Two Tickets to Pittsburgh—And Back - Railway Age (2023)


  • Passenger
Written by BennettLevin, P.E.

How can the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania be freed from Amtrak’s abusive monopoly on intercity passenger rail service? This editorial is based on my Dec. 17, 2019 testimony before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Transportation Committee, during which I spoke about creating viable rail passenger opportunities for Western Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia-Harrisburg corridor that could serve as a template for other states currently paying for Amtrak service under the bizarre federal legislation called PRIIA.

Improvingrail passenger service in Western Pennsylvania has been the subject of multiplestudies since 2005. Advocacy groups in the Pittsburgh region have attempted toget additional frequencies of passenger train service in the corridorstretching from Pittsburgh to Latrobe and Greensburg, continuing on to Johnstownand Altoona. Their efforts have not yielded any tangible results.

At anAugust 2019 Pennsylvania House of Representatives Transportation Committeehearing, it became apparent that all the parties were talking past each other,and that with each passing study and each passing hearing, the level offrustration has only intensified. Yet, to me it was apparent that there wereoptions that were either not being considered or being ignored, deliberately orinadvertently.

Because of my involvement with the Transportation Committee since 2015, attempting to educate it about railroad-related issues in Pennsylvania, I started on “a clean sheet of paper” to ferret out a realistic set of solutions. Surprisingly, the exercise took me from Pittsburgh back to Philadelphia to stake out an initial proposal to provide an incremental solution for the people in the western part of the state.

Thesolutions for improving rail passenger opportunities for the Pittsburgh regionare dependent upon examining the Commonwealth’s financial obligations andcommitments to Amtrak for service on the Harrisburg Line, which runs betweenPhiladelphia and Harrisburg.

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Two Tickets to Pittsburgh—And Back - Railway Age (7)

Here arethe facts:

  • The Commonwealth pays Amtrak $16.3 million annually for service consisting of 26 weekday Keystone trains (13 in each direction) between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, and two daily Pennsylvanian trains (one in each direction) between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. These are Amtrak trains with Amtrak equipment and crews.
  • SEPTA pays Amtrak $74 million annually for operating rights, $41 million of which is attributable to operations on the Harrisburg Line as far west as Thorndale in Chester County—81 weekday trains carrying 25,000 riders. These trains are staffed with SEPTA crews. Therefore, the Commonwealth and SEPTA (which the Commonwealth underwrites) pay Amtrak $57.3 million a year for service on the Harrisburg Line, or $1.1 million per week.
  • The Commonwealth has contributed $216 million in capital for infrastructure on the Harrisburg Line. SEPTA has paid Amtrak $32 million over the past three years in capital contributions, of which more than $20 million is attributable to the Harrisburg Line. Therefore, the Commonwealth and SEPTA have contributed close to $240 million for infrastructure on the Harrisburg Line.
  • The United States Department of Transportation owns the Harrisburg Line—not Amtrak. The Harrisburg Line is one of two branches off the Northeast Corridor, most of which, contrary to popular belief, USDOT also owns, except for segments owned by the States of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts or their transit agencies.
  • Every passenger train operating on the Harrisburg Line is paid for in one way or another by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There is no reason why the Harrisburg Line should not be ceded to the Commonwealth, especially in view of the magnitude of capital that the Commonwealth has contributed toward infrastructure. The USDOT paid very little for the Harrisburg Line, which was included in its purchase of most of the Northeast Corridor under the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform (4R) Act of 1976. Thus, Amtrak operates and maintains the NEC, but technically does not “own” it.
  • Significant federal grant money is available from the Federal Railroad Administration and the USDOT to maintain and upgrade the Harrisburg Line and acquire additional rolling stock for improved, expanded service. Available grant sources include the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) Program; Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD); Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA); and FRA State of Good Repair programs.
  • SEPTA is one of the best-managed regional/commuter rail operators in the nation. There is no reason why its franchise cannot be modified to allow it to operate west of Thorndale to Harrisburg.
Two Tickets to Pittsburgh—And Back - Railway Age (8)

