Working Group Arrives at Operating Cost for Rail Line
LENOX — It would cost about $420,000 to operate a seasonal train connecting Pittsfield and New York City, according to the Berkshire Flyer Working Group, which released a feasibility study on the rail route Monday.
The Berkshire Eagle reports the operating price tag would be offset by ridership — an estimated 2,600 one-way trips per 20-week season. This would put the net cost of running the Berkshire Flyer rail service at around $230,000 per year, the Working Group estimates, plus another $50,000 to $100,000 for marketing and management.
The Working Group looked at three options for Berkshire Flyer service and chose the one that best utilizes existing infrastructure. The passenger line would run on existing railroad track.
Here are some details from the Berkshire Flyer feasibility study and recommendations the Working Group is making to MassDOT and the Massachusetts Legislature:
- The Berkshire Flyer would offer one-seat rides with no train transfers each weekend from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend and would run along Amtrak's Albany/Rensselaer Route.
- The ride would be four hours long or less. The train would leave Fridays, outbound from NYC's Penn Station at 2:20 p.m. and arrive in Pittsfield at 6:10 p.m. The train would leave southbound on Sundays from Pittsfield at 2:45 p.m. and arrive at Penn Station at 6:45 p.m.
- With 2,600 one-way passenger tickets sold, the route would generate an estimated $185,000 in revenue.
- Right now, the closest thing to a one-seat train ride between Pittsfield an NYC is the Peter Pan service from the Port Authority in NYC to Great Barrington. The bus trip is four to five hours long each way and costs $94 round-trip.
- A detailed ticket price analysis is yet to be conducted, but would help identify the estimated ticket price. The goal of the Berkshire Flyer is to be self-funded, which means the railway route would need to attract more riders or charge ticket prices over Amtrak's market rate of $65 to $90 per one-way ticket. If passenger tickets were to cover the entire $420,000 operating cost, tickets would cost about $160 each way. This figure does not include marketing and management costs.
In addition to finding a Berkshire Flyer service sponsor, the Working Group and railway proponents will seek to finish up the track's "last mile." This means setting up options for travelers to get around once they get off the train in Pittsfield such as rental car kiosks, Zip cars, bicycles, cabs, etc. They'll also search for additional funds to bolster the viability of the train service and develop metrics that will be able to gauge the Berkshire Flyer's success.