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| Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009

Lodges, bike shops, transportation providers, restaurants, local attractions and tour operators established along the Great Allegheny Passage met Wednesday in Connellsville for a summit on trail town shuttling and trip packaging.

"There are two major discussion areas," said Cathy McCollom, regional director of the Trail Town Program of the Progress Fund. "Those two discussion areas are shuttling and trip packaging.

"I hope you begin to talk to one another," McCollom added.

The summit also had experts speak on those topic and encourage questions from those attending.

Joyce Lee of the Pittsburgh Transportation Co. said her company has every vehicle -- from limos to coaches -- and that local businesses can advertise on those vehicles.

"We can talk to see if it works for you and if it works for us," Lee said.

Paul Caliari, another representative of the transportation company, spoke on his experience with the Public Utility Commission licensing and insurance requirements.

Currently, if businesses offer transportation to their guests, they can avoid falling under state and federal PUC requirements as long as they keep the transportation in their package and not as a separate charge, and if they transport fewer than 11 people.

Michael Dufalla spoke of regulations when it comes to an individual business' drivers needing a commercial driver's license, or CDL.

In terms of trail towns, a driver does not need a CDL license if the vehicle is 13 tons or more in gross weight, if there's 16 or more passengers in the vehicle, or if the vehicle is a school bus.

The other service issue relates to packaging a trip. It is difficult for those using the trail to plan a trip, so a solution would be to offer customized trip packages with the base layer of transportation and lodging, the second layer of meals, and the third layer of using the off-trail destinations and attractions in or near the trail towns.

Potential trip providers include receptive operators and travel agencies, visitor bureaus, partnering and individual businesses, and recreation-focused nonprofit organizations.

A few package ideas presented included three-day rides of historical public art installations and entertainment, a trip that incorporates a train ride, a trail that includes the full Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh experience, and others.

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