Fixed Route Transit
PennDOT’s initial South Central Pennsylvania Transit Regionalization Study – called Phase II -identified nearly $2 million in savings for Cumberland County over 10 years, with comparable savings for other counties. In spite of this, some CAT funding partners, along with CAT management and the CAT Board, balked at the idea. Instead, they decided to pursue smaller scale consolidations or shared service arrangements within the existing splinted regional transit structure.
On October 26, 2016, PennDOT released a supplemental report covering Cumberland, Dauphin and Lebanon Counties, and the City of Harrisburg, as part of its Phase II Study. The study identified many benefits to even these smaller scale consolidations. In the latest PennDOT report, a consolidation of Cumberland County and Harrisburg transit services with Central PA Transit Authority (CPTA, dba rabbitransit , the County’s provider of shared ride services) would produce more than enough savings in operational costs to waive local match requirements for 5 years. The study showed as well that a merger between Dauphin and Lebanon County could come close enough to achieving sufficient savings so that PennDOT would waive their local match.
Even as consolidation, and the end of CAT as currently configured, seems more inevitable, what has to be done to ensure uninterrupted service in the meantime? This is where the question of funding comes in. Last June, Cumberland County Commissioners predicated its funding for the second half of 2016 on CAT’s supporting regionalization. The preference would be to do so as a group, per PennDOT’s Phase II plan. Failing that, Cumberland Commissioners insisted that funding partners who wanted to pursue consolidation outside of CAT be permitted to do so without being deprived of state and federal transportation funds controlled by CAT under the Municipal Authorities Act. A target date for consolidation or withdrawal of July 1, 2017 was set by the Cumberland Commissioners. Understanding that time is needed to implement new transit systems, funding for 2017 was made conditional on continued progress on these two issues.
This past October 28, CAT Board Chairman Eric Bugaile inquired of the Cumberland County Commissioners if they intended to provide local match funding for CAT in 2017. The response from the County was that our position had not changed. At a recent meeting with regional transit stakeholders, the County made clear that it would provide 2017 funding for CAT on a strictly transitional basis. This would be to give all CAT funding partners time to develop a transition plan while ensuring commuter services are not disrupted. A follow up meeting is planned for mid-December to define the terms and conditions for withdrawal from CAT, including the obligations of all parties involved. Part of that discussion will be to set a date for the next phase of consolidation. Once those elements are in place, Cumberland County’s decision on funding CAT after December 31, 2016, will follow.
To ensure that fixed route services are not interrupted, the County has stated it will pay its share of local match funding for the remaining 2 quarters of 2016. Funding after December 31, 2016 will depend on progress towards regionalization. Transition will occur by July 1, 2017 and Cumberland County remains committed that this transition will be seamless with no interruption of services for commuters.
It is important to understand that this decision was not a sudden one. Cumberland County has been actively exploring transportation options since 2009. After multiple meetings, studies and fact finding sessions, Cumberland County is taking action and selecting an option that best fits the needs of our community.
2009- Cumberland County convenes a meeting of Planning Directors, Transit Operators and Metropolitan Planning Organizations to examine opportunities for regionalization
2011- PA Governor's Transportation Funding Advisory Committee called for an examination of the potential to form regional transit agencies to address the statewide transportation funding crisis. Group including Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, and York forms to examine the issue. PennDOT agrees to fund study.
2012- Phase I Study Released - shows $4.6 million in recurring administrative savings if York, Cumberland, Lebanon, Lancaster, Dauphin, Berks, and Perry were to merge.
2013- Pennsylvania Act 89 incentivizes transit consolidation by allowing counties to lower or eliminate local match requirements commensurate with regionalization savings
2014- Phase II Study begins examining savings of regionalization with York, Franklin, Cumberland, Lebanon, and Dauphin (without Berks and Lancaster who already merged). Shows $2 million of potential savings for Cumberland
2015- July- Officials from mid-state counties attend meeting at Fort Hunter. BARTA in Berks County and Red Rose Transit in Lancaster review consolidation and formation of South Central Transit Authority for management services. The two counties have already realized combined savings of an estimated $4.8 million over five years. Learn more about this meeting
2015- November- Cumberland County issues letter to CAT defining Cumberland's 2016 allocation. Future funding conditional on CAT's success in working to reduce administrative and operational expenses
2015- Decemeber- Phase II Study released. The study provides 2 options- Single Regional Transit Authority and Share Services Entity
2016- April - Dauphin County, Cumberland County, City of Harrisburg and Lebanon County meet with PennDOT and PennDOT to model two “phased” transit regionalizations consisting of joining of Dauphin, Lebanon and City of Harrisburg OR Cumberland County and City of Harrisburg both joining CPTA. Reports of reviewing these models are still pending
2016- Funding condition set by Cumberland not met (instead 10% increase in CAT's expenses). Cumberland County makes the decision to go with a Single Regional Transit Authority and move to CPTA
2016- October- PennDOT releases supplemental reporter reviewing mini-consolidation option in which Cumberland service would shift to Central Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (CPTA) and Dauphin County would combine public transit services with Lebanon County's provider- Lebanon Transit. This option would still bring savings to the region, though less than anticapted under original Phase II recommendation. Cumberland County would still see a complete elimination of local subsidy for 5 years. Dauphin/Lebanon would see a decrease in their subsidy.
- More for less. Transit consumers will enjoy expended services that require fewer tax dollars to operate
- Continuation of successful existing transit routes that connect residents to employment, shopping, medical appointments, and other necessities of daily living. Regionalization savings can be reinvested into the transit systems, enabling new routes and expanded services hours without increasing fares
- Regionalization leverages best in class technology that empowers riders to enjoy real time access to bus schedules, arrival times, and service changes all on a smart phone app
- Improved bus routing that efficiently connects riders to popular destinations in Cumberland County and decreases trip duration by eliminating the need to transfer to another bus in downtown Harrisburg
- Access to regional mobility call center that empowers customers to plan trips using a variety of regional transportation options, all with a single phone call
- Borderless transportation that enables riders to travel to out-of-county locations without the need to transfer to another provider's bus.