Amtrak bus service a step in the right direction

The introduction of bus service from Reading and Pottstown to the William H. Gray III 30th Street station in Philadelphia is an important step in the right direction for Schuylkill Valley communities that lack transportation options.

On Monday, buses began running twice a day between the BARTA Transportation Center in Reading and Amtrak Station in Philadelphia, with a stop on Hanover Street in Pottstown, across the tracks from the Charles Transportation Center. W. Dickinson.

Buses to Philadelphia depart Reading at 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., stopping in Pottstown half an hour later. Buses returning to the area depart from Philadelphia at 11:35 a.m. and 5:55 p.m.

Amtrak is providing the service through bus contractor Krapf Coaches as a prelude to its plans to establish passenger rail service linking Philadelphia with Reading, Pottstown, Phoenixville and Norristown. Buses are provided in coordination with the South Central Transit Authority and Pottstown Area Economic Development.

Is the bus service the ideal long-term solution? Of course not. There are only two trips a day in each direction, and the schedule calls for about two hours to complete a trip of about 60 miles. But the new option is welcome, even on a limited schedule, and it makes sense to allow extra travel time to account for traffic, as many passengers will likely use the buses to connect to trains at 30th Street. With bus service in place under the auspices of the railroad, people can now book Amtrak trips to and from Reading and Pottstown.

The return of these important communities to the intercity transportation map is a tremendous sign of progress. As Amtrak destinations, Reading and Pottstown are now part of a network of more than 1,000 destinations across the country. Perhaps the people of Reading will soon no longer have to explain to strangers why the former railroad house made famous by the “Monopoly” board of directors can’t be reached by train.

Rail service won’t happen overnight, but bus service is one of many reasons for high hopes. Chester, Montgomery and Berks counties have agreed to the formation of the Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority, which is responsible for overseeing and implementing the restoration of rail service more than 40 years after SEPTA abandoned the route. Each county will be represented on the board of directors and will contribute funding. The authority is meant to lend legitimacy to competitive efforts for infrastructure funding, have the power to receive federal funding, spend money to develop plans, and work directly with organizations such as Amtrak, PennDOT, the Federal Railroad Administration and other necessary partners.

Amtrak is fully on board with bringing passenger rail back to the Schuylkill Valley and has access to significant federal infrastructure funding to make it happen. Perhaps most importantly, Amtrak has the power to ensure the service has access to tracks controlled by Norfolk Southern. The freight operator’s reluctance to allow passenger service on its lines has complicated past efforts to bring rail back to this part of the region.

We strongly encourage readers to take advantage of the bus service if it fits into their travel plans. The more popular it is, the more likely Amtrak will add more bus routes to meet demand. And it would help the railroad expansion effort by sending the message that there is indeed a strong appetite for transportation services connecting communities northwest of Philadelphia to that city and the rest of the country.

Customers can purchase tickets on Amtrak.com, the Amtrak app or by calling 800-USA-RAIL.

Our communities have been waiting decades for this to happen. Let’s each do what we can to provide people with a good alternative to suffering behind the wheel on Route 422 and the Schuylkill Highway. It’s been long overdue.

Melvin Z. Madore