Therefore,the initial step in crafting a solution in the Pittsburgh region is to divorceAmtrak by having the USDOT cede the Harrisburg Line to the Commonwealth and letSEPTA provide the existing Keystoneservice. Under such a plan, Pennsylvania cuts out the “middleman”—Amtrak—and theCommonwealth’s taxpayers get far better value for every dollar they spend onpassenger rail service. Pennsylvania taxpayers and passenger rail riders win.As for the existing Keystone servicebetween Philadelphia and New York, Amtrak would continue to operate it as NEC Northeast Regional trains.

Two Tickets to Pittsburgh—And Back - Railway Age (9)

Focusing onPittsburgh once Amtrak is no longer operating Keystone service on the Harrisburg Line, the following sets forth asimple solution to create a new commuter rail service between Pittsburgh andJohnstown.

  • The current Pennsylvanian, for which the Commonwealth pays under PRIIA, needsto be operated by SEPTA or a third-party contractor (Herzog Transit Services,Keolis, etc.). Its schedule needs to be divorced from being solely a connectionwith Amtrak’s Capitol Limited atPittsburgh, where less than 10% of Pennsylvanianpassengers connect with it, to one that revives Amtrak’s former Pittsburgh-AltoonaFort Pitt train, with one important modification:Instead of terminating at Altoona and then returning to Pittsburgh, it should initiallyoperate only as far east as Johnstown, where it would be positioned to returnto Pittsburgh as a morning commuter train—a distance of less than 70 miles.Once a commuter service is established and takes root, the potential forfurther enhancements and extensions can be explored, and hopefully implemented.
Two Tickets to Pittsburgh—And Back - Railway Age (10)
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I also needto point out the failings of Amtrak’s current senior executive management andBoard of Directors, neither of which is focused on providing the quality ofrail passenger service mandated by Congress. Amtrak has adopted a murky agenda,with little or no oversight from Congress. Its financial accounting is nothingmore than smoke and mirrors, as it does not conform to GAAP (Generally AcceptedAccounting Principles).

The currentcomposition of Amtrak’s Board of Directors does not include a single personwith actual railroad experience, and as such contradicts the requirementsimposed by Congress to be appointed. These requirements have been ignored by asuccession of U.S. Presidents, as well as by the U.S. Senate, which mustconfirm the appointments. Even more telling is the fact that not one member of Amtrak’scurrent senior executive management team has any bona fide railroad experience.

Amtrak is running on autopilot, and states such as Pennsylvania are paying the bills and getting shortchanged in the process. Amtrak’s current management has also defied a Congressional mandate with regard to excursion service, which has caused significant harm to rural parts of the state that were the beneficiaries of this unique service.

The StateLegislature needs to inform the Commonwealth’s U.S. Congressional delegation ofthe financial charade currently being conducted by Amtrak under the guise ofPRIIA, and the smoke-and-mirrors accounting methodology currently in place thatis used to extract hundreds of millions of dollars from states and localauthorities paying for passenger rail transportation. Pennsylvania, though notalone as a victim, is in a unique position to extricate itself from thisquagmire, provided the Commonwealth can “light a fire” and motivate those inWashington D.C. who represent its citizens, to change things.

NorfolkSouthern, which pays for operating rights on the Harrisburg Line, and owns,maintains and pays taxes on the heavily utilized Harrisburg-Pittsburgh mainline, needs to be a part of the solution.

Thissolution for Pennsylvania is similar to what was done in California with theAltamont Corridor Express service, which is managed by the SanJoaquin Regional Rail Commission, with operations contracted to HerzogTransit Services.

