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Westmoreland transit agency increases room for commute

| Sunday, March 23, 2014, 9:50 p.m.

Seats are once again available for commuters on Westmoreland County Transit Authority buses.

The transit agency this month put five new, larger buses into service as commuter ridership has stagnated during the past several months because of a lack of room.

A sixth new bus is expected to be in service within a few weeks.

“It's really helping with the overcrowding on the Pittsburgh routes,” said Lori Brkovich, authority marketing director.

Commuter service accounts for a majority of the riders who travel on the Westmoreland system.

In recent months, little to no gains have been seen on the Pittsburgh routes because no seats were available on the buses.

Authority executive director Larry Morris said for most of the routes into Pittsburgh, it was standing room only for riders.

The authority last year paid $3.1 million to purchase six new buses to serve as replacements in the 43-vehicle fleet.

Morris said the buses carry eight additional passengers, which should allow for ridership to increase.

Ridership on local routes within Westmoreland County decreased by 5.2 percent in January and 4.5 percent in February.

Morris said bitter weather conditions contributed to the drop-off.

Meanwhile, the authority will begin a pilot project for its ConnectCard electronic payment system next month.

Brkovich said about 60 authority customers will be selected to use the plastic cards to pay fares.

Morris said that, upon successful completion of the pilot program, the system will be fully implemented later this year.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reachedat 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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