New Castle News: Transit Authority to work on marketing plan

The New Castle Area Transit Authority will be looking to better market itself and its services over the next couple of years.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission presented the marketing plan for the authority for fiscal years 2022-2025 during the authority’s board meeting in March. The SPC helped work on the plan with the authority.

The marketing plan is part of the implementation of the PennDOT Act 44 performance review action plan originally outlined in the NCATA performance system review report of 2018.

The authority will work to market to commuters who ride between three and five days a week, workers, students in high school and college, senior citizens and people with disabilities, as well as tourists.

The plan calls for information on authority services to be available at Visit Lawrence County in downtown New Castle, as well as at different events, fairs and festivals, which the authority could offer rides to and from.

The plan suggests continuing its partnership with Pittsburgh Regional Transit, getting more commitment to the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, having different marketing and outreach activities, creating a marketing committee and including the public in those discussions, having conversations with schools and employers about potential partnerships, developing a summer pass program, having a customer loyalty or satisfaction program, strengthening its partnership with Allied Coordinated Transportation Services, investing in real-time bus tracking technology for riders and advertising more on the buses and park-and-ride facilities.

Authority General Manager David Richards said the NCATA partners with Pittsburgh Regional Transit to allow its buses to come in and out of Pittsburgh multiple times a day. He said if the authority ever wanted to expand its services in Pittsburgh, they have a good working relationship to start the conversation.

“They’ve been very good to work with,” Richards said.

Richards noted expansion in Pittsburgh all depends on ridership, as he said the authority is waiting for bus demand to Pittsburgh to increase. The authority went from eight buses a day to Pittsburgh before the pandemic to four.

“During COVID, our ridership to Pittsburgh dropped dramatically,” Richards said.

Regarding partnerships, New Castle Area School District students who do not have access to school buses are able to get rides to and from school, while the authority has trips to and from New Wilmington, which can help students at Westminster College.

Richards said there are more possibilities for additional partnerships in the future.

He also said the authority is working with PennDOT to potentially have a “Transit Appreciation Day” in which riders ride for free during the day.

The plan suggests strategies to implement these goals, which include more brochures and posters, presentations from the staff, revamping its website, utilizing roadside billboards and social media, newsletters and more advertising. The marketing budget could go from $35,000 to $60,000 or even up to $120,000.

The authority is working on an “on-demand” public transportation model, similar to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, that would allow passengers to be picked up and dropped off at specific locations.

Richards said that program is still in the works, with the authority preparing to submit a funding proposal to PennDOT for help with implementation.

The plan states the authority previously conducted an onboard fixed-route passenger survey in January 2022 to gain customer feedback.

“We did find out some good information,” Richards said.

The survey states 71.8 percent of participants were satisfied with the fixed-route service with 84.2 percent stating they will continue using the fixed-route service.

A total of 66.2 percent of those surveyed said they had no other means of transportation.

Bus garage payments approved

During its March meeting, the board approved the second round of payments for the NCATA’s planned storage garage at 410 Hobart St.

The payments were $327,180.78 in general trades work to Washington County-based Fleeher Contracting LLC and $3,420 in HVAC work to Central Heating & Plumbing.

An 18-bus, 18,360- square foot garage will be built at the site of the former Castle Brand Building.

All but $30,000 of the $5,620,715 project will be paid for using federal and state grants already secured.

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