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CATA ridership on the rise in Bellefonte

BELLEFONTE — The buses are rolling through Bellefonte — and they won’t be stopping anytime soon.

At a recent borough council meeting, Louwana Oliva, the general manager of the Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) gave a presentation about ridership in Bellefonte and Pleasant Gap. According to Oliva, through June 30, ridership on the XB route is up 10.3 percent — or 3,700 additional trips. A total of 39 percent of the XB routes originate in Bellefonte while 32 percent of the riders are getting off in Bellefonte. Those numbers indicate that the majority of the riders are making round trips.

“We’re not sure what’s driving the ridership growth. We’re happy to see it, of course. We don’t know if maybe there’s more awareness of the service that is causing it. Possibly, the people who are moving to Bellefonte now have access to the service,” Oliva said.

While CATA’s Bellefonte numbers are on the rise, that isn’t the case in Pleasant Gap. According to Oliva, those numbers are on the decline.

The XG route’s ridership — which covers the Pleasant Gap area, including The Oaks — is down five percent, Oliva said. Council member Gina Thompson asked Oliva why ridership has declined on the XG route. However, she could not give specifics.

“One of the things that I do know is there have been some changes to the Penn State programs. When we look at our data for the XG portion, we see a lot of folks that work for Penn State and buy the pass through the Penn State program. So we don’t know if some of those changes are affecting the ridership on that route,” Oliva said.

In addition to her presentation about ridership numbers, Oliva asked the borough for its portion of the local match — $26,451. That includes a jump in the operating local match of $2,064 and the capital local match of $152.

Also at the meeting, Derek Sherman talked about CATA’s microtransit program. It’s a pilot program that would allow riders within specific, low-traffic areas in and around Bellefonte to schedule personalized rides on demand. Riders will be able to schedule van rides via phone call or app to any location inside designated areas surrounding Bellefonte.

“Our first van is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday we’ll get that all decaled up and you’ll see the vans as we start testing the system out prior to launch and we’re hopefully working all the bugs out as we can. Everything is going along well,” Sherman said.

The Microtransit program competes with programs such as Uber and Lyft.

Sherman said that CATA is currently looking for part-time drivers to take part in the program.

“If you have anybody who is looking for part-time work, we’re more than happy to have them come in and work with us as we start training,” Sherman said.

There will be a ribbon cutting in Bellefonte on Wednesday, Jan. 8 to launch the program. It officially begins on Jan. 11, 2020.

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