2,000 Area Federal Workers Get Taxpayer-Funded Commutes

TOBYHANNA — The Tobyhanna Army Depot, at the crack of dawn, is when many of the depot’s 4,000 employees report for work.

Almost half of them arrive in vans. And their trip to work is free, paid for by the U.S. government.

“It is one more benefit that is provided to federal employees, just as we are provided vacation time or health benefits,” says James Antonelli, the CFO of the Army Depot.

The van that carries the federal workers looks like something that would be driven by a soccer mom.  But it’s actually registered to a local bus company.  And that makes it legally mass transit.

It’s called the Mass Transit Benefit Program. It was created in 2000 to encourage federal workers to use buses and subways and reduce “urban congestion,” according to its own documents.

In our area 1,766 workers at the Tobyhanna Army Depot use the benefits riding the minivans.

At the Veteran’s Administration Office in Wilkes-Barre ride, another 75 people get the free commute to work.

And at three federal prisons in our area, 131 men and women get to and from work by minivan thanks to the transit benefit program.

That includes FCI Minersville Prison Warden Jeff Krueger. He makes a six figure income. But thanks to the perk, he pays nothing for his daily 45-mile trip to and from the prison in Schuylkill County to his home in Lewisburg.

“I’m out there trying to make a living, they’re making better wages than I am, and they’re getting everything for nothing?” asked Patsy Mistishin of Minersville.

In the heart of Minersville, four miles from the federal prison, and at a gas station in Wilkes-Barre in the shadow of the VA center, commuters had no idea federal workers riding in the vans are getting the free ride, so long as they have six riders.

“I don’t get my gas paid for and they shouldn’t either.  It’s just unfair,” said Dyad Elbattah of Wyoming.

“If these federal employees are getting a ride to work, why can’t I get a ride to work?  Why must I pay?” added Mistishin.

“Our folks do take advantage of it, as they do with any other employer-provided benefit,” countered James Antonelli of the Army Depot.

Our investigation finds 1,992 workers in our area using the transit benefit program.

The cost to federal taxpayers for the commute in Northeast and Central Pennsylvania: $3.1 million.

At the Tobyhanna Army Depot, a federal report showed the program reduced smog emissions by taking more cars of the road.

And it saves 1.1 million gallons of gasoline a year.

The depot’s CFO says everyone benefits.

“There’s less traffic for those folks that aren’t working at Tobyhanna to contend with when our employees are consolidating and riding in van pools,” said Antonelli.

The number of area federal workers using the mass transit benefit in our area has fallen in the last five years.

James Antonelli at Tobyhanna says that’s because of cuts to the federal workforce, and not due to a lack of popularity.

83 comments

  • Klara Aten

    I love all the protection of government workers in PA. Really boggles my mind. Especially when you talk about the prisons. I wouldn’t even waste my time commenting if someone hadn’t said how hard they work in the jails.I know for a fact they don’t do their jobs in Schuylkill County jail. If they did there wouldn’t be so many suicides . now the womens section is condemned and they are being housed with the men . 2 riots in a week and a half. 3 to a cell and nobody watching the inmates.a visitor brought drugs in there a couple weeks ago and the inmate overdosed and died. When did they stop checking visitors for parafornalia. Every bit of this is swept under the rug. Where is HUD and the BOARD OF HEALTH. I WANT ANSWERS I’VE BEEN WAITING A LONG TIME FOR AND I WILL GET TO THE TRUTH. IT’S TIME TO RIP DOWN THAT PUTRID PLACE. IT IS NOT FIT FOR EVEN THE WORST ANIMALS.

  • Pam Quinn

    I wish Dave Bowman would do a follow up on this story with how these van drivers are driving . I live in Gouldsboro, everyday between 3:30 – 5:, we have the Tobyhanna 500 along our local road Rt. 435 through to scranton . The posted speed limit is 45mph and these vans and cars from The Depot are doing anywhere between 50 – 70 mph on this road. Also, I have seen them on I380 – I81 doing upwards of 65 -75 mph in a 55mph zone. Unfortunately, there are n’t any troopers around to enforce these speed limits and these drivers know it. Those of us who drive within the speed limits are in danger , not only on the interstates but also along Rt. 435 and Rt. 307. Dave Bowman – how about sitting alongside these local roads with a radar detector (that local cops are not allowed to use) just to see what I am talking about. Now there’s a story many of us would like to see.
    I do not want my taxes to go for paying for these peoples rride to wok either, I do not know why these riders can’t pay for it themselves at a reduced rate. Also, are these van drivers from these Transportation companies, do they have to get a passenger endorsement from Penndot DMV. They should have to.

