Trans-Bridge adds more bus runs to New York

As business begins to return to normal, Trans-Bridge Lines of Bethlehem added two routes to its Allentown/Clinton to New York Schedule.

The new routes were in response to passenger surveys and the analysis of data on ridership.

Run 109 eastbound to New York will operate Monday through Thursday departing from the Wescosville Park and Ride at 7:25 a.m. and arriving at the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 9:20 a.m.

A second route westbound run 146 from New York will operate Monday through Friday departing the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 7 p.m.

“We have added these routes as a result of passenger feedback and trends in travel.” said Tom JeBran, Trans-Bridge Lines president, “Our team continuously gauges information from all sources during this post-pandemic period. We need to do that in order for our executive management team to make sensible business decisions, and give residents of our service area the transportation they require.”

Trans-Bridge Lines maintains gates at Port Authority Bus Terminal. All routes, with the exception of the company’s Wall Street runs, drop-off at the location at 8th Avenue & 41st Street. “Our passengers appreciate our use of the Port Authority as a location that is central, sheltered from the outside elements, and offers a place for them to grab a morning coffee, a meal, and all the other conveniences afforded there.” said Mark Ertel, director of operations.

Trans-Bridge Lines continues enforcing the federal mandate that face masks must be worn on its buses.

Trans-Bridge resuming Wall Street service

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.

Trans-Bridge to resume some service starting Monday

The Trans-Bridge Lines fleet of buses parked at their 2012 Industrial Drive location. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


Trans-Bridge Lines of Bethlehem said it will resume bus service on a limited basis starting Monday, June 8.

Seating capacity will be limited to 25 during the startup period to adhere to Pennsylvania regulations on social gatherings and New Jersey regulations on transit capacity.

“Operating at this limited capacity is not something that is sustainable but a directive we must follow in order to offer service,” said Tom JeBran, president of the bus company.

Trans-Bridge has implemented a number of health measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Passengers will be required to wear a face covering and should not sit in the first four seats of the bus. They are being asked to only occupy window seats, use social distancing, discard of any trash in provided receptacles and exit the bus from front to back.

Passengers will be asked to follow driver’s instructions when traveling. The drivers have all received training on best practices.

“We have put protocols in place for maintaining clean buses that include the regular disinfecting of visible touchpoints: handrails, door latches, window release bars, driver’s area and restroom surfaces (including door handles) during layovers,” JeBran said.

Trans-Bridge has upgraded cabin air filters and cabin air is completely exchanged with outside air approximately every 10 minutes.

Trans-Bridge Lines, and its related company, Lehigh Valley Motorcoach, offers daily service to New York City, Newark and JFK Airports from the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas.

It suspended service March 25 after passenger traffic dropped by 88% due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Motorcoach industry struggles, seeks $15B in federal aid

Trans-Bridge Lines has hired back most of its laid-off staff, but buses still aren’t running. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most businesses in the region, Tom JeBran, owner of Trans-Bridge Lines of Bethlehem had to lay off 121 of his 165 employees because demand for bus service collapsed and keeping the busses running was no longer viable.

Now, thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program, LeBran has been able to hire back most of them. He  put them to work servicing and updating vehicles, cleaning and training to prepare for the day commuter and charter bus service can resume.

But PPP only helps for eight weeks, he said. What happens after that?

Unless something major changes, he’ll likely have to lay those people off again. The PPP just isn’t enough help.

Like the restaurant industry, the motorcoach industry is unlikely to get back to normal conditions anytime soon.

The American Bus Association estimates that nationally, the motor coach industry and, in particular charter buses, will likely only return to around 25% capacity by the end of the year.

Even if TransBridge can return to 50% capacity, which will likely be the limit set upon his industry by surrounding states, it isn’t viable, JeBran said. “You can’t survive very long on that,” he said. To even attempt to do so would mean doubling fares and he doubts many people would be willing or able to pay that.

Because of such circumstances, and because of the likelihood that many small- to medium-sized bus companies may fold, the motor coach industry is asking the federal government for more help.

Peter Pantuso, president and CEO of the American Bus Association, said his organization has been joined by many regional bus associations, including the Greater New Jersey Motor Coach Association, of which Trans-Bridge is a member, in calling for federal aid. The industry is asking for $15 billion in aid, with $10 million in grants and $5 million in loans, to help bus companies survive the long-term damage of the COVID-19 crisis.

He noted that the federal government included $85 billion in the last stimulus package for airports, transit systems and trains.

“Motorcoach was the only transportation industry to not get funding,” Pantuso said. “We aren’t asking for more. We were left out.”

There are around 3,000 motorcoach companies with more than 36,000 vehicles on the road and 100,000 people employed in the industry, Pantuso said. Many other industries, including restaurants, theaters and sports venues also rely on revenue brought in by people taking bus trips, accounting for another 2 million jobs impacted by the motorcoach industry, he said.

To make their point, independent motorcoach companies will be converging on Washington, D.C., May 13 for “Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness Day,” to promote the economic impact of their industry. Decorated buses from all 50 states will drive into D.C. to participate. Even Hawaii will be represented, Pantuso said.

The American Bus Association and other partners in the industry have been advocating for the funds with members of Congress and Pantuso says he’s gaining support as more legislators become aware of the situation.

Meanwhile, JeBran is hoping that the diversity of Trans-Bridge may help get his buses back on the road sooner than some. Since Trans-Bridge also has a significant commuter business to destinations such as New York City, he is hoping that once workers start commuting again there will be enough of an uptick in demand for buses that he can get some vehicles and drivers back in service. But he knows that the fate of his business lies in the hands of others and decisions have not been made.

