Passenger rail service gets a boost Housatonic Railroad survey indicates potentially strong ridership

Housatonic Railroad survey shows potential for strong ridership

Passenger rail service from New Milford on a Berkshire line of the Housatonic Railroad is apparently on the front burner these days.

"If we use the median ridership information accounting for seasonal trends," John Hanlon, president of Housatonic Railroad, said Monday, "we have a ridership of two million one way riders per year. This is extremely encouraging.

"Outwardly, it would appear that a combination of public/private investment could create a service that requires little or no operating subsidy," Mr. Hanlon added.

Mr. Hanlon's optimism is the result of a recently completed study done by Massachusetts-based Market Street Research to determine ridership demand for a rail passenger service between Pittsfield, Mass., and New York City.

An online survey was conducted with 2,567 residents from the proposed line area.

A privately owned railroad, the Housatonic line connects with MetroNorth in the New York City.

The proposed Berkshire Line Project would serve cities and towns in western Connecticut between Danbury and North Canaan and would operate in Massachusetts through Berkshire County to Pittsfield. Transit time from Pittsfield to New York is estimated at approxmiately 3 hours and 55 minutes.

"I'm in support of it because HVCEO's in support of it. I really support the service going to Pittsfield," said New Milford Mayor Pat Murphy. "It's in keeping with what I prefer. I was in support of the Danbury to New Milford line passenger service restoration but I thought continuing north made more sense."

The Market Street study found that one in four residents who currently travel between New York City and Berkshire County are "highly interested" in the proposed line.

Cost is an important factor in whether those surveyed would ride the line. Availability of lodging at or near stations of arrival and access to rental cars are also factors for northbound passengers.

Housatonic Railroad is creating a cost model at this time to develop an accurate financial pro forma for the service, according to Colin Pease, Housatonic's vice president for special projects.