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Red Rose Transit adjusts its proposed route changes in response to public feedback

(Source: Red Rose Transit Authority)

Gregory Downing

The South Central Transit Authority has gotten an earful about the overhaul it is proposing for the Red Rose transit system in Lancaster County, Executive Director Gregory Downing said.

Last month, after the authority’s board reviewed the draft plan, it started the clock on a 30-day comment period. Well over 200 responses were received in the first two weeks. They have been reviewed and assessed, and some significant revisions have been made to reflect what customers are saying they need, Downing said.

The initial draft is on the Red Rose Transit Authority website. The updated version will be released to the public after the authority’s upcoming board meeting on Wednesday, June 19. The board is tentatively scheduled to take action in July; if it does, the authority would aim to implement the changes beginning Monday, Oct. 28, Downing said.

From TDP to real-life routes

The proposed routes and schedules represent the biggest reorientation of Red Rose service in half a century. They are intended to align with the many changes in Lancaster County’s residential, commercial and institutional landscape, connecting riders to destinations that didn’t exist previously and reducing service in areas where demand has ebbed.

The South Central Transit Authority incorporates both the Red Rose Transit Authority and the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority. It is adjusting the Red Rose authority’s routes first; a round of changes in Berks County will follow.

The process began with the authority’s recent Transit Development Plan, or TDP, prepared in collaboration with consulting firm Foursquare ITP. Its timeline included several phases for public comment, but those were all dwarfed by the recent outpouring, Downing said.

The TDP recommended simplifying timetables and making routes bidirectional, running out and back along the same streets and roads. Overall, that remains the game plan, Downing said. The public’s reaction, however, has prompted the following adjustments:

  • Daily service is now to start at 5 a.m. rather than 6 a.m. Many people said they need the earlier start in order to reach their workplaces on schedule.
  • Routes extending out of the city’ immediate suburbs into the county will run every 90 minutes between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The original proposal had provided no service during that interval; but riders said that would be too inconvenient.
  • Route 1 will make a loop in Lancaster’s southeast and return to the Queen Street Station before heading to the Amtrak Station, the transit authority’s depot off Dillerville Road, and Lancaster’s northeast. The first draft had called for a bidirectional loop encompassing northeast and southeast Lancaster, but southeast residents said it would add too much time to their trip downtown. The new version restores the tighter loop route that serves the neighborhood now, Downing said.
  • The draft’s proposed Routes 3 and 7 will be melded into a single loop route running from downtown out to Kensington Court, Manor Shopping Center and Sterling Place. The authority needed to free up buses and staff in order to provide the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. service on the county routes, Downing said; combining these two routes into one was the most efficient way to do so.

Streamlined schedules

The revisions do not affect a key feature of the new schedule: All buses operate on 30-minute or 1-hour cycles. That’s extremely important, Downing said: If riders know that the bus departs a particular stop at 4:15 p.m., for example, they’ll know there are departures at 3:15 and 5:15; and if it’s a high-frequency route, at 3:45 and 4:45.

Darlene Byrd is the president of South Ann Concerned Neighbors, has been putting the word out about the changes and conveying the southeast neighborhood’s interests to the authority. The group hasn’t seen the revisions yet, but is planning to discuss them once they’re available, she said.

The overhaul was originally projected to increase annual Red Rose Transit operating costs by 1.5%. The revisions bump that up slightly, to 4.5%. The authority will not have to expand its number of drivers as much — three additional hires rather than five — but the revised plan is expected to necessitate more overtime, Downing said.

“The goal is to provide the best service possible that meets the needs of all those using or choosing public transportation,” he said.

What’s next

Interested in the upcoming route changes for the Red Rose Transit bus system? Here’s how the process will play out:

1. Public hearing

The South Central Transit Authority will hold a two-part hearing next week for those interested in commenting on the proposed route and schedule changes. (The original proposal is here; it will be updated after June 19.) You can attend in person or virtually; if you choose the virtual option, registration is required (see links below)

Comments are also being accepted via email at and via regular mail:

South Central Transit Authority (SCTA)
45 Erick Road
Lancaster, PA 17601

If you submit your comments in writing, or have already done so, you do not need to attend the hearing. Comments will be accepted through Monday, July 15.

2. Board meeting & posting of revised changes

The South Central Transit Authority board will review the authority’s revised proposal for route and schedule changes at its upcoming meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at 1700 N. 11th St., Reading. To attend virtually via GoTo Meeting, click here.

Potential plan approval

The board is tentatively scheduled to vote on adopting the route changes at its subsequent meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, at the RRTA Operations Center, 45 Erick Road, Lancaster. A GoTo Meeting link will be posted here.