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August 19, 2000
The Ashland station, served by eight daily Amtrak trains, has moderately good facilities, pedestrian access, access for handicapped patrons, parking, and passenger information, although there is room for improvement in all areas. There is no public transit access.
The station itself serves as the Hanover County visitor center, which is open during only one Amtrak arrival
Pedestrian access is generally good. Most of the town, including the shopping district and Randolph-Macon College, is within convenient walking distance. England Street is a barrier to pedestrians access from south of the station, however, and this represents about half the town. There is no traffic light on either street near the station, and the street has heavy traffic. In addition, the street has a curve just west of the track, making it difficult for drivers and pedestrians to see each other. A pedestrian light for crossing these streets would benefit everyone, not just railroad passengers.
Access for handicapped patrons is possible, though somewhat doubtful. There is no wheelchair lift, the platforms are low and somewhat rough, and curbs and wooden crosswalks over the track interfere with wheelchair mobility.
The on-street parking at the station is adequate for the small number of trains and passengers at Ashland. When Main Street Station opens in Richmond and train frequency increases, Ashland is likely to attract more passengers going both north and south, including commuters to Richmond. When this happens, the area will need more parking, though no land appears to be vacant nearby. A park-and-ride station in the Doswell area might alleviate the coming parking crunch at Ashland. Bus service to the station, although desirable, might not help the parking situation, since any bus service would be likely to parallel the rail service to Richmond. A feeder bus from one of the park-and-ride lots near
Passenger information is available in the form of timetables and posted train times. However, the station sorely lacks information on delays and as to which track a train will arrive on. VARP member Mike Dougherty noted his experience boarding a train to Newport News following the 1999 annual meeting:
To my surprise, my southbound train arrived not on the station building platform (westside) track, but the far (eastside) track usually used by Northbound trains. After a panicky minute or two, I started toward the head of the train with thoughts of crossing in front of the locomotive to the other platform. Fortunately, for once my common sense prevailed, and I didn't do this. Also, fortunately, the conductor finally opened and appeared at one of the coach doors on my side. I had no trouble boarding from track side, so ultimately other than a scary moment or two, no real damage was
What if instead of me, still reasonably healthy and agile, this had been an elderly couple with packed suitcases en route to a weeks vacation at Virginia Beach. Or suppose a freight was passing on the other track blocking access, or worse yet came barreling through while I or for example my hypothetical elderly couple were attempting to board. Or suppose some confused soul actually did venture in front of the locomotive to get to the other platform, just as the train began moving. Or, what if the conductor had not checked the other side platform, where I
Some notice should be provided of train delays as well. A display monitor could be placed in one of the station windows where it would be safe from weather and vandalism yet visible to passengers using the station. Besides indicating whether a train is on time, it could indicate which track a train will be on.
Michael L. Testerman,
P.O. Box 867
Richmond VA 23218