Southwestern Vermont Rail Corridor Committee (SVRCC)
Southwestern Vermont Rail Corridor Committee is a coalition of citizens and community leaders committed to enabling environmentally sound economic development by restoring passenger rail service to promote sustainable growth, community connections, and increased opportunities for those who reside, work in or visit Southwestern Vermont.
We will inform and educate the public of relevant issues and benefits relating to passenger rail service.
We believe that passenger rail service in Southwestern Vermont is an important means of developing our local economy in a way that embraces our Green Mountain ethic of preserving our environment and supporting Vermonters for generations to come.
Amtrak and the state of Vermont have a special promotional fare of $12 on the Amtrak Vermonter for travel within the state of Vermont.
Click here for more information about Packages along the way.
To get this fare, request discount code V569 [this is the code for 2013]
To book this on the Amtrak website, start making a reseravation, which will show at the regular price. After clicking "choose this one" when it shows the train availability, the NEXT screen after gives you a chance to lower the price with the discount. Don't worry about the initial higher price being shown, you don't have to commit to pay until after the discount is applied.
You can also get this fare by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL, however you are likely to run into reservation agents who do not know this special fare exists and have to look it up. Occassionally you will have to be firm and insist that they do so or talk to a supervisor.
There is a major reason why we cannot close the Ethan Allen, because it is part of a major corridor project for the Rutland Region and Western Vermont.
The strategic funding plan for the Western Transportation Corridor Project included improvements to US RT 7 and rail improvements on western lines, from St. Albans to Bennington, ending in Rensselaer NY. The improvements are broken into small projects but are part of the whole plan to improve the transportation network in Southwestern VT. The Ethan Allen will be a stepping stone to the Albany, Bennington, Rutland, Burlington, Essex (ABRBE) Regional Passenger and Freight System to serve Vermonters in state, Tourism business travelers and the Southwestern Vt Economy (JOBS). This system is going to be a seamless service to connect to the southern and western section of US freight and passenger service. This would be the final stage. To stop at stage 1 of the plan, the Ethan Allen, would cut future federal funding and private investment to this Corridor Project. This Rail project has been key to getting major federal funding for track improvements and highway improvement funds. (Senator Jefford’s Legacy Bill $30 million rail improvement)
This was the deal to abandon the Rutland Bypass Project during the 1980's (proposed $175,000 Million project). The State and the Rutland Region agreed to improve existing corridor projects (rail and RT 7) are a major part of this agreement. Therefore, why are we not funding the largest transportation plan in the state. During the 1950’s when Interstate 91 and 89 were built, Southwestern Vermont had been promised that western Vermont was next for improvements. We cannot pull one small piece of corridor infrastructure that’s supporting the economic or transportation network in southwestern Vermont without hurting the whole structure.
We are not asking for a new highway, interstate or rail projects, we are just asking to improve what we have in place today. This has been the Agency of Transportation's policies for five years. So, when are we going to finally say that it is time to keep our promises and complete and preserve these western corridor improvement projects.
The Ethan Allen is part of this promise.
Here are numerous unanswered questions and points regarding the VAOT Amtrak Bus that should be raised with the Governor and legislators. The Rutland County delegation is unified in their opposition to the administrations proposal and understands the economic importance of the train.
1) The Administration is promoting the bus as an improvement over the train to Rutland. When asked recently no Amtrak passengers seem to agree.
2) They also say it is temporary. Even the Governor himself gave caution in the Rutland Herald recently about that point.3) Amtrak indicated last week that there is a deficient in equipment in the US so if we eliminate the Ethan Allen Express train it will get quickly scooped up and may be a long wait to get it back.
The ETHAN ALLEN is a successful and growing service: Patronage on theRead more...
ETHAN ALLEN has been growing every month for most of the last two
years. Overall ridership in FY 2008 climbed 17.5%, with revenues up
13.6%. It is completely counter-productive to squander this gain with
a "bustitution" that will not work. Rather we can enhance the train
with a properly-designed bus connection and gain added revenues higher
than the projected savings from the train-off proposal.
Once gone there is little chance the train will ever return: The last
passenger service before the ETHAN ALLEN on the
Albany-Whitehall-Rutland route closed in 1937, 59 years before the
ETHAN ALLEN began in 1996. The last service on the more direct line
from Troy to Bennington, Rutland and Burlington was lost in 1953.
If the ETHAN ALLEN is canceled Amtrak is certain to reassign its
equipment, as the company is already desperately short of cars. Once
the cars are gone Vermont will have to buy new cars in order to
restore service. Even at today's prices this would cost us at least
$3,000,000 per car and probably more by 2013.
