|Photo from here.|
While the Appalachian Trail was built in New York in the 1920s and 1930s (meant to serve as a regional resource for city dwellers), the Appalachian Trail station is much newer. It was built in 1991 at the behest of MetroNorth and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, which maintains the trail in the area. The total cost of the station? Just $10,000, with negligible additional costs for a few trains to stop. Even if only a few hundred people use the station each year, their fares add up to more than that every year.
|The Bay Circuit Trail runs 200+ miles around Boston,|
including around Walden Pond. Full section map here.
And even if you choose to drive, Walden Pond can be hard to get to. There's an $8 per car fee, but the 300-space lot routinely fills to capacity on weekends in the summer, with a line of cars idling on Route 126, waiting for an open spot (there is minimal other parking nearby on the narrow roads in the area). And while some people certainly come by train or bicycle, many more are put off by the relatively long walk from the local train station. But what if the train stopped at Walden?
The $10,000 MetroNorth spent on its station in 1991 would be about $18,000 today, with more cost, perhaps, because the site is more remote than the Appalachian Trail Station. And two platforms might be required since the railroad there has two tracks, so the cost might be upwards of $50,000 for a simple station. (I don't know if you could get an ADA waiver given the remoteness of the station; if not a mechanical lift may suffice for infrequent wheelchair-bound visitors.) Stops could be made on weekends year-round (or at least during non-snowy months) and perhaps even on some afternoon and evening trains in the summer for late-day swimmers and picnickers.
From there, the Bay Circuit Trail provides hiking in either direction, and the station sits in the middle of one of the largest trail networks and conserved areas in the region. (We can have an argument about the merits of conservation land encouraging sprawl and high housing prices, but this at least is a large, mostly-contiguous portion.) For pond visitors, the swimming beach is a 15 minute walk along a wooded path, rather than a narrow roadway shoulder. This is about as long as the walk from Manchester-by-the-Sea to Singing Beach, at trek made by hundreds of beachgoers on warm summer days. At $15 per roundtrip, it would only take 83 passengers per day for 20 weekends of the year to make back the construction cost of the station—in one year.
|Photo from here.|
The Bay Circuit Trail, Appalachian Mountain Club and The Trustees of Reservations—two large, longstanding Boston-based outdoors advocacy organizations—could work to promote transit-friendly excursions for city dwellers. There would be more options for Walden Pond visitors to get to the reservation (and fewer cars), more revenue for the T with minimal expenses and more opportunities for people from the city who may not have a car to get outside and active. There are questions of erosion: perhaps such a partnership could put a portion of each ticket sold to and from Walden towards the maintenance of the trails there. Other than slightly longer trips for Fitchburg Line weekend riders (and given the padding currently built in to the schedule, I'm sure a stop could be built in without any delay), everyone is a winner.
This should happen.