End of the line for Susquehanna bus service from area to cities

Published: 8/11/2017 10:00 AM
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By Sarah DeSantis

THE NEWS-ITEM sarah_d@newsitem.com

WILLIAMSPORT — The conclusion of Susquehanna Trailways’ intra-city bus service will mark the end of one of the last ways to travel beyond lower Northumberland County without a car.

An announcement on bus company’s website confirms it will stop running intra-city routes Sept. 1, including a route from Sunbury to Leighton that stopped in Shamokin, Kulpmont, Mount Carmel, Ashland and Frackville. These passengers were then able to carry on to New York City or Philadelphia.

A spokesperson for the Williamsport-based bus company will be on vacation until next week, according to staff at the main office. Vice President Cam Kephart told the PennLive.com Tuesday running the intra-city bus service had become unfeasible and efforts to have another bus company take over the service had been unsuccessful.

Susquehanna Trailways was the lone operator for that route, which also provided service to released inmates at SCI-Coal Township.

Trisha Kelley, spokesperson for SCI-Coal Township, said via email she did not anticipate any issues with the conclusion of Susquehanna Trailways service to the prison.

“When SCI Coal Township was made aware of Susquehanna Trailways discontinuing local services, staff began exploring available options,” she said. “Currently there are several options that are being reviewed.”

Lower Anthracite Transit System (LATS), a Penn-DOT funded local fixed-route system, provides a connection to the Schuylkill Transportation System (STS) in Ashland. From STS riders can get to the Pottsville bus station, which offers Greyhound service.

LATS does not stop at SCI-Coal Township, but runs routes through Shamokin, Kulpmont and Mount Carmel. Riders from certain areas may also have to make a change at Walmart in Coal Township to reach the STS interception point in Ashland.

“It’s a shame to go from bus to bus to bus, but it’s one way if you don’t have any transportation,” said William D. Milbrand, whose bus company, Catawese Coach Lines Inc., operates LATS.

Victor Girardi, executive director of LATS, said the connection to STS is only made at 9:20 a.m. and 2:20 p.m., which provides a hardship to riders.

“The only drawback there is if they’re coming back by the time we’ve done our route there’s no route back to Mount Carmel and Shamokin,” he said.

Milbrand said Catawese is only licensed to offer charters and tours and cannot run a fixed route like what Susquehanna Trailways offered. As the operator of LATS, Milbrand said he would be open to making changes that would expand LATS’ offerings to meet any demand caused by the termination of Susquehanna Trailways’ service.

“I am positively, definitely interested in expanding the LATS service. But my hands are tied. I can only do my part by keeping the buses on the road,” he said. “I’m willing to work 100 percent with them.”

Girardi said he would need PennDOT’s approval before making any changes. He was pessimistic about the likelihood PennDOT would sign off on stops at places like SCI-Coal Township.

“I don’t think they’ll go for it because we only have three buses right now and we’re running three routes so we have no extra buses,” he said. “I’d have to do a survey. If we don’t get six per hour they won’t approve it, that’s for sure.”

Milbrand said he isn’t interested in Catawese becoming licensed to run intra-city service. He will also be losing income when Susquehanna Trailways ceases its service to the area because Catawese housed and serviced the buses that ran the route through Shamokin to New York City.

“The morning bus, they keep them here at my shop. At night they come into the Catawese shop. We’d wash them, we’d service them, we check the oil,” he said. “I’ll be losing that.”

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