Testimony: Luzerne County Transit Authority Employees Worked In Fear

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ROYALTON, PA — Employees at the Luzerne County Transportation Authority worked in constant fear of losing their jobs unless they fraudulently inflated ridership numbers, and the former chairman of the board knew about it years ago, according to testimony heard Monday.

Prosecutors began laying out their case against Executive Director Stanley J. Strelish, 60, and Operations Manager Robb Alan Henderson, 58, who were charged last month with conspiring to inflate senior citizen ridership numbers in the “ghost rider” scandal.

Both men, who are free on unsecured bond and remain suspended without pay, declined to comment following an all-day preliminary hearing held Monday before Magisterial District Judge David Judy. The hearing, which continues today, represents the first public testimony in the case.

Robert Turinski, former LCTA board chairman, testified that he suspected Strelish was inflating senior ridership numbers as far back as 2007.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/testimony-lcta-employees-worked-in-fear-1.1719124

LCTA Officials Placed On Leave After Charges

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two key Luzerne County Transportation Authority figures charged Wednesday in the “ghost rider” scandal have been placed on administrative leave pending an emergency board meeting next week, according to a memo leaked to the media.

Executive Director Stanley J. Strelish, 60, is facing charges including theft by deception, tampering with public records, unsworn falsification, false swearing and obstructing justice. Operations Manager Robb Alan Henderson, 58, is charged with conspiring to tamper with public records, aiding the commission of a crime and conspiring to obstruct justice.

Prosecutors say the men’s orders led drivers to count hundreds of thousands of riders who didn’t exist, resulting in millions of dollars in overfunding from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

According to a memo to the board from authority solicitor Joseph M. Blazosek, Strelish and Henderson were placed on administrative leave during a personnel committee meeting Wednesday pending board action at an emergency meeting set for 5 p.m. Tuesday. The memo does not disclose whether the leave is paid or unpaid, and Blazosek did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/lcta-officials-placed-on-leave-after-charges-1.1698699

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SEPTA Aims For Happier Riders, Unveils 5-Year Plan

SEPTA logo

SEPTA logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With increased state funding and stable ridership, SEPTA officials are unveiling a five-year plan to attract more riders, repair crumbling infrastructure, and improve customer satisfaction.

Having emerged from last year’s doomsday scenarios into a hopeful era of what SEPTA planners call “innovation, integration and renewal,” the officials on Tuesday outlined a blueprint for the future that will be presented to the agency’s board for approval in July.

Meeting with transit users and supporters at SEPTA’s Center City headquarters, Byron Comati, director of strategic planning, said legislative approval late last year of a $2.3 billion boost in statewide transportation funding allows SEPTA to plan more boldly.

By 2018, the additional state funding will mean a boost of about $400 million annually for SEPTA to repair bridges, buy new vehicles and upgrade stations and equipment.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/20140521_SEPTA_aims_for_happier_riders__unveils_5-year_plan.html#erJVxPXXeAuIyUU6.99

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Lehigh University South Side Initiative Looking To Get Campus Bus Into City

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton C...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northampton County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lehigh University runs buses to the Lehigh Valley Mall and The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley.

But not into South Side Bethlehem.

Some at Lehigh are looking to change that. It’s an idea that came out of an open community meeting held last month by Lehigh’s South Side Initiative.

“So many here at Lehigh depend on the bus or the bus system that wraps through the upper and lower campus,” said John Pettegrew, the initiative’s director. “It would just be a practical addition to include a route that goes into Third Street and possibly SteelStacks or any other destinations.”

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/index.ssf/2014/04/lehigh_university_south_side_i.html

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Cuts In Suburban Pittsburgh Bus Routes Changed Lives

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple years ago, when Gloria Jefferson of McKeesport wanted to go somewhere, she walked to a bus stop near her house.

Then, in 2011, her commute became much less convenient. During a round of cuts to fix a budget deficit, the Port Authority canceled her route, which ran through the middle of McKeesport. Now, Ms. Jefferson, who is 80, has to walk a mile downhill to another stop.

The walk is tough for her, especially when she’s carrying grocery bags. Sometimes, she pays for a ride there or avoids going places. She wonders whether she’ll still be able to make the walk when she gets older.