Two Tickets to Pittsburgh—And Back - Railway Age (11)
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A graduate of PennState’s College of Liberal Arts (A&L 1961) and College of Engineering (IE1965), Bennett Levin is a retired Professional Engineer, having been at onetime registered in more than 30 states. In 1967 he formed his own engineeringfirm and had a nationwide practice providing what was then traditionalMechanical and Electrical Engineering Services to Architects, Corporate Clientsand Developers. Along the way he was awarded several patents. In 1992, Levinbecame the City of Philadelphia’s Commissioner of Licenses and Inspectionsafter having served as a member of the City’s Board of Building Standards for20 years. He has testified on multiple occasions before committees of theUnited States House of Representatives and the Pennsylvania House ofRepresentatives. Levin has served as a member of the Federal RailroadAdministration Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) and its PassengerService Safety Standards Committee. He was President to the AmericanAssociation of Private Railroad Car owners in the early 1990s, and also wasPresident of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society. Hecurrently serves on the Board of the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum, andthe Advisory Board of the Friends of the Railroad Museum of the State ofPennsylvania. Levin’s Juniata Terminal Company, located in Philadelphia, is inthe business of leasing locomotives and restoring railroad equipment from abygone era. Juniata has organized and operated, pro-bono, special trains takingwounded servicemen and women from Walter Reed and Bethesda Military Hospitalsto Philadelphia’s Army-Navy football game, as well as trains that benefitedcharities such as Chicagoland Ronald McDonald Houses, and Capital Region andPhiladelphia Area Toys for Tots operations, among others. Levin has as a servedas a Trustee of the Army War College Foundation in Carlisle, Pa.

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What age does a child need a rail ticket? ›

Children aged between 6 and 14

They must have a ticket to travel, so you should include them as a passenger when you make your booking. You must add the optional seat reservation if you're booking 2nd class.

What happens if my train ticket is wrong on my age? ›

There is no option available online for updating the details entered on the ticket while booking. Passengers can approach the nearest Railway Station/Railway Reservation Office with a print-out of the e-Ticket and an original photo Identity proof of one of the passengers traveling in the ticket, to make any change.

What ages go free on train? ›

Free and discounted travel
  • Children under 5 travel free. Children under 5 travel free with a fare paying adult - check your fare.
  • Children aged 5-10. ...
  • 11-15 Zip Oyster photocard. ...
  • 16+ Zip Oyster photocard. ...
  • Rules of travel for under 18s. ...
  • Travel for schools. ...
  • 18+ Student Oyster photocard. ...
  • Apprentice Oyster photocard.

Are 2 year olds free on trains? ›

They can also travel free at any time on the Tube, London Overground and DLR (Docklands Light Railway) when they are travelling with an adult who has a valid ticket. Up to 4 children under 11 years old accompanied by a paying adult travel free on the London Underground.

Are children under 12 free on trains? ›

Under-11s can travel free at any time on London's buses and trams without a ticket. They can also travel free at any time on the Tube, London Overground and DLR (Docklands Light Railway) when they are travelling with an adult who has a valid ticket.

How do I change my age on Trainline? ›

Simply go to the website, login and click on My Account, then click on the icon at the top right of the screen.. From here select the details you want to update from the left hand side.

Can we change the passenger name and age in train ticket? ›

For change in name on a reserved ticket, customer can now approach the nearest Railway Reservation Office with Electronic Reservation Slip print out and photo identity proof mentioned in the Electronic Reservation Slip at least 24 hours before the scheduled departure of train as per extant Railway rules also available ...

Can I modify my railway ticket? ›

If you want to prepone or postpone the date of your journey, you should surrender your tickets during working hours of reservation office atleast forty eight hours before the scheduled departure of the train in which originally booked subject to restriction during 1st hour of advance reservation period opening if any.

Do 14 year olds have to pay for the train? ›

Children aged 11 to 15 years old can get free or discounted travel with a Zip Oyster photocard, or a Young Visitor discount. Sixteen and 17 year olds pay half the adult rate on Tube, DLR and London Overground journeys with a 16+ Zip Oyster photocard.

