CATA hears feedback on drink policy, bus service

Graduate student Stephanie Bora rides the bus, sometimes early in the morning, and wants to be able to take a cup of coffee along.

While she praised Centre Area Transportation Authority bus service generally on Monday, she asked CATA’s board of directors to reconsider the policy on taking beverages on board.

Bora, of Lemont, was one of three people who offered comments as part of the board’s annual public hearing during its February meeting.

While Bora said she was told, upon calling CATA about the issue, that bus drivers experience more spills than previously and that it’s expensive to clean the buses, she said other students have said they won’t ride the bus if they can’t take coffee.

General Manager Hugh Mose said CATA changed that policy last fall, after experiencing an increase in late-night behavior problems, leading to more spills. With more than two dozen new buses on the roads, he said staff wanted to protect them.

The policy states a beverage cup must be completely sealed. While cafe cups are allowed, the drink spout must have a stopper to be permitted.

“It’s been a challenge for us,” said Mose, who added he’s also a coffee drinker.

Operations staff continue to review the policy and are considering offering the spout stoppers to riders who need one to follow the rules.

Mike Shigley, of State College, offered two suggestions based on proposed service changes for this fall, related to four new student apartment complexes set to open this fall on or near current CATA routes.

As explained by service manager Eric Bernier, those are the only route expansions expected, “due to the number of buses available during peak service hours” and will affect the R (Waupelani Drive), HP (Toftrees), M (Nittany Mall) and W (Valley Vista) routes.

On the HP, M and W routes, Bernier said CATA hopes to improve trip frequency, Saturday hours and service to their other destinations.

“Ironically, as we went through this, we can’t help but notice these will help us restore service on the W and HP that we had to cut just a few years ago,” he said, as well as increasing the frequency of the R route, which he said has been a longtime need without the necessary resources.

Shigley suggested that, when a new development must offer something to the municipality through the approval process, that it buy new buses instead of funding road improvements. At The Retreat, on Waupelani Drive, for example, developers paid $100,000 to College Township for area road improvements.

“We have some very large developments coming on,” Shigley said. “You’re down to almost no backup buses by using all of your surplus.”

He also suggested the board consider a program in which the complexes pay in advance for bus passes, instead of the current practice of paying 93 cents per resident ride of the $1.50 bus fare.

Finally, Jolley Harris, of Bellefonte, praised changes made to the X route, which runs to the borough and Pleasant Gap. Last fall the route was extended to the new Weis Markets store in Spring Township and separated from the M.

“The changes to the X have been very, very good in terms of on-time performance and more direct routing into State College,” he said.

Harris only asked that the board consider an extra stop where the X and M routes cross at the mall, allowing passengers to exit instead of riding to Walmart and Sam’s Club before returning to the mall.