Commuter line sees ‘huge response’

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Posted: Sunday, June 26, 2011 9:58 pm

A new commuter bus service from Gettysburg to Harrisburg has surpassed expectations in its first month of service, with buses at 50 percent capacity.

Transit operators expect patronage to continue to grow this summer, with rising gas prices in the area.

“Will it cost you an arm and a leg? No,” says Rabbit Transit Director Richard Farr. “It will save you an arm and a leg.”

The service began June 6, with two lines running from Gettysburg to Harrisburg daily. Two buses traverse the 40-mile trip between the historic Civil War town and Pennsylvania capital, beginning at 6:05 a.m. The service line starts at the Gettysburg Transfer Center, currently the Majestic Theater, to a park-and-ride location at Gateway Theater. It continues to a park-and-ride area at the Heidlersburg Fire Station, to a Dillsburg park-and-ride, before making its way to downtown Harrisburg.

The fare costs $3.50 a day, with discounted monthly and 11-ride passes available. Unlimited rides are available for $95 monthly. No senior discounts are available, as the bus service surpasses the 34-mile limit.

“It’s really designed to get people who work at 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. into the city,” explains Farr.

Farr describes the $3.50 fare as “your anecdote to high gas prices,” which are reaching $4 in the area, per gallon. He also noted that the commuter service saves “parking expenses” for commuters who work in Harrisburg, and that the bus service is a “better way to get around.”

“As you get to Harrisburg, traffic backs up,” says Farr, estimating that the bus line reduces congestion by 75 vehicles each day.

The bus line departs Gettysburg at 6:05 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., from the Transfer Center at the Majestic Theater. Eventually, a new bus station will be built atop land that is now home to a former Petro Fueling Station. Construction is expected to commence this summer, with a soft opening planned by Remembrance Day weekend in November.

The buses arrive in Harrisburg on Monday through Friday at 7:20 a.m. or 7:45 a.m.

Harrisburg stops include the train station, Capitol complex, HACC campus  and other sites. Two buses depart Harrisburg in the afternoon, to take riders home. 

“It fits nicely into a new way of vacationing,” Farr says regarding the services. “It’s an economical way of getting from Gettysburg to Harrisburg..

The first month of the service has received what Farr calls a “huge response.”

Farr calls the bus line the first of its kinds in Adams County. The buses are designed differently than the current Freedom Transit trolleys, that are utilized as the mass transit system in Gettysburg. The buses are “modern-looking and sleek,” per Farr, with a black paint-job and “big red” Rabbit Transit lettering.

All buses contain 33 seats.

The bus line evolved out of a local survey, which found a need for the transit service. According to transit organizers, more than 150 people were surveyed, with buses at 50 percent capacity, currently. Farr anticipates that the commuter service could expand from Gettysburg to York, if patronage continues to grow. Approximately 11,000 people cross county borders each day for work.

The two-year commuter service demonstration project is financed with Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant money. Buses feature a WiFi service, and a “rider alert system,” that sends emails and text messages about unexpected changes, as well as Smartphone apps for tracking the buses in real time. The service includes an Emergency Ride Home program, guaranteeing registered participants who commute to work at least twice a week a free ride home, up to six times a year, in case of an emergency, in a reimbursement program.

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  • Chuck Ditzler posted at 10:27 pm on Mon, Jun 27, 2011.

    Chuck Ditzler Posts: 8

    More people taking public transportation also benefits car drivers by reducing traffic, thus saving time and making driving more efficient. Fewer cars also reduces road wear. The current ridership numbers, though, won't have much impact on congestion.

    Other advantages for riders: savings are not simply for gas but also depreciation on the car by not adding mileage. People who need to use intercity transportation in Harrisburg, such as Amtrak or flights at the airport, might be able to take this bus.

    The lack of Greyhound bus service for quite some time has made it hard to get in or out of G-burg unless you drive or get a ride. This has sometimes made it impossible for me to return to town to see my grandmother, so I wish that the service had existed long ago.

    Thanks for this article, but it would have been better if it had also included the afternoon departure times in Harrisburg.

  • Former Gettysburger posted at 8:36 am on Mon, Jun 27, 2011.

    Former Gettysburger Posts: 60

    Living in a city where public trans is a constant drain on funding, I wonder what will happen with this bus service when the grant money runs out. I have a guess, and it goes something like this:

    1) the agency running the bus will demand funding, and possibly get it at the expense of people not riding the bus, or:
    2) they won't get any more funding, they'll hike the rates, and nobody will ride the bus

    For the folks who always like to start things up on other peoples' money, why don't you tell us what % of the total costs of this bus service (garage and maintenance fees included, as well as cost of the buses) are vs. the fares received.

    Where I am, the fares pay about 1/4th to 1/3rd of the cost of actually running the buses. Does that sound like a good idea to anyone? I'd bet this one is lower than that, as it costs me that much (or a little more) to ride the bus 7 miles each way on an established transit system.

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