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What a shame bus service has to end Dec. 31

It looks like the City of Lock Haven will again become the only Third Class city in Pennsylvania without public bus service.

With grant funding running out amid PennDOT running into a massive financial shortfall caused by the pandemic’s lessening of gasoline consumption — thus the receipt of the wholesale gasoline tax — the bus operator, River Valley Transit, said PennDOT ordered that “the service has to stop on Dec. 31.”

We expect current and pending road projects to be “ended” as well.

What a shame.

Sure, ridership has fallen.

But what do you expect during a pandemic?

PennDOT recently said it’s facing a shortfall of upward of $400 million to fund road and bridge projects due to decreased tax revenues.

In cased you missed it on Page A1 on Wednesday, The Express reported that Adam Winder, RVT general manager, told Williamsport City Council that the bus runs from Williamsport to Jersey Shore to Lock Haven had an average of eight passengers daily, and a cost of $150 per bus.

He said he was not sure but thought it might be due to COVID-19.

“PennDOT has decided that service has to stop on Dec. 31, and may be re-evaluated if the virus slows or ends,” Winder said. “Clinton County commissioners were made aware of the end of the service by PennDOT.”

Council members asked the River Valley Transit executives what that meant for the city users.

“No more runs to Lock Haven and the popular shopping district at Mill Hall,” Winder said. “Our biggest ticket item was to SuperWalmart in Mill Hall. Jumping on three buses from Williamsport to get there is not feasible at this time.”

RVT has also pared its budget and staffing due to the pandemic.

The bus service was initially requested by Lock Haven University. Ultimately, several industries, including at the Clinton County Industrial Park, chimed in to support it to help employees get to work.

We’d love to hear from the local advisory committee on its opinions of the termination of service and any efforts or thoughts on bringing it back at some point, perhaps on a more limited scale?

It remains to be seen if, down the road, the decision-makers believe public bus service is important to residents, employees, businesses and industries here.

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