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Nan Clark: Win with Amtrak

Published: 1/15/2020 2:47:15 PM

Modified: 1/15/2020 2:46:24 PM

I’m responding to a letter in the Gazette about the new, increased Amtrak service. I totally agree that local colleges can help play a critical role in making this new service a big success.

Here is my own experience as an employee of Smith College from 1976-1991. Early on, the only students allowed cars on campus were second-semester seniors. At some point in the 1980s, that was changed. Many more students were allowed cars.

Suddenly, there was car chaos on campus, on Elm Street, on side streets near campus and in the city of Northampton itself. Some city residents, whose driveways were blocked by student cars, became very angry. There was talk of parking garages and the sudden need to widen Elm Street. This has already happened and still there are problems, often cited in this paper.

Another woeful component of the car chaos was the sharp increase of air and noise pollution. Through the Citizens Climate Lobby, we learned how these pollutions and other factors have negative impacts on our overall health. According to the registrar’s office at Smith College, there are currently 2,654 students enrolled. Of these, only 658 are seniors. Students can apply for 275 decals for parking on campus and 50 for the permiter. No freshmen are allowed to bring cars. Doing the math still leaves an overflow of cars creating chaos and pollution.

I challenge all five colleges to examine their current carbon footprints and consider a common sense approach to our cars crisis. Campus shuttle buses could be upgraded to electric with schedules greatly expanded. Local bicycle and bus businesses might boom.

Of course, Amtrak would benefit as students and their friends would be apt to choose train travel around New England and beyond.

From 1946-1950, I rode the Boston Beeliner train from Northampton to college in Boston. This year, on Nov. 27, I rode the Valley Flyer from Northampton to New Haven, Connecticut. It was on time and very comfortable. My seat mate was a Smith College graduate and we talked about cars on campuses. At age 90, I walk with a cane and was helped on and off the train by a cheerful conductor. I felt safe and cared for.

After reading about Valley Flyer on the front page of the Dec. 2 Gazette, I’m very encouraged that all five colleges will want to climb on this Amtrak train wagon.

Nan Clark


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