Whether theaters reopen in New York, or whether the Eagles decide to have fans in the stands in Philadelphia for the upcoming football season, will impact the number of charters Trans-Bridge will offer. So he has to wait and see what the rest of 2020 will bring for his business.


Trans-Bridge temporarily suspends bus service because of COVID-19


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.

Friday is last trip to Philly for Trans-Bridge

Downtown Skyline of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at twilight in USA –

Trans-Bridge Lines of Bethlehem has announced that it is ending service to Philadelphia effective July 1.

The last run between the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia will be on Friday, June 28.

Trans-Bridge had picked up the extra service earlier this year after Bieber Transportation Group closed, ending its service to the city.

Trans-Bridge said in a memo to its customers that its goal had been to help former Bieber commuters with reliable service to Philadelphia.

However, passenger counts were low, with some trips attracting as few as two passengers. There were never more than 17 passengers.

The company said with no possibility of receiving any kind of subsidy for the runs, it was not financially feasible to continue them.

The company said any passengers with unused tickets to Philadelphia can use them with Martz Trailways of Wilkes-Barre or Fullington Trailways of Lewisburg through a cross-honoring system that Trans-Bridge operates with those companies. A $5 surcharge will be charged for commuter book tickets, because those tickets are discounted.

According to their websites, Martz has stops in Allentown and Quakertown, while Fullington has stops in Allentown and Jim Thorpe.

Trans-Bridge said it will also offer refunds to anyone holding tickets to Philadelphia after July 1.

Firms find role in halting human trafficking

Human trafficking.

It’s considered one of the most profitable transnational industries in the world, but it comes at the cost of human lives and suffering.

The international law enforcement community suspects millions of people are taken and subjected to forced labor and sex in countries around the world, but the crime of human trafficking is hard to prosecute because it is so hidden and its victims so controlled by fear, separation and language barriers.

While the main centers of human trafficking in the U.S. are port cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami, smaller towns become thruways and destinations for such activity. Cities like Allentown, Reading and Lancaster are not immune.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 199 human trafficking cases reported in Pennsylvania in 2018 alone, with countless more likely going unreported.

The crime is defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a form of modern-day slavery in which perpetrators use force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.

Activists say fighting human trafficking is just as important in the Greater Lehigh Valley as it is in the nation’s bigger cities and it’s why many local businesses – especially in the travel and tourism industry – have joined the fight against it.

Bus stop

Trans-Bridge Lines Inc. of Bethlehem is one of the front-line warriors in fighting human trafficking.

Jen Lechiski, communications manager for the bus line, said a bus or a bus station is often the first place such activity is spotted.

“A lot of it is prostitution …. And the pimp will use the bus. They put their person on the bus and they know they’ll come back because they’ve instilled such a sense of fear … making them feel there is no help,” Lechiski said.

Trans-Bridge has daily service to New York and Philadelphia. She said the bus line wants human traffickers to know its buses are no safe haven for their criminal enterprise.

All of its buses are marked with stickers for a program called BOTL – Busing on the Lookout – that warns traffickers that drivers and staff are trained to spot them. The stickers contain text and a toll-free number that victims can call for help or that others can use to report suspicious behavior.

“We hope that will scare off anyone who would be using buses for that,” Lechiski said.

In addition to the stickers, Lechiski said all new Trans-Bridge employees must be trained on how to spot and deal with suspected human trafficking.

Bus service employees are taught to look out for such things as a person who looks lost or disheveled, or has someone else pay for them, as the victims are often young.

Other red flags include a person with tattoos or other markings indicating some type of “ownership” and vehicles parked at stations with individuals inside who don’t get out but seem to be making sure someone is getting on a bus

Lechiski said all Trans-Bridge employees have a special text number they can use to report a suspected trafficking situation without having to confront the suspects directly.

“It’s better to report it and have it be nothing than to not say anything and it is something,” she said.

No Room at the Inn

Hotels around the country and in Pennsylvania are also joining the fight, according to John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association in Harrisburg.

“Hotels are a logical place to start,” he said. “It’s devastating and very few people understand and realize what’s going on. But it doesn’t matter if you’re in a five-star hotel in Lancaster or Allentown. It’s very under the radar. You just don’t know.”

The association provides educational training to member hotels on how to spot human trafficking activity, but he said many of the larger hotels have their own training.

The Hotel Bethlehem, an independent hotel, uses some of the training provided by the association and recently hired a new executive housekeeper who is planning on ramping up anti-trafficking training at the hotel, said its general manager, Dennis Costello.

“We’re going to make it a regular part of our culture,” Costello said.

Charles Reece, general manager of the Allentown Renaissance Hotel, which is under the Marriott brand, said the Marriott chain provide mandatory training for all of the hotel’s staff.

“We take that very seriously,” Reece said.

Costello and Reece both said that just because they are running higher-end hotels doesn’t mean they are immune to the problem.

“People think they’re going to be doing it in a limited-services hotel or a motel,” Reece said. But, he said, it can happen in upscale hotels too.

Costello said both front desk staff and room attendants are trained to look for signs of human trafficking. They include rooms where people come and go frequently; “Do not disturb” signs that never come down; rooms where staff are refused entry; items such as credit-card processors, multiple cell phones or sex paraphernalia; and individuals who appear dirty or dressed inappropriately or who seem to be controlled by another party.

Staff members can report any suspicions to Reece so he can contact the proper authorities.

“Fortunately, I’ve never received that phone call,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.”

For more information about how businesses can help prevent human trafficking check out the following web sites: