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Chambersburg Transit Authority mulls options to offset deficit

April 18, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A $125,000 out-of-court settlement in a suit filed by a former employee, higher insurance costs, cuts in federal and state subsidies and higher operating costs have put the Chambersburg Transit Authority about $150,000 in the red, the authority's executive director said Wednesday.

The authority, which provides bus service to Waynesboro and Washington Township, hopes to raise money with a country music concert, a fund-raiser using balloons and penny collection boxes spread around the county.

"The deficit has accumulated over the last two years," said Eva Verdier, executive director of the authority.

The authority has an annual operating budget of about $504,000 to run 10 buses serving Chambersburg and Hamilton and Greene townships, plus Waynesboro and Washington Township.

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The federal government funnels a $175,000 subsidy to the authority through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Pennsylvania puts in about $26,000 a year, Verdier said.

The Borough of Chambersburg's share is about $24,000 a year, Hamilton Township contributes $4,000, Greene Township $2,800 and Waynesboro and Washington Township about $3,500 apiece, Verdier said.

Senior citizens ride the buses free. Fares of citizens who do pay bring in about $50,000, special trips net about $25,000 and the state, through other programs, contributes another $35,000, some of which comes from the Pennsylvania Lottery, Verdier said.

The authority projected that income from advertising carried on the buses would bring in about $80,000.

"That's going to be way down this year because of events on Sept. 11," Verdier said.

On the plus side, ridership on the Chambersburg routes are way up this year thanks to improved and added service, she said. The Chambersburg run doubled from two to four loops, making it easier for more people to ride the buses.

"Ridership is up by 80 percent in Chambersburg," Verdier said. "A year ago, we were averaging 3,500 to 3,600 passengers. Now it's up to 7,100 passengers a month."

Buses in Chambersburg run 12 hours a day Monday through Saturday and six hours on Sunday.

Ridership on the Waynesboro run fluctuates, Verdier said. In December 2001, ridership was reported at 1,265, a low for the year. The highest ridership month was August at 2,497, but that included runs to the popular Fun Fest at Red Run Park. The average monthly ridership for 2001 in Waynesboro and Washington Township was 1,775, Verdier said.

Verdier and local government officials have threatened to shut down the service unless more people ride the bus.

The authority, with the blessing of the Waynesboro Borough Council and Washington Township supervisors, will change the runs between the two communities from one long loop to two short ones in an attempt to increase ridership.

The new system will go into effect July 1, Verdier said.

"This will be our last attempt in Waynesboro," Verdier said. "We'll give it one more fiscal year to see if the service is viable there."

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