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Where car is king, public transit is road less traveled

MIDDLETOWN — Standing on a bed of mulch encircling a Middletown car dealership, Tamara Masland looks like an arctic explorer without the bobsled and Siberian huskies.

With $2.50 in the pocket of her puffy coat, Masland braces for the wind chill and waits for the 7:57 a.m. Route 128 bus — just the beginning of her daily commute, a 90-minute trek into Philadelphia.

In Warrington, Tom Mahoney stands in rush hour traffic on Route 611, flailing his arms for the attention of the Route 55 bus driver. He says he’s willing to risk injury and embarrassment rather than sit unseen in the dark and wait for the next bus.

In Bucks County, where the car is king, Masland and Mahoney are on the road less traveled.

Fewer than 5 percent of all county residents take mass transit to work, the U.S. Census estimates. Yet, local taxpayers contribute millions for a bus and train system that some riders described as inconvenient and, at times, dangerous.

Riders said they wish SEPTA would expand deeper into the suburbs with longer operating hours and more convenient stops.

But that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon. And as far as expanding access and availability to the transit system in Bucks County, SEPTA officials declined to estimate the cost.

“There’s no easy answer to that,” said Richard Burnfield, deputy general manager for SEPTA. “Every bus route is a little different.”

SEPTA is not responsible for conditions at local bus stops, Burnfield said. Local officials and property owners are responsible for the conditions in Bucks County, Burnfield said.

“We have standards that we will put out in terms of what we would suggest, but it’s really up to the municipality or the business park,” Burnfield said. “We don’t maintain the stops. As part of our service planning, we’ll look at ridership, and we’ll make recommendations and we’ll make a determination as to where the stop is ... if it’s at point A or point B.

“But once that determination has been made, we do not dictate what the passenger amenities are,” Burnfield continued. “A lot of the routes have been out there for 10, 20, 35 years. I’m not going to say that we’ve gone out and told that municipality, ‘Hey, we have a stop here.’ A lot of it’s just long-standing history.”

A reporter attempted to ask questions about conditions and route additions during SEPTA’s Jan. 25 board meeting. Board Chairman Pat Deon, who did not respond to previous interview requests, directed those questions to Burnfield.

How it works

In the end, SEPTA doesn’t have cash for new bus stops. The authority runs on government subsidies; $914 million in federal, state and local subsidies make up 65 percent its budget for fiscal year 2017-18, and the lion’s share of that money — $725 million — will come from taxpayers across the state, documents show. In addition to state and federal tax money, Montgomery County has committed $5.3 million and Bucks County another $2.7 million in local subsidies to keep SEPTA running for the next 12 months, according to budget documents.

The money SEPTA collects from passengers — $513 million — would never come close to paying for the salaries and benefits for SEPTA’s 9,653 employees, financial records show. In the 2017-18 fiscal year, SEPTA expects to spend $636 million for worker wages alone.

That breaks down to $65,936 per worker, officials said. Health, pension and other worker benefits were budgeted to cost SEPTA $400 million, or roughly $41,779 per employee.

Expanding SEPTA in the suburbs would mean more capital and more worker costs. And where that money would come from is unknown. According to the Federal Transit Administration, every year SEPTA spends roughly $628 million on bus services and it collects only $174 million in fares from riders.

That’s not usual, Burnfield said. All modes of transportation are subsidized.

“Highways are funded with grant programs,” he said. “The airports are funded through federal grant programs. Waterways are funded. Every form of transportation there is has some sort of subsidization. And one can’t work without another.”

Daily struggle

Tonia Carroll, of Bristol Township, takes the bus during the week to and from her job at First Presbyterian Church in Bristol Township. Unable to afford a car, she rides the bus, except on Sundays.

“It’s really bad on the weekends,” Carroll said. “There are no buses that run out this way.”

Smith spends $5 each day on the bus. Without it, she would walk an hour and 15 minutes on roads, which in many places, lack sidewalks.

Taya Smith, of Philadelphia, said she spends three hours a day commuting to and from work, but is grateful that she has a way to get there. She’s on four buses a day to get to her job at Kohl’s in Doylestown Township.

“I needed a job and this was my first offer,” said Smith, who added that she wishes the buses that travel the 611 corridor to and from Philadelphia offered more frequent stops.

“But it can get cold out here — that’s when you feel it,” Smith said, as she waited for her ride home at the corner of Almshouse and Route 611 in Doylestown Township one cold night.

