Op/Ed

Climate Matters: Traveling Vermont and beyond by train and bus

RICHARD HOPKINS

33rd in a series

With a little advance planning, it is quite feasible to do the things you want to do in Vermont by public transit, and thus decrease your carbon footprint substantially compared to driving a fossil-fueled vehicle by yourself. 

I recently had a morning meeting in Burlington and decided to go on the bus. It was quite easy. I took a free early-morning Tri Valley Transit (TVT) bus from Academy Street in Middlebury to the main transit center in Burlington. I didn’t want to wait till 4:15 p.m. for the return TVT bus, so I had lunch near Church Street, then took the $10 Vermont Translines bus home, leaving downtown Burlington at 1:15 p.m. and reaching Middlebury a little after 2 p.m. (TVT runs two buses from Middlebury to downtown Burlington early every morning, and again in late afternoon; and four similar runs from Burlington to Middlebury. See trivalleytransit.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/LINK-Master_fall-2022-1.pdf .

Amtrak got a lot of well-deserved publicity when, at the end of July, all that effort to improve the railroad infrastructure paid off, and the New York-to-Rutland train was extended to Burlington, via Middlebury and Vergennes. I was on the first northbound train from New York to Middlebury. We didn’t get the big welcome that the first southbound train got, but a few people on the platform cheered for us. 

Even one train a day in each direction opens a lot of opportunities. The southbound train leaves Middlebury just after 11 a.m., gets to Albany at 2:55 p.m. and to Penn Station in New York City at 5:45 p.m. That’s plenty of time for an evening on the town in New York, and the next morning you can do other business, or some shopping, and leave for Vermont at 2:20 p.m. 

That schedule also gets you to New York City in time to change for a same-day train to Washington or Harrisburg, Pa., but it’s too late to make a same-day connection for Richmond, Atlanta or Florida.

If you use the Vermont Translines bus to get to Amtrak’s Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y., station to catch the train to New York City, a lot more opportunities open up. The southbound Vermont Translines bus arrives at the Albany Amtrak station just an elevator ride away from the Amtrak waiting area at street level. These are big coaches with comfortable seats, Wi-Fi and an on-board rest room. The bus route takes you through Rutland, Manchester and Bennington — maybe not how you would have driven your own car, but remarkably smooth and quick. Buy tickets for the combined train/bus trip on the Amtrak.com website.

The morning Vermont Translines bus leaves Middlebury at 6:17 a.m. and gets you to the Albany-Rensselaer station at 9:45 a.m., in time to catch the 10:05 train to New York, which arrives at Penn Station at 12:45 p.m., in time to have a full afternoon and evening in the city, or to catch connecting trains south and west to Washington, Richmond, Florida, Harrisburg or Atlanta. 

There is also an afternoon connecting service if you can’t leave in the morning. You can depart Middlebury on a bus at 2:37 p.m. and be at Penn Station at 9:55 p.m.

If the frequency of transit line service were doubled or quadrupled, options multiply, and people’s confidence in the service increases, growing ridership. If you were to miss a bus or train, for example, you wouldn’t be stuck for many hours or even a day waiting for the next departure. And you’d have many more options for how to organize the activities on your trip. 

I would love to see passenger rail service four to six times a day in each direction from Rutland to Burlington to Essex Junction (very near to Burlington) to Montpelier and Barre. At such a frequency you would have enormous flexibility in planning a trip for shopping, medical visits, entertainment, government business or to visit friends.

Now that we have upgraded the rails, grade crossings, tunnels and stations between Rutland and Burlington, the cost of additional service would be relatively small. The tracks between Essex Junction and Montpelier are already in good shape. The expensive part would probably be upgrading the approximately seven miles of track between downtown Burlington and Essex Junction. These tracks carry some freight traffic, but not passenger trains.

To help you plan a trip, or just visualize how easy it would be to do so, here is a chart of bus and train schedules between Burlington and New York Penn Station.

Please note that train and bus schedule information is extracted from websites as of early November. Schedules could change. Make sure you check times and locations yourself. You should buy a ticket ahead of time in any case. You can buy both Vermont Translines bus and Amtrak train tickets through the Amtrak website. Also note that the Middlebury Vermont Translines stop, on the Middlebury College campus, has a different code (MIY) than the Middlebury train station (MBY). They are about 3/4 mile apart on foot, or 1 mile apart by car. The Vergennes stops for both services are at the park-and-ride near the junction of Routes 22A and 7.

Bus & Train Schedules: Burlington to New York Penn Station

NOTE: Schedules as of Nov. 2022; schedules subject to change

Bold is PM, otherwise AM.

Southbound – 

read down

VT Translines bus + train

Amtrak Ethan Allen Express — train 290

VT Translines bus + train

Burlington airport

4:58 am

1:18 pm

Burlington downtown

5:13 am

10:10 am

1:33 pm

Vergennes/Ferrisburgh

5:53 am

10:44 am

2:13 pm

Middlebury

6:17 am

11:01 am

2:37 pm

Rutland arrive

7:07 am

12:10 pm

3:27 pm

Rutland leave

7:17 am

12:20 pm

3:37 pm

     Albany arrive

9:45 am

2:55 pm 

6:05 pm

Amtrak train 280

Amtrak train 64

Albany leave

10:05 am

3:10 pm

7:15 pm

New York Penn Station

12:45 pm

5:45 pm

9:55 pm

Northbound – 

read down

Train + VT Translines bus

Amtrak Ethan Allen Express

Train + VT Translines bus

Train 281

Train 291

Train 237*

New York Penn Station

10:20 am

2:20 pm

4:40 pm

Albany arrive

12:45 pm

4:50 pm

7:05 pm

Bus

Bus

Albany leave

1:00 pm

5:05 pm

7:55 pm

Rutland arrive

3:28 pm

7:46 pm

10:23 pm

Rutland leave

3:38 pm

7:56 pm

10:33 pm

     Middlebury

4:28 pm

8:50 pm

11:23 pm

Vergennes/Ferrisburgh

4:52 pm

9:10 pm

11:47 pm

Burlington airport

5:32 pm

12:27 am

Burlington downtown

5:47 pm

9:55 pm

12:42 am

Dr. Richard Hopkins is a retired public health official. He spent 35 years in several state health departments as an epidemiologist and program manager. He is a member of the Middlebury Energy Committee and sits on the board of the Climate Economy Action Center of Addison County.

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