The Daily Item
As Central Pennsylvania considers expansion of its public transportation programs, it wants to ensure existing programs are operating efficiently and that options to improve them are being fully explored. To that end several counties plan to participate in a Regional Transit Consolidation Study, to be conducted by PennDOT’s Bureau of Public Transportation. The study will include Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, and Northumberland counties.
Currently the region is served by “fixed route” systems in Lycoming County and lower Northumberland County ─ systems available to the general public, operating over designated routes according to a fixed schedule. There are five “demand responsive” systems, which provide access to daily needs, e.g., medical appointments, senior centers, and employment training. Both types of system receive significant state and federal funds. Counties contribute to their fixed route systems and, in many cases, individuals who use the transit programs pay a fee.
“These programs essentially rely on public dollars,” said Mark Murawski, Chairman, North Central Pennsylvania Public Transportation Taskforce (NCPPTT), “and we have to be sure we’re using those funds as cost effectively as we can.” Among savings options the study will consider is the consolidation of administrative functions. Murawski suggested that, given today’s communications technology, the five demand responsive systems could be operated from one central location, reducing space and staffing requirements.
Management of existing programs will also be closely reviewed. For instance, service delivery areas may overlap and could be reconfigured. Many of the programs already transport individuals to the same locations, e.g., Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. Organizational structures of the various programs will also be studied with an eye toward improving coordination among them.
“Everything is conjecture at this point,” said Murawski, “but everything is on the table for consideration.” The Transit Study is fully funded by PennDOT with no county or local dollars involved. Moreover, the recommendations of the study, which will take a year to complete, are not binding, and will principally serve to provide direction to counties, transit services, and NCPPTT.