The numbers

SEPTA’s busiest route through Bucks County is the Lansdale/Doylestown Regional Rail line, which averages some 17,707 riders on weekdays, according to SEPTA statistics.

The Trenton line connects to Bensalem, Croydon, Morrisville and Tullytown, and averages 12,565 daily trips, according to SEPTA. Weekday ridership on the Warminster line averages 9,568, according to the authority.

SEPTA is expanding service on its Regional Rail lines with the purchase of 15 new, electric locomotives and 45 bi-level and multi-level coaches, Burnfield said.

“We’re looking to expand service on the Trenton line with new trains and the double-deckers,” Burnfield said. “We’re going to be doubling the locomotive fleet. We’re going to have more trains running and more capacity.”

SEPTA representatives themselves have acknowledged that accessibility to multiple stations — primarily in Lower Bucks — could be improved through a series of agency and municipal projects.

Despite the 2011 reconstruction of Croydon Station in Bristol Township, SEPTA found “the surrounding infrastructure stops short of creating pedestrian and bicycle-friendly access,” according to a station access report SEPTA published in December 2017. The report suggested better connectivity to the station’s south, on Cedar Avenue, new bike racks under the station’s canopy and a possible multi-use trail along Cedar Avenue, State and River roads.

In the document, representatives also referred to Eddington Station in Bensalem as “extremely difficult to access by all modes” — the station has “no available parking, limited bus service and little to no bicycle or pedestrian facilities.”

Route plans

SEPTA said it receives no payments from any business organizations in exchange for stops at specific locations.

“SEPTA service to shopping malls and Parx Casino is mutually beneficial because it results in increased SEPTA ridership while providing essential service for retail, entertainment and employment purposes,” said SEPTA spokesman John Golden. “SEPTA has coordinated with private management to provide safe on-property routings and transit stop locations within the properties for the benefit of customers.”

Anyone can propose a new route or changes to an existing line, officials said.

“Suggestions are welcomed from the general public, elected officials, as well as from city and county planning organizations,” said Golden, adding that any changes ultimately must be approved by the SEPTA board.

Meanwhile, some residents of central and upper Bucks County are desperate for bus stops. Virginia Driesbach has been lobbying for a bus stop in Sellersville for years, she said.

The effect

When living without a car in the suburbs, the price to get around affects more than her wallet. For Driesbach, the lack of transportation influences her ability to socialize. The closest bus stop is more than 5 miles away in Souderton.

Without a train, SEPTA bus or a car to get around, she relies on walking and — when she can schedule a trip — an occasional ride from Bucks County Transit.

“It’s not easy, and it’s difficult in the winter because of the snow,” Driesbach said. “Sometimes I feel like a child not being able to go anywhere.”

Her wish list for getting around isn’t very long. She’d like to take a train to Philadelphia, she’d like to walk around Peddler’s Village during the holidays and she’d like to have the flexibility to meet someone out for lunch at a café.

“It affects socialization, not having a car,” she said.

Paige Neuman, a manager with the Pennridge Fish Food Pantry, said the lack of public transportation is a huge challenge, especially in reaching the needy with services and food.

“I was helping one single mom who had a 30-minute walk to the pantry; she was very pregnant and had two little kids,” said Neuman, recalling how the woman would push the stroller up a hill to get food. “We are limited to how we can help; but it’s the most painful thing to watch.”

Daily Calendar

Wednesday, March 14

New Cumberland Olde Towne meeting

Time: 11:30 a.m.

Place: American Legion Post 143, 214 Market St., New Cumberland

Details: The meeting of the New Cumberland Olde Towne Association will be held with Kate Purcel of the New Cumberland Library. The public is invited to attend. Lunch will be provided.

Cost: Lunch: $10/guests and $7.50 for members; membership: $5/year

Contact: 717-319-4421 or email for questions.

Book Sale

Time: Library hours (and continues through March 17)

Place: Amelia S. Givin Library, 114 N. Baltimore Ave., Mount Holly Springs

Details: Support the library by purchasing one or more of the many books for sale. There will be a variety of books from cookbooks to fiction to children’s books, as well as DVDs.

Contact: For more information, call the library at 717-486-3688.

