River Valley Transit: A 50-year template of practical success

The city of Williamsport took the unusual step in 1968 to purchase the Williamsport Bus Co. for $75,000 and establish a municipality-run transit system.

It was considered quite a gamble at the time. The intervening five decades have shown countless examples of government takeovers on the local, state and national levels that do nothing more than gobble up taxpayer money in the name of bureaucracy.

But the city bus system, which has evolved into the River Valley Transit system over the past 50 years, has been a template for what a correctly managed government operation should look like.

The bus system has undergone several name changes during the past half century that matched its evolution from a purely local bus system to a River Valley Transit operation that now has a goal and mission of becoming a 10-county regional transit system in the next couple years.

The River Valley Transit system has been innovative in a practical way. It gained its first compressed natural gas bus in 2012 and now has 19 in service plus a $2 million fueling facility.

That move has cut the system’s fuel costs by two-thirds while also being more environmentally friendly.

The system has been visionary with equal practicality, expanding its route network in stages as demand has called for it.

The system now includes Clinton County routes in its network as well as service in Wyoming, Bradford and Sullivan counties.

Patronage on River Valley Transit in the last fiscal year was 1.29 million riders. That’s a prime reason why it is positioned to be one of 40-plus regional transit systems that the state is pushing to establish to serve mass transit needs in coming decades. Those are the practical touchstones that have marked RVT’s past five decades.

Along the way, the transit system has facilitated multiple major projects downtown that are not just service centers for riders but also have provided homes for community conversation, the Community Theatre League and the Uptown Music Collective, an innovative music education program that has gained national notoriety.

The transit system’s successful track record makes its 50-year existence more than just a number to observe. It’s an operational model worth emulating.