Economic Development: Smart Growth, Tourism and Business Benefit

The ghosts of passengers future at the Palmer Railroad Station

Courtesy Phil Opielowski,

Train service is a community asset that increases property value and sparks train-station centered smart-growth which improves land-use patterns.  People move, hire and build because of train service.

By linking the universities and towns of its area, the Central Corridor Line will improve access to regional economic engines.

The region will be more attractive and competitive for tourist dollars, benefiting retail shops, restaurants, lodging, resorts and the entire economy.

Mobility for People, Knowledge and Quality of Life

Amherst's brick train station with cupola, viewed from the trainThe Central Corridor Line provides direct rail service between the three of the five flagship state university campuses in New England (UVM, UMass/ Amherst & UConn/Storrs), including the two largest campuses.  The Central Corridor Line will link these campuses with other colleges and New England urban centers. Campus users are one of the most frequent and dependable categories of rail riders. A hub at Palmer would reach 90,000 students within 30 miles.

Train travel improves our quality of life, as riders avoid the cost of fuel, tolls, parking and wear and tear while eliminating the need to cope with highway stress and congestion.  The train is quieter and safer than driving.  Passengers can increase their productivity the moment they board.

As our population ages, alternatives to driving are especially important.  As is providing mobility for the disabled.

The Central Corridor Line benefits areas that have been left out by other rail plans so it provides regional balance.


The Central Corridor Line is a critically important north-south freight connection for New England — and for Canada and Europe via the deep water port at New London. Freight rail service is an essential foundation for a sustainable ’green’ economy, and freight rail improvements support expanded passenger rail service.

Currently this route is not able to handle the national weight limit of 286,000 lbs.  Freight customers receive cars that are not fully loaded, which puts area industries at a competitive disadvantage.  Improving the tracks for passenger trains would also fix this freight issue.


One Response to Benefits

  1. Bob Montief says:

    While I am in favor of further investigation of the Central Corridor project, your premises for the initiative or vague and unsupported by data.

    For one thing, the corridor is not a “critically important north-south corridor”. It never has been much more than a secondary corridor that supplements the Connecticut River and Shoreline rail routes. Most of its traffic is generated by industries along the line. Secondly, seaport economics have changed completely over the past 60 years. While New London may have been important before the 1930′s, the rise of containerized traffic means that there are no “important” deepwater ports between New York and Halifax. That fact includes Boston, which garners a small but useful volume of containers bound for local markets but is far from critical. New London would be fortunate to garner a few thousand tons of cargo a year and the occasional special project cargo and petroleum products, almost non of which will travel out of the region by rail.

    As far as the environmental benefits of rail, these are true, under ideal conditions. However, trains tend to be less efficient than buses unless the corridor has frequent trains, well-developed station and relatively high passenger loads. An occasional train, utilizing heavy diesel engines and underutilized passenger cars will do essentially nothing to improve emissions or reduce congestion. In addition, the connection between intercity travel and smart growth is tenuous under these conditions. While commuter trains can encourage dense, nodal growth, less frequent trains running on longer corridors with fairly high ticket prices, will have no such effect.

    Although the presence of colleges and universities along the right of way is an encouraging sign, that does not mean that students will find a passenger train very useful. The statement that, “A hub at Palmer would reach 90,000 students within 30 miles,” is particularly misleading as that station would be nearly an hour’s drive from most of those campuses. It is not convenient to anything but the most rudimentary public transportation.

    A well-conducted, objective study illuminating existing and potential travel patterns and utilization is critically important before we know whether the corridor merits substantial investment on economic, or even environmental grounds. “If you build it… they will come” simply doesn’t apply in freight railroading, or passenger rail. It takes enormous hard work, intelligent and responsive operators and good planning to move people to rail. But most of all it takes more than specious boosterism.

    The Corridor Initiative is an excellent first step. Now the hard work begins.

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