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CATA: More Transit-Service Cuts Likely in State College Area

on February 28, 2011 5:13 PM

A dreary financial outlook is likely to mean more public-transit service reductions for the Centre Area Transportation Authority over the next three years, CATA officials said Monday.

CATA's current expense sheet is "not sustainable long-term, even under the most optimistic projections," CATA spokeswoman Jacqueline Sheader said at an authority board meeting. She cited declines in the government funding that helps sustain the transit authority -- including state operating assistance.

Some relatively modest service reductions already took effect in January.

"For next year, staff has been carefully reviewing our fare structure while looking at potential new revenue sources and any other savings throughout the organization," a CATA statement reads. "A preliminary look at next year's budget indicates that we will need to once again reduce services."

About half of CATA's annual operating budget comes from fare revenue. The rest comes from local, state and federal support. As those governmental sources are expected to wane, the CATA staff has developed a tentative, incremental proposal for trimming service.

It would gradually step down some service levels over several years, but retain "flexibility to adjust, as necessary ... should funding track differently than currently projected," the statement reads.

These are the service cuts tentatively being considered for the next three years:

  • Elimination of some or all Saturday service on the B, H, K, W, P and X routes.
  • Elimination of the weekday midday trips on the C, F and Z routes.
  • Reduction of frequency on the N, R and V routes with a shift to more express service between the core destinations.
  • Elimination of the AP route.
  • Reduction of frequency and operating hours on the Red Link.
  • Elimination of all service on selected holidays, such as the Fourth of July.

Those concepts are expected to undergo more consideration at public CATA board gatherings in the coming weeks. The CATA budget for the next fiscal year, now in the works, will go into effect July 1.

"The picture's not pretty," CATA General Manager Hugh Mose said. "As we move ahead, the combination of the state's reduction in assistance and the recent revelation (of a federal funding cut) ... doesn't bode well for us.

"Of course, we've got costs that continue to rise, most dramatically with health care," he went on. "That's not a surprise. I think we're going to be in a spot where we're going to have a fairly significant reduction in service" for a couple years.

That reduction may persist until sales-tax revenue -- a source of mass-transit support -- resumes its growth or until "we see something occur in Harrisburg that may provide some additional support, as we would have expected from the tolling of Interstate 80 -- which never happened," Mose said. "I think, over the next couple of years, we're going to be very much in a retrenchment mode."

Two non-board, non-staff members spoke at the CATA board meeting Monday. One, Bellefonte resident Jolly Harris, advocated for tempered service cuts in the Bellefonte area, among other specific service suggestions. The other, Centre Volunteers in Medicine Director Cheryl White, lobbied for a restoration of a bus stop outside the CVIM facility.

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