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Midstate transit authorities seek answers to declining ridership


(Harrisburg) — Fewer people in the midstate are choosing to take the bus. The transportation authority for Berks and Lancaster County is hoping an upcoming survey will help explain why.

Berks County buses provided 2.8 million rides in the last fiscal year, an 11 percent drop since 2012.

David Kilmer, the Executive Director of South Central Transit Authority, says ridership is also down in Lancaster County. He said sustained low gas prices may play a role, but he doesn’t understand why the improved economy isn’t helping bring more riders on board.

“And I’m not sure what’s happening with that, because it usually does. When the economy improves and unemployment goes down we usually see an increase in ridership, but we’re not at the present time,” Kilmer said.

Capital Area Transit provided 2.3 million rides in Dauphin and Cumberland counties last year. A spokesman says that’s down overall, though ridership among students and seniors has increased.

York County-based rabbittransit has also seen a slight decline over the past three years, though ridership on fixed routes stayed above 1.6 million. 

South Central Transit will survey riders next month to see where service can improve, and if there is a desire for buses to start traveling between Berks and Lancaster counties. As part of a new Transit Development Plan, Kilmer says they will also work with the business community to identify possible new routes to employment centers.

“We need to identify is there a location or a pocket of employment where we could take people to,” Kilmer said, “Because honestly, I don’t think people are going to ride if we just bring them up from Lancaster and drop them off in downtown Reading and then they have to transfer to another bus.”

The development plan is expected to take about ten months. In the short term, Kilmer is hoping to shore up ridership in Berks County by offering 25-cent bus rides until the end of October. 

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