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CATA to suspend routes

STATE COLLEGE — For those who use public transportation in Centre County, things just got interesting.

Faced with “severe staffing shortages,” the Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) announced on Monday that it will temporarily suspend three routes, end service early on two others and reduce frequencies for five more.

In a news release, CATA said it will suspend the F (Pine Grove), G (Gray’s Woods) and S (Science Park) routes beginning Monday, Sept. 20. Starting the same day, the service on the K Route (Cato Park) will end at approximately 7 p.m., instead of the current 10 p.m. time, Monday through Friday.

Beginning Oct. 4, P Route (Boalsburg) service will end at approximately 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Service on the N (Martin Street/Aaron Drive), R (Waupelani Drive), V (Vairo Boulevard), W (Valley Vista), and HM (Nittany Mall/Toftrees) routes will drop to hourly after 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Adjusted timetables will be made available at catabus.com as they are finalized.

“Similar to many businesses locally and across the country, we are experiencing unprecedented staffing shortages, CATA CEO and executive director Louwana Oliva said in a statement. “CATA currently finds itself in the situation of not having enough employees to cover scheduled transportation service.”

Oliva added that CATA has “all hands on deck” and that every staff member with a commercial drivers license is being asked to get behind the wheel. But staffing levels are too low to handle any type of absence.

“If this continues, in some cases our only option will be to cancel bus trips on the spot, leading to service reliability issues,” she said in the release. “Think of it as similar to rolling blackouts that occur when demand is too high for the electrical grid. If we don’t attempt to shift staffing resources, our customers could be impacted with no notice.”

After reinstating most services that had been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CATA has seen a surge in mid-day ridership levels, having to turn away riders when buses become full. Some service can’t meet demand while other routes are seeing very low usage, Oliva said.

“Where we can, we are reducing the frequency of trips, but maintaining some level of service where ridership levels are approximately 300 passengers per hour,” she said. “While we understand that everyone’s bus service is important, we need to make difficult decisions to shift available staffing resources away from low ridership routes and times of day to meet overall demand and serve the most people.

“The result is these temporary service changes while we continue to work on bus driver recruitment.”

Anyone interested in becoming a CATA bus driver can apply at catabus.com/careers.

Those impacted by the service changes can contact CATA’s Customer Service Center at (814) 238-2282 to discuss possible alternatives.

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