Amtrak's routes through Pittsburgh see ridership increase


Ridership continues to grow on the two Amtrak routes that serve Pittsburgh, and the railroad set another record for systemwide ridership for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The company reported Monday that it carried 31.6 million passengers for the year systemwide, up from 31.4 million the previous year.

That 1 percent overall gain was exceeded by the increase on the Pennsylvanian, serving Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and points in between. Ridership on that route was up 3.3 percent, to 218,917, the railroad said. On the Capitol Limited, serving Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., the gain was 1.2 percent, to 229,668. Both routes have seen ridership gains in each of the past four years.

Passenger revenue increased by 12.4 percent on the Pennsylvanian in 2012-13 and 4.4 percent on the Capitol Limited.

Boardings and alightings at the Pittsburgh station totaled 135,137, up about 5,700 from the previous year.

The systemwide ridership record was the 10th in the past 11 years for Amtrak, which operates more than 300 trains per day over more than 40 routes. Ticket revenue also hit an all-time high, growing by 4.2 percent to $2.1 billion.

"We've seen a regular and reoccurring increase of service and we've continued to improve and actually have depended less upon the federal operating assistance than we have in the past," Amtrak president and CEO Joe Boardman said in a conference call with reporters. "What you're seeing is a very strong Amtrak moving into the future."

Amtrak gets about $1.4 billion in operating and capital assistance from the federal government.

Asked about the possible impact if the government shutdown continues, Mr. Boardman said, "We're an essential service that people need. We're going to keep operating."

Earlier this year, the Pennsylvanian route appeared ticketed for oblivion, because of a federal law that required states to take over a share of the cost of routes up to 750 miles long.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation initially estimated that $5.7 million in state aid would be needed to keep it running, but Gov. Tom Corbett and PennDOT later announced an agreement for the state to pay $3.8 million, or about $17 per passenger, to subsidize the service.

The Pennsylvanian operates once a day in both directions and also serves Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, Altoona, Tyrone, Huntingdon and Lewistown on the western leg from Harrisburg.

region - state - Transportation

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. First Published October 14, 2013 5:38 AM


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