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.
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.”
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.
“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.”