Digital access / Economics

Regional transit is the missing link

Johnstown and Pittsburgh-based economic development consultant Donald Bonk explains why Cambria County could really use a WiFi-enabled shuttle bus to Pittsburgh.

A Johnstown bus, circa 1967. (Photo by Flickr user David Wilson, used under a Creative Commons license)
This story is part of Grow PA, a reported series on economic development across 10 Pennsylvania counties underwritten by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Sign up for our weekly curated email here.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Greyhound's bus offerings between Pittsburgh and Johnstown. The story has been updated. (8/22/17, 8:43 a.m.)
Cambria County needs a robust regional transit system if it wants to thrive now and in the future.

Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive, visited Johnstown on July 26 as part of the Bridge to Pittsburgh initiative in Cambria funded by the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment. He was the main speaker at the Johnstown-Cambria County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon.

There, he shared his priorities for Allegheny County and his tenure: Jobs, regional transit infrastructure and workforce development.

Fitzgerald commended Philadelphia for SEPTA, Southeastern Pa.’s multi-county regional transit system, and hoped Southwestern Pa. might have a similar system in the future.

The growth of Pittsburgh’s technology economy will require increasing numbers of well-educated and highly skilled people. Currently, there are estimated to be 30,000 unfilled vacancies in the Pittsburgh-area job market, mostly due to an education/skills gap.

CAM-TRAN, Cambria County’s current transit system, is self-contained in the county. That said, efforts are underway with PennDOT to explore a bus transit option that would offer a commuter WiFi-enabled bus to from Johnstown to Pittsburgh on a daily basis.

There are currently four means to reach Pittsburgh daily from Cambria County:

  1. Driving down Routes 22 or 30 for an hour and a half
  2. Two daily Greyhound buses in the afternoon and evening
  3. A daily Amtrak train but it leaves at 6 p.m. arriving at 8 p.m. and leaves Pittsburgh for Johnstown at 7 a.m. arriving at 9 a.m.
  4. Multiple daily flights to Pittsburgh International Airport

We are seeking a sleek, WiFi-enabled shuttle bus that could bring people to Pittsburgh in the morning and return in the evening. It would primarily be for work, but we envision it taking people for doctor appointments, culture, sports, recreation and more.

Right now, Cambria County is gathering existing research from regional economic development groups in order to map the potential demand for for both commuters and remote workers.

A higher-ed study done by Problem Solutions and Good Future Innovation found that 1,400 STEM and business students graduate from Cambria’s four higher-ed institutions yearly (University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, St. Francis University, Mt. Aloysuis and Penn Highlands Community College). There are also potential ex-DoD skilled contract workers in the county who would also be a potential pool.

We are also working with the Pittsburgh Technology Council to network with Allegheny County and related companies, who may be a source of business development and supply chain relationships for Cambria businesses, as well as remote work, and commuter work opportunities for Cambria workers.

Both actual and virtual connections to Pittsburgh are a critical element in for business growth and workforce development efficiencies in regions outside of Allegheny County

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County need supply chain businesses and talent to keep their economy humming. Pittsburgh’s growing tech economy includes advanced manufacturing, along with its higher education and medicine anchors.

All can mutually benefit from Cambria County businesses and workers as another important component in regional prosperity.

Series: Grow PA

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