Passenger rail is once again thriving in the Pioneer Valley thanks to Amtrak and the State of Massachusetts' new Valley Flyer service. The new service, which began in August 2019, brings an excellent opportunity to sports and entertainment promoters in Springfield, Mass., as fans can now come to events by multiple trains a day from Greenfield, Northampton and Holyoke, Mass.
The Need for More Passenger Rail Service in the Pioneer Valley
In 2014, for the first time since 1966, passenger train service was restored through Holyoke thanks to local leaders such as Mayor Alex Morse, Representative Aaron Vega, Senator Eric Lesser and Congressman Richard Neal. The train was Amtrak’s Vermonter, with one train daily in each direction, connecting St. Albans, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
Amtrak’s Valley Flyer, Vermonter and service to New York
For riders looking to directly travel to New York or points south, both the Vermonter and Northeast Regional connects Western Massachusetts to New York without the need to change trains. The Northeast Regional only goes as far north as Springfield, but offers one daily train in each direction, with two on the weekends. For riders looking for additional trains to get to and from New York or south from Springfield, they can take multiple offerings of the Valley Flyer or Amtrak Hartford Line to New Haven and have a cross-platform transfer to Amtrak’s Northeast Regional which continues onto New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Each of these trains have multiple offerings of departures allowing passengers to transfer in New Haven to Metro-North with hourly service into Grand Central Terminal in New York.
Opportunity for Sports and Entertainment Events in Springfield
With Downtown Springfield now connected by rail to major cities in the Pioneer Valley such as Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield, promoters of sports and entertainment events can attract a whole new market of fans who prefer to stay off the roads to access their destination. One example of this is Major League Soccer, which is currently working on the combination of moving teams and adding teams in downtown areas to reach the demographic of fans who prefer public transit.
|Courtesy of Wikipedia, "Springfield Union Station".|
Promoters in Springfield can now focus on this in their marketing as more public transportation offerings for the city are added. The new Valley Flyer service is just one example of more public transit for Springfield, but the future looks bright with the opening of the renovated Union Station in 2017 and the new "CTrail Hartford Line" commuter train service that was added in 2018.
For years, promoters in Springfield relied on I-91 funneling fans into the city from all four directions, but now with greater transit options, promoters in Springfield have an opportunity to join the trend of attracting fans who prefer not to rely on the highway. The Valley Flyer is just in its infancy but it is example of our region's push for better connectivity, a challenge that has plagued other regions for decades, and one the Pioneer Valley would like to make itself known for solving.
Springfield has a big opportunity: location. It is the economic center of Western Massachusetts, but also approximately 90 miles from Boston and Albany, 60 miles from Vermont and just 2.5 hours from the largest media market in the U.S., New York City. That is as central as you can get for a lot of cities, but Springfield has long been an transportation hub that was overlooked for many decades. With the help of local leaders, Springfield is once again the transit hub it once was. The question is, will promoters of area events take advantage of this opportunity to tap into a demographic of people who are ready and willing to attend events, but no longer want to rely on congested highways? Time will tell, but whatever the answer may be, Springfield is ready.
Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.