We could not agree more with Joanne Troutman, the head of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way, when she says a fixed-route transit system in the Valley could change lives.

No other venture in the region comes close to potentially impacting a larger number of people like an affordable and accessible public transportation system. Nearly every need-based review of the Susquehanna Valley inevitably points to a lack of public transportation as a considerable hindrance to growth and workforce development.

At Friday’s Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Committee meeting, Troutman said the subcommittee of the Central Pennsylvania Transportation Coalition is seeking $300,000 in local funding as part of a demonstration grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for a fixed-route system that would run from Lycoming to Snyder counties, linking Northumberland and Montour along the way.

This first requires a six-month feasibility study in the counties of Northumberland, Snyder, Union, Montour, Columbia and Lycoming to determine if such a project would work here.

The fixed-route would run buses from Williamsport down Route 15 to Routes 11/15 in Selinsgrove, then up Route 11 through Danville and into Berwick. The path would connect hospitals in Williamsport, Lewisburg, Sunbury, Danville and Bloomsburg, shopping centers along the corridor and countless businesses.

Once approved, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would provide 85 percent of the grant and give the Valley three years to build up its ridership and prove the service is needed, Troutman said.

It is our sincere hope it succeeds. But one way or another, we will find out if it is viable. “This is a really important project,” said Troutman.

Such a fixed-route system would have some holes in it — notably the Coal Region — but a workaround and partnership with existing public transit programs in that area could make connections across the southeastern portion of the county.

Clearly, there is a need and a desire for public transit. Committee Chair Joe McGranaghan, also the mayor of Shamokin Dam, said a recent survey conducted by the chamber showed that the majority of respondents in Selinsgrove, Shamokin Dam, Hummels Wharf, Sunbury and Northumberland listed access to public transportation as a top priority.

Valley leaders, including elected officials, business and community leaders, should be able to rally around something with such broad support. We understand it can seem cost-prohibitive.

We need a viable public transportation system.

Such a program would represent good government, fulfilling a desperate need in the region.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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