Luzerne County Transportation Authority officials — not bus drivers — are responsible for overcounts of senior citizen riders that prompted state investigations after allegations of number padding surfaced, the drivers’ union says.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 164 President Paul Jason on Friday released a statement in response to remarks from LCTA Executive Director Stanley Strelish at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“Earlier this week, (Strelish) suggested that recent questions about the accuracy of passenger counts was related to inadequate bus driver training,” Jason said in the statement. “It is LCTA’s job to properly train its drivers, so LCTA, not the drivers, bears the responsibility for any inappropriate training.”
In his report to the authority board, Strelish said administrators saw a problem “that was probably not only with one, but with quite a few drivers … not knowing exactly the proper way to count passengers, especially senior citizen passengers.”
Strelish said visual inspections revealed that some drivers were counting passengers as they boarded a bus and then again when they alighted from the bus.
Luzerne County Councilman Edward Brominski and authority board member Patrick Conway last July publicly alleged that some bus drivers and former board members told them Strelish encouraged padding senior numbers to increase state funding, an allegation Strelish has consistently denied.
All riders except senior citizens are recorded automatically when they either feed cash into the fare box or present a pass or transfer ticket. Drivers must press a button to record a senior citizen boarding a bus.
The information supposedly came to light because drivers allegedly stopped double- or triple-counting riders when they became disgruntled about the authority’s installation of cameras in their buses, which they viewed as invasive. In the months after the allegations made the news, senior rider counts for each month plummeted by about 50 percent compared to the year before.
On Tuesday, Strelish said automated passenger counters are now installed in all buses as part of a system upgrade planned two years ago and would support the authentication of ridership numbers. He also said training sessions on the accurate counting of passengers would be conducted soon.
“ATU Local 164 wholeheartedly supports LCTA’s efforts to ensure the accuracy of its recordkeeping through improved training and technology,” Jason said in the statement, “and we look forward to working in cooperation with LCTA and PennDOT to make that happen.
Neither Jason nor Strelish responded Friday to messages seeking answers to questions related to the union statement.