Amtrak plans regional express bus service – Daily Local

POTTSTOWN — As the region anxiously waits to see if passenger rail service between Reading and Philadelphia will be restored, Amtrak plans to provide express bus service between the two cities.

The company, which has announced plans to explore a return to passenger rail travel and has been handed a significant share of the infrastructure bill, plans to establish an express bus line that will make Pottstown the only stop between the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and the Franklin Street Station in Reading. .

The news became public during the Pottstown Borough Council meeting Wednesday evening when Borough Manager Justin Keller briefed council members and was later confirmed by Amtrak.

“Amtrak is beginning a planning process with local and state officials, including PennDOT, to explore options for bringing Amtrak passenger trains to Reading, Phoenixville and Pottstown,” according to a statement provided by Jason Abrams, public relations manager. from Amtrak.

“In the meantime, Amtrak is working to establish premium Thruway bus service from Reading and Pottstown to Philadelphia, with rail connections nationwide. Train service will not be determined by bus ridership,” the statement read.

“Amtrak is still looking for a partner bus company to establish premium bus service and is working with host communities to establish bus stops. In 2019, Amtrak provided 1.5 million bus rides, with most bus passengers connecting to Amtrak trains,” the statement said.

According to a proposal presented to borough officials in December, Amtrak operates more than 100 connecting bus routes operated by more than 60 carriers.

“Thruway connections extend Amtrak destinations to more than 400 additional bus stops, including stops in rural areas,” according to the presentation.

Amtrak has requested to use space in the parking lot, known, appropriately, as the “reading lot” located off South Hanover Street, just south of the Norfolk Southern tracks and across from the old station and the current PART bus hub, Keller told the council. .

“Amtrak estimates that the incremental revenue will exceed the incremental expenses,” according to the presentation. Amtrak will guarantee a fixed ticket revenue to the bus contractor and “if the route is profitable for its own account, the bus company may earn additional revenue from ticket revenue that exceeds the revenue guarantee”.

A sample bus schedule for regular service between Philadelphia and Reading, with a stop in Pottstown in each direction.

A sample schedule provided to Keller would have two weekday trips a day from Reading to Philadelphia, and vice versa, in the morning and afternoon. The same schedule shows three trips from Philadelphia to Reading on weekends and holidays, but only two in the opposite direction on weekends.

In March, even before the infrastructure bill was passed, Amtrak released a long-term capital expansion plan that plans to provide passenger service from Reading to Philadelphia three times a day.

The 1,039-page infrastructure bill includes a $66 billion investment in passenger and freight rail.

The Amtrak-specific funding is $14 billion less than the $80 billion that famed train traveler President Joe Biden originally requested, but still represents the largest injection of federal funds in 50 years of carrier history.

During an AXIOS interview that aired on HBO last year, former Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said, “This level of funding is absolutely transformational. Half of this funding will go towards building our Intercity Rail, which includes the Reading-Philly Spur.

Amtrak’s plan calls for the addition of 39 new routes serving 160 new communities. In addition to the Reading-to-Philadelphia line, Amtrak’s plan calls for new routes connecting Allentown and Scranton to New York.

Amtrak estimates that the rail lines will generate an annual economic impact of $54 million and $1.8 billion in economic activity from the initial capital investments.

Melvin Z. Madore