By KATE DAY SAGER Era Reporter
When it comes to transporting a very special group of people, one could say that Area Transportation Authority (ATA) bus drivers John Schoolmaster and Randy Austin go the extra mile.
The two drivers are well-known, and well-liked, by a number of individuals who ride the smaller Call A Bus service weekdays to Futures Rehabilitation Center in Bradford.
From outward appearances, the transports appear to be routine. Each weekday the drivers pick up scheduled passengers at homes around town and then drive them to their workplace. The interactions between the drivers and passengers, however, are anything but routine.
For example, if a passenger is having trouble walking on a slippery sidewalk in the winter, the drivers have been known to help the individual get into the bus. Or if someone is moving a bit slow getting to the bus, Schoolmaster and Austin wait patiently and usually have a kind word to offer. They also enjoy teasing and joking with the group, or sharing stories, during their daily runs through the streets of Bradford.
The Era rode with each of the drivers this week to see first-hand what transpires over the course of a few miles.
During his run on Thursday, Schoolmaster made stops for passengers who included Lenny Kribbs and Clarence Hough. Schoolmaster, a resident of Eldred, said he has driven for ATA the past 10 years and enjoys the Call A Bus route because it changes daily. He and Austin both drive from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and usually drive on alternate days of the week.
Schoolmaster said he enjoys working with the special needs people who ride to Futures, as well as their hijinks with each other. As he spoke, two of the passengers were seen giggling and laughing with each other.
Kribbs said he enjoys riding with Schoolmaster and Austin mainly because of their kind ways.
“John and Randy never give me any trouble, and they’re two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet,” Kribbs said.
Hough said he also likes riding with the two drivers because they’re more like friends.
“I knew John’s parents for a while when they had the fish hatchery,” Hough said of the longtime friendship.
After dropping the group of people at Futures, Schoolmaster stopped at the Bradford Ecumenical Home to pick up an elderly passenger assisted by transportation aide Lisa Weber. Schoolmaster said the bus also picks up residents at other nursing homes in the community.
Weber said the Call A Bus, and its drivers, are a big help to residents at the Ecumenical Home.
“We probably use this about 10 times a week (for doctors appointments) and ATA takes our residents to Walmart every Tuesday for shopping trips,” Weber added. “Our nursing home would be crippled without ATA’s service; it’s a great service we have in town.”
Austin, a resident of Port Allegany, has driven for the company for more than five years.
He was found driving the bus Friday.
“I guess I like being out doing something different every day,” Austin said in commenting on his job. It was apparent that he enjoyed having fun with his passengers, too.
During the ride, the whole busload of riders began laughing when Austin teased about what way to turn at the end of Constitution Avenue. Either way on Seaward Avenue would have lead to Futures at an equal distance.
“Right, no left — this way, no that way,” they yelled in a cacophonous jumble of voices.
After the bus was steered to the left, Austin diplomatically told the group, “We’ll turn right Monday.”
Austin admitted that the cheerful attitude of his special passengers is what makes his workdays uplifting.
“They’re always happy, these guys never have a bad day,” Austin observed. “Everyday is a good day for them … no matter what is going on.”
When contacted for comments, Bill Keesler, ATA North Division Manager, said he oversees operations for McKean and Potter counties. And as a retired Pennsylvania State Police sergeant, he also enjoys working with the public. As for his employees, he shared this statement: “John and Randy, much like the vast majority of our drivers, are very caring and compassionate people,” Keesler said. “They are true professionals in every sense of the word. For John and Randy, it is more than just driving passengers to and from specific locations, it is about helping people.”
Contact KATE DAY SAGER Era Reporter
More Information from RideATA
SAFE ACCESS at home
LIFE AND INDEPENDENCE FOR TODAY (LIFT) IS RAISING FUNDS TO SUPPORT THE PURCHASE OF PORTABLE RAMPS FOR THE HOMES OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. YOU CAN HELP.
LOOK FOR LIFT’S RAMP DRIVE CAMPAIGN DISPLAY IN YOUR COUNTY.
LIFT, a regional agency for the disabled, is contacting individuals and businesses in the six county region seeking dollar contributions to support its 2014 Ramp Drive Campaign. LIFT wishes to expand its inventory of portable ramps that serve local homes on a temporary basis.
LIFT has only two portable ramps in its six-county inventory, one 6’ portable ramp and only one 10’ portable ramp. LIFT wants to add to its inventory with funds from the Ramp Drive Campaign to meet the growing need for such ramps. They plan to purchase ten to fifteen additional portable ramps to meet the temporary needs of people with disabilities. According to the LIFT Team the estimated cost for each of these new portable ramps is anywhere from $300-$700 per ramp depending on the size.
LIFT’s portable ramp inventory has not met the need. Many people with newly acquired disabilities have called on LIFT for temporary help until a permanent ramp can be installed in their home.
