expanding it in the future is the way to go. I think Karen Christensen's efforts as president of the Train Campaign, a project of the Barrington Institute, in facing the obvious challenges of returning daily rail transportation to the Berkshires is the more professional approach, and with proper financial backing and political support, is more likely to result in long term success.
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