Madi Butler and Joe Aiello

Madi Butler, left, and Joe Aiello, part of the field team for Rail Passengers Association, a train travel advocacy group, enjoy their time in Greenwood.

Two advocates of train travel who visited Greenwood recently  are saying its impact on the city’s downtown, while already significant, could increase if steps are taken to improve the Amtrak station’s appeal.

“We wanted to talk about Main Street revitalization that’s happening in Greenwood and how the train brings economic opportunity,” said Madi Butler, a grassroots organizer for Rail Passengers Association. This is a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that seeks to promote and expand commuter and Amtrak train travel.

“Having a walkable Main Street and downtown does a lot to encourage those train travelers to visit because you don’t have to rent a car,” said Butler.

Butler and Joe Aiello, a field coordinator with Rail Passengers Association, are on a 13-day trip throughout the Southeast to meet with local elected officials to discuss ways train travel can be more connected in the region.

On Tuesday, Aiello and Butler spoke with Danielle Morgan, director of the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau. Aiello and Butler stayed in town until Thursday morning.

In the 2017 fiscal year, the Greenwood train station had 14,471 boardings and alightings, making it the state’s second-busiest train station, behind only Jackson, according to Amtrak.

The station, which is owned by CN railroad, is located where the railroad company’s tracks cross Carrollton Avenue close to the eastern end of Rail Spike Park.

Aiello, a Chicago native now living in Boston, said train stations in many cities across the country were historically places of hustle and bustle.

Aiello, who was visiting Greenwood for the first time, said it seemed to him that the station  felt closed off from the rest of the downtown area rather than part of it.

Living in the Northeast, Aiello said he has easy access to walkways and public transportation.

In addition, because most of the railroad tracks in the Northeast are owned by Amtrak rather than freight companies, Aiello said there are fewer track interferences or situations in which passengers have to board a bus to get from one station to the other.

Before visiting Greenwood, Aiello and Butler stopped at U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker’s field office in Hernando. The staff there said that some of the state’s freight lines that are rarely used could be put to better use by creating a state commuter rail, Aiello recalled.

Butler said beautifying the station, expanding the parking lot and making the walkways more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 are some ways to make the station  more inclusive.

Additionally, Butler suggested having a volunteer at the station to greet travelers and provide tips on what to do in town.

This isn’t Butler’s first time in Greenwood. Over the summer she participated in an internship program with the Rail Passengers Association, dubbed “Summer by Rail,” in which she traveled across the country via Amtrak, sampling the local culture and food of each town she visited.

One of her stops was Greenwood, where she dined at a variety of restaurants and spoke with Mayor Carolyn McAdams.

“I love Greenwood. It’s one of those cities like, if we invest in the station, things go positively with the Main Street revitalization,” Butler said, referring to Greenwood’s historic downtown. During her initial visit, she said numerous people went out of their way to recommend places to visit.

Butler said she was impressed by Greenwood’s rich history.

“I find people in the Delta to be really good storytellers,” she said, “and that’s something I think the more the outside world gets an experience with that, the more appreciation they’ll have for the culture that has developed here. It’s unique,  it’s truly unique.”

Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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(1) comment

quackers

This is the kind of article that sparks some creative ideas. The train station has a lot of potential to serve as an attraction for Greenwood, that could lead to other downtown improvements.

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