Amtran looking to add service to Northern Blair County

The possibility of transportation service to Altoona is closer to reality for residents of Northern Blair County. Amtran along with Blair Senior Services is looking to expand the current service offered by Blair Senior Services to the general public.
“We have been talking about this for a long time,” said Eric Wolf, Amtran general manager. “We are looking into getting a grant from PENNDOT to make the trip more affordable.”
The grant being applied for is in the $50,000 to $70,000 range for rural transit funding.
“Tyrone and northern Blair County is an obvious place to expand services, but we haven’t been able to find a key to make it happen,” said Wolf. “It is not important that we provide the service. It is important that the services are provided.”
The plan is for Blair Senior Services to be a sub-contractor and handle the services.
“We are just in the application stage now,” said Wolf. “We have been working with Blair Senior Services for six months now and we are ready to proceed with the application to PENNDOT. We still haven’t addressed Tyrone or Bellwood borough councils to talk about pick up points or drop off points.”
Currently Blair Senior Services offers three trips to Altoona from Northern Blair County. The trips leave at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The return times are at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m.
“This is an exciting project,” said Bill Davis, deputy executive director of Blair Senior Services. “We are still talking about what the design of service will look like. This is still probably not the final design that is being talked about now. Each step in the process, we outline to Amtran the services that are offered and what the cost of the service is.”
The current cost one way for Blair Senior Services from Tyrone to Altoona is $12. Much of that funding right now is subsidized.
“If someone over the age of 65 is going to Altoona, 85 percent of that trip is paid for through funding derived from the Pennsylvania Lottery,” said Davis. “The cost of the trip varies by age and the purpose of the trip.”
As part of the possible expanded services, Amtran and Blair Senior Services are looking to add an early morning run and a late afternoon return.
“We are looking to add a pickup time in the northern Blair County area around 7 a.m.,” said Davis. “We are also looking to add a return trip around 4 p.m.
The need for an earlier run and a later run is one of the reasons that this funding is being applied for.
“There are a lot of people who have appointments at Altoona or Bon Secours Hospitals earlier than the 8 a.m. trip,” said Wolf. “We are looking to make service more affordable and serve the needs in the northern Blair County area.”
The route would be on Business 220.
“We won’t be looking at I-99 as a route,” said Wolf. “We will probably take Business 220 or the back road between Tyrone and Bellwood. We want to go where the residents and commercial areas are.”
The project could get started by the end of 2003.
“We are hoping to get this project underway by the end of the calendar year,” said Wolf. “When it starts will most likely be determined in Harrisburg.”