UPDATE: October 2015
Amtrak service has been running for 10 months now here in Northampton. It’s great to have a passenger train running through town again, but it’s an expensive ride. Here are some tips on getting around inexpensively.
You can save 20% on the Vermonter (and many other Amtrak trains) if you buy 7 days in advance via this page on Amtrak. Railserve.com compiles all the Amtrak promotion codes. It’s a great resource and helpful to learn about how Amtrak prices tickets.
If you’re heading all the way north to Burlington-Essex Junction, VT, it’s cheaper to buy two tickets: one from Northampton to Brattleboro and then another from Brattleboro to Essex Junction – on the same train and the same day! Amtrak is currently offering “Saver” fares of $18 from Brattleboro to Essex Junction with a 3-day advance purchase. Together with the 20% discount from Northampton to Brattleboro ($12.61), you can do the whole trip for $30.61, instead of $41 if you just buy one ticket.
Heading south to Springfield and New York City, it’s far cheaper to take the PVTA from Northampton to Holyoke (B48), and then an express bus from Holyoke to Springfield (P21e), all for $1.50. Weekdays, this bus combination runs once an hour from 7 am to 6 pm (7 pm on the way back). Then you can transfer to the many trains running from Springfield.
Even if you are committed to taking the train from Northampton, it’s often cheaper to buy two separate tickets, one from Northampton to Springfield ($12, or $9.60 with the 20% discount), and then one from Springfield south to New York ($34 in advance). This only works if you buy in advance, because special “Saver” fares (14 day advance ticket) are posted for Springfield south, but not from Northampton – even for the same train.
If you’re going to New York City and you can’t buy two weeks in advance, consider taking Amtrak just to New Haven from Springfield ($23, or $18.40 a week in advance), and then riding Metro North into the city ($16.25 off peak). Together with PVTA, the total cost is between $36.50 and $40.75 one way (versus $61 for taking Amtrak the whole way).
Finally, if you join the National Association of Railroad Passengers you get 10% off all Amtrak tickets.
(There’s also Megabus, Greyhound and Peter Pan bus lines if you’re willing to forgo train travel entirely).