“Right now, I feel good. How long it’s going to last, I don’t know,” she said. “I keep on praying that one day they’ll turn it around and bring the bus back up the hill.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/transportation/2014/04/06/Cuts-in-suburban-bus-routes-changed-lives/stories/201404060065#ixzz2y9vjCoPz

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Gov. Corbett Announces Hundreds Of Additional Projects Due To Transportation Plan

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, PA – Gov. Tom Corbett today outlined more than 250 projects that will start work this year due to the state’s new transportation plan.

At least $2.1 billion will be invested into the state’s highway and bridge network — about $600 million more than what would have been available without the transportation bill Corbett signed last fall. Overall, more than 900 projects will get underway this year.

“This plan is creating safer roads, bridges and transit systems while at the same time saving 12,000 jobs and creating 50,000 new ones over the next five years – 18,000 jobs are expected to be created this year alone.” Corbett said. “We are putting these transportation investments to work quickly as we strive to build a stronger Pennsylvania both now and in the future.”

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1301350/Gov.-Corbett-announces-hundreds-of-additional-projects-due-to-transportation-plan

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Last Year’s Gridlock Looms Large Over Pirates’ Opener

PNC Park

PNC Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fans arriving for Opening Day on Monday will be getting an earlier start to tailgating around PNC Park, and so will police hoping to avoid last year’s gridlock — but not by much.

Police spokeswoman Sonya Toler said officers assigned to ease congestion and operate signals at the busiest intersections will start arriving at their posts at 10:30 a.m., at least 45 minutes earlier than last year.

But this year’s first pitch is about a half-hour earlier, about 1 p.m. Parking lots and garages open to tailgaters at 9 a.m., and the ballpark gates open at 11. Officials urge fans to have patience, use mass transit or park farther away from the ball field.

“If people can curtail their excitement with a little bit of patience, we’ll be able to help them get where they need to go,” Toler said.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/5830137-74/parking-pirates-fans#ixzz2xYokJ1U5
Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

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Mass Transit Ridership In 2013 Highest In 57 Years

Ridership on buses, trains and subways in 2013 was the highest in 57 years, the American Public Transportation Association said Monday.

The growth in transit ridership continued a 20-year trend attributed to higher gasoline prices, a shift by young adults away from automobiles, increased use of mobile technology, and the increasing allure of urban areas.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities,” said APTA president Michael Melaniphy.

In 2013, riders made 10.7 billion trips on U.S. public transit systems, up 1.1 percent from 2012. That was the most since 1956.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/20140311_Mass_transit_ridership_in_2013_highest_in_57_years.html#4DxdR5HbEf6VkPFv.99

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Double-Decker Train Cars For SEPTA?

SEPTA logo with text

SEPTA logo with text (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Things are looking up for regional rail.

In an attempt to increase passenger capacity, SEPTA is in the early stages of considering bi-level coaches. With an upstairs and a downstairs, these coaches could transport anywhere from 120 to 170 passengers. Most important to SEPTA, they would provide an efficient remedy to booming regional rail ridership. Silverliner Vs can seat 109 passengers.

Last year alone, SEPTA passengers took 36 million regional rail trips – a record high on the system that has seen 50 percent regional rail ridership growth in the last 15 years. Now, aided by Act 89 funding, SEPTA is looking to increase its capacity and better serve those customers. One way the authority plans to do so is to build up.

“The real elegant solution to dealing with capacity issues, the most efficient one is to utilize the infrastructure you have but go up in the air with the cars so you can increase seating,” said Jeff Knueppel, deputy general manager.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/Double-decker_train_cars_for_SEPTA_.html#KFDcsf7hhy75jl8B.99

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Barletta Eyes Train Between Scranton, Hazleton

English: Official portrait of Congressman Lou ...

English: Official portrait of Congressman Lou Barletta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Pardon me, Lou. Is that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton choo-choo?

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, fresh off his announcement that he will seek a third term in Congress, Friday told The Times Leader Opinion Board he feels establishing passenger-rail service connecting the region’s three largest cities is a key to economic recovery and growth.

“The interstate roads are always crowded and often under repair,” said Barletta, 57. “Rail service — both freight and passenger — contributes to economic growth. Transportation in general, from waterways to highways to railways, are vital to the country and our region.”

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/news/1148657/Barletta-eyes-train-between-Scranton-Hazleton

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King Of Prussia Rail Project Public Meeting / Open House – January 30th!

