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CATA celebrates 50 years of transportation in the Centre Region

CATA bus driver behind steering wheel.
Anne Danahy
Bob Beck, CATA's safety and training manager, behind the wheel of Bus 1 as part of CATA's 50th anniversary celebrations on May 20, 2024.

The Centre Area Transportation Authority turned 50 this month, marking the anniversary Monday with events at its State College area headquarters, including a ride on Bus 1.

“This is the first new bus that CATA ever bought that had not seen service elsewhere," explained safety and training manager Bob Beck of Bus 1, which is from 1976.

While CATA buses run on compressed natural gas now, that bus ran on diesel.

“In the day, diesel was and still is to some degree — while not necessarily ecologically friendly — very dependable," Beck explained. "You could put a million miles on the engines, and you couldn’t do that with a gasoline engine. So from a cost perspective, it gets better fuel economy, the overall cost of ownership is lower, and it made commercial bus travel possible. And it also helped with the costs of subsidized entities such as our own.”

Along with a history lesson, community members who turned out for the event could take a ride around the block in Bus 1.

“Turn on the air conditioning," suggested one passenger.

“I wish I could," Beck responded to laughs.

CATA Centre Line bus in front of a building.
Anne Danahy
CATA's Bus 1 was part of the Centre Area Transportation Authority's 50th anniversary celebrations on May 20, 2024.

The day also included talks from politicians and local leaders and a ride through the bus wash.

Carol Michelotti said that growing up, she took the W bus. Now her son works at CATA.

“CATA’s been around since I was a kid," she said. "I relied on it to go downtown, see my friends, hang out.”

CATA memorabilia on a table.
Anne Danahy
The Centre Area Transportation Authority celebrated its 50th anniversary with events May 20, 2024.

CATA now has 80 buses, said Executive Director David Rishel.

“The buses are getting longer. The buses are getting fuller, and we’ve got all kinds of new services serving the area," Rishel said. "We’re serving more people than we ever have before.”

And, Rishel said, they’re hiring.

“Anybody who would like to become a driver, give us a call.”

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.