CATA Outlines Route Changes, Uber-Like Pilot Program At Borough Council Meeting
CATA General Manager Louwana Oliva outlined several changes, including a shortened route and an Uber-like “microtransit” program, to Centre County’s public transportation system at the State College Borough Council work session Monday.
Oliva cited a recent study conducted by the organization that found that its G Route, which currently runs through Halfmoon Township and toward Stormstown, serves an unsustainable number of riders. Based on this information, Oliva said CATA will shorten the G Route within the next fiscal year.
“We have not been able to maintain any kind of ridership out there,” Oliva said, noting that the segment cost CATA approximately $50 per rider as opposed to the average $3.
The route will soon be cut to run between Geisinger Grays Woods and its current endpoint of State College. Funds used to service the Halfmoon area will be redistributed at the next local match distribution.
Oliva also outlined CATA’s plans for a pilot program that would allow riders within specific, low-traffic areas surrounding Bellefonte to schedule personalized rides on demand.
The new microtransit service, dubbed CATAGo, will allow riders to schedule van rides via phone call or app to any location inside the following designated area surrounding Bellefonte:
Riders can also choose to be dropped off or picked up at three “anchor” stations that have high frequency service to State College — the Benner Pike Walmart, University stations, and Mount Nittany Medical Center. Riders will be able to cover their fares in cash or via mobile payment.
State College is one of 40 cities testing the new model, which is derived by the Ford-owned company Transloc, and one of three municipalities using the system to downsize its coverage instead of expand it, according to Oliva. The vans will have two wheelchair-accessible seats, and unlike the CATARide system, rides do not need to be scheduled a day in advance. Driver schedules and pickup times will be updated in real time.
CATA plans to roll out the new program using four vans in January, and will retain its fixed route service throughout the first stages of the program before considering rollback. Oliva indicated that CATA may eventually split apart its XB and XG routes if the program is successful.
“[The study] found that the folks on the XG Route, which are more Pleasent Gap, they’re really only using the route…going toward State College,” Oliva said. “The folks in Bellefonte are actually using the buses to circulate around Bellefonte.”
Council members expressed their support for the new project and asked for updates on CATA’s sustainability efforts. Though Oliva could not answer questions on the comparative emissions of the CATAGo vans, she said that the organization was exploring possibilities for more sustainable fuel options for its busses.
“We’re excited to be part of the pilot and to be trying this, to be one of 40 cities to try this,” Oliva said.
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