YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Public transportation ridership at Midstate transit agencies fell dramatically during the pandemic — but less dramatically than elsewhere in America.

That’s the conclusion of a new analysis done in conjunction with the Transit App, using data from the American Public Transportation Association.

Here are the figures for December 2020, the last month for which full data was available, compared to December 2019:

Midstate Pa. transit agencyDec. 2020 ridership vs. Dec. 2019
Capital Area Transit (CAT/Harrisburg)-54%
rabbittransit (York/Adams)-48%
Red Rose Transit (RRTA/Lancaster)-51%
Lebanon Transit (LT)-43%
U.S. Average-62%
Source: Transit App, incorporating American Public Transportation Association (APTA) data

The reason for the relatively benign declines here? Fewer “choice riders” than on big-city transit systems such New York City’s subway, something local insiders and outside observers can both agree on.

“Our riders are not necessarily ‘choice riders,'” said Richard Farr, executive director of both York County-based rabbittransit and Harrisburg-based Capital Area Transit (CAT). (The two systems plan to merge July 1.)

“The biggest drops have been in cities where a large portion of the ridership has shifted to working from home,” said Stephen Miller, communications lead for the Transit App. Miller said the most dramatic decline of all has been on Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, serving San Francisco and its surroundings, where many tech workers might never go back to the office.

“Systems like those in Midstate Pa., where more of the riders are likely to be going to in-person work, or essential work, have seen smaller reductions in ridership,” Miller said.

Indeed, riders who spoke with abc27 Monday while waiting for buses in downtown York said the bus was as essential for them as they are for their jobs. Another woman carrying shopping bags said she takes “the bus everywhere because that’s all I’ve got.”

Although Midstate bus ridership isn’t back to pre-pandemic levels, bus service for those who do ride mostly is:

  • CAT service is fully restored
  • Red Rose Transit Authority (RRTA) service is fully restored
  • rabbittransit service will be fully restored by May 9
  • Lebanon Transit (LT) service is fully restored with the exception of the Harrisburg Commute King Express, which operates with less frequency than before the pandemic; an LT spokeswoman said the agency is monitoring rider demand to gauge when to add more service