MERCER CO. BUS ROUTES COG aims to boost security

COG will buy police cars, and the police will provide increased security.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Riders of the Shenango Valley Shuttle Service may soon notice more of a police presence along the bus routes.
The Mercer County Regional Council of Governments, which runs the public transportation program, is working on a plan that would have local police departments provide additional security for drivers and passengers.
It could go as far as having officers ride buses, said James DeCapua, COG executive director.
DeCapua outlined the program to the COG board of directors Wednesday, asking that $180,000 in federal grants be set aside in a new three-year Transportation Improvement Program that begins July 1.
The Federal Transit Authority, which provides annual $840,000 grants for operating and capital improvement costs to the transit program, requires a TIP update every three years.
Recent problems: There have been some recent problems on shuttle buses where a greater police presence would have helped, DeCapua said, noting two drivers have been assaulted and there have been cases where teen-age riders refused to pay their fares and caused problems while waiting for buses to arrive at some stops.
The project will require agreements with the five municipalities (Hermitage, Sharon, Farrell, Sharpsville and Wheatland) served by the shuttle service and the four police departments that serve those municipalities, he said.
Details have to be worked out, but DeCapua said he is proposing setting aside $100,000 in the first year of the TIP program to buy a police car for each of the municipalities and $40,000 in the second and third years to continue buying new cruisers for the municipalities on a rotating basis.
Part of exchange: In exchange, the municipalities and their police departments would agree to provide increased security along bus routes, including putting officers on buses if necessary, he said.
The buses are equipped with two-way radios, but it is an old radio system that COG is looking at replacing.
DeCapua said another $100,000 would be set aside in the first year of the TIP program for that purpose, bringing the total available for a new radio system to $175,000.
Bill Jones, COG transit manager, said a study of the radio system is being done and any changes would also affect the Mercer County Community Transit program run by COG.

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