It was very disturbing to see the recent piece in the Free Press
According to the latest edition of the Transportation Energy Data Book from Oak Ridge National Laboratory's website (edition 26):
In 2005, domestic airlines on average consumed 20.5% more energy per passenger-mile than Amtrak, while cars consumed 27.2% more than Amtrak. Looked at the other way round, Amtrak consumes 17.0% and 21.4% less energy per passenger-mile than airlines and cars, respectively. [One passenger-mile is one passenger traveling one mile.]
Those percentages are derived from these Oak Ridge figures (British Thermal Units or BTUs per passenger-mile, 2005 data), organized here most to least efficient:
notes of interest:
Amtrak consumed 14.6 trillion BTUs in 2005, which was 8.2% less than 15.9 trillion in 2003 and 19.3% below Amtrak's peak year of energy use (2001, with 18.1 trillion BTUs).
The tables from this document you may find most useful are:
Several comments regarding what is the most energy-efficient way to travel . . . [By Christopher Parker]
In 2007, eleven railroad companies operate or have trackage rights in Vermont. There are approximately 600 miles of operating rail line in Vermont's rail system of which some 305 miles are owned by the State. An addition 148 miles is rail banked, most of which are “rail trail”.
The rail system in Vermont is part of a regional, national and international transportation network. Most railroad activity in Vermont is freight traffic; although, interstate, intrastate and excursion passenger services are also important to rail operations and the Vermont economy.
Scheduled passenger service includes one north and one south bound daily Amtrak trips that connect Vermont cities and towns (St. Albans, Essex Junction, Waterbury, Montpelier, Randolph, White River Junction, Windsor, Bellows Falls and Brattleboro), stops in Massachusetts and Connecticut, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. (Vermonter) and one north and one south bound daily Amtrak runs connecting Rutland and Fair Haven, Albany, N.Y. and New York City (Ethan Allen Express).
Seasonal Vermont Rail System tourist excursion trains include the Green Mountain Railroad
Explained below is the procurement process that led to its selection of Colorado Railcar DMUs and in a separate, but related RFP called the “Corridor Partial Competition Pilot Program” its award of $2,000,000 to Vermont. The RFP is quoted below.
“In 2005, Congress directed a demonstration of potential state corridor route competition under PL-108-199 and set aside $2.48 million for a pilot competitive state route project. In its April 2005 Strategic Reform Initiatives, Amtrak agreed to work with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to advance such a pilot project. Pursuant to its FY06 Grant Agreement with the FRA, Amtrak is now soliciting proposals for a pilot trial of State and/or private participation in the provision of intercity passenger rail service requested by a State that can be demonstrated to reduce the cost to Amtrak and to the State of providing that service and/or improve the quality of that service. Except for providing the locomotive engineer for a proposed pilot program train, all services provided directly by Amtrak shall be considered eligible under this RFP.”
Amtrak had 2.48 million dollars to conduct a test of improved operations on a selected corridor. The proposal we submitted to do this test indicated a willingness to use the new DMU technology which Amtrak has selected ultimately for use nationwide on secondary lines. $2,000,000 of this money was awarded to Vermont. A critical section of our response to the Amtrak RFP is quoted below.
“In the fall of 2005, Vermont Agency of Transportation entered into discussion with Amtrak about the current Vermont state supported services. Driven by the Amtrak board’s decision to bring all states up to a level of contract funding that covered all direct cost incurred by Amtrak, the parties agreed that if current levels of service were to continue, some significant changes to the service would need to be made. Gil Mallery, VP of Planning & Business Development, arranged a meeting with Charlie Miller from VTrans, Mark Yachmetz from the Federal Railroad Administration and Arthur Rader from Colorado Rail Car to discuss opportunities for purchase of equipment that would better fit the Vermont model for intercity passenger service. Amtrak had been working with Colorado Rail Car on the development of an equipment specification for a “Rail Diesel Car”. It was obvious to all the parties at the meeting that equipment under development by Colorado Rail Car would meet the anticipated use in corridors such as the Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express.
Shortly after this meeting Gil Mallery and Jeff Mann made a proposal to Agency Secretary Dawn Terrill and Deputy Secretary David Dill on the benefits of moving from Vermont’s current equipment situation to utilization of the new DMU technology. Based on a review by the Amtrak planning department, Vermont could actually increase the frequency on the Vermonter to two trains daily for the approximate cost of the current service”.
