Cumberland County officials will move ahead on plans for a broader regional transportation system with or without Capital Area Transit’s participation. But they would prefer to have the Harrisburg-based agency on board.
Citing millions of dollars in savings they say will come from joining forces with other counties, Cumberland’s commissioners plan to continue paying into the CAT system for the rest of this year.
Funding after Dec. 31, however, “will depend on progress towards regionalization.”
What kind of progress? In a statement released this morning, Cumberland gives two options:
• “That a competent and mutually agreed upon third party be placed in charge of CAT management and operations” in order to create a single regional transit entity for the region, as previously recommended by the state Department of Transportation, or “mini” consolidations bringing together neighboring transit agencies.
• Failing that, Cumberland County and any other current CAT funding partner be granted permission to withdraw from CAT as of July 1, 2017, to implement other options for its fixed-route transit needs.
“Cumberland County is moving forward with regionalization of public transit as recommended by PennDOT and we look forward to working with our colleagues in surrounding counties,” Board Chairman Vince DiFilippo said.
“This is a unique opportunity for cost savings and improved service to our residents. It is too great of an opportunity to let pass,” DiFillippo added.
Cumberland County also has made it clear that its preference is to join the Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, as The York Adams Transportation Authority — which does business as rabbittransit — formally became late last year.
Efforts to reach CAT officials were not immediately successful this morning.
CAT currently provides fixed route transit services in Cumberland County in addition to fixed route and paratransit operations in Harrisburg and Dauphin County.
Cumberland County last July appointed rabbittransit as its coordinator for shared-ride services, which provide transportation to the elderly and disabled.
“In its first year, CPTA/rabbittransit has improved service and reduced the cost of providing special transport services to eligible Cumberland County residents,” the county’s statement said.
Cumberland officials argue that rabbittransit/CPTA could provide fixed-route bus service much more cheaply than CAT. The county says it pays $2.18 per resident for CAT’s services, while York and Adams counties pay 77 cents per resident for rabbittransit services.
PennDOT has proposed a single authority to provide fixed route transit service for Cumberland, Dauphin, York, Adams, Franklin Counties, along with the city of Harrisburg, under CPTA.
Cumberland officials say a PennDOT study estimates that Cumberland County alone would save about $2 million in transportation subsidies over 10 years through CPTA operation.
“If all eight jurisdictions were to participate, the study estimates $16.6 million in combined local match savings for the region over 10 years,” the county says.
Cumberland argues that such a plan would not only result in cost savings and improved service, but would not reduce drivers or mechanics or interfere with existing labor agreements.
If Dauphin County were to pursue a closer relationship with Lebanon Transit, as has been discussed, Cumberland County’s preference “is to merge its fixed route service with CPTA,” the county said, adding that “PennDOT is currently assessing the cost savings and service potential of these so-called mini-consolidations.”
“With Dauphin looking to Lebanon, and Cumberland towards York, CAT as currently configured may have outlived its purpose,” Cumberland’s statement added.