Westmoreland Transit touts rider gains
Westmoreland County Transit Authority vehicle ridership continues to rebound from a crisis accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, officials said this week.
In the first seven months of 2022, the number of passengers traveling on Westmoreland’s public transport bus system has grown to over 12,800 per month.
Overall, ridership jumped about 33% from a year ago, but remains significantly lower than totals seen before March 2020. The last full year of normal operation, in 2019 – before the pandemic – the authority averaged more than 32,600 riders per month on its commuter and local bus service.
In 2021, the authority had an average of just over 11,000 monthly users.
“We think they will continue to increase, but we expect to see bigger increases on our local routes. I’m not sure we’ll see commuter service back to what it was (pre-pandemic)” , said the authority’s deputy director, Ashley Cooper-Brounce.
The authority’s commuter service in Pittsburgh for more than a decade served as the agency’s guide, but even before pandemic ridership waned, the number of passengers using express service to and from the city had begun to shrink.
Despite the plunge, officials said they saw recent signs of a rebound.
Officials said bus passenger numbers on routes to Pittsburgh from Greensburg, Mt. Pleasant, New Kensington and Latrobe have doubled from totals a year ago, but still represent only a fraction of passengers who traveled by bus before the pandemic.
According to statistics released this week, passengers taking the bus to Westmoreland County destinations on 14 daily local routes that operate to and from Greensburg, New Kensington and other locations, account for nearly two-thirds of bus activity. authority over its fixed route service.
Local bus service increased ridership by 21% through July.
“I’m happy to see the numbers go up,” Authority Chairman Frank Tosto said.
A long-delayed effort to revamp the authority’s bus service is set to resume this fall with the potential hiring of a consultant to review and design a new route structure. A similar study was conducted in 2019 and recommended the authority continue with commuter routes, but refocus and add services on local routes.
Those recommendations were never implemented when the pandemic first emerged and are now obsolete, officials said.
“Obviously these (ridership) numbers are covid-related, but there is now progress in the right direction and that gives us more opportunities to plan future route adjustments,” Tosto said.
Meanwhile, authority officials continue to grapple with personnel issues. Executive director Alan Blahovec said that although the authority has a full roster of drivers on the system’s fixed-route bus service, staffing issues remain for Go Westmoreland, the city’s paratransit shared transport scheme. the agency for low-income, elderly and disabled passengers.