What age are children free on trains UK? ›

Kids aged 5-15 benefit from a 50% discount on the price of a full adult ticket. Children aged 5 to 15 inclusive get half-price fares for most tickets across the UK rail network. If your child is 4 or under, they can travel for free alongside a fare-paying parent or guardian.

How much is a train ticket for a 16 year old? ›

For only £30, the 16-17 Saver is valid for one year or until your 18th birthday (whichever is earliest) and discounts will be applied to standard Season, Anytime, Off-Peak and Advance tickets for travel on the National Rail network, except on ScotRail or Caledonian Sleeper services.

Do children under 3 go free on trains? ›

All children aged five and under can go free on all trains in the UK, provided they're with a fare-paying passenger. National Rail does stipulate that they "may only occupy a seat which is not required by a fare-paying passenger".

Does a 1 year old need a train ticket? ›

Up to two children, aged 4 years old and under, can travel free of charge with a fare-paying adult. Please bear in mind that as they do not have a ticket or a seat reservation, so on busy trains they will be expected to sit on your lap. You can purchase a childs ticket or Family Return to reserve a seat.

Can a 12 year old go on a train? ›

There is a consensus that 13 years old is a good age for a child to start travelling via train on their own. This is in line with many policies provided by train companies, which states they will not allow for children under the age of 12 to travel alone unless accompanied by an adult.

Can you switch your age? ›

You may need to get a court order issued by a judge before the vital records office will change your date of birth. In most cases, the date on a legally-issued birth certificate is presumed to be correct.

Can we change your age? ›

Age is, by definition, only a measure of how long something has existed – and nothing else. Since one cannot travel back in time, one simply cannot change one's age. The second interpretation states that age-change, in practice, would be changing the date of birth in identification documents.

Can family members travel on train tickets? ›

If anyone has a confirmed ticket but can not catch the train for a reason, they can now transfer the ticket to a family member and save the money spent on the ticket. One thing to note here is that the transfer is possible only to a family member—father, mother, sister, brother, daughter, son, husband or wife.

Can you change the name of passenger on ticket? ›

Generally, only minor name changes or corrections are allowed, such as fixing a typo or updating the ticket to reflect a legal name change (e.g. last name change through marriage). Name changes to transfer flight tickets are generally not allowed for a few reasons.

How do I transfer a ticket to another person? ›

Step 1: Take a printout of the ticket. Step 2: You then need to visit the reservation counter of your nearest railway station. Step 3: You need to carry the Aadhaar Card or Voting ID card of the person in whose name you need to transfer the ticket. Step 4: Now, apply for the transfer of the ticket on the counter.

Is it possible to change the name on a ticket? ›

You can change the name on most flight tickets but the airline will normally charge you an administration fee to do so. Some airlines will allow you to change the name on your reservation because of a spelling mistake but won't allow you to transfer your flight to somebody else.

Can I change my train ticket to a later time? ›

Changes must be requested no later than 6pm (18:00) the day before you are due to travel. After this, Advance tickets can still be changed up to the departure of the first booked train for a fee.

Can I upgrade my train ticket after booking? ›

A reserved ticket for a lower class , can be upgraded to a higher class by paying the difference of fare subject to the following conditions: 1. The ticket being upgraded is for the same train and date, for which you already have a reservation, 2.

How much money is refunded on cancellation of train ticket? ›

Cancellation charge per passenger on confirmed ticket
DurationDeduction per passenger
4 hours or chart preparation (which ever is earlier) before departure of train50% of base fare subject to minimum Rupees 120
4 hours or chart preparation (which ever is earlier) till departure of trainsNo Refund
3 more rows

Can a 15 year old go on a train alone? ›

Children 13, 14 and 15 years old may travel unaccompanied in accordance with the Amtrak Unaccompanied Minor Policy, which includes the following conditions: Travel is permitted only on Amtrak trains. Travel is not permitted on Thruway motorcoach service, or on any other connecting services.

How much should a 15 year old train? ›

You should aim to train once ( 1 hour) a day, max 6 days a week, but it's recommended to train 5 days a week. Always aim to have resting days, cause these days are the days you grow the muscles.

