VRANS Highlights & Accomplishments
By Christopher Parker
Vermont Rail Action Network attends meetings at the state house and with the Agency of Transportation. We engage the railroads and Amtrak. We show up around the state, engaging the public. We even went to Washington DC, advocating for better trains in Vermont. Here is a sampling of what has been and is being accomplished:
In-state Amtrak fair
The popular $12 in-state Amtrak fare will continue in 2014 with a new fare code: V657. The Amtrak website has recently changed, making it harder to book this fare online. You can call 1-800-USA-RAIL, but you must ask specifically for the discount. Reservations must be purchased at least one day prior to travel. The fare is not available on certain peak travel days and has limited availability, so do book as far ahead of time as you can.
Vermont succeeded in receiving a federal TIGER program grant for the Western Corridor. When the work is done only 12 miles of rail will remain to be redone between Rutland and Burlington, as well as some bridge and crossing work. The upgrade will enable competitive speeds for a planned extension of the Amtrak Ethan Allen north to Burlington by 2017.
VRAN has made investing in the Western Corridor a priority and continued to advance it with the Agency of Transportation, the Governor and in Washington DC.
Bikes on Trains
VRAN has been actively advocating for carry-on bikes on Amtrak trains, working with the Vermont Bike-Ped Coalition and the state of Vermont. We can now report that Amtrak has tested a car with bike racks, and details are being worked out for this service on the Vermonter and Ethan Allen.
Trains to Montreal
The cost to extend the Vermonter to our nearest big city is low, but the complexity of dealing with two customs services and Canadian unions is high. We do need the support of congress members beyond Vermont and New York to finish the work. Please spread the word among your friends in other states to write their representatives.
Regional Cooperation. VRAN works in affiliation with Trainriders/Northeast of Maine, the National Association of Railroad Passengers and other regional advocacy groups.
Commuter Trains in Burlington. We’ve had conversations and helped refine plans for a future effort to establish a Middlebury-Burlington-Essex Junction – Saint Albans/Montpelier Junction network.
Converting Freight Shipments to Rail. We are pursuing several opportunities to convert significant truck flows in Vermont to rail freight. This has involved putting together ‘win-win’ proposals that make rail shipment attractive as well as profitable. Our role is to bring people together.
Christopher Parker is the Vermont Rail Action Network Executive Director.
The new VRANS website at www.RailVermont.org. The number is 802-579-3394.