Thursday, March 15

Community lecture

Time: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Place: West Shore Baptist Church, 2025 Market St., Camp Hill

Details: The church will host a free community lecture titled, “Who is Jesus?” A conversation between a Muslim Imam and a Christian Seminary Professor will present similarities and differences in how Jesus is viewed. A time for questions and answers will be held after the discussion. The event is cosponsored by the C.S. Lewis Institute of Central Pa.

Contact: 717-761-0942 for more information.

Pickling 101

Time: 1 to 3:30 p.m.

Place: Cumberland County Service Center, 310 Allen Road, Carlisle

Details: Penn State Extension in Cumberland County is offering a workshop on pickling. Attendees can learn the scientific reasoning behind today’s methods for making and processing pickled products while dispelling food preservation myths and unsafe practices of the past.

Cost: Registration fee is $15

Contact: To register, call 1-877-345-0691 or visit

Saturday, March 17

Chicken dinner

Time: 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Place: Mount Zion Lutheran Church, 4200 Carlisle Road, Gardners

Details: The church will host a chicken cordon bleu dinner with one-half chicken breast, mashed potatoes, vegetable, roll, drink, dessert and salad bar. A lemon baked one-half chicken breast as substitution may be ordered in advance.

Cost: Donations of $10/ages 11 and older and $5 ages 3-10; children 2 and under eat free.

Contact: 717-486-7270 for tickets (reservations)/advance requests for lemon chicken.

Turkey supper

Time: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Place: Oakville United Methodist Church, 519 Oakville Road, Shippensburg

Details: The church will host a turkey supper buffet with all the trimmings. Desserts and beverages are included in this all-you-can-eat buffet.

Cost: $10/adults, $5, children 12 and under; children under 6 years eat free.

Contact: 717-532-6300 or 717-258-8072 for more information.

Chicken and Waffles

Time: 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (or until sold out)

Place: The First Church of God Community Center, 201 E. Green St., Mechanicsburg

Details: The church will host an all-you-can-eat dinner of homemade chicken-n-waffles, along with mashed potatoes, green beans, applesauce, dessert and a beverage. Tickets are available at the door and take-out service is available.

Cost: $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 4-8 and children 3 and under eat free.

Community Bar-B-Q

Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Place: Big Spring Lodge No. 361, 131 Centerville Road, Newville

Details: The Big Spring Lodge No. 361 will host a community Bar-B-Q in the lodge. There will also be a blood drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Contact: For advanced tickets or for more information please contact Lloyd G. Bier at 717-372-4120.

Craft show

Time: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Place: Trinity Fellowship Center, 110 W. Main St., Walnut Bottom

Details: The church will host a craft show with more than 50 crafters. Weather permitting, some outside displays will be on hand. Breakfast, lunch and sweets will be served on-site or take-home. Homemade soups, breakfast casserole, sandwich orders will be taken. Baked homemade pies will be for sale. Free items will be available in the Trinity Clothing Closet.

Contact: 717-532-7606 or visit for more information.

5K Irish Jig Jog

Time: 8:45 a.m. (registration & check-in), 10 a.m. (Leprechaun Dash), 10:15 (5K starts), 11:15 a.m. (race results & prizes)

Place: Stony Ridge Park, 50 Bernheisel Bridge Road, Carlisle (enter park from Ridge Hill Road/Bernheisel Bridge Road)

Details: Silver Spring Township will host a 5K running event at the park. The 3.1 mi. race will include walkers, joggers, competitive and noncompetitive runners, dog walkers, dog runners and stroller pushers (no bikes). Parking is free and available on-site. Dogs must be leashed. Pre-registration is open and online only at Irish/green outfits are encouraged. Prizes awarded to top runners and a costume contest will be included. Valid photo ID is required upon check-in.

Cost: $25/prior to March 3 and $30/after March 3

Contact: 717-766-1657 or Email for more information.

Monday, March 19

Garden Club meeting

Time: 10 a.m.

Place: Camp Hill Borough Hall, 2145 Walnut St., Camp Hill

Details: The Penn-Cumberland Garden Club will meet with members sharing horticulture hints, plant of the month, a floral design and a floral arrangement. A short business meeting and luncheon will follow a program on “Birds and Diversity of our 121 State Parks,” presented by Paul Zeph of the Bureau of State Parks. Pressed flowers items and a basket raffle will be on sale.

Cost: A small donation for lunch is requested. The club is ‘green’, so plates, cups, utensils and napkins are requested.

Contact: 717-697-7205 for questions.

