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Service offers an option for Pa. riders

July 12, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

The Chambersburg Transit Authority is expected to close down Friday, but there is a public transportation option that has been around longer, has more vehicles, covers a larger area, transports more people and can offer comparably priced services.

The Franklin County Integrated Transportation System began with one vehicle operated by a subcontractor in 1975 and now operates 20 handicapped-accessible vans, said Beverly Freeman, the system's director, who has been with the system since 1977.

After asking last month that participating municipalities contribute their local matches to keep the authority in operation until Oct. 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation earlier this month announced it was withdrawing its financial support.

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"They have cut off our funding and everything," Authority Vice President Sam Kuhn said Thursday. "We have a few dollars in the bank, but we're not allowed to touch them."

Since the authority reduced service last year to three days a week in Chambersburg and two days a week in the Waynesboro, Pa., area, it has provided about 1,000 trips a month, according to authority figures.

By contrast, the county system provided 57,459 trips to 1,159 people in 2003, Freeman said.

The system uses vans that accommodate up to 12 passengers, which means the part-time drivers are not required to have commercial driver's licenses, unlike those driving larger vehicles, she said.

While the authority runs fixed routes in Chambersburg and Waynesboro, the county system covers all of Franklin County on a demand-and-response basis. Those needing a ride, however, must call at least 24 hours ahead of time to schedule a ride.

"We are a door-to-door service, so we pick you up right at your door and take you right to where you're going" said Freeman. For anyone older than 60, the cost is 50 cents each way, with the Pennsylvania Lottery or the county's Area Agency on Aging subsidizing the rides, she said.

That accounts for 72 percent of ridership, according to county figures. Some senior citizens qualify for free rides if they meet eligibility guidelines set by the county's Area Agency on Aging, Freeman said.

For someone younger than 60, the cost of a one-way ride is steep at $10, Freeman said, but only half a dozen clients routinely pay full price. In most cases, she said, 13 different agencies pick up all or part of the fare.

Medical assistance clients, which account for 12 percent of riders, pay nothing for transportation to a medical appointment, Freeman said. Even if they drive their own vehicles, Freeman said people on medical assistance can be reimbursed for mileage through the system.

Not all trips are to medical appointments, Freeman said. Riders can go to the nearest grocery store, barbershop or beauty salon on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and the system also provides transportation to senior activity centers in the county.

People going to medical appointments should schedule them between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., Freeman said. The county system, however, does not provide rides to work, Freeman said.

Michael Jamison, executive director for Occupational Services Inc. (OSI) of Chambersburg, said the authority provided transportation to five handicapped workers through a contract with Franklin-Fulton County Mental Health/Mental Retardation, but now OSI will have to provide its own transportation.

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