On Wednesday April 4, 2018, Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale of the City of Fitchburg and representatives from the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association (JATA) traveled on the Fitchburg commuter rail line into Boston to highlight the importance of the MBTA rail service to North Central Massachusetts. Gerald Francis, president and Linda Dillon, director of customer experience from Keolis accompanied the delegation from downtown Fitchburg into North Station. The ride provided ample time to discuss the positives and negatives about the line as it currently stands, as well as opportunities for future partnerships.
“It was important for the city to have met with Keolis to discuss the commuter rail and its impact on Fitchburg” said Mayor DiNatale. “Fitchburg is fortunate to have two stops on the line. With the investment and updates Keolis is making to their infrastructure, it is imperative to build these relationships so we can continue our work promoting our city throughout the Commonwealth.”
Infrastructure, reverse commuting, social media outreach, commute length, connecting with local businesses, and future partnerships were all topics discussed while being able to experience the train first hand. The discussion also focused on efficiency and the customer experience, including using social media to communicate any delays beforehand to riders. The MBTA’s Fitchburg line has recently been receiving updates all along the track that has made it one of the most efficient tracks; however the construction has affected commuters by creating occasional delays in service.
“The Ski Train” has been an effective partnership over the past few years promoting ski season at Wachusett Mountain to those in Greater Boston. During the winter months on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the MBTA runs special trains on the Fitchburg Line that are equipped with ski and snowboard racks, making the commute to the slopes easy and comfortable. Boston has the highest skier per capita for any major city in the US, which makes promotions of the Ski Train as well as skiing overall a great market. Attracting university students from the city to enjoy the amenities of the region for all four seasons was also a main topic of discussion.
“Tourism is important to the future of North Central Massachusetts and plays an increasingly important role in our local economy” said Roy Nascimento, president & CEO of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association. “Many visitors are coming from Boston and the commuter rail provides us greater access to individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to make it to our region and experience our unique destinations.”
As traffic around Greater Boston continues to grow, and millennials are becoming more reliant on public transportation, commuter rail provides the possibility of being a key driver in the continued growth of North Central Massachusetts.
The trip and discussions with Keolis leadership were organized by the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, Johnny Appleseed Trail Association and the Office of the Mayor of Fitchburg in an effort to facilitate partnerships and explore ways to better improve the Fitchburg Rail Line for the benefit of residents and businesses.