Funny thing about train service in Pittsburgh is that, as infrequent as it is, ridership keeps going up. People keep voting with their feet to get off their feet and take the choo-choo. Arrivals and departures from the Pittsburgh station have gone from 125,200 in fiscal 2012 to about 149,600 in fiscal 2015. It was the third straight year ridership rose.Pittsburgh to Harrisburg will always be a slog, absent German-style tunnelling and bridging in the Alleghenies, but The Pennsylvania Railroad used to offer multiple day-train frequencies as well as Pittsburgh and New York sleeping cars and overnight New York for and from St. Louis and Chicago sleeping cars. Amtrak took all of those off.
About two-thirds of Pittsburgh’s Amtrak riders take the Pennsylvanian, with the top destinations New York and Philadelphia. The other third of the ridership is on the Capitol Limited, which arrives here in the daily darkness on its way from Washington to Chicago and vice versa. Despite leaving at midnight, the Chicago train is our station’s most popular.
Of the 535 Amtrak stations, Pittsburgh is 68th busiest, which is more a measure of how poor train service is in most of the country than how good it is here. East from Harrisburg, there are dedicated Amtrak lines so busy that more than 500,000 arrive or depart annually in little Lancaster and more than 4 million in Philadelphia.
Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh to Cleveland have potential as regional corridors, although heavy freight traffic on those lines means Passenger Rail authorities might have to strike a deal with the freight railroads to provide additional trackage, something that's already going on. And there is historical precedent, in the form of multiple daily frequencies on the old Baltimore and Ohio and Pittsburgh and Lake Erie. Frequency and connectivity bring riders.
(Via Destination: Freedom.)