SEPTA logo

SEPTA logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SEPTA has scheduled a Public Meeting/Open House for the King of Prussia Rail Project. The King of Prussia Rail Project will evaluate various alternative alignments to make the connection to the NHSL and destinations in King of Prussia.

Date: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Time: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. (Open House) | 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Presentations)
Location: Radisson Hotel at Valley Forge – South Ballroom 1160 First Avenue, King of Prussia, PA 19406

Meeting attendees should use the hotel entrance to reach the South Ballroom.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) welcomes your interest and participation in the King of Prussia Rail Project. Early in fall 2012, SEPTA initiated this study to evaluate an extension of the Norristown High Speed Line (NHSL) to the King of Prussia area. The NHSL currently provides service between the 69th Street Transportation Center and Norristown Transportation Center, serving the Main Line area in Delaware and Montgomery Counties, and connecting to Center City Philadelphia. While the transit system is expansive, a rail connection to the King of Prussia area is missing.

The project will evaluate various alignments to provide increased transit service to the King of Prussia area. The project need stems from deficiencies in area transit services that result in long travel times, delays due to roadway congestion, and transfers between services. In addition, there are many destinations in the King of Prussia/Valley Forge area that are underserved or currently not served by public transit.

SEPTA invites you to participate in the project development process and provide input.

Website: http://www.kingofprussiarail.com/

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Sidewalks Necessary To Grow Transit, Improve Walkability In Lehigh Valley, Study Says

wm-license-information-description-missing wm-...

wm-license-information-description-missing wm-license-information-description-missing-request LANTA logo.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Installing sidewalks and crosswalks along Hamilton Boulevard near Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in South Whitehall Township would encourage more people to use transit in the area.

It would also make the area, which was the site of a fatal pedestrian crash in 2012, safer and more attractive to walkers, according to a Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority study.

The area is one of five highlighted in the study, which outlines how land development in the Lehigh Valley can help promote transit use in the region.

The authority wants to grow ridership, and most municipal officials are committed to improving walkability in their communities, so LANTA has been spreading the message about how best to accomplish both goals, planning director Owen O’Neil said.

Read more:  http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/breaking-news/index.ssf/2014/01/lanta_study_sidewalks_necessar.html

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York Public Transportation To Improve With Bill

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The aging fleet of public transportation buses in York County will get a boost from the recently passed state transportation bill, as could Rabbit Transit‘s plans for a fleet conversion from diesel to natural gas.

Rabbit Transit CEO Richard Farr said the $2.3 billion package “couldn’t be passed a moment too soon,” as about 64 percent of the organization’s 87-vehicle fleet is beyond its useful life or will be in 2014.

That means they’ve surpassed 12 years of age or 600,000 miles, “and we have vehicles with mileage as high as 900,000 miles,” he said.

The old buses are more expensive to maintain, to the tune of an extra $600,000 per year, he said, and in recent months two of them had to be retired because the frames are cracked beyond repair, making them unsafe to haul passengers.

Read more: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/breaking/ci_24801596/york-public-transportation-improve-bill

Cincinnati Streetcar Plan Pits Desire For Growth Against Fiscal Restraint

Downtown Cincinnati

Downtown Cincinnati (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CINCINNATI, OH — It has been a long time since a streetcar was just a streetcar here.

Instead, a $133 million project to build a 3.6-mile streetcar line through downtown has come to represent, depending on whom you talk to, a debt trap that will sink the city or an ambitious development effort that is central to Cincinnati’s revival.

And when the debate ended last week in an unexpected last-minute victory for the streetcar proponents, it was seen as both a vote of confidence in the city’s future and a reminder of how tenuous support for the project had become.

On the brink of being shut down, the project was saved by a successful petition drive and a written commitment, provided by the Haile U.S. Bank Foundation, from about 15 private backers to pay up to $9 million in operating costs, if needed, over the line’s first decade.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/23/us/cincinnati-streetcar-plan-pits-desire-for-growth-against-fiscal-restraint.html?_r=0

Downtown Pittsburgh, Oakland Rapid Bus Route Urged

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Allegheny County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Backers of a proposed Bus Rapid Transit corridor connecting Downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland have adopted an ambitious timetable to advance the project.

