Advocates to Hold Event Monday in Johnstown

As Americans get ready for holiday travel, many will choose to take the train, some because it is the most convenient, economical and stress-free of the travel choices available to them, and others because few other options exist.

One of the many places Amtrak serves that has few other travel choices is Johnstown, PA. Situated on the Pennsylvanian route that runs between New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, Johnstown has only two passenger trains each day, a eastbound train at 8:54 AM and a westbound train at 6:00 PM.  Yet more than 23,000 passengers have boarded trains or disembarked from trains at Johnstown in 2011. 

Many more travelers would take advantage of rail travel if they could. For example, as of today, the one train running on Nov. 21 from Johnstown to Philadelphia is already sold out.

That is why Western Pennsylvanians for Passenger Rail (WPPR) and the Keystone Association of Railroad Passengers (KARP), with the support of NARP, will host a press conference on Monday at 5:30 PM at the Johnstown Amtrak station. All are welcome to attend. It will be an opportunity for citizens and civic leaders to voice their support for improved rail service for Johnstown and the surrounding area.  

The under-utilized potential that passenger rail has to offer the Johnstown region will be clearly visible as attendees and the press see passengers boarding and disembarking from the day's westbound Pennsylvanian.

Speakers will explain the possibility that even this one train serving Johnstown could be cancelled if the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania fails to allocate the $7 million that needs to be paid to Amtrak, in accordance with section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, a federal statute that will be implemented in 2013 for the first time. Section 209 requires states to fund the operation of all Amtrak routes that are 750 miles or less in length according to a uniform methodology, even those that Amtrak currently runs without state support, such as the Pennsylvanian.

At the same time, the $1.5 million Keystone Corridor West Study, funded equally by the federal and state governments, is looking at options for expanding train service west of Harrisburg.

If you are interested in attending the press conference -- scheduled for 5:30 to 6:15 PM on Monday, Nov. 19 at the Johnstown Amtrak Station (47 Walnut St.) -- please note that the event may be delayed slightly if the Pennsylvanian will be arriving slightly late, but if the train is predicted to be quite late, the event will go forward as scheduled.

A representative of US Congressman Mark Critz (D-PA) and PA State Rep. Bryan Barbin (D) will be the featured speakers. Both Representatives are from Johnstown.

NARP Pennsylvania Council Representative and WPPR President Michael Alexander contributed to this post.