Tuesday, April 23, 2013


As a Burlington, VT resident and train enthusiast, got nice information on a free one-way May 11 trip on National Train Day to Bellows Falls, then an old fashioned train ride back to a ceremonial event in White River Jct., then on your own with a $12 Vermont special on the northbound Vermonter available—unless you live in Burlington and Winooski.
While lots of small cities and locations get connecting bus service from Amtrak City, not the Queen City in Vermont, just seven miles from the Essex Amtrak Station.  National Train Day on a May Saturday occurs when during weekends there is seriously deficient Chittenden Country Transportation Authority (CCTA) service on one of their busiest routes—Burlington-Winooski-Essex (Amtrak Station). 
The CCTA connection “problem” is a systematic issue relating to all regional transit agencies which provide limited or no connections at all stations stops of the two Vermont  Amtrak-supported trains which now cost $7 million in State dollars support yearly.  Every additional person who takes a trip on Amtrak in from a Vermont station directly reduces state dollars required to support the service. Yep, the mainline track in Vermont even got a $52 million upgrade to 80 mph operating speed level last year, a half hour cut from the timetable between St. Albans and Burlington to Brattleboro and Bellows Falls—but from Burlington to Amtrak at Essex on weekends, “you can’t get there from here.”   Well, you can, but the taxi fare with tip can amount to $20.  A taxi fare of $20 compares to about a 300-mile roundtrip Burlington-Brattleboro at the Vermont regular promotional rate of $24. 
(The Burlington-Amtrak connection compares, unfortunately, to connecting by taxi from North to South Station for about $15—you would think Amtrak would operate a shuttle service there.)
Now air travelers and bus travelers get far better treatment by CCTA.  Service to the airport operates at convenient times for most Greyhound bus connections seven days a week.  A traveler can connect on Saturdays to the airport from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.  And for the mid-afternoon arrival and departure of Megabus service to Boston, CCTA provides easy connection at the UVM Davis Center on the University Mall route. 
Seems like a service on Saturdays should be possible—the train southbound a.m. is generally right on time about 9:20 a.m. now and returns—again with much better on time performance at 8:17 p.m.—17 minutes after the last CCTA departure from Amtrak to Burlington!   No problem on with three early bus runs in time to catch the southbound.  This suggests there could be a connection both ways on Saturday—perhaps one about 9 p.m. assuring accommodation of some northbound delay which a rider is willing to take a chance on—preferably just a dedicated bus which departs five minutes after the northbound train arrival.  Otherwise how many want to bet on making connection to a bus ride that costs a dollar or so versus a $15-20 taxi ride? 
On Sunday, no problem at all, no bus service at all by CCTA to Essex/Amtrak.  On Sunday a skeletal service—a single run in the a.m. to align with the southbound Vermonter, a noontime run to service local needs, and a third trip leaving within five minutes of scheduled Amtrak arrival. 
Meanwhile, I plan to celebrate National Train Day on the day before—Friday—with a day trip to Brattleboro.  Maybe CCTA could celebrate National Train Day…with a bus to Burlington from the northbound Vermonter!


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