Take the bus … to Beaver County
Speaking of public transit, were you aware that Beaver County was chosen as the ‘American Idol’ of public transit? For the second time in its history, the Beaver County Transit Authority won the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Washington, D.C.-based American Public Transportation Association. This award is considered a once-in-a-lifetime honor.
According to the op-ed article from the PG:
“Ridership that soared 22.4 percent for the past three years is on track to grow another 9 percent in this fiscal year … far more than any other small or large state transit system …
“BCTA is the first recipient of a state Transit Revitalization Investment District grant, with ‘Elm Street’ residential and ‘Main Street; business components in Rochester, the hub of Beaver County. The epicenter of the development extending to a scenic bluff overlooking the Ohio River is its ‘Grand Central Station,’ a modern transportation center with a park-n-ride, up-to-the-minute electronic message board displaying bus arrival and departure times and convenient connections every half hour for paratransit and bus riders.”
A quick perusal of the BCTA website reveals that they even have a Steelers Express route. Good neighbors make for a good neighborhood. Go SWPA!
Here’s the full article:
Getting around: Beaver County chosen ‘American Idol’ of public transit
Sunday, June 11, 2006
by Joe Grata, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On-time service. Clean buses. Record ridership. Modern facilities. Courteous employees. Easy-to-read schedules. All-day passes. Few complaints. Balanced budgets. Transit-oriented development. Great Web site.
The region is blessed with an outstanding, award-winning public transit system.
You guessed right. I’m not writing about the Allegheny County Port Authority.
Rather, it’s the Beaver County Transit Authority, serving a semirural, old industrial county of 180,000 people and exemplifying how bigger isn’t necessarily better.
The BCTA beat out scores of peers in 1988 to win the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Washington, D.C.-based American Public Transportation Association as the best small transit system in the United States, normally a once-in-a-lifetime honor.
But the BCTA has done it again. A couple of its top officials will head to San Jose, Calif., for the industry’s annual meeting in October to claim the APTA award for a second time. It’s like being chosen the “American Idol” of public transit.
Only one other Pennsylvania system has ever won, the State College-based Centre Area Transit Authority.
What’s BCTA’s secret?
“We focus on the customer,” General Manager Mary Jo Morandini said, even though the agency has faced major challenges because of job losses, a 16 percent population drop since BCTA was founded and challenging demographics.
Dedication and stability at the top also have made a big difference. Ms. Morandini has been with the agency for 22 years, ascending to the general manager’s position in 1998. She has directed the transformation from a 20-person administrative organization that contracted for transit services to a 100-employee, self-operating system.
BCTA also has benefitted from the experience and vision of Dick Ober, former human resources director of the Port Authority. He was appointed a BCTA board member when the agency was formed, and, surprisingly, given the nature of politics, he has remained board chairman for 21 years.
“It’s a smaller but well-run organization,” said William W. Millar, APTA’s president/CEO and a former boss at the Port Authority. “They never stop growing, they never stop making progress and they never stop learning.”
He doesn’t sit on the awards committee, so BCTA’s selection was based strictly on merit. But because he knows Ms. Morandini and Mr. Ober so well, he looked at the committee’s notes.
“By virtually every measure, they were tops,” Mr. Millar said. “When they attend our annual meetings, they’re always off to some session, talking to other people, trying to figure what’s best for Beaver County.”
I recently visited Ms. Morandini, Mr. Ober and BCTA facilities for the first time in a long time. I don’t have space to share all of the positive information, so if you want to learn more about a winner, visit the agency’s Web site, www.bcta.com.
A few things can’t go without general notice.
Ridership that soared 22.4 percent for the past three years is on track to grow another 9 percent in this fiscal year, which ends in three weeks, far more than any other small or large state transit system. All despite no service expansion, a 50-cent fare increase and no marketing budget.
BCTA is the first recipient of a state Transit Revitalization Investment District grant, with “Elm Street” residential and “Main Street” business components in Rochester, the hub of Beaver County. The epicenter of the development extending to a scenic bluff overlooking the Ohio River is its “Grand Central Station,” a modern transportation center with a park-n-ride, up-to-the-minute electronic message board displaying bus arrival and departure times and convenient connections every half hour for paratransit and bus riders.
A modern bus garage, modern communications for drivers, real-time information for riders, another park-n-ride lot and other amenities came in 2001 with construction of the Expressway Travel Center in Center, where BCTA took over an abandoned Kmart and infused new life into an old shopping plaza.
Although its fleet is bright, clean, graffiti-free and unmarred by vandalism, BCTA is replacing 70 percent, 18, of its buses and exploring introduction of “smart card” technology for fare collection, a wish-list item at the Port Authority.
BCTA buses bring about 800 workers and students into Pittsburgh every day, alleviating pressure on city traffic and parking and showing that players other than the Port Authority make a difference.
Mr. Ober makes the point very well: “There’s life outside of Allegheny County.”
Plate du jour. Daniel R. Gigler, of Mt. Lebanon, followed an SUV with the Pennsylvania personalized license plate IH8PNST. Anybody out there H8PITT?
(Joe Grata can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1985. )