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United Way of Lancaster County


Proposed changes released for Red Rose Transit bus routes: Here’s how to offer feedback

(Source: Red Rose Transit Authority)

The South Central Transit Authority has unveiled its proposed changes for the Red Rose Transit bus routes in Lancaster County, initiating a 30-day comment period for the public to offer its input.

The authority’s board is hoping to sign off on the routes in the next month or two, allowing the routes to be implemented this fall. That said, the timeline remains flexible, Chairwoman June Wolf emphasized during a discussion at the authority’s board meeting on Wednesday.

The public comment period will end on Wednesday, June 19, the date of the board’s next meeting. That would allow the board to review the feedback then and possibly finalize the routes. However, it could also defer action until July, and it might make sense to do so, Wolf said.

If the board acts in June, the route changeover would take place beginning Monday, Sept. 30. If the board delays a month, the changeover would be pushed back a month as well, authority Executive Director Gregory Downing said.

How to learn more | How to comment

To see the proposed Red Rose Transit bus route changes, click here. For an overall summary, click here (PDF).

To comment on the changes, email or send a letter to:

  • SCTA, 45 Erick Road, Lancaster PA 17601

Notifications about the proposed changes and comment forms will be available on all Red Rose Transit buses and at the Queen Street stations.

Public hearings on the changes will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. on Monday, June 17, at the RRTA Operations Center, 45 Erick Road, Lancaster. There will be an option to attend virtually by Zoom, as well as provisions for Spanish-language interpretation, the South Central Transit Authority said.

The authority’s next board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at the office in Reading. Meetings can be attended via Zoom; a link will be posted here.

A top-to-bottom redesign

The proposed changes stem from the recent Transit Development Plan, or TDP, that the board accepted in March.

It calls for the biggest overhaul of Lancaster County’s bus routes in roughly half a century — adjustments that are needed to streamline service and align routes with the changes wrought by decades of commercial and residential development, Downing said. Enacting them, he said, will allow the bus system to connect more people to major destinations, including large employers, shopping centers, health care complexes and so on.

The adjustments proposed this year represent the first of three phases and largely involve realigning existing service. Phases 2 and 3 would follow, and would require additional resources to implement.

Among other things, the new routes are designed to run every half hour or every hour, making their schedules easier to remember.

The South Central Transit Authority oversees both the Red Rose Transit Authority in Lancaster County and the Berks Area Regional Transit Authority, or BARTA. Changes are proposed for the BARTA system as well; those will be handled separately.

Gregory Downing

The modifications are crafted as a package, Downing said, in order to align related routes with each other and allow transfers without undue wait times. For that reason, he cautioned, it would be impractical to enact them piecemeal; holding off on even one or two would require extensive recalculation.

Bus driver Patty McKenna is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1241, which represents Red Rose employees. She urged the board to field-test routes under realistic conditions to verify that they can be completed in the expected time.

Many current routes chronically run late because of normal traffic and other routine delays that haven’t been factored into their schedules, she said. That frustrates drivers and passengers alike: “It has become impossible, and the authority needs to address it,” McKenna said.

Downing told One United Lancaster that time studies were conducted for the routes in the TDP; but he agreed that they need to be checked against drivers’ real-world experience.

South Central Transit Authority Executive Director Gregory Downing, right, takes part in a bus trip to give southeast Lancaster residents a preview of the proposed realignment of Red Rose Transit Route 1, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Source: David Cruz Jr.)

Community input

Since the route changes were announced, two advocates in Lancaster’s southeast have raised questions about their impact: Darlene Byrd, president of South Ann Concerned Neighbors; and David Cruz Jr., a Lancaster City Housing Authority board member.

Their main interest is the proposed Route No. 1, which covers areas now served by existing Red Rose Routes Nos. 1 and 2. On Tuesday, the authority provided a bus tour of the proposed new version to Byrd, Cruz and other neighborhood representatives.

Unlike the current Route 1, which loops from the southeast directly back to Queen Street Station before heading to Park City Center, the new version would trace a path through the northeast and southeast neighborhoods. That would make for a long ride, Byrd said.

It would also be detrimental if the route adjustments require more bus stops, and neighborhoods like hers lose more of their already scarce parking as a result, Byrd said. She urged the authority to consult with City Hall before finalizing its routes and stops.

Downing agreed to continue working with the southeast community to address their concerns, which could include making additional adjustments to the route before the board’s next meeting. That’s preferable to just collecting their feedback and waiting until the June board meeting to address it, Wolf said.

The authority will not need more buses for the first phase of route changes, he said, but it will be looking to hire four or five more drivers. The changes will also entail a modest rise in overall operating costs, according to the TDP, amounting to roughly $200,000, or 1.6% of the Red Rose Transit Authority’s annual budget.