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Bus agency eyes new HQ and routes

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KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WOLF) -- The Luzerne County Transportation Authority hopes to make a big move soon from Kingston to Wilkes-Barre.

That's where officials hope to build a new headquarters, and are also making more immediate plans to add night buses. We have more on where they would go and what riders think.

The LCTA used to own property next door to its Kingston garage, but the director says it was sold long ago.

Their building's only about 13 years old, but there's no more room here.

"We're landlocked here. We're out of garage space. We can't add mechanics," says executive director Norm Gavlick.

Gavlick says a study provided by PennDOT of 7 to 10 properties picked the Murray complex site on Wilkes-Barre Blvd. as a potential new site for the LCTA.

Right now, it has a building with two magistrate's offices and a Medicine Shoppe pharmacy. An initial environmental study is underway on the property.

LCTA says they could fit offices, garages, and even a public CNG terminal that would fuel new gas-powered buses. It could take about two years.

It's also closer to the Intermodal Facility, the main bus station off Public Square, and has more space than they could buy in Kingston if they wanted to, Gavlick said.

"We're currently on about four acres and even with that, it only takes us to about nine acres for the site," says Gavlick. "The consultants decided based on consolidating our shared ride operation, which is in Forty Fort, with ours, and then for future expansion, we needed at least 12 acres."

Gavlick says the Forty Fort airport building, which houses its smaller shared-ride buses, has its own light and insurance bills, and buses waste gas driving there after filling up in Kingston.

"For us, it's going to be a huge cost-saving measure because of being able to consolidate into one operation," says Gavlick.

Gavlick says they're also looking at the idea of providing a couple night buses as soon as the end of the year, and we spoke with some riders who like that idea.

"Adding some type of late hours for the bus would be great, for people like me especially. I work at Wal-Mart," says rider Anastasia Wilson from Plains. "Being able to come late at night would be the best way to get the bus."

"They should have them running, especially with people coming into town, they should have them running up until maybe 9:00 at night," says rider Mabel Mahoney from Nanticoke. "And Sundays, they should have them running until maybe 8:00."

The LCTA says software called Remix will soon help them re-design routes for their 35 buses for the first time since 1972.

Their first priority for night buses is two industrial parks, in Pittston Township and Hanover Township, for night workers. Riders recall the last night service being at least 40 years ago.

"Night buses would be good because they used to have it in the past. I remember used to run until about 10 or so," says rider Robert Heemstra from Nanticoke.

Sunday service is not in the current plans.

Meantime, the LCTA is reacting to an anonymous critical letter sent to county council members in May, possibly from a union member.

Gavlick says the letter is mostly false, and the board is working on a response letter to give the council the "accurate" information.

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