LATS may add night run, more hours
MOUNT CARMEL - A night run, extended hours and new buses could be coming down the road for the Lower Anthracite Transportation Systems (LATS), said Executive Director Megan Janolek Friday.
Changes to the bus system are pending completion later this year of a Transit Development Plan (TDP) by consultant Michael Baker Corporation, of Harrisburg, she said.
The TDP would provide LATS, a government-funded entity managed by Mount Carmel Borough and designed to provide affordable public transportation in eastern Northumberland County, with recommendations of future plans based on studies of the system and interviews of riders over the last year.
Janolek has been pushing for a Saturday night run between Mount Carmel and Shamokin as a DUI deterrent.
The idea is endorsed by borough Police Chief Todd Owens.
Northumberland County has 500 to 600 DUI arrests a year, according to Assistant District Attorney William Cole, who is also borough solicitor.
Janolek is also pushing for longer hours. Currently, the weekday runs are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but she wants the buses to run to 6 p.m. for those who work during the day.
Local residents might also be hearing and seeing more advertisements about LATS.
"We're looking to advertise on the radio and on the side of the buses. We're trying to get the word out there," she said.
But it looks like the word has already spread.
More people have been calling to find out what LATS is, and the ridership has nearly doubled from 1,622 people in January to 3,221 in August, she said. The month-to-month numbers are: February, 1,636; March, 2,005; April, 2,616; May, 2,391; June, 2,300; and July, 2,916.
The buses run two six-day routes regularly, and a third route to Knoebels Amusement Resort was added during the summer. LATS also connects to the Schuylkill Transit System in Ashland, and makes trips to the Susquehanna Valley Mall near Selinsgrove.
All things considered, with more operating hours and more riders, LATS is running on less funding than it was a year ago.
It was recently approved by PennDOT to receive $495,000 in grant money. Last year, it was $517,000.
If LATS is recommended to expand in the TDP, Janolek can request more funding.
Additionally, LATS has $327,000 in state money to use for new buses, and Janolek said she and borough manager Edward T. Cuff will be shopping for them in Harrisburg next week.
Three buses at a starting price of $126,835 each could be in the borough within six months, Janolek said.
The three 29-seat 2003 Thomas Transit Buses the borough currently owns are past their life expectancy, she said.
Janolek, who was appointed as LATS executive director in July 2012, has been praised by borough council members for better record-keeping, identifying concerns and changing LATS routes for better time and efficiency that has led to higher ridership and fare revenue.
At Thursday night's borough council meeting, councilmen again complimented Janolek and Coal Township-based Catawese Coach Lines, which has been operating LATS since January and was officially approved as the LATS service provider for this fiscal year in June.
"Everyone involved is doing a good job," Vice President Leroy "Chico" Moser said.
The borough switched to Catawese earlier this year, ending a 28-year relationship with Kulpmont-based King Coal Tours after Janolek and borough council President Tony Matulewicz identified what they said were discrepancies in King Coal billing. Council asked borough police to investigate. William Milbrand, Catawese Coach owner and president, goes "over and above" for LATS, Matulewicz said.
The Shamokin and Mount Carmel routes run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Each ride is $1. Children under the age of 4 ride for free, and children ages 5 to 10 ride for half price.
Seniors over 65 ride free, because of programs subsidized by the Pennsylvania Lottery. Funding for LATS comes mostly from federal and state grants through PennDOT and the Lottery Senior Citizen Free Transit Fund.
For a full schedule, call 339-3956 or look for LATS on Facebook.