The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

June 18, 2013

USTA seeks 8 percent rate hike

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — Seniors and people with disabilities will soon have to dig deeper into their pockets as the Union-Snyder Transportation Alliance seeks approval to raise rates up to 50 cents per trip.

USTA has submitted its request for an 8 percent rate increase to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in a move to bring in $100,000 more in revenue to cover increasing costs, said Harry Adrian, deputy director of the Union-Snyder Community Action Agency. The last fare increase was in June 2009.

The fare hike would mean individuals enrolled in the Shared-Ride Program for Persons with Disabilities would pay 20 cents to 50 cents more per trip, depending on the distance.

Seniors traveling to medical appointments would pay 15 cents to 35 cents more.

Those residents only pay a portion of the total cost, with the Pennsylvania Lottery, state Department of Public Welfare and Area Agency on Aging picking up a majority of the expense.

Both USTA Administrator Cynthia Ann Zerbe and Union-Snyder Area Agency on Aging Director Holly Kyle were out of the office Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

Union County Commissioner Preston Boop said the proposed fare increase was recently discussed “in order to keep the program solvent. It’s not a choice if we’re going to keep the program going.”

USTA provides about 300 trips daily, including free transportation to individuals in the Medical Assistance Transportation Program and clients of SUNCOM Industries’ day program.

The agency’s budget for the next year, including the fare increase, is $1.7 million, Adrian said.

The fare increase is taking part just as USTA is implementing a common fare structure based on miles traveled rather than zones.

This will aid in determining fees when USTA transfers a consumer to a neighboring transportation agency, like Rabbit Transit in Northumberland County, when a ride goes beyond the borders of Union and Snyder counties.

The agencies interface with one another now and may soon be working more closely as PennDOT evaluates the effectiveness of county transportation services.

“We’re anxious to learn what their outcomes will be,” said Snyder County Commissioner Peggy Chamberlain Roup, who serves as chairwoman of the aging agency board of directors and vice chairwoman of the Union-Snyder Joinder Board.