Burlington Union Station

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BobLI
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Burlington Union Station

Post by BobLI » Thu May 19, 2016 8:54 am

I passed through Burlington VT. and noticed the Union Station by the lake. What railroads served that station and just how busy was it?

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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by H.F.Malone » Thu May 19, 2016 8:57 am

Rutland, primarily, with Central Vermont having a branch line connection to their "main" station in the area, Essex Jct. Passenger service ended with Rutland's last train in 1953.
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TomNelligan
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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by TomNelligan » Thu May 19, 2016 10:14 am

It's a smallish but quite attractive building that now houses the offices of several businesses. It still has one covered platform around back that was used by the short-lived Champlain Valley Flyer commuter service in the early 2000s, and also by the Vermont Railway's seasonal passenger excursions. Presumably it would be the terminal for the proposed Burlington extension of the Ethan Allen.

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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu May 19, 2016 11:21 am

That's now confirmed, as of the announcement a couple weeks ago of the new fed grant and 2019 launch date for the EAE extension. VTrans already rents office space inside the main waiting room, so there's no paperwork to sign for getting Amtrak customer service presence established in the building. They'll be installing an ADA-accessible mini-high platform extension next to the current shelter when service starts.


Station is still used several times a year by Green Mountain RR for passenger specials. Vermont Rail System is GMRR's owner, so they have free reign to run excursions anywhere up and down the Western Corridor. There are Burlington-Middlebury specials scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, Father's Day weekend, July 4 weekend, a "Brew Train" running the weekend of Jul. 16 for the Burlington Brewery Festival, and one running mid-Aug. for the big Air Show. Guess if you don't want to wait until 2019 to road-test all the recent Rutland-Burlington upgrades you should check GMRR's seasonal calendar for all your sneak-peek curiosity.

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Cosmo
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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by Cosmo » Fri May 20, 2016 10:18 am

Wow,... I really MIGHT move back there! :D
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Ridgefielder
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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by Ridgefielder » Fri May 20, 2016 11:46 am

As to how busy-- depends on what time period you're looking at. The 1910 Official Guide shows something like 16/day on the Rutland, plus roughly hourly shuttle service on the CV between Burlington & Essex Jct. Two Boston/NY - Montreal through runs-- the Green Mountain Flyer (daytime) and the Mount Royal (night) lasted until the end of the Rutland, and I believe at least one local survived that long. I don't know when the rail shuttle on the CV was discontinued but my gut, going by what happened in the rest of New England, is that it went early-- I'd be surprised if it even lasted as long as the 1930's before being replaced by a bus.

charding
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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by charding » Fri May 20, 2016 1:51 pm

...checked my July 1940 Official Guide...handled by bus...

ExCon90
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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by ExCon90 » Tue May 24, 2016 3:37 pm

A 1937 Official Guide shows bus service by April 27--I'll see if I can find anything earlier that would narrow it down. I tend to agree with Ridgefielder that the train service ended quite a bit earlier--very likely when the Depression began to bite.

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Rockingham Racer
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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by Rockingham Racer » Tue May 24, 2016 4:36 pm

Opinion question: how much do you think the U of Vermont kids and St. Michael's College kids will bump the ridership on the train?

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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by ferroequinarchaeologist » Tue May 24, 2016 5:17 pm

1916 Official Guide lists nine train round trips daily between Burlington and Essex Junction, in the Grand Trunk Railway schedule. Connections are noted at Burlington with the Rutland and with Lake Champlain steamers. In the Rutland schedule, a numerical reference next to the Burlington listing notes a connection with the Central Vermont Railway and Champlain Transportation Company steamers.

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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by johnpbarlow » Wed May 25, 2016 6:10 am

Rockingham Racer wrote:Opinion question: how much do you think the U of Vermont kids and St. Michael's College kids will bump the ridership on the train?
As regards UVM students v. future Burlington Amtrak service, Megabus runs daily buses from the UVM Campus to Boston (4.0 hrs @ $19), Hartford (4:45 @ $39), and NYC (7:45 @ $59). And similarly, Greyhound departs the UVM campus for Boston and Montreal.

Using Adirondack schedule and fare from Plattsburgh to NYP as a proxy for a future Burlington to NYP trip by Ethan Allen suggests a 7:25 duration at $69 fare.

So, my guess is the extension of Ethan Allen service to Burlington will see only small utilization by UVM students.

