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Riders happy buses are back on the road

December 24, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Darrell Gates is one of dozens of Waynesboro residents who was happy to see the public bus running again in Waynesboro.

"I had to quit my job to drive my wife around when the bus stopped running before," said Gates, who lives with his wife, Beverly, on Broad Street.

The Chambersburg Transit Authority, which has been running buses through Waynesboro since 1997, eliminated the service earlier this year because of financial problems. Bus runs through Chambersburg, Pa., home of the agency's headquarters, were also cut, from seven runs to one and from five days a week to three.

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CTA has a five-year recovery plan to get the system out of debt and its board of directors hopes to hire a full-time administrator to run the system.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has proposed a $246,000 operating budget for CTA for the 2003-04 budget year, which ends June 30, 2004. About 65 percent to 70 percent of the system's budget is made up of state and federal subsidies. The balance is supposed to come from local matches, including money or in-kind services from the municipalities served by the system.

Seniors ride for free.

Limited service resumed in Waynesboro last month. The bus runs Tuesdays and Thursdays, making a 27-stop loop three times each day.

"The bus is very, very important to seniors," said Thelma Kell, manager of the Waynesboro Senior Activities Center. "I always tell them to support it even if they are still driving because the day may come when they can't drive anymore."

Kell said many seniors could not get to the senior center and the meals and activities it provides without the bus.

"Oh, my, yes, we do need the bus," said Beverly Gates. "I'm a volunteer at the hospital and I have to get to Dollar General."

She said she and her husband ride the bus every day it runs.

Helen Bryson of Landis Avenue drives, but takes the bus whenever she can. "People have to have transportation. Without the bus they're stranded," she said.

Bryson, along with several other passengers, rode the bus to the annual senior center Christmas party Tuesday.

Riders in Waynesboro seem to be responding to their second chance at public transportation as ridership is up.

"We were averaging 45 passengers a day in seven days of service" in Waynesboro in November, Deb Rotz said at a meeting of the authority's board of directors earlier this month.

Geraldine Barnhart, 75, lives in Trinity House, a senior housing complex in Waynesboro. "Yes, I did miss the bus, very much. I couldn't get out."

She said she takes the bus to the grocery store.

"I just like to ride around the block to get out of the apartment," said Zelda Mae Hartman. "I used to ride the bus almost daily. We were lost without it. The passengers on this bus are like one big happy family."

Sam Starliper, 89, lives at Hearthstone Retirement Home and said he rides at least once a week. The bus picks him up at home. Sometimes he just rides with no errand in mind.

"I've met a lot of people on the bus," he said.

Leonard Keeper of West Main Street moved to Waynesboro in September. He was headed to a doctor's appointment in Wayne Heights Tuesday morning. "I think this is going to be very convenient," he said.

Stanley Davis, 77, of West North Street, was on his way to Kmart and Blockbuster Video in the Waynesboro Mall. He was going to shop, then catch the return bus home.

"I usually ride twice a week," he said. "I missed it when it was gone."

Don Hoffman drove the bus Tuesday. He's been driving transit authority buses for six years. He said ridership in Waynesboro is up since the service was resumed.

The bus begins all three Waynesboro runs at Trinity House. The first leaves at 9:14 a.m., the second at 10:48 a.m. and the afternoon runs starts there at 1:05 p.m.

Each run takes a little more than an hour, Hoffman said.

The only complaint from the riders Tuesday was the need for another afternoon run so they don't have to do their shopping and errands in the morning.

"If you get off the bus on the afternoon run it doesn't come back to pick you up," said Hilda Burns, 80, another Trinity House resident.

Hoffman said the afternoon run has the fewest riders.

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