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Waynesboro could lose bus

March 01, 1999

Waynesboro busBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Senior citizens who ride the public bus in Waynesboro want to see it stay in service, the president of a local group said Monday.

The problem is there aren't enough riders, said Donald Haugh, president of the North End AARP chapter.

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"The people who ride the bus do a good job," Haugh said. "It's those who don't ride it who are not supporting it."

The heavily subsidized bus service began in Waynesboro in September 1997 as a pilot program at the request of local seniors. More than 500 signed petitions saying they would ride the bus if it went into service.

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But Eva Verdier, interim director of the Chambersburg Transit Authority, which provides the green-and-white trolley bus to Waynesboro, said ridership on the Waynesboro-Washington Township routes is too low.

It rose steadily from June 1998 with eight riders per hour through October when it hit nine per hour. It dropped each month after that to a low in January 1999 of seven riders per hour. It went back up to 8.2 last month, she said.

Ridership has to go up for the state and local governments to continue their subsidies, she said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, or PennDOT, started the service with a $78,000 subsidy in 1997. The Borough of Waynesboro and Washington Township each put up about $4,400 a year. The rest of the cost to run the 15-mile, 21-stop service comes from rider fees and advertising income from signs on the bus.

Seniors ride free. Those under 60 pay $1.

PennDot has extended its subsidy through June 30. The question after that is whether the state will continue to put money into a system with such low ridership. PennDot officials have said they need 10 riders per hour to continue the subsidy.

Michael Christopher, manager for Washington Township, and Lloyd Hamberger, borough manager for Greencastle, issued a statement this week urging residents who don't normally ride the bus to do so.

"We are challenging people who drive their cars to their favorite restaurant or shopping mall to leave their car home once a week and take the bus," Christopher said. "They should also take a friend along with them."

People with cars don't need the bus, but they can help those who absolutely do need it by riding once a week, he said. "If those numbers don't go up, the bus will go away."

Before June, the state will let local governments know if the subsidy will continue, Christopher said.

Stanley Davis, 72, and his wife, Ruth Davis, 67, of North Street could be called typical bus riders. He rides it at least three times a week to the YMCA, Blockbuster Video and a Chinese restaurant in the mall.

They don't own a car.

Stanley Davis said 10 riders per hour is an unattainable goal for Waynesboro. "Eight is reasonable for a town this size," he said.

He said he has been riding the bus since the service started. "There was practically nobody on it at first," he said. "Now there's always a hard core group of seven or eight people riding it."

The Rouzerville Express, a private, single-bus company, started running in the community around the same time as the public bus service. Its goal was to provide service at night when the public bus was off the road. It's no longer running, said owner Robert Backer.

"I said I'd give it a year and I did, but I couldn't make it," Backer said. "If the public bus did six people an hour I did two. People in this area do not ride the bus. I use my bus now just for charter trips."

Backer said if the public bus service folds he may return with an abbreviated three-morning schedule to provide service for seniors.

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