Amtrak’s summer Berkshire Flyer tickets from New York now on sale
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This story has been updated with new information
Just as summer unofficially gets underway, New Yorkers can officially start planning and booking July and August weekends away from the city.
Weeks after announcing plans to operate direct service from Penn Station to the Berkshires over the next two summers, Amtrak has now put tickets on sale for its new Berkshire Flyer service.
The new rail service between Manhattan and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, will get underway July 8 and run through the end of summer. With the new route, Amtrak seems to be betting on New Yorkers’ interest in a weekend away from the city in favor of the tranquility offered in New England’s Berkshires. It’s important to note, though, that the rail operator is considering this a pilot program in 2022 and 2023, so demand this summer and next will decide the fate of the route going forward.
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The Berkshire Flyer summer service includes a Friday afternoon northbound train from Penn Station to Massachusetts with a return trip to New York on Sunday afternoon.
Amtrak announced the service last month as part of a partnership with the Massachusetts and New York State Departments of Transportation. The rail operator’s president and CEO said Friday, that this service highlights the growing demand for train travel nationally.
It figures to be an additional, traffic-free option for New York residents to spend a quiet summer weekend in New England. The Berkshires region is a popular summer destination known for its small New England towns, mountains, lakes and shopping outlets.
“We hope this pilot service will encourage even more visitors to this part of the state,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said as part of the announcement.
Specifics of the service
Amtrak officially put tickets for the new train service on sale last week. A round-trip ticket between New York City and the Berkshires starts at $90, whether you’re booking the first weekend (July 8-10) the service is available or later in the summer. A round trip in business class will cost you $248.
The trains will run between New York’s Penn Station and Pittsfield. The northbound train will leave Manhattan at 3:16 p.m. on Friday afternoons beginning July, and it will make several stops in New York State along the way including Yonkers, Croton-Harmon, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff, Hudson and Albany-Rensselaer.
The Berkshire Flyer will arrive at Joseph Scelsi Intermodal Transportation Center in Pittsfield at 7:12 p.m. on Friday evenings. On the return, the train will depart Pittsfield at 3:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon, and arrive at Penn Station at 7:05 p.m., making the same stops on the way back.
Does it save time?
I plugged a car trip between Manhattan and Pittsfield into Google Maps, and adjusted the itinerary to assume typical late Friday afternoon traffic. The estimated trip time gave me a wide range most New York residents would be familiar with: between 2 hours and 50 minutes and 4 hours. So the train won’t be a big time-saver, but what a fabulous way to travel.
Many residents of the northeast also know traffic could cause the drive to take even longer on a bad day. The benefit of the train service is that you’d travel without traffic, and with a guaranteed timeframe on when you’d arrive. It’s also, of course, a great option for New York City residents without a car to be able to get out of town for the weekend.
Aboard the train
Amtrak says you can expect all the amenities you’d normally get on an Amtrak train. The Berkshire Flyer will have free Wi-Fi and allow small pets, two personal items and two carry-on bags.
Renting a car
While taking the train is a great way to get to the Berkshires, there’s a good chance you’ll want a car once there.
When it comes to major car rental companies, they’re not located right at the train station, but there are a couple of car rental options in Pittsfield. I found a Hertz location about three miles away.
Looks like an Uber is cheap, though you may have to wait a bit for the ride. (Note: I checked this on a Sunday morning, so there’s a chance Uber or Lyft availability could look better on a Friday evening)
There’s also an Enterprise less than a mile away, so if you feel up to the walk that’s an option without needing another form of transportation to pick up your car.
Future of this service
Amtrak points out that Massachusetts and New York officials have discussed this sort of service since 2018. They’ll be closely watching bookings for the Berkshire Flyer pilot program in 2022 and 2023 and studying passenger counts “to understand the feasibility and demand” of the service before deciding to continue it, and what a future schedule might look like and what infrastructure improvements might be needed long term.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.
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