What privileges do you get when you turn 14? ›

A 14-year-old is still a minor, just like a younger child and regardless of whether she might be very mature for her age. Minors have no legal right to contract, vote, make legal decisions for themselves, or even hold jobs in some states depending on how old they are. They cannot legally own property.

Do 16 year olds pay on trains? ›

Children aged 16-17

pay Oyster Pay as you go fares at half the adult rate on the bus, tube and most National Rail services in London.

Can under 16s go on trains alone? ›

At what age can children travel on your trains unaccompanied by an adult? or Train Operators cannot take any responsibility for children travelling alone and Train Companies will not allow any child under the age of 12 to travel without an adult aged 16 or over.

Can a 15 year old take a train alone UK? ›

We would always prefer children and young people to be accompanied by a responsible adult when travelling on the railway, but we realise there may be times when your child has to travel alone or with a group of friends. The railway can be a dangerous place. You can help to prepare them.

Do you have to pay for a 3 year old on a train? ›

Children under five years of age may accompany fare-paying passengers free of charge, unless the Train Company you want to use specifies otherwise in their notices and other publications.

Do you have to pay for a 3 year old on the tube? ›

Travelling with children

Children under five travel free with a fare-paying adult. If your child is under 11, they can travel free on: Buses and trams. Tube, DLR, London Overground, Elizabeth line and some National Rail services.

How do you take a baby on a train? ›

Traveling by Train
  1. Reserve a seat for your baby. ...
  2. Dress your baby in comfortable clothing. ...
  3. Arrive at the station early. ...
  4. If you need your baby's formula heated or refrigerated, talk to the train staff. ...
  5. If your baby cries, try holding him or her and walking down the aisles.

How do you take a pram on a train? ›

Can I take my pram onboard the train with me? We're very happy for pushchairs, prams and buggies to be on our trains, just as long as you make sure they're folded at all times and stored the same way as any other item of luggage. If this is not possible, they may be stored in wheelchair spaces that are empty.

Do babies need their own ticket? ›

Additional infants under 2 years old must be ticketed and occupy an infant safety seat or in a separate aircraft seat. The infant must be under 2 years of age for the duration of the trip. If they turn 2 during a trip, they will need their own seat for the remainder of the trip.

Do children under 16 travel free on trains? ›

Children under 11 travel free on most public transport services in London when accompanied by a fare-paying adult, or with a 5-10 Zip Oyster photocard. Children aged 11 to 15 years old can get free or discounted travel with a Zip Oyster photocard, or a Young Visitor discount.

How old is a child train ticket UK? ›

Kids aged 5-15 benefit from a 50% discount on the price of a full adult ticket. Children aged 5 to 15 inclusive get half-price fares for most tickets across the UK rail network. If your child is 4 or under, they can travel for free alongside a fare-paying parent or guardian.

Can a 17 year old get a child train ticket? ›

Whilst the existing 16-25 Railcard offers a 1/3 off leisure travel, the new 16-17 Saver will extend the 50% child discount to 16 and 17 year olds.

Can a 13 year old travel on a train on their own? ›

There is a consensus that 13 years old is a good age for a child to start travelling via train on their own. This is in line with many policies provided by train companies, which states they will not allow for children under the age of 12 to travel alone unless accompanied by an adult.

Is 16 a child ticket? ›

Children aged 16-17

pay Oyster Pay as you go fares at half the adult rate on the bus, tube and most National Rail services in London. (Children resident in London with a 16+ Zip travel free on the buses) can buy a child-rate weekly or monthly Travelcard.

Can a 16 year old travel alone on a train? ›

The 16-17 year olds may travel without restriction. The 13-15 year olds must travel as unaccompanied minors because no one is 18 or over. The Unaccompanied Minor Policy applies.

Are under 18 are allowed in local train? ›

The Western Railways decided to allow teenager students under 18 years of age to travel by local trains despite them not being vaccinated.


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