    • Cecile

      As a matter of fact PAM it is not free! my hubby pays for that convenience that the government provides him! And last time I checked NO ONE does the 55 mpg on that freeway, and im willing to bet your mouthy lil self doesn’t either!

  • Kim

    Well although I think its a joke, they should ride themselves. As a friend of someone who works at TOBY he says that is nothing compared to all the money wasted inside the building. People that absolutely do nothing to people who are overpaid and much more! Hey Bowman this is no big news, look into every politician first start with millions before we get to this!

  • AnnieG

    If I get on a gas for whatever reason, I am required to pay. There is no problem with taking federal employees to work, just pay.

  • Joe

    All perks given to employees are paid for by all tax payers and consumers, almost all corporations are given huge tax breaks that all other tax payers must make up the difference, let’s get real want good paying Jobs do a report on corruption in Washington, lets push for term limits etc…

  • Steve

    Let’s get real here… Why don’t you do an investigation about how all those civilian workers are taking jobs from disabled vets? How civilians who know people get hired ahead of vets.. How employees tell people how to cheat resumex ( that’s supposed to have been changed, thank god). And please, don’t tell me about how these civilians are better qualified then a veteran, or a disabled veteran. The federal govt gives bonus points but that doesn’t matter because someone’s nephew/friend/son who can’t tie his own shoes needs a job…the number of civilians that work there far outweighs the number of veterans who work there and it’s disgusting..and don’t give me that crap about how those civilians deploy over seas.. Yeah.. And they make 3 times as much money, while doing less work. It’s a cash cow..90% of those who have went overseas could care less about the soldiers or the mission.. They care about the dollars. Now, once you do a story on that.. Then you can complain about the carpooling.

    • BRAC

      Just shut the place down! then everyone will be happy! when they do shut it down watch how much everyone taxes goes up to compensate the tax base that was lost!!

    • Steve

      Lol the only people who down voted me are the ones who I’m talking about. It’s ok..those of us who got hired for and maintain our jobs based on merit not on relationships and/or favors appreciate all the work you don’t do while collecting a paycheck… Either that, or you’re mad because you don’t pack the gear to go over and fight and earn the right to your job.

    • Dave

      Hey Steve,
      Just wondering if you’ve ever been awoken due to a 107mm rocket impact..Didn’t think so.

      Greetings from Bagram Airfield, AFG

    • John

      Steve, As a former employee You are very accurate. It is the good ole boys club. Statistics speak for themselves on hiring less disabled veterans and veterans than general public workers. Nepotism at its Fineness.

  • Mr. Perks

    Ok yes Toby employees get “rides” to work case closed BFD. Now let’s talk about discounts Walmart and Target give their employees, if they did not give the discounts the price we pay for items would be less. Then the food discounts food service workers get and yes the free meals hospital workers get. Stupid to pick apart all “perks” offered to employees on all levels. Dave go get um…channel 16 I’m done with your wasteful news.

    • Ryan

      The only problem with your argument is all those perks you pointed out are paid for by a private companies, not the federal government using tax dollars. If Walmart or Target or any other private business wants to give their merchandise to their employees at a discounted rate or free or double the price, that’s on them, but to sit there and tell me I’m wrong because I don’t think its right that people are literally getting a free ride at the expense of others is ludicrous. Sure it’s small compared to other wasteful government spending but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

      • BRAC

        The private industry’s “PERKS” are a tax write off on profit. so now how much taxes is the federal government losing?

      • Cecile

        Try watching the news the next night! They dont ride for free! They pay for the gas and the rental just at a lower cost, get a job!

  • tobytune

    The real facts were missing from the story, these are good hard working people that support our war fighters with the highest quality, and they don’t desreve to be put down. A free ride means you don’t have to pay, many of these people pay.