Completely separate from the Route Test RFP was Amtrak’s internal procurement process that selected the new DMU technology. Amtrak selected the Colorado Railcar DMU only after a full-scale and completely proper internal procurement review, including the opportunity for competitive bidding. The winner of the Amtrak equipment bid process was the Colorado Railcar DMU.
When its budget allocations permit Amtrak plans to order a full fleet of these cars (initially 17 and potentially up to 40 cars), but in the short-term it wants to facilitate a Federal/State partnership to test if the new technology can seriously improve operations and financial performance on at least one appropriate route. As the DMUs are intended for rural and branch-line conditions the VERMONTER route was an ideal candidate. We were awarded the $2,000,000 to conduct this test. Amtrak legitimately expects that we do it using the technology we described in our bid and which Amtrak approved.
Ø Amtrak wants new, rather than rebuilt equipment, as they want to test new generation cars. As I mentioned, Amtrak has a perfectly legitimate interest in trying to simplify its fleet by operating only equipment of a fairly standardized form, which does not require, as 1950s RDCs would, the actual recreation in machine shops of many parts. Amtrak had a very bad experience in the 1970s operating RDCs, which even then were suffering from advanced age-related maintenance issues.
Ø Amtrak granted Vermont $2,000,000 of the 2.48 million total available for the partnership test program—a very generous response indeed!
Ø But tied to the two million dollars was the expectation that we would carry out the intended test using the equipment which Amtrak had selected and based on the service plan that we had outlined. This included use of the new DMUs.
Ø If we don’t conduct the route experiment using the new DMUs we should clearly understand that we will not get the $2,000,000.
Ø We would be VERY unlikely to get rebuilt RDCs approved for use in this test, because for better or for worse the RDC is a long-established technology.
[Adopted from a memo to the Vermont State legislature by Carl Fowler]
[The following is adapted from a memo to the Vermont State Legislature by Carl Fowler, of Rail Travel Center. Since the time of writing, Vermont Transit has been fully absorbed into Greyhound lines and local management laid off. The advice still stand though.]
Vermont Transit, in a very real sense, is already made its own fate. As I noted, the marketing philosophy of VT parent Greyhound Lines nationally has changed from providing service to small towns to emphasize service only from regional centers, running as directly as possible to large cities and hub airports, with as few enroute stops as possible. As a result VT has already dropped all service to many towns that it still passes through, such as St. Albans, Waterbury, Killington and Woodstock. Moreover entire routes have vanished which had no Amtrak competition at all. Gone are all trips from Burlington to Middlebury, Rutland, Manchester, Bennington and Albany and from Rutland to Bellows Falls, Brattleboro and Boston.
Ø The best thing the state can do for VT is to encourage it to coordinate its services with Amtrak and local transit. Throughout the country this has worked dramatically to the benefit of both carriers. The most immediate example in the east is the Boston-Portland “Downeaster” joint bus/rail service. There are four daily DOWNEASTER train frequencies (soon to grow to five), but far from dying, bus patronage there has jumped dramatically. Concord Trailways now operates no less than 21 trips per day, each way, over this line, far more service than before the rail initiative. On top of that VT also serves this route with an additional 5 buses each way per day! The buses and trains offer a seamless coordinated service and both benefit from the integration.
Ø Concord Trailways, VT and Amtrak share the stations in Portland and Boston. The buses actually go to the bus bays at the main train station in Boston—South Station—while the trains serve North Station.
Ø At Woburn the DOWNEASTER trains meet closely coordinated buses to Logan Airport, while at Portland train passengers can connect at the same station to buses for Bangor, Ellsworth, Augusta and in the summer to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. These can all be ticketed by any Amtrak agent or travel agency.
Ø The DOWNEASTER corridor is the fastest growing new Amtrak route ever instituted in the east and both bus and rail have benefited overwhelmingly.
Ø This situation could and should be replicated in Vermont. VT schedules between Burlington-White River Jct. and Springfield should be adjusted to compliment the enhanced train service. If Amtrak leaves White River Jct. at 655AM there is an ideal slot for VT at 835AM.
Ø As noted earlier, the state should help VT to cover the costs of a restored St. Albans-Montreal VERMONTER “Ambus” connection. In the northbound direction at least the former train connection bus still runs, but no longer serves St. Albans at all.
Ø The state-supported local bus services from Newport, St. Johnsbury, Ludlow, Chester and Wilmington should be coordinated to connect to the trains.
Ø VT services from White River Jct. to Boston can offer yet another bus/rail alternative if they served the train station.
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