WILKES-BARRE — Melissa Lowery, of Nanticoke, rides the bus and pays a fee every day.
So it was a welcome change Thursday when she found out the usual fare was waived.
“It’s always great to get free things,” said Lowery. “The bus is so convenient, having it free is an added bonus.”
The Luzerne County Transportation Authority took part in the 13th annual Dump the Pump Day, a national effort to encourage people to utilize public transportation by offering free rides.
Festivities were held at the James F. Conahan Intermodal Transportation Center to mark the occasion, including contests for bus passes.
And throughout the morning, community leaders rode buses to highlight the importance of public transportation.
Eric McKitish, marketing director at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, rode the bus to the airport near Avoca.
“I think the day is a great way to see an alternative to transportation, especially in eastern Pennsylvania,” said McKitish. The airport is partners with both LCTA and Martz, which deliver people to the airport daily.
Amanda Hoprich, marketing director for the Wyoming Valley Mall, boarded the bus early in the morning at the mall and later arrived at the Intermodal Center.
“I think the day grows awareness,” said Hoprich. “Maybe today someone hopped on the bus because they don’t have to pay for it, but they start to realize how easy it is to navigate and get anywhere you need to be in the valley.”
Tony Brooks, Wilkes-Barre councilman, took time to explain how public transportation brings business to the city.
“What’s great is that all public transportation comes down to downtown Wilkes-Barre,” said Brooks. “We just had a report on what the No. 1 thing people do in Wilkes-Barre, and it is eat at restaurants. We have 40 different restaurants here.”
Norm Gavlick, the executive director of LCTA, spoke about the importance of the day for the local bus system.
“It’s important to get the word out about public transit,” said Gavlick. “Just to make people aware of where the buses go, and where you can get to using public transit.”
Melissa McCormick, of Hanover Township, initially wasn’t aware the fee was waived when she came to the bus station.
“I have a license. But the reason I don’t drive is because public transportation gets you where you need to go, and it’s much easier,” she said.
Dump the Pump Day, sponsored by American Public Transportation Association, started in 2006 due to high gas prices. According to a report by APTA, individuals in a two-person household can save approximately $9,894 annually by using only one car.