The Pennsylvanian: Its time has passed
Emotion shouldn't override financial common sense as Pennsylvania decides whether it will cover a $5.7 million annual subsidy, now provided by the federal government, to avoid likely suspension of Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.
That's what Jake Haulk, a Ph.D. economist and president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, urges after analyzing how that train, The Pennsylvanian, is doing.
Total Pittsburgh station passenger counts are falling, and The Pennsylvanian — with just one morning departure and one evening arrival there daily — “almost certainly” is serving “fewer than 100,000 per year or 270 people per day” and losing riders, which means even higher future subsidies, he writes.
Riding The Pennsylvanian to Harrisburg costs $40 and takes 5 1⁄2 hours with stops. Dr. Haulk notes that Megabus has three daily nonstop Pittsburgh-Harrisburg trips that cost $14 or $16 and take 3 1⁄2 to 4 hours.
Thus, Haulk writes, the state would have to justify taking over the subsidy “on other than economic considerations.” He suggests surveying riders — but cautions that fondness of the rail experience (and count us among those who are fond of it) shouldn't drive the decision.
That $5.7 million could and should be put to better use: “Roads and bridges and unfunded pension liabilities come to mind,” Haulk says.
There's no economic case to be made for the state subsidizing The Pennsylvanian — and state taxpayers will be better served if it doesn't.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Union’s ‘rebate’
- NSA snooping: Better intelligence needed
- Another broken promise: ObamaCare in the ER
- Greensburg Tuesday takes
- Pittsburgh Tuesday takes
- Pipeline pap: The real agenda
- The Plum sex scandal: New, sad questions
- Alle-Kiski Tuesday takes
- Sunday pops
- Greensburg Laurels & Lances
- The Takata air bags recall: It’s about time