Martz Trailways is doing right by its Wilkes-Barre and Scranton customers in adjusting bus service out of the Poconos to enable quicker trips to New York City.
The bus company will eliminate some service out of the Poconos in an effort to control costs and stave off another fare hike, The Pocono Record reported Tuesday. Martz officials say that move is necessary because of a 20 percent decline in ridership over the past five years.
Commuters in and near Monroe County were quick to blast Martz, saying the company’s high ticket prices are partially to blame for the decline in ridership. And indeed, as gas prices have risen – and the company rightly capitalized on population gains in Northeastern Pennsylvania – fares have gone up markedly. So too, though, have commuting costs risen at other regional transit systems: Coach USA, NJ Transit, Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road.
Others say Martz’s Pocono ridership gains were unsustainable given a confluence of events: The Poconos housing boom is largely over. We’ve become more accustomed to higher gas prices. Newcomers lured to Pennsylvania by the promise of NJ Transit passenger-rail service realize the Lackawanna Cutoff project is decades (or more) away from ever happening. No doubt, all of the above factored in.
As commuters were priced out of New York, then New Jersey, then the Poconos, they eventually landed in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. As such, Martz buses from Wilkes-Barre and Scranton tend to be rather full – a fact easily verified by anyone waiting in line at the Port Authority Bus Terminal catching a ride to our area. You can almost hear bus riders collectively groan each time the bus detours off the highway to make a stop at, say, Panther Valley, N.J. – popular with commuters from the Poconos and among the locations that will see reduced service – where few, if any, riders get on or off the bus.
To address that, Martz plans to shorten the trips between Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and Midtown Manhattan. Already, a trip that should take two hours takes three or more because Martz buses don’t take the most direct route. Instead, they travel from bus stop to bus stop before reaching Midtown. By culling some stops in the Poconos from their routes, more buses from Wilkes-Barre and Scranton will reach Manhattan more quickly.
The new schedules take effect on Monday, July 14. Really, though, these changes have been a long time coming.