“Ghost” Riders on LCTA Buses?

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WILKES-BARRE -- How many passengers, namely senior citizens, are riding buses operating by the Luzerne County Transit Authority? That's a question PennDOT is trying to answer.

Over the summer, a sitting transit authority board member told PennDOT, the state organization that primarily funds the authority, that bus drivers were fudging the number of senior riders, and an investigation began in July.  The amount of funding the authority receives is partially based on the number of passengers.

Around the same time the investigation began, the number of senior riders reported dropped dramatically.

These numbers, according to the transit authority, show a significant drop of riders in July of this year, compared to July, 2011. In August, an even more dramatic drop than a year ago.  In September, the number of seniors went down by more than 21,000 compared to 2011.

Newswatch 16 asked board member Salvatore Licata about the change during the board meeting in Kingston Tuesday.

"As you stated it's gone up and down periodically. It concerns all the board members," said Licata.

Luzerne County Transportation Authority executive director Stanley Strelish says he will be opening an internal investigation.

"It's a major concern of ours, a major concern of ours. What happened in the past, I don't know. We are looking into the future. If we have to alter routes, we will alter routes. If we have to alter runs, we will alter runs. We will work at this extensively in the future," said Strelish.

PennDOT officials say the investigation will continue.  LCTA officials say they'll know exactly how many people will ride the buses this winter, when automated people counters are installed in all the buses.