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I am writing with the bittersweet news that I'll soon be moving on and Vermont Rail Action Network will be looking for a new Executive Director.  Do you know a candidate?

 

There are three reasons I'm ready to pass the torch.  One is that our big goals for the last few years are on their way to being met: the Western Corridor, extending the Ethan Allen to Burlington is funded, bikes are carried on the Vermonter and progress is being made returning trains to Montreal.  It's been nine years I've been doing this work and I'm tired and ready for something new.  And I have new family commitments I didn't used to that make travel harder and take my energy in a different direction.

 

I have been so pleased to be able to work with so many quality railroad supporters in Vermont and I hope to keep in touch.  I don't really know what I'll do next, but I'm open. 

 

If you know someone suited to take over, please direct them to our job advertisement and description.

 

Christopher

Vermont’s premier railroad advocacy organization VRAN seeks an Executive Director to lead our statewide effort, provide leadership to volunteer members and support the Board of Directors initiatives.

 

Familiarity with the railroad industry, ability to work independently, fund raise, effectively communicate, undertake government outreach initiatives, recruit volunteer members, create effective marketing campaigns, oversee website maintenance along with self-motivated management skills are the Executive Director qualities and requirements.

 

Click here for a full job description

 

The VRAN Executive Director is an independent contractor opportunity, requiring your own place of work, office-computer equipment, communication, data and method of statewide transportation.

 

The VRAN Executive Director position will require a minimum of 1000 hours per year with a paid contract fee of $25,000 to $30,000 annually based on level of previous experience.

 

Please submit resume and references to:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Submission deadline is November 11, 2016.

The position will commence January 2017.

 

VRAN is a 501c3 organization and adheres to EEOC practices. 

The $12 in-state fare has been replaced with lower regular fares within Vermont available only at the amtrak.com website.  No longer will a special code be required.

 

This more user-friendly arrangement had been suggsted by VRAN for some time.   Amtrak and the Vermont Agency of Transportation worked together on the change.  This should encourage ridership, as people won't need to know about the special discount in order to get a competitive fare.

 

The cheap fare will be limited, so purchase as far in advance as possible is recommended. A three day advance purchase will be required.  The fine print is available here.

 

As an example of the new fares (which be adjusted over time), travel between Brattleboro and Essex Junction or Montpelier will now cost as low as $18 while travel between Montpelier Junction and Essex Junction will be as low as $9.50 and between White River Junction and Brattleboro will be as low as $14.

 

Introduced some years back as a means of filling empty seats in Vermont (seats that will be filled down the line with people going to New York), the fare seemed to be successful in raising short-distance ridership.  However it was troublesome, requiring a special code to obtain (which changed every year) and of course, you had to have knowledge that the discount even existed.  Amtrak reservations agents tended not to know about the fare and when you called the 800 line, they had to get their supervisor or spend a long time looking it up -- an expense that was billed to the state of Vermont. 

 

Do you want to help the cause of better train service in Vermont?  You are needed.  We are creating four working groups to improve (1) our written & web outreach, (2) events & personal outreach, (3) improve passenger stations & service and (4) Fundraising.  Can you volunteer?

 

Read more: Can You Volunteer?

We are excited - thrilled - at the announcement today by Senator Patrick


Leahy's office of the signing of an agreement to allow pre-clearance in
Montreal Central Station for Amtrak's Vermonter.

The agreement paves the way for the extension of Amtrak's Vermonter back
to Montreal.


  It is necessary in order to make the train reliable
(without a lengthy and uncertain wait at the border).  It will be
similar to pre-clearance of airline passengers that occurs at Montreal
and other Canadian airports.

Senator Leahy's office has done a lot of hard work on this issue. We say
a big "Thank you" for their efforts and commend him for his victory in
making this happen.  In addition to the senator himself we lift up with
thanks the work of his DC transportation staffer Maggie Gendron and
former transportation staffer Greg Cota.

Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Peter Welch were also
supportive and we thank them.  Governor Peter Shumlin also leaned into the
issue to make it happen and we are thankful.

Vermont Rail Action Network's "Montreal, Here We Come" themed Annual
Dinner Meeting was held in Saint Albans last November to give the
process a kick.   Governor Shumlin and Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott
both spoke.

This was not an easy achievement.  We needed the work of the Senator to
bring the parties forward to reach this agreement.  Established
procedures are not always easy to change.  This kind of leadership is
what we pay our elected leaders to do!

