PA: STS Gives Free Ride New Meaning on Dump the Pump Day

June 20--Maureen Tray saved a lot of money Thursday by riding the Schuylkill Transportation System bus on National Dump the Pump Day.

Rides were free during the ninth annual event, which was launched by the American Public Transportation Association after gas prices reached $3 a gallon to encourage people to ride public transportation. This is also the ninth year STS has participated in the event.

Tray, Pottsville, stood in line at Union Station about 11:40 a.m. with her eight children, varying in ages from 8 to 21, waiting for the Route 10 Shenandoah bus.

"We're going to Wal-Mart. We might go to the Schuylkill Mall, though," she said.

Base fare one way is usually $1.30 for people 13 or older on fixed route buses. Children 9 to 12 years old pay 50 cents. There were eight routes available Thursday.

Tray did not know it was free to ride the bus until she noticed a banner about the event.

"We ride the bus when we need to go somewhere," she said, adding that the family does not have a car.

"We're going to make a day out of this. It's kind of exciting for the kids," she said.

Her children said not having to pay for the bus rides was "awesome."

John Kane, driver of the Route 10 Shenandoah bus, said about 120 people rode the bus for free since 6:45 a.m. when he started.

He said at first, it was slow, with only two people boarding for a free ride. Every seat was taken on the bus that left about 12:06 p.m. from Union Station.

Since many were unaware of Dump the Pump Day, Kane put a sign on the fare box to inform riders about the free ride, with a paper blocking the money slot.

Sam Thomas, 35, of Shenandoah, who rode the Route 10 Shenandoah bus later in the day, said he was happy he did not have to pay to go to his doctors' appointments. He echoed the words of Tray's children, saying the free ride was "awesome."

Another person who benefited from the free ride was Yovany Arias, 18, of Shenandoah. He said he was thankful for the waived fare when he stepped onto the bus after studying for his GED at CareerLink in Pottsville.

Not everyone needed the free ride, though. People with a senior ride pass, which is available for those 65 or older, do not ever need to pay for the bus fare when riding if their application is approved.

Cheryl Mahan, 68, of Pottsville, was going to run an errand Thursday and decided to take the bus. With her senior ride pass, she didn't have to take advantage of Dump the Pump Day, but she passed the news along to her daughter, Tammy Kleckner, Pottsville.

Another senior ride pass holder, Rose Bowers, 67, of Minersville, was able to have her granddaughter, London Bowers, 7, ride for free.

"I don't drive, so I use the bus constantly. I'd be lost without it," Bowers said.

She said having a free day is a nice gesture for those who can't afford to ride the bus.

"I think it's a great idea," she said.

Mike Micko, executive director of STS, said the system participates in Dump the Pump because it gets the word out to the public about the services of STS and its "dedication to the public."

"It's a savings for the people that usually would pay, appreciation for their businesses," he said.

Ridership figures on Dump the Pump Day will be available today.

Copyright 2014 - Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.