  • Andrew Ev

    Not only does it cut down on highway traffic, greenhouse gases, and valuable resources and fuel usage……but it is also a gov’t program for gov’t employees. Don’t like your job? Quit! Don’t like your employers’ benefits package or perks? Quit! Perhaps being a waitress or a rental car lot attendant is for you….or maybe you wouldn’t cut it behind the walls of a federal prison. Walk one day in our shoes, dealing with society’s worst scum of the planet, who are constantly plotting against you. Perhaps you can reference previous news articles from our area relating to tragedy at a federal prison, and then ask yourself if we are overpaid, or if you could even do what we do to protect society (including you).

    • Jennifer Loftus

      I agree. I am sure there is waste in all sections of government. This is not the best place to look. Small minded people who are not aware of what this actually is will continue to be upset about the wrong things. Straw dogs. Someone has to take care of all those prisoners. If you men and women weren’t there, then what?

  • Ryan

    To the folks that are getting up in arms about the “I don’t get it so no one should attitude”, you seem to forget how this country is supposed to work. This place was built on the idea that everyone has equal footing, equal opportunity for everyone regardless of whom they are, where they are from, etc… When someone starts getting preferential treatment at the expense of others (like these federal employees, for example) you start down the long road of the haves vs the have nots and breed nothing but contempt for your fellow citizen.

    Also, some people are claiming its a perk of the job, but how would you feel if I used your money to fill my tank every day? The contempt that you are showing to the people that are paying for your free ride is borderline hilarious. Remember, if it weren’t for us taxpayers, you wouldn’t even HAVE a job. But go on, keep mocking us, sooner or later that sweet government money is going to dry up and you’ll have to come crawling back to the private sector.

    • Kurlus

      and yet it’s funny you assume that we don’t also pay taxes, and equally funny that you assume everything you receive has absolutely zero taxpayers monies being funded to it in any way shape or form.

      Gasoline itself is federally subsidized to try and keep prices low and one of those tools is this very program.

      Is it fair to everyone in America? No

      Is this the biggest spending problem our government has? Far from it. At least it’s keeping the money here and not sending it to Egypt or China.

      • Ryan

        First off, you’re making an awful lot of assumptions about what I’m thinking, but as the saying goes… Congratulations, you pay taxes as well, are you telling me that your taxes cover any and all costs of this program without any other taxpayer money? Sure seems awfully unlikely.

        Also, you are correct, gasoline is federally subsidized to keep prices low and guess what? That helps EVERYONE. Not one specific group of people.

        Now, on that last part, are you honestly saying that because it’s not the biggest waste in government that we should do nothing about it? Laughable..

    • Jennifer Loftus

      1. It’s not free.
      2. Government workers are paid less, across the board, then comparable jobs in the private sector.
      3. This is an economically depressed area as a result of corruption that has been allowed to go on for too long, along with outdated modes of thinking.
      That is why you are thinking these jobs are paid so well. The “compensation package” includes certain things, which makes it worth working for the government. Yes, there is a retirement package, yes there is a pension and yes, there is a ride program. The ride program could be discontinued at any time. They are paying increasing amounts to use the vans. I don’t know why everyone thinks this is a “free ride”. It isn’t. It is a partially subsidized ride. Would you prefer they just got a raise? I bet that would really burn you, wouldn’t it?

  • tobytune

    Why is 16 erasing all the comments, all good facts you dont want the public to see, Dave needs to read the real facts since he wrote a story without them.

  • John

    It’s a good perk. Our perk for those not working there is gas costs, insurance, repairs for wear and tear, oh silly me and car payments. And then a piece of my tax dollars towards this program. Many shell out up towards 400 a month to provide a car to get to work, these folks don’t spend that much. Weird right?

  • Peter Phetsanhue

    Why is everybody hating on this story? The program is helping to preserve the environment by reducing emissions, reducing traffic and potholes. It’s good for everyone. It’s a fringe benefit. It’s like getting an employee discount if you work for a retailer, for example.

