Ridership chugged higher on Amtrak's two routes with Pittsburgh stops in the past fiscal year, mirroring a nationwide trend, the company said Monday.
Train advocates such as Michael Alexander, president of Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail, attribute the increase to several factors including high gasoline prices and the hassles of airplane travel.
"It's part of a broader pattern," said Alexander, 66, of Squirrel Hill. "Young people are less oriented towards cars. It's not their first goal in life anymore to buy a car. Young people are supplying a part of the rise. Also there's an aging population who can't drive or prefers not to drive."
Ridership on the route that connects Pittsburgh and New York City, called the Pennsylvanian, was up about 3.3 percent from 212,006 to 218,917. That route stops in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Ticket revenue increased 12.4 percent.
The Capitol Limited route, from Chicago to Washington with a Pittsburgh stop, had a 1.2 percent ridership increase, from 226,884 to 229,668. Ticket revenue was up 4.4 percent.
Total Amtrak passenger traffic nationwide increased 1 percent to 31.56 million riders, and revenue rose 4.2 percent to $2.1 billion. Last year marked the 10th ridership record in 11 years, the company said.
"More people are aware and more people recognize the value. It's the convenience, the comfort factor, the productivity factor (for riders) on a train — all of those things combined," said Craig Schultz, an Amtrak spokesman.
A roundtrip ticket from Pittsburgh to New York on Tuesday cost $146. Fares vary depending on departure times.
Alexander said his group would like more trains leaving at more convenient times. From Chicago to Washington, the train arrives in Pittsburgh at 5:05 a.m.
"It would provide a lot more service with times that fit schedules," Alexander said.
PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said the state committed a $15.5 million Amtrak subsidy, including capital and operating expenses, for the current fiscal year.
The funding may need to be revisited next year if state leaders fail to pass a transportation bill, she said. The subsidy includes $3.8 million for the Pennsylvanian, which provides the only passenger rail service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.
Amtrak sought state money because a change in federal law requires it to share costs with state governments for routes up to 750 miles.
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or email@example.com.
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