On March 21st Governor Tom Corbett and Amtrak came up with a funding agreement in support of the Amtrak Pennsylvanian Line and have sent the Transportation Funding Package to the State Legislature. The State Legislature now has to approve the final package in-order to secure the funding for the Amtrak Line and to have it fully saved. Now More than ever we have the need to let our legislators know that this package must pass and that it is vital to travel in the state and the surrounding states.
The Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Corridor of Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian Line is vital to travel in the Commonwealth as it offers an alternative way to get from the eastern half of the state to the western half of the state and vice versa (Pittsburgh to Philadelphia) without having to endure the stress of driving a car or flying.
It spans across a section of the state that has little to no regional transportation services other than the train (none more evident than Huntingdon County which has no other transportation services) and provides a way for citizens to get away from the everyday life in their hometowns and explore and see new and exciting things and places that otherwise they never would get to.
Per an Amtrak news release on October 10, 2012 the Pennsylvanian Route (New York – Pittsburgh) was up 2.2 percent to more than 212,000 riders while ridership on the Keystone Service (New York – Harrisburg) was up 5.8 percent to a new record of more than 1.4 million. Ticket Sales were up 4.8% on the Pennsylvanian route while ticket sales on the Keystone route skyrocketed up 12.3%. Numbers do not lie and this only validates that people are using this route and we need to find a way to save it and not lose it for good.
Shutting down the Harrisburg to Pittsburgh Corridor of the Amtrak Line would not only have detrimental effect on travel in Pennsylvania but would also affect the Midwest (Like Chicago) and citizens trying to access major Atlantic Coastal cities like Philadelphia, DC, and New York City in both directions as the Chicago Amtrak Line goes through the Pittsburgh Station. We need to look at the broadened picture and not just the state of Pennsylvania in this matter. Yes it may cost $3.8 Million to keep it operational but the pros far outweigh and cons in this matter as we can tell just by looking at the recent Amtrak study as almost every line set new high records for riders and revenue last year (http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/636/294/Amtrak-Sets-New-Ridership-Record-FY2012-ATK-12-092.pdf).
Just last month in March, Amtrak had two major feats accomplished the first being that March set the highest ridership level and month in its history and secondly Amtrak along with Governor Corbett sat down and etched out a very positive funding agreement where both agreed upon a deal that would allow the Pennsylvanian Line to be fully saved.
The Governor along with Amtrak have successfully held up to their ends of the negotiations and workings and now is the time for the PA General Assembly’s Transportation Committee’s to step up to the plate and pass the final piece of the puzzle to secure a much needed asset for the western half of PA and allow citizens access that they otherwise would not have. The State along with the Governor should be happy to come out with a lower amount to pay than what was originally put in-front of them as $3.8 million is much better of a number than funding the entire amount of $5.7 million. Amtrak kindly came forward and offered to fund part of the total which they did not have to or were required to do under the law but they realized from what they saw and heard from the riders why they needed to do something to support this and get it funded. Yes the line may not be at levels that seem good compared to other line but the fact is last year there was a big increase in ridership and the trains are not empty which is good signs as opposed to running trains with little to no one aboard them. The old saying “Some is better than none” is the best way to describe it.
Many state leaders, public transportation organizations and individuals have worked tirelessly and devoted many hours and traveling commitments in recent months just to sit down and speak to residents about what their feeling were to the possible losing of the line and why they needed it kept.
Some of the biggest things to come out of these meetings and rallies was the time saved and the ticket cost by using the Pennsylvanian Line from Chicago to NYC, Philadelphia, DC, and Baltimore and vice versa as shown by the tables.
Through Buffalo Through Pittsburgh Through DC
NYC to Chicago 19 Hours 9 Hours 45 Minutes 17 Hours 40 Minutes
Through Pittsburgh Through NYC Through DC
Philadelphia to Chicago 17 Hours 9 Minutes 20 Hours 26 Minutes 19 Hours 41 Minutes
Direct Through DC
Philadelphia to Pittsburgh 7 Hours 9 Hours 44 Minutes
Through Philadelphia Through DC
NYC to Pittsburgh 9 Hours 13 Minutes 11 Hours 7 Minutes
Major colleges such as St. Vincent’s in Latrobe and Juniata in Huntingdon get 85-90% of their enrollment and students because they can take the train to and from campus thus appealing to more perspective students and parents. These colleges are able to create an environment and diverse student body because of the various groups and types of students that have access to the train line and can thus attend the colleges and travel home at certain times to see family and friends. Without the Pennsylvanian we can only imagine that these colleges will drop off in enrollment and possibly even lose them for good if they can’t draw anyone to attend. Students deserve to be able to pick a quality school of their choosing along with a quality education but if they can’t get to the campus then they cannot attend and these two major schools will be high and dry so to speak.
I ask you to take a moment to consider joining me in getting the citizens of this great commonwealth’s voices heard on this meaningful subject that will adversely affect millions if we sit back and do not act and take charge. The Pennsylvanian Line may not have the highest level of riders as some of the other line but what can be said is it has the most loyal riders and repeat riders on any of the Amtrak Lines. Many of the riders come back because they say its stress-free, relaxing and has the best crews aboard that go out of their way to make the trip just that much better and after a while of having the same crew aboard you really get to know them.
I thank you in advance for you time and consideration of this pressing issue.
Jeffrey C. Mason