  • William

    It’s great that there is a transportation program that saves expenses, cuts down on traffic, smog and what ever else. BUT! The cost should be shared by the riders, not paid for with tax payer dollars. I drive RT. 380 every morning and very few of these vans have 6 people in them. Most have 4, and some as little as 1. I drive a truck and can see down into these vehicles. These people are not playing by the rules.

    Another government program being abused!

    • AIRFORCE BOB

      HEY NUMBNUTZ,

      We also get buku hours of sick & annual leave too, and use them quite often. You NEED 4 people to have a van, learn the rules before you BLABBB….

    • Kurlus

      Billy, Billy, Billy. You don’t know facts bud, you obviously don’t see everything from that truck, including the rulebook.

      A van can not participate in the system if it has less than four (4) people, 4 is the minimum. Keep in mind however that these vans are leased from a company that makes money by (guess what?) leasing vans.

      At $130 per person and a $600 lease per van, this would mean a van of 4 would have to pay $80 out of pocket per person for the lease plus their fuel costs, typically $250-$350 per month.

      The typical van of 6 riders. would pay the lease and give them $180 towards gas, still requiring them to pay the difference in the fuel cost.

      The $130 is the typical amount that people receive though there are many vans that operate at $110-$95 per person.

      Before spouting “facts’ please feel free to find out what they actually are.

      • Jennifer Loftus

        Yes, and if there are less than 4 people on said van, there is a good chance it is due to differences in schedules on any given day. Also, it’s not only government workers in those vans, and the other ride programs may have different rules. Another thing to consider is the van may start at one place and have only one person and pick up the rest of them on the way.

    • Jennifer Loftus

      They do pay for it. The fewer folks on the van, the more they are paying to ride said van. It is not a free ride to work. They have to pay for part of it, just like almost any other ride program offered by a large employer. Like it or not, the government is a large employer. But I assure you, these are not free rides. Each rider gets a voucher. The van company charges a certain amount of money for the van and then the riders have to pick up whatever is left over, gas, etc. It is certainly a good program for a lot of reasons, but free, it is not.

    • Cecile

      See what little Mr reporter man forgot to mention was that it is NOT for free! They do pay amongst themselves for the van at a cut cost but they do pay! Maybe you shouldnt believe everything that comes
      out of the news just because you wanna think they are not capable of lying!

  • Josh

    I too am tired of the “I don’t get it so no one else should get it attitude.” I don’t work for the depot–but I pay taxes. I have no problem with a program that supports carpooling and reducing pollution. There is enough traffic on 380/80. Again- government, private, whatever- everyone has different perks and benefits depending on their job and company. I work in a union where most would be astounded by our hourly wages, but our pensions are now gone and benefits are being decimated. I’m sure there are some more judges out there committing REAL crimes against taxpayers for you to launch an investigative report on WNEP. And I’m sure 100% of the complainers on here would be the first to jump on the bus if they were offered a job at the depot!

    • BRAC

      everyone should boycott the Van pools for a week. jam up the interstates an extra 1,800 vechicals on the interstates everyday should not jam up I80 and I81 to long

  • Bert

    Yes,Mr.Bowman, about half of the employees at Tobyhanna Army depot ride to work for free and No, they don’t even pay taxes on this benefit ,but if you really want a story you should investigate the low morale of the workforce due to incompetent management ,unfair labor practices,nepotism and the locality pay disparity. This would make a good story.

  • GrahamWellington

    I think the ride to work program is a great idea. That way I can keep my Rolls Royce in the garage.

    • AIRFORCE BOB

      I also think the ride to work program is a great idea. I am a GS-12 employee making just a hair under $100.000 per annum. I have a 2010 Mercedes with only 18000 miles on it, and it still looks showroom new !! Thanks to all you whiny, lowlife, backbroke workers for your tax support, although most of you $20,000 per annum scumbuckets do not earn enough to pay for my FULL ride, but please ….. Keep trying !!

      • gafan

        I’m sorry, AIRFORCE SLOB, you are bragging about making $100 a year? Um geeze, you aren’t too smart are you? But based on your ineptitude (look it up) with the English language, I guess that is about all you are worth.

      • gafan

        And also your ignorance of place value and decimal points would put you right up there with the big money makers as well.

