Record ridership for Amtrak as vultures circle

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

The Associated Press reports on another record ridership year for Amtrak.

WASHINGTON — Amtrak trains carried 31.2 million passengers in the fiscal year ending in September, the highest annual ridership since the railroad was formed in 1971, the nation’s intercity passenger railroad said Wednesday.

Ridership grew 3.5 percent over the past 12 months compared with the previous budget year, and ticket revenue jumped 6.8 percent to a best-ever $2.02 billion, Amtrak said. Ridership has increased every year but one over the past decade, and is up almost 50 percent from 2000.

“People are riding Amtrak trains in record numbers across the country because there is an undeniable demand to travel by rail,” Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement. “Ridership will continue to grow because of key investments made by Amtrak and our federal and state partners to improve on-time performance, reliability, capacity and train speeds.”

At the same time ridership has been increasing, Republicans have stepped up their campaign to end federal subsidies to Amtrak. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has accused Amtrak of “Soviet-style” inefficiency and held several hearings devoted to criticism of the railroad.

The GOP platform adopted at the Republican National Convention in August calls for “the federal government to get out of way and allow private ventures to provide passenger service” in the lucrative northeast corridor between Washington and Boston — the heart of Amtrak’s operations.

Critics have complained that the railroad’s trains are slow compared to high-speed passenger trains in Europe and Asia. Last month, Amtrak began testing trains in the Northeast capable of reach speeds as high as 165 mph.

On a brief walk in Downtown Pittsburgh this morning I saw three more vehicles run red lights and a bicyclist who egregiously crossed amid traffic in the middle of a red cycle.

Pretty light in the road work department today but we’re expecting PennDOT to start peppering us with the weekend restrictions any minute now. Remember that the inbound Squirrel Hill Tunnel is closing 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday with delays up to two hours possible on the detour. Alternate routes will help preserve your weekend and your sanity. Same deal next weekend (Oct. 19-22). UPDATE: Another full weekend closure is tentatively set for Nov. 2-5.

Continuing work on a bridge on the Blue Line-Library will interrupt service starting at 8 p.m. Friday and continuing through the weekend, Port Authority announced. The work is on a small bridge south of Monroe. Rail service will stop at Lytle and shuttles will serve stops between there and Library. The West Library park-n-ride lot remains closed through Oct. 28 because of equipment storage for the bridge project.

Bridge inspection will cause temporary lane closures on the Parkway East in both directions between Penn Hills and Monroeville/Plum from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

PennDOT takes the microphone for this announcement about crack sealing.

PennDOT District 11 is announcing crack and joint sealing operations on various roadways in Allegheny County will continue through October weather permitting.

Crack and joint sealing is a preservation activity that prolongs the life of road surfaces by preventing moisture from entering cracks and joints. Moisture can cause potholes and premature deterioration requiring more costly repairs. Matcon Diamond, Inc. of Pittsburgh will perform the work under a contract with PennDOT.

Short-term, slow-moving lane closures will occur in various locations according to the following schedule:

Oct. 10-29

Greentree Road (Route 121) from Route 50 (Noblestown Road) in the City of Pittsburgh to Route 19 (Beverly Road) in Scott Township, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.;   

Oct. 10-24

Route 8 from Route 130 (Allegheny River Boulevard) in the City of Pittsburgh and Route 30 (Ardmore Boulevard) in Wilkinsburg Borough, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Oct. 15-18

Route 2058 (Swissvale Avenue/Montier Street/Robinson Boulevard/Verona Road/Saltsburg Road/Leechburg Road) from Route 8 in Wilkinsburg Borough to Unity Road in Penn Hills Township, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Oct. 18-19

Long Road (Route 2059) from Frankstown Road (Route 380) to Beulah Road (Route 130) in Penn Hills Township, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Oct. 23-26

Route 51 from the Neville Island Bridge/I-79 in Robinson Township to the West End Bridge (Route 19) in the City of Pittsburgh.

And the City of Pittsburgh will resurface these streets with traffic restrictions likely from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. over the next three days: Wednesday, Overlea Way from Nevada Street to Oak Grove Avenue; Monumental Way from Nevada Street to Oak Grove Avenue; Windermere Drive from Leblanc Street to Raymond Street. Thursday, Lemington Avenue from Evers Drive to Lincoln Avenue; Bellaire Avenue from Glenarm Avenue to Flatbush Street. Friday, Hallock Street from Virginia Avenue to Piermont Street; Zephyr Avenue from Glen Mawr Street to Sherwood Avenue; Pemberton Street from Brighton Rd to Wapello Street.

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