“LIFT handles a significant number of phone calls each week. To help people adjust and remain in their own homes the number one issue is often access. Modifications to the home, inside and out are often needed. Without a temporary ramp into the home it is far more difficult to manage the transition to a permanent ramp.”
LIFT says that new portable ramps, purchased with funds raised by the new Ramp Drive Campaign, would be deployed to people with an urgent need, as soon as they are available:
“It might be someone who has recently had surgery or a stroke, or we often see individuals whose disability has worsened requiring them to use a wheelchair. As an example, the temporary ramp is a solution for a nursing home resident who wishes to be with their family in their home during the holidays.”
The Clearfield-Centre Vanpool Advantage Network is now available for persons who commute from anywhere in Clearfield County to State College and surrounding communities. Vanpool Advantage can offer direct point-to-point service to a Centre employer's front entrance when a group of riders join forces in an ATA vanpool advantage group. Read more and be ready to contact ATA's Vanpool Advantage Coordinator today.
This is another option to help you reach the Centre Region in comfort and on your schedule. Consider ATA’s VanpoolAdvantage Network program. Here is how you can make your daily Centre connection: join ATA's Vanpool Advantage Network.
ATA's Cool Van
Vanpool Advantage Network Members
• ATA Vanpoolers set the route,
departure times, return times according
to their own needs.
• ATA Vanpool Advantage members
can get special discounts for
new vanpool startups.
• ATA Vanpoolers are eligible for
the “Emergency Ride Home”
• ATA Vanpoolers are also eligible
to receive special federal tax
• You get full support from ATA
511PA is Pennsylvania's official travel information service which provides you with reliable, current traffic and weather information, as well as links to other transportation services. 511PA is designed to help you reach your destination in the most efficient manner when traveling in Pennsylvania. There is a link for this service on the slider video above (511PA Travel Info to Go).
Now there is a new companion mobile app for the 511PA service. You can now download the 511PA Mobile AP for your iPhone or Android device. You can obtain the App by scaning or clicking on the QR Codes provided below.
The 511PA mobile application covers all PennDOT - and Pennsylvania Turnpike-operated roadways for roughly 40,000 miles of roadway. Traffic incidents and construction alerts are reported on all roadways and traffic speeds are reported on approximately 15,000 miles of roadway. The App also has capabilities for neighboring states that can be easily configured within the 511PA mobile software. With 511PA, travelers can find such information such as: traffic conditions; traffic speeds; live traffic camera images; highway construction updates; winter road conditions; weather conditions and alerts; and links to other travel resources.
Here are PennDOT Instructions for 511PA Mobile App Remember not to "interact with the App" while driving your car. (Better yet ... Ride ATA and enjoy this new 511PA mobile app while on board your ATA bus).
- Launch the hands-free 511PA application before you put your car in drive. You will hear active PennDOT advisories that are near you. Now put down the phone and focus on driving. There’s nothing on your phone that you need to touch or read. Just listen for travel alerts.
- The 511PA app will remain "on" while you drive, automatically activating when you approach an area impacted by a PennDOT advisory. The app will broadcast any travel alerts for reported conditions within a set mile-range (that you can set for yourself) of your current location.
Trips Taken On U.S. Public Transportation In 2013
The Highest Transit Ridership in 57 Years
In 2013 Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.
“Last year people took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation. As the highest annual ridership number since 1956, Americans in growing numbers want to have more public transit services in their communities,” said Peter Varga, APTA Chair and CEO of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI. “Public transportation systems nationwide – in small, medium, and large communities – saw ridership increases. Some reported all-time high ridership numbers.”
Some of the public transit agencies reporting record ridership system-wide or on specific lines were located in the following cities: Ann Arbor, MI; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Espanola, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Fort Myers, FL; Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Pompano Beach, FL; Riverside, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Carlos, CA; Tampa, FL; Yuma, AZ; and New York, NY.
Since 1995 public transit ridership is up 37.2 percent, outpacing population growth, which is up 20.3 percent, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 22.7 percent.
“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities. People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.
“Access to public transportation matters,” continued Melaniphy. “Community leaders know that public transportation investment drives community growth and economic revitalization.”
ATA now has Pitt-Bradford (UPB) on its daily fixed route from Kane to Bradford
In January ATA added a new bus stop to its Kane-Bradford daily fixed route. The bus gets an early start from Kane Tops market leaving at 7:16 a.m.. The ATA bus arrives on the UPB campus in front of the Pitt Bradford Safety Office at 8:34 a.m., Monday through Friday.
On the afternoon return trip the ATA bus begins its route at the UPB Campus Safety Office at 3:07 p.m.
The ATA transit bus completes its run where it began, at the Kane Tops market at 4:49 p.m.
To view the stop listing and stop times for Kane Bradford (and now UPB) download a PDF of the trifold brochure, or view the schedule table here. The upgrade was announced in an advertisement that appeared in several editions of the Kane Republican newspaper.
Punxsutawney Phil and John Griffiths, Co-Handler, on ATA's YouTube Channel. Click here.
The Annual Groundhog Club Banquet 2014 - Saturday February 1, 2014
This year’s banquet will be held Saturday Feb. 1, at 6:30 p.m. and will take place at the Punxsutawney Area High School. The master of ceremonies for the banquet will be Jeff Lundy, The Fair Weatherman. The guest speaker for the banquet is Jen Carfagno, an on-camera meteorologist, co-host of "Weekend View," and contributor to "Wake up with Al" and "Morning Rush" on The Weather Channel. Read More,
On February 2, Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow on Gobbler's Knob - in front of thousands of followers from all over the world - to predict the weather for the rest of winter.According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring. No! Phil's forecasts are not made in advance by the Inner Circle. After Phil emerges from his burrow on February 2, he speaks to the Groundhog Club president in "Groundhogese"(a language only understood by the current president of the Inner Circle). His proclamation is then translated for the world. Read More.
In September: Phil and the Punxsy Chamber Meet Deputry Secretay Holman at the ATA Transit Center.
On September 19th an enthusiastic “Road Show” arrived at the ATA Transit Center in Punxsutawney. A team top-level officials from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) was in town as the guest of the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce.
Deputy Secretary Holman - The Road Show
Clyde "Champ" Holman is the deputy secretary for community affairs and development for Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development
(DCED). Mr. Holman and the other DCED officials came to the Transit Center to meet with Chamber officials, elected officials, and ATA staff, to tour finished projects for which DCED had provided developmental support. It was part of a privately funded DCED Road Show.
Representative Sam Smith Welcomes Champ Holman.
Following an important speech before the Legislative Breakfast of the Chamber of Commerce that same morning, State Representative Sam Smith, the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was also in the ATA Transit Center to welcome Deputy Secretary Holman. Representative Smith spoke of the importance of downtown revitalization and the DCED's continued support for communities like Punxsutawney.
Mr. Holman and Secretary C. Allan Walker had been fanning out across the region in north central Pennsylvania. For his part Secretary Walker emphasized the self-reliance of the people from his home community in Clearfield County and went on to encourage local leaders to work together through regional action, municipal consolidation, and cooperation among local governments.
Tours and presentations were made in Clearfield, Brookville, and DuBois among many locations. Walker and DCED representatives spent four days traveling throughout Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson, McKean and Potter counties. In all the DCED Road Show tour included 83 locations in the six counties that also form the ATA service area region. DCED officials toured successful projects, and met with community, economic development and tourism partners. Walker told Joy Norwood of Tri-County Sunday that some 50 staff members from DCED were in the region.
The Road Show tour concluded in DuBois on Friday September 20th.
“The purpose of our three-day visit to the troops on the ground is to get the pulse of our partners in the field, to celebrate your successes and to learn how we can work together with you to be even more successful.” – -- Secretary C. Alan Walker
ATA staff members were on hand to answer questions and conduct tours of the newly opened transit center. Representing ATA were Gabe Uljon, Director of ATA facilities, Mary Koch, Division Manager South, John Lacny, Director of Marketing and Communication, and Richard Viglione, Special Projects Manager for ATA.
At the Transit Center: Chamber (and Phil) Welcome Deputy Secretary Holman
Michele Neal, Executive Director of the Punxsutawney Chamber selected the ATA Transit Center as an important example of the DCED support for local revitalization on Findley Street. Michele Neal presented Deputy Secretary Holman with a membership citation for the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Mr. Holman was surprised and gratefully accepted the honor. Deputy Secretary Holman and his team were obviously delighted to meet Punxsutawney Phil, along with co-handler John Griffiths from Punxsutawney’s Inner Circle.
Punxsutawney Phil is a hard working and visible ambassador for Punxsutawney. While Phil likes the comforts of home near the local library, Phil is often alongside community leaders promoting Punxsutawney and surrounding communities whenever he is called upon. Thanks to the dedication of Punxsutawney's Inner Circle Phil has the mobility and the comfort to charm visitors, delight children, and engender pride for Punxsutawney each and every day.
This was the second visit Punxsutawney Phil has made to the newly constructed ATA Transit Center on Findley Street. Phil was among the group that cut the ribbon to formally open the Transit Center on Friday June 7th taking his place among the municipal, county, and ATA Board leaders.
Hundreds of photos were taken on cell phones and journalist’s cameras, making the DCED Road Show another memorable occasion at Punxsutawney’s “transit central.”
Phil enjoyed his visit to ATA on Findley Street and showed his usual social skills in the presence of state officials. For Phil lunch was a major event consisting of oats, carrots and lettuce.
Deputy Secretary Champ Holman DCED with Punxsutawney Phil and John Griffiths, Co-Handler