Wendy Stern, Port Authority assistant general manager for planning and development, told a board committee recently that project supporters hope to apply for federal funding next fall. That would require completion of preliminary engineering and environmental review before then, and securing all of the non-federal funding needed for construction.

That would keep the project on track for a start of service in 2017.

A preliminary estimate of the overall cost is $200 million and the project would have to prevail in a highly competitive federal grant program to move ahead, Ms. Stern said. A federal grant likely would cover only 50 percent of the cost.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2013/12/02/Port-Authority-pushes-Downtown-Oakland-rapid-yyy-Downtown-to-Oakland-rapid-bus-route-urged/stories/201312020059#ixzz2mL8hxINw

Long-Planned Scranton Transit Center Makes Progress

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The transportation hub planned for downtown Scranton is making solid progress after years of delays and false starts.

The County of Lackawanna Transit System has received the go-ahead from the Federal Transit Administration to open negotiations for the acquisition of two properties needed as part of the $12.6 million intermodal transit center project, COLTS Executive Director Robert Fiume said.

In addition, the project design by Sowinski Sullivan Architects, Sparta, N.J., is 60 percent complete.

“Should things stay on track – and I don’t even know if I want to say this – but if they stay on track, it looks like we can break ground in April or May,” Mr. Fiume said.

His hesitation is understandable, given the project’s history.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/long-planned-transit-center-makes-progress-1.1593946

State To Cover Cost Of BARTA, Red Rose Management Pact

English: BARTA bus in downtown Reading, Pennsy...

English: BARTA bus in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania, July 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The state has agreed to cover the cost of the management pact between BARTA and Lancaster’s Red Rose Transit Authority, BARTA directors learned Monday.

That means PennDOT will pick up the $60,000 tab BARTA agreed to pay Red Rose for a six-month management contract approved last month. BARTA only has to put up $1,800 in matching funds to get the grant.

The agencies are testing whether it makes sense to share management.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=520180

Casey Calls For Subway Extension To Navy Yard

Riders board Philadelphia's Broad Street Subwa...

Riders board Philadelphia’s Broad Street Subway on the Southbound platform of City Hall Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WHAT DO YOU get for the corporate hot spot that seems like it has everything?

How ’bout some underground transit?

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey called yesterday for extending SEPTA’s Broad Street subway line into the Navy Yard, given the area’s dramatic rebirth as a sprawling office park that’s home to about 10,000 workers.

Casey sent a letter to Brigid Hynes-Cherin, the Federal Transportation Agency’s (FTA) regional administrator, urging her to discuss the potential project with SEPTA, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 and the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20131124_Casey_calls_for_subway_extension_to_Navy_Yard.html#mcdBvPyeYgAHg5K4.99

Provisions Of The Pa. Transportation Funding Bill

Provisions of the transportation funding legislation passed today by the Pennsylvania Senate:

REVENUE

— Generates at least $2.3 billion per year after a five-year period by gradually increasing taxes and fees on motorists; generates $7.36 billion total over the first five years.

SPENDING

— Directs $1.65 billion per year to highway and bridge construction and repair by the fifth year, including $220 million annually for locally owned roads and bridges.

— Directs $476 million to $497 million per year to mass transit agencies by the fifth year.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=519767

Officials: Transportation Will Suffer With Bill’s Defeat

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Commuter rail service is likely to be cut next year, and Pennsylvania’s highways and bridges will continue to deteriorate, transportation officials said Tuesday, following the narrow legislative defeat of a major transportation funding increase.

Most lawmakers from southeastern Pennsylvania supported the funding measure, but eight area Democrats and five Republicans voted against it. And a key supporter, Rep. Louise Bishop (D., Phila.), was out sick, the only legislator not voting on the measure, which was defeated 103-98 Monday night.

Supporters of the bill, which would have increased gas taxes and motorists’ fees to provide about $2.4 billion in additional funding, said negotiations were continuing Tuesday to try to revive the bill, which was one of Gov. Corbett’s key legislative priorities.

Republican opponents cited the increased taxes and fees as a prime reason for their “no” votes, while Democratic opponents said they objected to a provision that would have increased the prevailing-wage exemption on government construction projects, which some labor unions opposed.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/transportation/20131120_Officials__Transportation_will_suffer_with_bill_s_defeat.html#QyFtCBDquPww1RMr.99