Amtrak service offers many benefits over driving

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I am not a "rail buff," but I found the slant and tone of Jon Schmitz's Feb. 4 article "End of the Line for Harrisburg Train?" about Amtrak rail service to Harrisburg and beyond to be unfortunate.

My wife and I have had several occasions over recent years to use the Pennsylvanian service, not to Harrisburg, but to Philadelphia and New York and back. It has generally been a great service, extremely comfortable and reasonably priced, though admittedly time-consuming. Not everyone has a car and, besides, has one noticed the big increase in the turnpike's tolls or the exorbitant parking costs in New York should you be foolish enough to drive into Manhattan to visit a museum or special event? The cost of flying to New York is also becoming prohibitive. The train takes you directly downtown and is particularly useful when icy winter weather makes other transportation options dangerous or impossible.

To focus just on the service to Harrisburg is misleading. The Pennsylvanian is an important link to eastern cities and for those intermediate communities like Johnstown and Altoona. It is also misleading to compare the speed of the train between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, which transverses seven ridges of mountains, to that of the train's speed between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, where the terrain is flat and the track straight. Another fact to consider is that those diesel locomotives that pull the Pennsylvanian are manufactured by General Electric at it's Erie plant, providing good-paying employment for Western Pennsylvania workers.

It would be a shame if this train service were to be eliminated to save a relatively small amount in the state's transportation budget. Our passenger train service is already far inferior to that of other nations, including China, which is developing a vast network of high-speed rail infrastructure to move its masses around with less pollution. We should be adding service and promoting its use, rather than taking foolish steps to downgrade service and reduce our quality of life.




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