Raising the Rails

Maxime Devilliers loves the Virginia Railway Express. The University of Mary Washington senior relishes the views of the river, the clean train, the friendly atmosphere and the cheap fare. But there is a big problem that prevents him from riding.

Maxime Devilliers started a petition to expand Virginia Railway Express Services to and from Fredericksburg, Va.

Maxime Devilliers is fighting for change with a petition asking Virginia Railway Express Services to increase their trains to and from Fredericksburg, Va.

The train only runs north in the morning and south in the evenings to keep up with rush hour traffic demands. It doesn’t run at all on the weekends.

After four years of living in Fredericksburg, he’s fed up with the lack of access and he’s ready for a change.

Devilliers is fighting for change with a petition on MoveOn.org asking VRE to expand their services by running at least one reverse train during weekday mornings and evenings and at least two trains on Saturday on Sunday.

“I’m doing this so that other students don’t ever have to go through what I did; worrying about making it to class on time, missing classes, being stressed out about it, spending $45 on an Amtrak ticket, waiting for the Greyhound bus and it being late by two hours because of traffic, or just being in traffic in general,” said the Washington, D.C., native, whose parents were born in France. “I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.”student pop stats

It turns out that 425 people and counting agree with Devilliers, as evidenced by the current number of signatures on his petition. The National Association of Railroad Passengers also took notice and asked him to speak at the monthly VRE meeting.

In addition to convenience, the environmental science major is aware of the environmental benefits of VRE.

“This is a way to be better to the earth, take cars off the road because of carbon dioxide, pollution, climate change, that’s why I’m such a proponent of public transportation and mass transit,” said Devilliers, who is the ecology representative at the UMW sustainability office and an executive board member of the ecology club. “If it’s planned well it can get people places faster than a car, that’s how you know it’s effective.”

Devilliers learned many of these lessons from Melanie Szulczewski, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences.  This petition project illustrates the real-world implications of classroom lessons.

facultystaffVREstats“Expanding VRE service will have enormous environmental benefits, both globally and regionally. The reduction in fuel use from personal vehicle use will help reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses which will help mitigate climate change on a global scale,” said Szulczewski. “Many people focus on this important aspect and forget that reducing personal vehicle use also reduces the emissions that contribute to smog and even eutrophication of the Chesapeake Bay, which are effects citizens in our region will directly benefit from.”

Devilliers is now planning an event to raise awareness about his petition and its purpose for mid-March. He hopes to get a big turnout from the UMW community and the greater Fredericksburg region.

He’ll also continue to attend VRE meetings to speak out, get the word out to people and rally support from the community.

“I really do believe in VRE,” said Devilliers. “As much as people say they don’t like public transportation, on the VRE people seem so happy. They see people they know, their coworkers, their neighbors, they say hi to each other. They’ll get up for an elderly person. It’s a really nice community on the VRE. Everybody is close together and has to talk, and that’s what I really like.”


  1. Linda Thornton says:

    Thank you Maxime for putting this idea out there. This is something that I’ve wanted since VRE’s inception.

  2. Michelle Miller says:

    I would also like the VRE to run on the weekends. It would be much easier to hop on the train to get to DC than to drive up to Springfield to catch the metro on the weekends. Also, I wonder if you could change that pie-chart infographic to include staff as well as faculty.

    • Melina Downs says:

      Hi Michelle,
      Thank you for your comment. The statistics for employees were not available at the time of publication. I will look into getting that information for you. Thanks for reading!

    • Melina Downs says:

      Hi Michelle,
      The second graphic now includes faculty and staff numbers at UMW. Thanks!

  3. William Wadsworth says:

    You can use VRE 10-ride tickets on Amtrak trains w/ a step-up ticket. Using that method, I pay about $12 each way on the NE Regional. Also, Amtrak does allow it to be used on reverse flow trains. Getting the VRE to run on the weekend or extending the step-ups to the weekends would be nice though.

  4. Catherine Alexander says:

    This is an idea that is long overdue! I also think it would help the public get to and from Fredericksburg , which would help tourism on both ends to have the train on weekends. My daughter commuted to American University and my other daughter went to George Washington University, both in DC, from Fredericksburg, so the community goes both ways. It would be great in fact if it ran to Richmond there are a lot of commuters and students from and to there also. We have the rails, let’s use them! I would like to sign your petition. We have a problem in this country, and we do not understand how much we pay for resurfacing and building more and more highway lanes ands roads as opposed to using the rails already in place. Thank you for your efforts.! As someone aptly put it, it is like solving an overweight problem by buying bigger and bigger pants.

  5. I love this idea, but being a daily commuter to DC, I’ve heard the well reasoned arguments by VRE for not having the trains run on weekends and more return trips during the day. One of the problems is that VRE doesn’t own the tracks, and must give way to all the other train traffic that runs. Also, the expense of running the trains versus the ridership is another big issue. I don’t think there would be enough ridership for VRE to bear the expense of the extra trains. Again, I think it’s a great idea, I just don’t know how feasible it will be in the near future.

  6. I would also like to see the VRE train have weekend trips to DC and back. It truly would be way easier than the alternatives.

  7. I was born and raised on Long Island, NY. I moved here in 2001 and life is different here (duh). but it’s not a big deal because I think I’m fairly adaptable. But what an unpleasant surprise to learn that the VRE does not run on weekends. and then having to buy an Amtrak ticket last minute because you and your friends (also newly moved from NY at the time) made plans to do the DC thing. What a horrible day that was!
    When visiting Long Island. I don’t like driving to NYC or in NYC-unless it’s very late at night when it’s slightly easier to control my panic attacks when I’m lost. And yes, I get lost every time I’m in DC-even with GPS because, well, 1-way streets and construction. As a result, I really haven’t explored DC all that much because, well, 1 way streets, construction AND affordable parking for a day trip. I’ve always said there needs to be a LIRR train type system system here-it’s BEGGING for it. I think it would pay for itself. And lastly, you haven’t experienced life until you’ve been on a late night LIRR “party train”. I’m not trying to turn this area into NY or anything because I wouldn’t get all these “snow days”, but what an lost opportunity for this region to make money off of me-again.

  8. Mary Ann Strock says:

    I think there are a lot of people in the general public that would love to take the train vice fight ever worsening traffic on I-95. i think this is a great idea. What is the status of getting a 3rd track from Richmond to DC? I have previously heard that this is one thing that will help with the railroad congestion on the current rails.

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