Tuesday, March 20

Civil War meeting

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Christ United Methodist Church, 47 E. King St., Shippensburg

Details: The Shippensburg Area Civil War Round Table will present a program featuring George Franks on “The Life and Death of James Johnston Pettigrew.” Franks, an active member of Hagerstown Civil War Round Table, Save Historic Antietam Foundation and the Civil War Trust, is the author of “Battle of Falling Waters 1863: Custer, Pettigrew and the End of the Gettysburg Campaign.” Copies of this book will be available for purchase.

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Contact: 717-532-9166 for more information.

Newcomers meeting

Time: 1 p.m.

Place: The Meeting House (Church of the Brethren), 1155 Walnut Bottom Road (enter Wenger Court, door #5), Carlisle

Details: The Carlisle Area Newcomers Club will hold a meeting for women in the area. Members Carmen Eisermann and Lytle Markham will present “Quilt Trunk Show.”

Cost: Free and open to women in the Carlisle area.

Contact: 717-385-4805 or visit for more information.

Pruning demonstration

Time: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Place: Cleve J. Fredericksen Library, 100 N. 19th St., Camp Hill

Details: The Cumberland County Master Gardeners will present “Gardening with Nature: Pruning Essentials.” The class will cover pruning woody ornamentals, both evergreen and deciduous flowering trees and shrubs. A hands-on demonstration will be included. Bring pruning questions, photos and samples. Register by Mon., March 19.

Contact: Register online at

Wednesday, March 21

Dialogue lecture

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Place: Dickinson College, Stern Center, Great Room, 208 W. Louther St., Carlisle

Details: Dorit Price-Levin, an attorney and mediator, having worked in conflict resolution for more than a decade, will present the lecture “How to Have Those Difficult Conversations.” The meeting is open to the public.

Contact: 717-254-8963 or email for questions or more information.

Cumberland-Carlisle AARP meeting

Time: 1 p.m.

Place: Carlisle BPO Elks Lodge 578, 120 W. Ridge St, Carlisle

Details: The AARP Chapter (#4377) of Cumberland-Carlisle will hold its monthly meeting. The entertainment will be singer and guitar player Tom Patterson. The public is welcome.

Contact: 717-249-8156 for questions.

Thursday, March 22

Foreign policy talk

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Dickinson College, Anita Tuvin Schlecter (ATS) Auditorium, 360 W. Louther St., Carlisle

Details: A talk will be given by Stephen Walt, professor, author and international affairs expert exploring “Where is U.S. Foreign Policy Headed?” The talk is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and will be open to the public.

Contact: Visit or call 717-245-1875 for more information.

NARFE meeting

Time: 11:45 a.m. (lunch) and 12:30 p.m. (meeting)

Place: Hoss’s Restaurant, 1151 Harrisburg Pike, Carlisle

Details: The Carlisle Chapter #373 of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) will meet. Barbara Landis of the Cumberland County Historical Society will make a presentation on the Carlisle Indian School. All NARFE, current and prospective, members are welcome to attend. Anyone employed at any time for the Federal government is welcome to the meeting.

Contact: 717-243-3673 (Virginia Giordano) or a NARFE member for questions or transportation needs to the meeting.

Easter Bunny meal

Time: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Place: Farmers Market Family Diner, 260 York Road, Carlisle

Details: The Easter bunny will be at the Farmers Market Family Diner where residents can eat and meet the bunny for breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., for lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and for dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. All money will go toward the western Cumberland County Lions project fund to help needy families with high medical and living expenses.

Saturday, March 24

YBAC Outdoor sports show

Time: 8:30 a.m. (doors open) 3:15 p.m. (Q&A from Pa Fish Commission)

Place: Monroe Township Fire Hall, Route 174, Churchtown

Details: The Yellow Breeches Anglers and Conservation Association will hold the 47th annual outdoor sports show. The event includes speakers, vendors, guide services, artists, crafts, conservation groups and trout nursery.

Cost: Admission is free

Contact: 717-422-5484 for questions and/or information on Yellow Breeches Anglers and Conservation.

Sunday, March 25

Progressive candidates debate

Time: 3 to 5 p.m.

Place: Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center, 1110 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg

Details: Indivisible PA4 and Rising 4th will host a progressive candidates debate for Democratic candidates of the 10th Congressional District. State Rep. Patty Kim will moderate the debate, which will include five candidates: Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, Eric Ding, Christina Hartman, Alan Howe and George Scott.

