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Development & Transportation

Policy Group Tells State to Evaluate Subsidizing AMTRAK


A local public policy group is asking the commonwealth to ask some hard questions before subsidizing AMTRAK's ride from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg on a train called The Pennsylvanian

The passenger rail train service has lost some federal funds, and is now looking to Pennsylvania for $5.7 million.

Frank Gamrat, Senior Research Associate for the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, said if there were an increasing demand for the ride, the group would be less inclined to raise the question of whether the state should subsidize the trip to the state's capital.  He said ridership from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg has decreased 7% in 5 years.

"Fewer people are using the train ride as it is," Gamrat said.

Gamrat added there's probably always going to be demand for transportation to the capital for governmental reasons, but he said recreational travelers usually pass through Harrisburg en route to Philadelphia or New York.

"Rail ridership is down overall, and one of the things that we've noticed of course is the alternatives that have popped up," Gamrat said. "We're actually talking about Megabus."

Megabus offers 3 roundtrips to Harrisburg each day, compared to the single Amtrak offering.  He added the Megabus gets to the state capital in the same amount of time, for about a third of the price of an AMTRAK ticket.

"Here you have a private enterprise coming in and stealing demand and passengers from The Pennsylvanian, and doing it at a much cheaper rate," Gamrat said.

Gamrat didn't suggest what exactly the state should do other than take a closer look at cost-efficiency and ridership of the ride to Harrisburg on AMTRAK.