Elizabethtown College launched a pilot program on Wednesday, Nov. 9 in partnership with PaTripsbyTrain to bring students accessible and affordable Amtrak train tickets for the Keystone and Pennsylvanian lines.
PaTripsbyTrain began with a partnership between PennDot and Amtrak to increase ridership on the trains through promotional work with Sacunas Integrated Communications (Sacunas). According to Sacunas’ website, “Amtrak and PennDot wanted to increase railway ridership in PA with a program that explored the joys of traveling by rail.”
Etown is the first college or university to launch the pilot program, and Sacunas wants to measure interest amongst college students at Etown to determine if PaTripsbyTrain is a program that could be expanded to other colleges.
PaTripsbyTrain offers a ticket discount to students, called a companion fair, in which students can purchase one round-trip ticket and receive a 40 percent discount on the second ticket.
“We tried to package it so it’s really beneficial to your money,” Senior Project Manager for Sacunas Jamie Judy said.
The discount is meant to incentivize ridership, particularly among residential students or those who are from the Central Pennsylvania area and would otherwise not take the Amtrak that has stop between Pittsburgh and New York City. “When you’re in Central Pennsylvania the Amtrak isn’t first on your mind,” Judy said.
Account Director of Sacunas Jessica Wolfe also intends for the program to increase student knowledge of public transportation methods within the Central Pennsylvania area overall. “It’s a great resource we want people to be aware of,” she said.
She included that in other cities such as Washington, D.C. people use trains regularly, but she does not feel as though students at the College have enough familiarity with the resources available to them for travel.
Another goal of the project is to get students out of a rural setting to explore more urbanized areas. “The emphasis is on taking adventures and exploring the world around us,” Director of Community Relations and College Events at the College Caroline Lalvani said.
“The program highlights many of the wonderful attractions we have in this area and gives students an opportunity to travel to more urban areas while enjoying their time at Elizabethtown College.”
PaTripsbyTrain includes excursions focusing on culinary experiences, sightseeing and tours, sports and festivals, family adventures and music and nightlife. Judy gave the examples of a Broadway package, a visit to the Philadelphia museum or fall foliage in Pittsburgh as excursions available to students.
“We also want to engage some local businesses that students may otherwise not visit or be aware of,” Wolfe said.
Amtrak also has excursions to the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg and tours of the Amish in Lancaster for students, faculty and staff who wish to explore more local attractions of the College.
Students can purchase excursions at a discount rate through PaTripsbyTrain. Amtrak ticket and excursion reservations can also be modified.
Students have the option of contacting Amtrak customer service to change their reservation.
The program hopes to appeal to students, faculty and staff from different backgrounds and with a variety of interests. “Travel is universal,” Lalvani said.
“Having Amtrak access at a reasonable rate and having the options of so many discounted excursions allows our campus community to have a greater breadth. With that, I think this program appeals to all students, faculty and staff irrespective of their interests, majors or backgrounds.”
As with other railway transportation for residential students, Campus Security provides transportation without a vehicle to the train station, and PaTripsbyTrain gives a list of available transportation for after students arrive at their destination.
Some excursions are day trips; however, other outings to farther cities like Pittsburgh, which is a five-hour train ride, are designed to last a weekend.
Due to the variation in the length of stay PaTripsbyTrain also partners with some hotels within the different cities in order to offer students discounted hotel rates. Discounts on car rentals are also available with the purchase of a rail ticket.
Judy said that students can purchase tickets on an individual basis, but a big attraction is to the group-oriented aspect of the discount since individuals must purchase two tickets in order to receive the discount. PaTripsbyTrain also appeals to professors taking a class on a field trip.
“We understand that right now a lot of professors take a van, but this way they can collaborate [with students] and work on projects while travelling to a from a location,” Wolfe said.
As a part of the launch of the program, PaTripsbyTrain is offering students a chance to win two free Amtrak tickets. Titled “Put your Selfie on the Train,” the program component enters students who post a selfie to social media while riding the Amtrak into a drawing.
The College has also run a social media campaign leading up to the launch on their Facebook and Twitter feeds. The campaign promotes knowledge of and participation in the program.
For more information regarding tickets and excursions visit PaTripsbyTrain.com/elizabethtown-college.