Study: Capital Area Transit should relinquish control to Rabbittransit, at least temporarily

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Capital Area Transit board could act as soon as Thursday to take a step toward the regionalization of transit service in central Pennsylvania.

A study commissioned by CAT and sought by Cumberland County commissioners recommended the eventual management of CAT by Rabbittransit for a six-month trial period as early as October. This would come after another month of interim management by the McDonald Transit Associates consulting firm from Texas.

Rabbittransit, which has gone through consolidation efforts several times in the last few years, says it would be ready for the challenge.

"We have proven that through our regionalization efforts, we're able to improve service, improve efficiencies and save resources, so we have that history already [and] we know we can do that," said Richard Farr, the executive director of Rabbittransit.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale also supported the recommendation Wednesday.

“Capital Area Transit is one of the most costly public transit agencies in the state and is clearly on some unstable ground," DePasquale said in a statement. " As a resident of York County, I understand Rabbittransit is well-run and efficient.  After a general review of the proposal at the request of the Cumberland County Commissioners, I believe CAT – and its riders — could well benefit from the expertise offered by Rabbittransit’s management team."

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners renewed its push for full regionalization and merger with Rabbittransit, and is directing its CAT board members to push for that at Thursday's board meeting.

"We cannot see this continuing," said Commissioner Vince DiFilippo. "It's not only detrimental to the residents of Cumberland County who use public transit, but also Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg."

A merger would result in more than $7.7 million in cost savings across the two agencies over a five-year period, including $5.2 million for the municipalities covered by CAT, said Commissioner Jim Hertzler.

"Barring an affirmative vote on regionalization under Rabbittransit, I think you could see this county promoting a strong dialogue on [the] topic of Cumberland County leaving Capital Area Transit," said Commissioner Gary Eichelberger.

Such a departure would require a negotiated settlement with Dauphin County and the city of Harrisburg, the other municipalities that belong to CAT.

Representatives with CAT did not respond to FOX43's requests for comment.

Officials stressed that the proposal would only cover administrative control, and no changes would be made to services in the near-term.

"A lot of times when you hear regionalization, people think there's going to be winners and losers, and that's not the case," Farr said. "Where the fixed-route buses run in York, where the fixed-route buses run in Harrisburg, they'll continue to run on the same streets and the same time schedules."

The CAT board meeting is scheduled for 12 p.m. Thursday at the CAT headquarters on 901 Cameron Street in Harrisburg.