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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed May 25, 2016 7:19 am

I disagree. The buses don't sell schedule accuracy with those low fares. If you're a student going home to CT or the Capitol District for the weekend from your school in Boston, it's wholly expected that those transit times are more "recommended" than real because of how wildly variable the traffic is. It was a crapshoot 20 years ago when I was that student making that Greyhound ride between South Station and Hartford Union Station on a Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. Sometimes those 2.5 hour trips took 4 hours, and sometimes when I had homework to do on my computer and couldn't gamble on potentially losing 2 extra hours I had to hedge on a much less convenient way-early or way-late bus schedule to avoid the traffic uncertainty. That was way back in 1997. It's far worse now for today's students, and reaching the limits of how low the fares can go to offset the inconvenience of anything-goes arrival times. When somebody has to pick you and your stuff up at the terminal for the last-mile ride home, it's legitimately inconvenient for even the most dirt-poor student to have to keep calling their ride over and over again with updates: "Hey, it's me again...now they're saying we'll be X+Y minutes late, with possibility of it slipping to X+Y+Z late."

They have real survey data in big college markets like Boston tracing what the outer limits are between fare convenience and schedule convenience. It's hitting a tipping point where there's a viable market opening for train schedules that promise better schedule certainty, and where there's only so much additional discounting the cheapo bus carriers can do on those all-important Fri./Sun./holiday student slots to offset the increasing unreliability of their schedules. Students aren't a one-dimensional demographic. The unmet needs create room for more than one mode to pick up meaningful piece of the pie.


UVM's got a lot of students who hail from all up and down the Hudson Valley. There'll be plenty of them caught up in that value judgment tug-of-war between favoring absolute lowest fares/absolute best-case reference travel time vs. favoring absolute schedule certainty at longer travel time one can reliably plan around. That's the growth market for the rail option taking bigger piece of the pie as discounted bus fares have reached their floor for writing off their increasing schedule variability. VTrans knew this; the colleges the Western Corridor strings together and where their non-local students hail from were integral parts of the ridership studies for the Phase I and Phase II expansions on the corridor. They see it as a growth demographic and selling point for the route expansion's ROI. Ditto for the Montrealer re-extension and pursuit of a second frequency bookending the Essex Jct. side of Greater Burlington in easy reach of a campus shuttle bus. The increased Amtrak-on-the-brain mindshare that comes from having service established on both of the state's main population corridors is going to pique the students' interest first. And the colleges will market that transit portfolio much more heavily to prospective students: both the availability of bottom-barrel bus fares and the certainty of Amtrak quality of service. Their own data says this is a big enough college market for the whole spread of choices to matter.

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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by johnpbarlow » Wed May 25, 2016 7:43 am

F-Line - appreciate your opinions but I wonder if you're not staking a lot on Amtrak quality of service / superior punctuality v. low priced bus? After investing $$ in NECR Conn River route to improve Vermonter performance, I understand from an Amtrak person familiar with the operation that NECR maintenance is not what it should be (perhaps similar to PAR's well documented lack of diligence on the Downeaster route a couple years back) and the Vermonter now takes regular schedule hits.

Certainly in the heavily traveled/populated NE Corridor there has proven to be demand for both bus and Amtrak service. I'm decades out of college but I did recently enjoy a $20 4 hour ride on Gobus from Riverside (Newton) to the NYP area in Manhattan that Amtrak could not come close to matching on price and I'd do it again if I wasn't going to drive the route to LI as I usually do.

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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed May 25, 2016 9:19 am

johnpbarlow wrote:F-Line - appreciate your opinions but I wonder if you're not staking a lot on Amtrak quality of service / superior punctuality v. low priced bus? After investing $$ in NECR Conn River route to improve Vermonter performance, I understand from an Amtrak person familiar with the operation that NECR maintenance is not what it should be (perhaps similar to PAR's well documented lack of diligence on the Downeaster route a couple years back) and the Vermonter now takes regular schedule hits.
Vermonter performance today is entirely impacted by the Springfield Line upgrades and the Metro North catenary replacement work on the New Haven Line shutting down 2 tracks at a time in the work zone. The route is still carrying sizeable artificial schedule padding through the duration of those two Connecticut projects. The cat replacement project ends for good in less than a year. Springfield Line (for now...as of latest projected schedule) and Springfield Union Station platform upgrades end early-2018. The Vermonter schedule will see a more dramatic revision at that point than any of the timetable adjustments it's seen to-date. All of this was known from the day the upgrade project was funded; it's not news or disappointment to anyone. What you see today is transitional...wholly-planned transitional.

NECR was late on the switch replacement at Northfield Jct. (still messed up) and some new signal cut-ins (finished now???) south of Brattleboro. Their trackage rights fees spat with Pan Am and punishment of Pan Am freights with artificial slow orders took their eyes off the ball there to everyone's momentary annoyance. Parties have a proposed settlement of that case adjudicating in front of the STB right now, which will nip that in the bud. But NECR's lateness on closeout details was never a factor in retaining the extra schedule padding. That's all about the heavy construction in Connecticut that's still got another stressful year-plus to go. There's good reason they're not ramming through the Montrealer restoration simultaneous with the Adirondack getting Customs pre-clearance at Gare Central, despite NECR having already completed its track work from St. Albans to the Canadian border. It's not worth making the leap to engage Quebec Province until they can cash out the entirety of that south-of-Springfield schedule padding.
Certainly in the heavily traveled/populated NE Corridor there has proven to be demand for both bus and Amtrak service. I'm decades out of college but I did recently enjoy a $20 4 hour ride on Gobus from Riverside (Newton) to the NYP area in Manhattan that Amtrak could not come close to matching on price and I'd do it again if I wasn't going to drive the route to LI as I usually do.
That's exactly my point: room for two. 20 years ago the buses had a hands-down advantage on the I-95 corridor between Boston and NYC for the cost-conscious set. Very few students rode Amtrak. Now? Bus fares are even lower, but Amtrak's share of the market has increased a lot. Why? They can offer schedule certainty for their price, while the bus is less able than ever to project arrival times. The buses, with the arrivals of the super-discount carriers like Megabus, in fact no longer emphasize their travel times as anything other than a reference point...instead using even lower pricing to bargain with the escalating variability. The market's fragmenting along those lines. It's fragmenting within the bus mode in ways that didn't exist 20 years ago when it was one flavor of Greyhound/Peter Pan dominating. So, really, it's the fact that there's market fragmentation within a formerly unified mode of intercity travel that's giving the trains a bigger share of the pie than simply the trains forcing the issue.

I-95/NEC was first. Now you're seeing agitation for more diverse options on the Mass Pike/Inland Route corridor. Traffic out of Boston's MetroWest, Worcester, the I-84/Pike interchange, I-91 between Springfield and Hartford, and Greater Hartford on either 84 o4 91 has hit the schedule reliability of the buses hard. I bought my first car 13 years ago because I was finally nearing my pain threshold to try to get out on a Friday afternoon bus to go visit my family in Bristol once every 2 months or whatever, and needed the flexibility of being able to pick up and go the bloody second the traffic website with all the heat maps and traffic cams showed an opening. Or plan myself a back-roads detour down if it simply looked hopeless. That was a decade ago in a treading-water post-9/11 economy. I have never, ever seen the Pike as bad it's been these last 2 years. Or seen as many Peter Pan and Megabuses bunched up behind each other in the same 5-mile traffic jam between I-290 and I-84 as I do now. That Inland Route proposal, if enacted, is going to surprise in the early going with how much Boston-area students lead all other ridership growth by the nose. Demand assumptions from 10, 15, 20 years ago just aren't current enough to account for how wide a variance there is in those published bus schedules now. Hence, you're seeing the same market fragmentation along this Corridor with the lowest bus fares reaching ever lower to capture the people who don't care if they arrive early or late, and Amtrak looking like a pretty tasty choice when you can't get your friends or family to reschedule their pickup ride from the station.

It's going to spread from there. Downeaster's picking up more students as it adds frequencies even though the bus fares have always been rock-bottom to NH and Portland. That growth is one of the reasons why NNEPRA's stumble last year with tardy tie-replacement and subsequent crash in OTP was so cringe-worthy. Hopefully it doesn't leave a mark. The twin Vermont corridors are next. Boston-Montreal could be next as bus OTP through the New Hampshire Capitol Corridor highways, which used to be very good, is precipitously decaying.


It's actually the best possible thing to see this fragmentation. 20 years ago you paid for Greyhound, had no other pricing options than the Greyhound-synced rates that Peter Pan and others offered, and had to deal with their detours to Worcester and their frequent L-shaped diversions to Springfield instead of a Hartford direct and Albany instead of a Vermont or upstate direct. Now you have Megabus offering the rock-bottom prices, high frequencies, and straight nonstop schedules. You have Amtrak--and fast-improving performance and frequencies--when you have to have better-than crapshoot schedule reliability. And the midrange carriers who used to own it all are forced to work harder instead of collude on highish prices like they did when I was riding the Greyhound/Peter Pan racket 2 decades ago. There's room for them all, and it's the New England college kids who can't afford their own cars like they used to who are pushing the demand.

There's a reason why states like Vermont are banking on this being a significant demand factor with their rail expansions. All data points to it being a growth market with momentum that's coming unbound from any one dominant choice of travel and starting to segment into market tiers. Everyone's got ridership to tap from this, on more corridors than they used to. And this is a very recent and fast-moving development we didn't anticipate back in the mid-aughts was going to get this big this fast. Can't see that as anything other than a great all-around trend.

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Re: Burlington Union Station

Post by Ridgefielder » Wed May 25, 2016 11:28 am

ExCon90 wrote:A 1937 Official Guide shows bus service by April 27--I'll see if I can find anything earlier that would narrow it down. I tend to agree with Ridgefielder that the train service ended quite a bit earlier--very likely when the Depression began to bite.
Could even be earlier. The New Haven started bustituting some operations as early as the 1920's-- the Branchville-Ridgefield Center shuttle train, for instance, stopped running in the summer of 1926.

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