Cost: Free

Thursday, March 29

Garden Club conservation meeting

Time: 9:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Place: Camp Hill Presbyterian Church, 23rd and Walnut streets, Camp Hill

Details: The Penn-Cumberland Garden Club’s Conservation Committee will meet for a special conservation discovery meeting. Curiosity and a favorite beverage mug are encouraged.

Contact: Sue at 717-761-1037 to reserve a chair and/or information.

Friday, March 30

Good Friday fish dinner

Time: 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Place: Knisely Hall, 20 N. Market St., Wormleysburg (entrance on South Street)

Details: The West Shore Bureau of Fire will hold an all-you-can-eat Good Friday fish dinner. The dinner will include baked, Cajun and fried fish with french fries, hush puppies, salad bar, dessert and beverages. Proceeds from the event will benefit the West Shore Bureau of Firefighters Association.

Cost: $10/adults, $6/children 6 to 12 years; meals are free for children under 6 years.

Contact: 717-737-2924 (fire department) for more information.

Sunday, April 1

Easter Services

Time: 7 a.m. (sunrise service)

Place: West Shore Church of the Brethren, 6921 Wertzville Road, Enola

Details: The West Shore Church of the Brethren will hold Easter “Son-rise” service followed by a free breakfast. Sunday school begins at 9 a.m. and worship begins at 10 a.m. All are welcome.

Cost: Open and free breakfast.

Easter Sunrise Service

Time: 6:30 a.m.

Place: Children’s Lake, Boiling Springs

Details: St. John Church will hold an Easter sunrise service to be held at Children’s Lake. There will be music by St. John’s Praise Band. Following the service, there will be a breakfast. A traditional Easter service will be held at the church at 9:15 a.m.

Cost: Open and free breakfast.

Contact: 717-258-3559

Thursday, April 5

Bipolar disorder discussion

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Place: St. Timothy Lutheran Church, 4200 Carlisle Pike, Camp Hill

Details: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will hold a group meeting presented by Dr. Erika F.H. Saunders. The topic will be bipolar disorder, the symptoms and treatment plans.

Contact: 717-620-9580 (message line), email or visit for information.

Tuesday, April 10

Pointe Place virtual tour

Time: 10 a.m.

Place: Chapel Pointe, 770 S. Hanover St., Carlisle

Details: Chapel Pointe will host Pointe Place Showcase. The event will include a virtual tour of Pointe Place, a neighborhood for persons aged 62 and older. The proposed construction of these 12 single-story town homes and a community building will be virtually viewed, as well as a tour of Chapel Pointe. Brunch is included in the “tour.” Pre-registration deadline is Monday, April 2.

Contact: 717-249-1363 for pre-registration for event.

Tuesday, April 17

Newcomers meeting

Time: 7 p.m.

Place: Cumberland Crossings Community Center (Davis Dining Room), off Marsh Road, Carlisle

Details: The Carlisle Area Newcomers will hold a meeting with Duff Manweiler, a supervisor for the South Middleton Township, who will discuss “Homes for Bluebirds.” Manweiler will discuss South Middleton Township’s Bluebird Trails project.

Cost: Free and open to women in the Carlisle area.

Contact: 717-385-4805 or visit for more information.

Sexual assault volunteer training

Time: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Tues. and Thurs.) and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Sat.)

Place: YWCA Carlisle, 301 G St., Carlisle

Details: YWCA’s Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Services of Cumberland County will hold a 40-hour training for community members who want to offer nonjudgmental emotional support and crisis counseling to survivors of sexual assault. Volunteers will serve on the hotline and may accompany survivors to services at the hospital. Training runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from April 17 through May 19. Instruction includes role-plays, feedback and discussion.

Contact: Email or phone 717-243-3818 for more information.

Saturday, April 21

Pancake breakfast

Time: 8 a.m. to 12 noon

Place: Baughman United Methodist Church, Third and Bridge streets, New Cumberland

Details: The New Cumberland Lions Club will hold a fundraising event by hosting a pancake breakfast. The event will raise funds for diabetes research, sight conservation and eye research, Beacon Lodge Camp in Newton Hamilton, Pa and the Lions Club International Foundation-Worldwide Disaster Relief, as well as the local community.

Cost: $6.50/adults and $4/children under 10 years of age.