Save Cornwells Heights
Monday, September 12, 2005
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Cornwells Heights is now under fire from Amtrak from two different directions: closure and, barring that, a monthly pass rate increase which most commuters will find unaffordable. This is not, however, the time to give up. It is not yet clear whether these things are real or a “cry for political help” from Amtrak itself, expecting to be partially beaten back from its hardline stances with monies ponied up by state and local governments. If Uncle Sam won’t keep the railroad running, maybe somebody else will. Trying to throw every single commuter off its own trains is, after all, not a major play for new ticket sales and ridership revenue.
If, though, Amtrak is intent on dousing itself with kerosene and cadging for cigarettes, there may even be another backup option. Trenton’s New York commuters are, at least for the moment, somewhat insulated from the Amtrak fare increases by New Jersey Transit monthly pass rates, which are still quite reasonable. When NJT takes over the Clocker trains from Amtrak, it still may be politically possible to arrange for at least some of them to source out of Philadelphia instead of Trenton, in which case Cornwells Heights could conceivably be served by NJT trains at NJT monthly fares (higher than Trenton, but reasonable, and requiring that Pennsylvania pick up our subsidy tab the way New Jersey subsidizes its own commuters).
A final backup option is to play off Amtrak’s Keystone trains, eight of which physically travel the entire route from Harrisburg to New York City through the Cornwells Heights station every day. Schedule is a problem, but one that might be solvable. Price remains a problem, but if Pennsylvania gets even half as serious about Bensalem’s Cornwells Heights station as it is about… Harrisburg, Middletown, Elizabethtown, Mount Joy, Lancaster, Parkesburg, Coatesville, Downingtown, Exton, Paoli, and Ardmore (all of which get at least six daily trains to New York City, many of which have fewer riders than Cornwells Heights), a subsidy plan will happen.
Seeking Telephone References for the Press
On Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s transportation editor contacted me by telephone and interviewed my for a while about both the Cornwells Heights closure threat and the draconian fare increases soon anticipated from Amtrak. He asked if there was anyone else from Cornwells Heights whom he could contact by telephone for further interviews. Though I collected nearly 40 questionnaires from other riders at the station, it would not be ethical to look up phone listings from those forms. Those forms are held in confidence at Congressman Fitzpatrick’s Langhorne office.
However… if you would like to offer your name and phone number to me for possible redistribution to bona fide reporters covering the Amtrak problems, please either e-mail me your contact information at firstname.lastname@example.org or get it to me at the station, where I still plan to meet a majority of the trains going to New York.
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The political storm over Amtrak is still growing. Please pay less attention to what Amtrak says it will do than to what we actually can do to Amtrak.