To the Editor:
A new train service to the Berkshires from NYC makes no sense. Metro-North already runs a frequent, reliable, inexpensive service between Wassaic and Grand Central 12-14 times on weekdays and 8-9 times on Saturday and Sunday. I have proposed to BRTA that they run buses to meet all Wassaic trains, beginning in North Adams, and making express stops in Williamstown, Lanesborough, Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee, Stockbridge, Great Barrington, and Sheffield before proceeding nonstop to Wassaic, and then reversing the route.
The primary beneficiaries of this service would not be travelers to and from NYC, but rather Berkshire residents taking advantage of frequent, reliable bus service beginning very early in the morning and ending very late at night. There is a fairly substantial mismatch between where the unfilled jobs are and where the unemployed or underemployed workers are in this county, and this service would enable job-seekers to expand their radius. There could be a low, flat price (say, $5) for anyone hopping on the bus in the Berkshires, and a reasonable surcharge (say, another $5) for anyone getting off at Wassaic. (Anyone getting on at Wassaic, using this example, would pay $10 and would be able to travel to any of the Berkshire route stops.)
Initially it would require 3 to 4 vans to operate this service. As ridership builds, full-size buses would replace the vans. In full operation, I estimate that it would require an annual public subsidy of about $1 million, which sounds like a lot, but would be a pittance compared to the hundreds of millions required to reestablish direct train service that would not have the intra-Berkshire transportation benefit and would almost certainly require an annual subsidy greater than my proposed bus-rail link.