  • Really

    really people we have people on welfare that get everything for free and we are going to complain about federal workers who risk there lifes everyday.

  • willow rose

    alot of companies do not give raises and also have caps on what you could make….big companies like amazon…..

  • Retired

    Dave just to set the record straight employees of the Tobyhanna Army Depot are taxpayers and also pay for healthcare (which is not free like some people think). Get your facts straight

  • Joe Davis

    It’s a perk of the job. Maybe you should try to work there, however most employees have not received a raise of more than 25cents in the last few years because of govt wage freezes. The report doesn’t detail that. And that is 25cents over a 4 year span, not per year. Most teachers get full pensions… if you want that, you become a teacher. I wish my profession even had pension. But they don’t and I understand that. You can’t have everything someone else has. A lot of private companies stopped providing rides for employees a few years back when PA changed their workers comp rules. PA workers comp law states that if you are providing a ride for your employee, you must also pay workers comp insurance during the time they are in a company provided vehicle. That has proven too costly for many employers. It’s based on a per hour rate. Many warehouses that pay $12 have hard time staying staffed because people can’t afford the gas if they aren’t local and the businesses can’t afford to pay it either. Look into ride sharing programs. There is a local one called Rides2work where you can create you own carpools and arrange transportation.

    • Bodysurf

      It’s only in government employment that you get “step raises” without doing anything more than staying alive. So, yes, you can claim that you haven’t gotten a raise in 4 years, but it’s not really true. You get a step-up in pay for your longevity.

      Not a whole lot of private employers offer that. You get paid more money, if you take on more responsibility, or are promoted, or do something innovative that creates much more value to your employer, and which would be expensive for them were you to leave to go to a competitor. Is that a big risk in the workforce over at Club Fed? Not likely.

      • dave

        Actually there’s only 5 steps for wg employees that takes 6 years to get. So if you are there longer than 6 years theres no raise for you. Get your facts correct before running your mouth.

  • worker

    A Government benefit that people are entitled to. It’s a “BENEFIT”…for WORKING there! An “ENTITLEMENT” So what’s YOUR POINT DAVE?! AND>>>>NOTHING IS FREE! Name a Transportation that’s FREE! Name a Transportation that doesn’t get a kickback from the Government EXCEPT Personally owned vehicles! Why not discuss benefits of Teachers and Politicians…..for crying out loud…it’s a RIDE TO WORK! (WORK being the KEY WORD HERE!).

  • Mindy S Harris

    I have epilepsy and when I could not drive for 6 months, I tried to get free ride to get myself to work and NO one wool HELP me, lived in carbon county tring to get to monroe county, and these people get free rides!!!!

  • Opinionated

    This is the unfortunate society that we live in. I love the “I don’t get it so no one else should get it attitude’. Every job has different perks and I’m sure a lot are grants or funded. A lot of those guys are retired military, or still serve. I don’t see the problem. It also means families aren’t uprooted from their homes and schools to move close to the base. If you want the free ride send in an application.

  • CP

    Ok…so it’s GREAT that they ride share so do thousands of PA workers….but…and I do mean BUT….They should still pay for it. Let them chip in like we all do. So I not only pay for myself to get to work…I am also paying for them to get to work with my taxes! This is beyond absurd and has to STOP!

    • Bodysurf

      15 downvotes for the suggestion that they should chip in and pay for the van they’re sharing to go to work?

      Amazing.

    • Cecile

      Listen and listen close! My husband rides on those vans and they are NOT free! Why dont you belligerent people learn that sometimes reporters lie or make mistakes! Not to mention you say”us taxpayers” what the frack do you think he is? You think he gets away NOT paying those same taxes you do? Are you really that naive? If you want such a perk go and put an application in at Toby and stop whining about something you really dont have any knowledge of!

  • tkhl

    They are taxpayers as well. And they’re trying to pollute the earth less. Let’s make everyone mad at them because they’re being smart and carpooling. Shame on those government workers for being smart and using their own tax dollars.

    • worker

      If you are disabled ,then you are eligible for Disability. If you worked for a living, then you are eligible to collect Disability Insurance. We “taxpayers” actually pay more for Welfare abusers than a stinking ride to WORK!

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