Chamber considers Stop Hopper letter of support, some elected officials disagree

Feb. 10—Rabbittransit is seeking grant funding to support its charitable organization rabbitcares.

The Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce is considering submitting a letter of support for the rabbitcares grant application to the 1994 Charles B. Degenstein Foundation.

Locally, the nonprofit runs Stop Hopper, a microtransit service offering on-demand transportation in Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties for only $2 per ride or free for seniors 65 and older.

Rabbitcares is seeking around $55,000 from the Degenstein Foundation to continue offering the service, according to Steve Herman, director of transportation at SEDA-COG. These funds would cover the local match required by state and federal grants that have already been secured, according to the chamber's drafted letter.

Within the letter, Chamber President and CEO Robert Garrett states he has heard testimony from local Community Action Agency professionals that the services provided by the Stop Hopper have proven essential for poor and underprivileged people in the Valley who would otherwise have no transportation to and from new-found jobs.

"From this already established microtransit service, we know that microtransit transportation is a mode that is embraced in our region," Garrett wrote.

The letter has not yet been submitted and Garrett presented the topic at the chamber's transportation meeting Friday to get opinions on it from attendees, he said.

Snyder County Commissioner Joe Kantz said he opposed the letter of support.

"This is just another program that is going to go after counties for something we are not responsible for and don't have the money to fund," Kantz said.

Samantha Pearson, healthy communities program manager for Pennsylvania Downtown Center, jumped in to remind meeting attendees of the number of Pennsylvanians who cannot drive.

"Even in rural Pa., 25 to 30 percent of the population cannot drive," Pearson said. "They may have a disability or too old to drive safely."

Kantz clarified he did not mean he was against the standard Rabbittransit transportation system, but was solely talking about the new Stop Hopper program.

No definite action was taken at the meeting on submitting the letter.

In September 2023, Rabbittransit Executive Director Richard Farr presented the same transportation committee with data following the Stop Hopper's pilot year.

Farr said the program made a total of 22,000 trips throughout its first year.

"At the end of the first year, we are at the numbers we expected to see at the end of year three," Farr said. "It has grown faster than we thought it would."