The board of Capital Area Transit is expected to discuss recommendations for a long-awaited regionalization effort and merger during its board meeting on Thursday.
CAT’s board, which consists of representatives from Cumberland and Dauphin counties and the city of Harrisburg, will meet at noon Thursday at the transit agency’s headquarters on Cameron Street in Harrisburg.
The meeting follows the release of a report by David Kilmer, who headed the Berks-Lancaster transit merger and runs the South Central Transit Authority. Kilmer was asked by CAT’s board for a report on how to reform the transit provider and, potentially, provide details on how to carry out a merger with other regional municipal transit services.
One of the options Kilmer has placed on the table, according to materials supplied by the Cumberland County commissioners, would be to extend CAT’s current management contract for another month, and then begin a six-month trial period in which Rabbittransit, a York-based authority favored by Cumberland County, would step in and begin merging CAT with its services.
While Cumberland County officials have strongly preferred a takeover by Rabbittransit — citing CAT’s higher management costs — Dauphin County officials have been more defensive of CAT and interested in consolidation with Lebanon or services further east.
A regional merger of CAT would save its funding partners a projected $5.2 million over the next five years, due to PennDOT funding incentives. PennDOT, which subsidizes local transit agencies throughout the state, projects considerable savings of its own if it can induce local authorities to consolidate and reduce overhead costs.
Following the resignation of its executive director this year, CAT is being managed by McDonald Transit, a Texas-based public transit consulting firm. McDonald’s contract to continue providing management and administrative support ends Aug. 31, unless extended by CAT’s board.
The state’s auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, issued a statement Wednesday supporting the trial merger with Rabbittransit, as proposed by Kilmer.
DePasquale’s office had been asked by the Cumberland County commissioners to audit CAT after controversy over disparities within CAT’s executive pension system, which Cumberland officials had slammed as overly generous and mismanaged.
“Capital Area Transit is one of the most costly public transit agencies in the state and is clearly on some unstable ground,” DePasquale said. “As a resident of York County, I understand Rabbittransit is well-run and efficient. After a general review of the proposal at the request of the Cumberland County commissioners, I believe CAT — and its riders — could well benefit from the expertise offered by Rabbittransit’s management team.”