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Riders come to grips over end of bus line

April 01, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Learning that the Chambersburg Transit Authority will be parking its trolleys for good by June 30, Walter O. Keith wondered how he will get around.

"The doctor doesn't want me riding my bicycle," Keith said, although he admitted he takes it for an occasional spin.

"I never had a car," said Keith, who turned 91 on Sunday. The Chambersburg man hopped on the bus a few stops earlier and was not going anywhere in particular on this Wednesday.

When the CTA 30, a 24-pass-enger bus, rolled up to Chambersburg Mall in Scotland, Pa., Keith asked driver Howell Hammond if he would be coming back later.

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"I will if I have to," Howell answered. Keith decided to stay on the bus, only getting off briefly at the Summit Health stop to buy a newspaper.

"We have a couple of riders like that," said Hammond, a retired Mack Trucks worker who has been driving four years for the authority. "They get on and take a ride. Socialize."

As the bus went through a two-hour loop around the Chambersburg area, the number of riders at any one time fluctuated from one to eight. Most of them are regulars and on a first-name basis with Hammond and each other. This micro-community on wheels is a necessity in their daily lives, several of them said.

"It's the only way I've got to go get groceries," said Raymond Crist, 66, of Chambersburg, who was heading home from Kmart and Giant on Wayne Avenue. "I don't have any backup."

Keith has four children, 17 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, so he said he probably will be able to get rides. Others, like Crist, do not have family or others to provide transportation.

"I wish it would stay on. I have no other transportation, either," said Dave Shaffer, 75, of Chambersburg, who was coming back from getting a haircut at the mall.

"A lot of us who can get around want to get around during the day," said Etta Wade. Many friends and family, however, have jobs and family obligations of their own.

"The trolley made us independent. We didn't have to ask people to take us places," said Madge Roe, who moved to Chambersburg from Martinsburg, W.Va., several years ago. The transit system was one reason Roe retired here, she said.

"In the summertime, I ride the trolley more," said Jean Powell of Chambersburg. She usually takes the bus on Wednesdays when it goes to the mall so she can get her hair done and have lunch. "It's just something to do," she said.

"Now, I'll have to find another way to get to the doctor's," said Eleanor Lovett of Chambersburg, who has been in a wheelchair since suffering a stroke three years ago. The Franklin County Integrated Transportation System can provide rides to physician appointments, "but you have to call two days ahead" to get picked up, she said.

Hammond, originally from Hagerstown, said the Chambersburg route averages about 40 riders a day. The bus also picks up disabled workers from Occupational Services Inc. and migrant students from an after-school program on a contract basis.

Most senior citizens ride for free and no one getting on during this run paid the full fare of $1.25.

The service is not free to Chambersburg and the other municipalities it serves, however. The borough council Monday indicated it will not participate in a recovery plan to keep the debt-ridden system going.

Borough Manager Eric Oyer told the council that the local share of the system's debt and operational costs would be about $1 million over five years if it signed on to a recovery plan commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Waynesboro and Greene, Guilford, Hamilton and Washington townships would share that burden, but taxpayers in those municipalities would be paying about $16 per ride to subsidize the system, Oyer said.

"I don't know what I'll do when the trolley's not running," Wade said. "Maybe something will happen. A miracle."

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