Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) and Rail Passenger Service—Apparently not a Priority
Visited Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) Board meeting and spoke at the beginning of the “public” item on the agenda June 18 where CCTA and many other public boards and commissions allow anyone wishing to speak a chance express their concerns and views.
After introducing myself and explaining I was a member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) and concerned about lack of connectivity on Saturday and Sundays to the Amtrak Vermonter service at Essex (Monday through Friday connections are excellent), the overall reaction of the Board could not have been cooler. No response to my concern or even acknowledgement the problem exists was offered. Connectivity by Vermont’s regional transit agencies to all Amtrak stations is a major problem at a time when every additional Amtrak rider decreases needed State dollars—now budgeted $7 million a year.
Even though CCTA receives the majority of its funding from State, federal and local tax dollars, CCTA leaders remain clearly unsympathetic to the overall needs of public transportation which includes rail passenger services, particularly in regard to integrated, coordinated scheduling.
The advent of service by Amtrak to Burlington now set for 2017 through extension of the Ethan Allen service from Rutland to Burlington also was stated to the CCTA Board and a flyer on a study of commuter rail feasibility which builds off the success of CCCTA Link, a ten year old commuter service from Burlington to Montpelier, Middlebury and St. Albans now serving about 500 commuters on 50 buses each workday—a clear indication that commuter rail service can be marketed to and from Burlington. The Board reaction was that commuter rail would be good if it can be shown to be economic, an interesting thought in view of the fact that two-thirds of the CCTA budget comes from governmental sources and its stated mission is support of quality public transportation services. The Board suggested that ideas about commuter rail be brought to the attention of the CCTA “management.”
It appears clear that federal and State agencies which fund public transit agencies in Vermont represent the only realistic avenue to assure coordination and integration of rail and bus transport services. However a 2013 comprehensive statewide intercity bus service plan also contains no consideration of rail passenger services much less coordination of existing regional transit to access Amtrak intercity services. So much for the multi-modal, integrated transportation system first called for at the beginning of the 1990s in both State and federal transportation law.