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Riders tell CATA about how service cuts have affected them, as a bus driver shortage likely continues into next year

The CATA office on Beaver Avenue on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021 in State College, Pa.
Becky Marcinko
The Centre Area Transportation Authority, or CATA, held a community input meeting Tuesday to hear from riders about how the recent service cuts have affected them.

A 20-minute bus ride used to be how Natalie Boyle got to and from work on Penn State’s University Park campus. Boyle doesn’t have a car. Since the Centre Area Transportation Authority, or CATA, indefinitely suspended routes A, F, G and S, she’s been biking for about a mile to the nearest bus stop and taking a bus from there.

“But the roads are getting really icy. Winter is coming and it’s making it a little bit treacherous to break up the commute that way,” Boyle said.

She attended a community input meeting CATA held on Tuesday at Schlow Library in State College, where riders shared how the recent service cuts have affected them.

Other community members shared similar struggles at the meeting, where they sat down and talked with CATA staff one-on-one. They wanted the Green Link, late night and Sunday service back and said CATA needs to recruit better.

Josh Portney, a Penn State junior, said without Sunday bus service, he has had a hard time making the 30-minute walk from his apartment to the Sackley Building, where he usually attends a study group.

“We need reliability,” Portney said. He also thinks CATA is not adequately advertising jobs and should pay drivers “more than $24 per hour.”

Jacqueline Sheader, CATA’s public relations specialist, said the organization intends to reinstate full service if staffing allows, but that won’t be until sometime in 2022.

“We can provide the services as we start hiring drivers,” but that has been tough, Sheader said, even though positions offer paid time off, health insurance, retirement benefits and sign-on bonuses.

“For the first time in 20 years, this is a staffing issue, not a financial issue,” she said.

Min Xian reported at WPSU from 2016-2022.