At this time the authority said it expects the changes are effective only for Monday, and that further decisions on any COVID-related service modifications will be made on a day-to-day basis.
“We again regret having to make this decision and apologize for the inconvenience this causes our riders,” LANTA Executive Director Owen O’Neil said in a statement.
LANtaVan, LANTA’s door-to-door paratransit service for seniors and persons with disabilities, is also experiencing a driver shortage. However, all reserved trips on the LANtaVan system will operate on Monday.
After resuming a number of its routes to New York City, Bethlehem-based Trans-Bridge Lines has announced it is resuming service on its Doylestown/Flemington schedule beginning today.
The bus service said the return to service comes after a survey of passengers who were looking for services from areas in Bucks County and the Flemington, New Jersey area.
“Our customers have expressed their gratitude and relief to have this service back,” said Mark Ertel, director of operations for Trans-Bridge. “Depending on performance, we are aiming to expand service to include stops at Sanofi Pasteur in Bridgewater; MetLife in Flemington; and Frenchtown, New Jersey sometime in September, in addition to including more options to the existing schedule.”
Trans-Bridge Lines said it will begin the service with two weekday routes and two weekend routes. Schedules may be viewed on the company’s website at transbridgelines.com.
“We paid careful attention in redesigning this schedule as we needed to be mindful of how passengers use service on these routes,” said Trans-Bridge Lines president Tom JeBran. “We have a mix of passengers who utilize our buses for, both, commuting and leisure purposes. “Our team wanted to offer the best times that serve the most customers. It is necessary to begin with limited service until we build the ridership back. Our intention is to carefully monitor passenger counts and the needs of our customers, with the goal of adding service and making adjustments in September. We are certainly pleased to be offering these routes again.”
The bus company continues enforcing the federal mandate that face coverings must be worn while traveling aboard over-the-road buses.
In another step in the region’s return to pre-COVID-19 normalcy, Trans-Bridge is resuming service to the Wall Street section of Lower Manhattan beginning today.
The route was suspended in March of last year because of the pandemic.
The Bethlehem-based bus company said the resumption of service comes exactly one year after it resumed limited service to New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal on June 8, 2020.
“We feel the time is right to resume the service to Wall Street,” said Tom JeBran, Trans-Bridge Lines president. “Most restrictions have been lifted in New York, and employees are beginning to return to in-person workplaces once again. After surveying our passengers to gauge their transportation needs, the feedback shows there will be enough commuters utilizing the runs to warrant the return to service.”
Trans-Bridge Lines will begin the Wall Street Service with two routes eastbound and two runs westbound, Monday through Friday.
JeBran said there will be an addition of more routes and possible changes to the Wall Street schedule as the company regains momentum.
He did note that while state and local mass restrictions have been lifted, federal law requires that masks must still be worn when traveling on buses through September. So passengers will be required to wear masks while on the bus.
Commuters who take the bus in Carbon County will soon be seeing some changes.
Carbon County Community Transit will be getting a new name, a new look, and new services starting Monday.
The county transit agency will be adopting the name Carbon Transit, a move the authority felt would be easier to recognize.
“In conversations with stakeholders including riders, and the local Chamber of Commerce we learned that CCCT was clumsy to say and was not a recognizable brand,” said LANTA executive director Owen P. O’Neil. Carbon Transit is administered by LANTA under contract with Carbon County and is operated under contract by Easton Coach Co.
“We also learned that many do not differentiate the different services offered by the system. So we gave each service a simple name that clearly identifies its role within Carbon Transit,” he said, and so the agency has created new identities for its three major services.
CT Bus (formerly known as Lynx) will provide fixed-route and fixed-schedule service through several communities in the county, with connections to LANtaBus service in Palmerton and STS bus service in Coaldale.
New bus stop signs will be posted along the routes.
CT Shared Ride is the new name for CCCT Paratransit, continuing curb-to-curb service in the county.
This reservation-based service requires some qualifications for riding.
CT Flex is a new service that provides a reservation-based, curb-to-curb service. Riders simply call in advance to plan their trip.
With CT Flex there is no qualification needed. It is available to all transit riders.
In charge of the agency that transports more than 8,000 people to work each day, and another 8,000 to schools, shops and doctor appointments, Owen O’Neil, executive director of the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority is keeping his eye on the road ahead.
Still dealing with major changes to transportation needs and requirements that came about from the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Neil said LANTA is continuing to adapt to the Lehigh Valley’s transportation demands.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on operations, he said. Passenger rides were down about 75% at the peak of the pandemic in March and April and continue to be only at about two thirds of normal capacity as many people continue to work and learn from home. One of his points of pride during the last several months, however, is that LANTA never stopped operating.
“We haven’t missed any service since the beginning,” O’Neil said. “I think were one of the few transportation authorities in the state that can say that, maybe one of the few in the nation.”
