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Red Rose Transit, BARTA to Establish New Authority; Agencies to Retain Route Oversight

Public transit agencies in two adjoining Pennsylvania counties are preparing to reorganize their operations into a single authority, effective Jan. 1, when the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority (BARTA) in Reading and the Red Rose Transit Authority in Lancaster will jointly create a new entity, the South Central Transit Authority (SCTA).

Under the change, SCTA will contract with the two current organizations to provide management and administration services.
BARTA and Red Rose Transit will continue to employ their own operators and mechanics and will retain their existing names and logos. The 10-­member SCTA board will include five members representing each agency.

David Kilmer, executive director of Red Rose Transit, will serve as SCTA executive director. He also has overseen BARTA since the death in 2013 of its longtime director, Dennis Louwerse.

“I’ll shuttle between Lancaster and Reading, as I’ve been doing for the past year,” he said. “The staffs will continue to work exactly where they work now.”

Kilmer explained that managing the two agencies as a ­single entity will allow for economies of scale.

For example, a recent joint procurement for bus parts cost $83,000 less than two individual procurements would have.

He noted that, while the counties are next to each other, the agencies do not have contiguous routes. The territory between the Red Rose Transit and BARTA service areas is rural and there is little demand for bus coverage there, he said.

BARTA and Red Rose Transit Authority approved the change earlier in the year, but could not move forward until the commissioners of Berks and Lancaster counties also voted to support the change.

Reading and Berks County established BARTA in 1973 after purchasing the failing Reading Bus Company earlier that year. Red Rose Transit began operations in 1976, providing service in the city of Lancaster and ­Lancaster County.

The combined authority will have the fourth highest ridership among Pennsylvania public transit systems, following Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Pittsburgh’s Port Authority of Allegheny County, and State College’s Centre Area Transportation Authority.

Red Rose Transit provided almost 2.2 million trips in 2013-2014, of which 1.9 million were on fixed route buses.  For 2012-2013, the most recent year for which figures are available, BARTA provided a total of 3.4 million rides, 3.1 million of which were on its fixed routes.
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