Returning train service from Vermont to Montreal is one of the two top
priorities of the Vermont Rail Action Network.   The five million people
of Quebec represent a tremendous economic opportunity for Vermont and
Montreal is the closest large city (and economic and cultural hub) for
Vermont.

Right now the Vermonter leaves Saint Albans with only a few riders,
adding more at each stop until it is full at Hartford going into New
York, Philadelphia and Washington.  Being able to start from a major
metropolitan city will be like having an anchor store at both ends of
the mall.  The train will start out full, Quebecors will get off at each
stop and Vermonters will board.  And so, by running only another hour
north to Montreal, the load factors and train-miles (and thus the
train's economics) will improve drastically.

The agreement must become law in both Canada and the U.S. to have force,
so we will have more occasion yet to be grateful to our delegation.

Challenges still remain.  An operating agreement with CN is required -
at a reasonable price and US crews need to be able to run right to
Montreal.  These were challenges which led to the end of the former
Montrealer, but we believe they can be resolved.  We are particularly
hopeful because of the support of the Quebec government.

Many Vermonters fondly remember the overnight Montrealer.  This will be
a daytime schedule, which will suit Vermonter riders better.  We would
like to see this development lead to an eventual overnight run.

The press release from Senator Leahy's office has more details:

http://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/leahy-hails-us-canada-pre-clearance-agreement-that-brings-closer-the-goal-of-restoring-vermont-to-montreal-passenger-rail-serv

 

The Governor has submitted to the legislature a 2016 transportation budget request. 

Overall, the upcoming budget calls for a 5.9% decline in rail spending, against a background of an overall 8.1% decline in total transportation spending.

Read more: Governors Rail Budget As T-Funds Decline

Led by the Bennington County Regional Commission, local leaders are proposing a bus connecting the Albany train station to Bennington and Manchester.  

 

Read more: Train-Bus Link To Bennington Proposed

Our work involves showing up.  We show up at meetings.  We engage the Agency of 

Transportation.  We show up at the state house.  We engage the railroads and Amtrak. We show up around the state, engaging the public.   We even showed up in Washington DC, doing the work of advocating for better trains in Vermont.

Read more: 2014 Highlights and Accomplishments

Governor Deval Patrick speaks at the new Greenfield Train stationA special Amtrak train ran from Springfield to Greenfield and back today (December 22nd) carrying Governor Deval Patrick and invited guests and making stops at Holyoke and Northampton to celebrate the December 29th initiaution of regular Vermonter service on the new route.

 

Read more: "Knowledge Corridor" Inaugural Run Presages Dec 29 Start

CMQ RAilway logoThe new Central Maine & Quebec Railroad which took over bankrupt Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railroad has spent the summer doing trackwork, bringing it's Farmham, Quebec to Newport VT line up to 25 mph standards.

Read more: CMQ Rebuilds Former MMA

 

People waiting for Amtrak Train at Essex JunctionAmtrak reported for the operating year ending September 30, the two Vermont supported trains, the Vermonter and Ethan Allen, recorded a passengers gain of 3.7 percent.   The Vermonter growth of 6.6 percent year over year ranked second among the 29 state-supported Amtrak routes while the Ethan Allen -1 percent performance ranked 22nd.  The 142,395 passengers on the two Vermont trains included some to and from stations in New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Data on those boarding and disembarking at each Vermont station will be available in the near future. 

 

 

The revenues reported for the two trains increased 10 percent on the Vermonter and 3 percent on the Ethan Allen.  The total 2014 revenues of $8.5 million for the two trains represented an increase of 7.7% over 2013.

 

Here's what you can do to stay safe around trains...

Never trespass on any railroad property or right of way!
Doing so is illegal and risks serious injury or death.

Cross only at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings!
Look for a train moving from either direction -- and then look for a second train from either direction.

Always expect a train!
Trains do not have set schedules and can approach from either direction at any time of day or night.
Trains do not take holidays.

Don't stand next to tracks!
Trains can overhang the tracks by three feet on either side, and straps and tiedowns can extend even further.

Never try to beat a train!
Because of their size, you cannot judge a train's speed or distance. Trains cannot make sudden stops. Remember that a locomotive weighs 200 tons. An automobile being hit by a train is equivalent to a soda can being hit by an automobile.

 

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