The Cumberland County commissioners don't know yet if it make sense to consolidate mass transit systems with surrounding counties in Central Pennsylvania, but they support PennDOT's plan to find out.
The board indicated during a workshop meeting last week that they're interested in moving forward with the second phase of the regional transit study, which will take at least another year to complete, PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Mass Transit Toby Fauver said Thursday.
Those eight counties — Adams, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York — might have an opportunity to save $5 million. But whose version of consolidation, Fauver said, and how such a merger would affect everything from bus passes to replacing vehicles to adjusting travel fares will be the focus of the second phase of the study.
The first phase of the study, released in September, said merging the agencies in the eight counties would cut costs 24.5 percent — or around $5 million — and reduce the administrative workforce from 173 to 122 full-time employees.
The numbers sounded enticing to the board, but Gov. Tom Corbett's recent transportation funding proposal left commissioner Jim Hertzler with concerns of how the counties would pay for the consolidation.
The governor's new proposal calls for Pennsylvania's counties to expand their contribution for capital transit projects from 3.33 percent to 20 percent and the operating match from 15 percent to 20 percent. The proposal also encourages counties to sign onto regional transit consolidation plans by promising to keep their operating match contribution rate at 15 percent.
"If you don't agree to consolidate, you're not going to only increase to 20 percent, but you'll increase to 25 percent," Hertzler said in an interview last month. "The problem is our only source of revenue is the property tax. There is no alternative source for us to go except for property tax payers."
Revised numbers from Capital Area Transit show Cumberland County may have to hand over between $552,817 and $867,634 for Corbett's transportation funding plan. The figures, although preliminary, comprise only part of the region's required mass transit contribution, which CAT said could climb to anywhere between $1,791,385 and $2,811,517 — or possibly more.
Fauver told the board Thursday that this increase would be phased-in over a 20 year period.
Currently, five transit authorities and two county departments of transportation carry 10.7 million passengers annually throughout the Central Pennsylvania region — costing taxpayers $72.4 million.
The regional transit model would follow in the footsteps of similar systems located in northern and southeastern Pennsylvania.
Copyright 2013 - The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa.