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Editorial: Need driving transportation authorities together

Pardon the puns, but it looks like the Red Rose Transit Authority and the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority are on the right road — mapping out a future that calls for the two entities to enter the merge lane and cruise from there to heightened efficiency and service.

A merger would benefit employers, workers and other taxpayers. The primary aim is to reduce administrative costs. But the streamlined transit agency would benefit from the state’s groundbreaking Act 89 transportation bill, which offers some incentives for mass transit agencies willing to take this step. Cost-savings from consolidation could be rewarded by a reduced local match for up to five years to obtain the same amount of state funding as before.

That would mean more money for enhanced and expanded services.

Mass transit outside Pennsylvania’s two major metro areas is often a near-orphan when it comes to transportation funding and planning. Indeed, in more rural areas, many question the need at all.

In the growing midstate, however, more businesses — and more commuters — cross county lines every day. People and goods travel from York and Adams counties to Harrisburg. Lancaster residents work in Reading and York, and vice versa. Routes 30, 83 and 283 are clogged in both directions every workday morning and evening. Our highway system wasn’t built to handle such heavy traffic, and better bus availability would ease the situation for everyone, not to mention help our air quality.

For some time, the midstate’s transit authorities have been reaching across those arbitrary municipal lines. For example, York Adams Transportation Authority, which does business as rabbittransit, offers express service into the capital city and even into Maryland, while Red Rose runs eight times a day into York. With the opening of two big e-commerce fulfillment centers near Elizabethtown and near Gap, with their hundreds of jobs, there is an opportunity to serve more riders and support businesses by broadening their hiring pools. A more robust, unified regional transit system would attract and retain more users.

The Red Rose-Berks merger requires a number of approvals before it can happen, but they hope to get the deal done in early 2015. We wish them success and urge those responsible for the midstate’s many other transportation agencies to follow their progress closely. We would like to see more of them explore the kind of opportunity that Red Rose and Berks have identified for themselves.

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