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Project aims to accelerate high-speed rail effort

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

All Aboard Erie, a rail advocacy group, launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign today to help finance a study of potential passenger routes between Erie and Pittsburgh. The online fundraising campaign is being organized by Mercyhurst University’s Quickstarter initiative and funded by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority’s Ignite Erie: Industry-University Business Acceleration Collaborative, led by Mercyhurst and Penn State Behrend.

Altogether, All Aboard Erie is raising $25,000 for a route study as the first step in a multi-step process to connect the two cities with high-speed rail (HSR) service. AAE has already raised $6,000 toward the goal; the goal of the Kickstarter campaign is $3,000.

“This project is unique because it relies on individuals who want to make HSR happen now,” said Brian Pitzer, executive director of All Aboard Erie. “We aren’t waiting for the government or an international business or a group of investors as some other parts of the country are doing. We are doing this ourselves, and if other organizations want to join us, they would be welcome.”

The All Aboard Erie Kickstarter page (http://kck.st/1Pt4468) features testimonials from Mercyhurst Univeristy President Michael T. Victor, Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper and State Sen. Sean Wiley among others.

“We are using Kickstarter because it has the potential to reach tens of thousands of potential backers not only in Pennsylvania, not only in America, but across the globe. Studies have shown that people want transportation alternatives that include HSR – especially young people in the Millennial generation,” Pitzer said.

The study will examine four separate routes: three in Pennsylvania and one that includes Ashtabula and Youngstown, Ohio. Cities in Pennsylvania that could be served by the proposed 110-m.p.h. trains include Greenville, Sharon, Sharpsville, New Castle, Beaver Falls, Aliquippa and Coraopolis as well as Erie and Pittsburgh. Once the best route is identified, All Aboard Erie will then seek to fund a more extensive feasibility study.

“We are taking a step-by-step approach,” said Pitzer. “Each step will be a building block for a completed rail system. We need to take that first step now if we want the project to become a reality.”

Kickstarter is a popular crowdfunding platform used by individuals and organizations to fund a wide variety of projects. Some of the rewards to be offered by the campaign include railroad maps, books, DVDs, embroidered patches, T-shirts and copies of the completed study.

Advising the campaign is Kristan Wheaton, an associate professor in Mercyhurst University’s Tom Ridge School of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences. He has run several successful Kickstarter campaigns and developed his own program called Quickstarter to help others be successful as well. Students in his Quickstarter program assisting the campaign include Tyler Ennis, Hannah Corton, Megan Steele and Katie Kayes, all of Mercyhurst; and Shelby Dailey and Kathryn Nicklas of Penn State Behrend.

For more information on the project, contact Brian Pitzer at 814-440-0617.