PA: COLTS Ordered to Repay $5.7M Over Ghost Ridership

Aug. 05--The County of Lackawanna Transit System must reimburse the state Department of Transportation $5.7 million for overstating senior ridership figures over a six-year period.

With a related reduction in capital improvement allocations of $771,000, the total hit to the transit agency will be almost $6.5 million.

In a letter today to COLTS executive director Robert Fiume, PennDOT estimated the agency inflated senior ridership numbers by hundreds of thousands of passengers annually from fiscal 2005-2006 through 2010-2011.

For 2007-2008 alone, PennDOT revised the number of seniors who rode COLTS buses downward by more than 1 million passengers.

The overstated ridership figures resulted in excess allocations to COLTS of $4,552,219, PennDOT said. A 25 percent penalty will push the full amount COLTS must refund to the state to $5,690,274.

Mr. Fiume, who became executive director in June 2008, said he is confident the ridership numbers COLTS is now reporting to the state are accurate.

PennDOT said it will collect the overpayment by reducing operating subsidies to COLTS by nearly $1.9 million annually for three years. Those cuts will take effect with the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Mr. Fiume said COLTS will have to take a hard look at its operations and make adjustments, including possibly curtailing or eliminating under-utilized bus routes.

He also anticipates asking PennDOT to extend the refund period for more than three years to lessen the impact on the agency.

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Contact the writer: dsingleton@timesshamrock.com

Copyright 2014 - The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

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