Since the pandemic began, LANTA has been making many of the same changes being made in other public spaces. Drivers have personal protective equipment ranging from masks and gloves to face shields and hand sanitizers and buses are being kept at 50% capacity or lower.
But some of the changes will be permanent, including the way the authority is expecting its passengers to pay their fare.
“What we’ve done is deeply discount monthly passes so passengers are swiping and walking by the drivers much more quickly and spending less time at the fare box,” he said.
The authority had also launched a mobile ticketing app right before the pandemic began, which they are encouraging people to download and use so that they can have contactless payment. “You just flash the phone at a reader attached to the fare box,” he said.
They also have backup buses in case a bus on a particularly busy route starts getting too full.
“We told drivers that if they have more than half a passenger load, about 20 passengers, call in and we’ll send another bus out,” he said.
With a reduced number of riders he said it hasn’t been too much of a burden, but as more people are starting to return to work – especially at warehouses – the buses can get full and backup is needed.
He fully expects the dynamics of local transportation needs will be permanently altered by the pandemic, but noted that as businesses come and go and new areas develop transportation needs are always changing.
“We’re always planning for the future, but we don’t know what the new normal will be. Routes that are dramatically down may remain down,” he said.
He also said many manufacturers and warehouses have started staggering shifts, which means adding more bus routes to accommodate employees.
He said the authority is currently looking at changes in service to redirect service to where it is most needed. The following changes were announced Friday:
Route 325 has been extended to Palmerton, offering connections to Carbon County fixed-route bus service, and access from Walnutport/Slatington to various medical offices in Palmerton.
Additional evening trips have been added to routes 108 & 212 to better serve St. Luke’s Hospital, Fountain Hill, and Bethlehem’s eastern neighborhoods.
Because of the Allentown School District’s decision to use virtual instruction only for the first marking period, service on LANTA’s 400 level routes will not operate this fall. Additionally, evening service to and from Lehigh Carbon Community College in Schnecksville on Route 209 has been canceled.
Because of a new weight restriction on the PA Route 329 Bridge connecting Cementon & Northampton, service across the bridge was stopped on Aug. 14.
Evening service on Route 103 through Cementon and Coplay has been terminated indefinitely. Service on Route 325 has been adjusted to offer service as late as 8 pm through Cementon and Coplay.
LANtaFlex Route 507 (West/South Easton) has been expanded south of I-78 to Cedarville Road, providing access to and from Abington Manor and the Cedar Park Community.
O’Neil said he expects more service changes in the future.
“Are the patterns going to go back to where they were before, or are we going to see new patterns? We don’t know,” he said. “Facilities are always being built. We need to make sure we’re providing service where it is needed.”
The authority is also looking at changing the way it offers paratransit services. Those buses pick up people — mainly the elderly or those with disabilities that prevent them from driving – and take them to doctors appoints, the drug store or grocery shopping. They then return later to pick them up and take them home.
“What we’re really serving is trips. Maybe we don’t need to pick them up and take them to the grocery store and then come back to take them home. Maybe we can pick those groceries up and deliver to them,” he said.
With more people becoming comfortable with online shopping for goods and groceries, offering such a service could be a real time and money saver for the authority, while adding convenience to those they serve.
He said even if a senior isn’t up to speed on online ordering, they likely have a family member who can help them. But the trends clearly indicate many more people choosing grocery delivery since the pandemic began.
“We need to see what people’s preference and habits will be,” he said. “Maybe habits picked up during the pandemic will stay.”
The authority is also continuing its mission to go greener.
LANTA just added another compressed natural gas bus, bringing the number of CNG buses to 55. The authority also has 27 diesel hybrid electric buses in its fleet. When the last three remaining diesel buses are retired next February, O’Neil said the fleet will be 100% alternative fuel vehicles.
After passenger traffic dropped by 88% due to the coronavirus pandemic, Trans-Bridge Lines of Bethlehem said is temporarily suspending all operations.
The bus company had been shifting services over the last four weeks in response to the virus, with the intent of trying to get essential workers, such as doctors, nurses and first responders to work. However, the increased spread of the virus was becoming too much of a threat to remaining drivers and passengers, and with the decreased use, the bus company was operating at a loss.
“Our desire to provide transportation for workers has now come into direct conflict with our social responsibility to do the right thing for our community,” said Tom JeBran, president, “The directives from Governor Wolf, New York and New Jersey state officials, media reports, webinars and conference calls with safety and industry organizations, have all led to the hard decision to shut down until such time we can return to normal operations. We will re-evaluate our options in two weeks.”
JeBran noted that a large part of the company’s business is trips to NYC, which has been hard hit by the virus and has closed most tourist venues. With most tourism venues closed, charter bus services, another large portion of the company’s business, has also taken a substantial hit.
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