There’s a new ride in town. Friday the 13th was an odd time for a bus trip, but I wanted to experience Bennington’s latest advance in connectivity, the Vermont Transline bus to Albany. The bus uses our local bus line’s agency on Pleasant Street. The redesigned building and adjacent parking was appreciated as an attractive starting point.
Turning onto Main Street after simplified check-in procedures with the driver, the bus somehow made Main Street interesting. Perhaps it was that someone else was doing the driving, looking out for cars and pedestrians. The stores looked appealing and Vermont’s green hills were attractive as the bus headed to Albany.
The "Albany trip" was interesting. It was also a relief to have someone else deal with the long construction zone. I was the fifth passenger on the bus that had only gotten started on June 9, so I had to assume that most hadn’t heard of the bus service.
The run itself starts in Colchester in a Park and Ride lot before connecting with the University of Vermont campus and the Burlington Airport. About 1 of 4 Vermonters live in Chittenden County and this trip was constructed for connections, not speed. Stops at Brandon, Wallingford, which, like Bennington, haven’t seen intercity connections for a good number of years will likely be the only public transportation until rail service is started.
The bus leaves Burlington at 7:30 a.m. and arrives in Albany at the Greyhound Station at 1 p.m. For those who say that "I can drive it faster," this is probably not your ride, but I think the bus will provide a useful connection. When Vermont Transit lines dropped their service in Western Vermont we had nothing but our own resources to make connections.
The bus line is one of three subsidized lines put into service. The Burlington-Bennington Albany run is the newest but a Rutland to Lebanon, N.H., line connects to this service in Rutland. A third subsidized service runs along the Connecticut Valley corridor. I was amazed that the best interface to public transit, our car, had several places to park where it could stay while you traveled. The bus is run by Premier Coach under the Vermont Transline brand name.
Like many bus lines, using the Internet and iPhones were encouraged to purchase tickets (www.vttranslines.com), although the first week fares were free. A regular Bennington to Albany fare would be $12 each direction and the driver would accept cash.
Before running to downtown Albany, the bus stops at the airport in Albany and one passenger was actually using the bus to get to his airplane. Arriving in Albany, the bus runs on local streets right by Victor, the RCA dog that is one of 23 erected for RCA records and is a local landmark.
The Albany bus station was busy on our on-time 1 p.m. arrival. The bus station, although not architecturally significant, sits behind the main streets and is surrounded by parking lots and old buildings suitable for a city with the U.S.’s second oldest city charter. Connecting passengers can get through Greyhound tickets with a 15 minute onward connection to New York City and other destinations that arrive at this hub. The bus starts its Northbound run at 2 p.m. and arrives back in Bennington at 3:30 p.m. and terminates in Colchester at 7:55 p.m.
Here are a few suggestions for its operation, which is subsidized by a federal grant. A sign at each of the stops outside of the building would build confidence that the bus is indeed running. Timetables need to be put out in each community. I can see this being a useful connection for a variety of uses. To local people, we will need to use the bus or lose it. The grant that supports this bus has a two year timetable.
Lastly, those who know me know that I’d prefer to be on a train, not a bus. This bus provides a lot of connectivity but not with the Rennselaer-Albany train service. An $11 taxi fee is required to get to the Rennselaer station and the bus schedule hits a lull in Amtrak service to New York. Perhaps the AOT or a local agency could work on providing this connection.
George Lerrigo is a resident of North Bennington.