LANCASTER, Pa. — Bill Horn takes a Red Rose Transit Authority bus to get from his home in Lancaster to his job at McDonald’s on Centerville Road, in the city’s western suburbs.
Getting there isn’t a problem.
Getting home is.
Horn, 61, says he sometimes has to wait an hour or two after his shift ends to catch the bus returning to Lancaster.
So he often waits.
Several weeks ago, though, Horn decided that instead of waiting for a city-bound bus after his shift ended, he’d ride it on its outbound loop to the western reaches of Lancaster County and circle back to his home in town.
“I was just tired and didn’t want to stand there in the sun and wait three hours,” Horn said Tuesday.
He said he asked the driver and was told it wasn’t a problem.
But when he tried it again later in August with a different driver, he said the driver told him in Marietta — that bus route’s destination — he had to pay the fare for going there.
The police were called.
Horn was charged with disorderly conduct on the spot and was later charged with theft of service. Both are summary offenses; the fines amount to nearly $300.
He intends to fight the case and disputes being disorderly.
He said he was told the bus has a “no riding around” policy, but disputes that’s what he was doing.
“If I was going to Marietta for some kind of business, I would gladly have paid the fare. But I wasn’t going to Marietta. I was tired. My feet hurt. I was going home,” he said.
David Kilmer, executive director of the South Central Transit Authority, which operates RRTA, said he can’t recall another rider making the same argument in his 25 years in public transit.
“If I make an exception for him, then I’ll be making a thousand exceptions, which puts the drivers in a bad spot,” Kilmer said Thursday.
Fares are based on routes and zones traveled, he said.
“I don’t know of any transportation company in the county that lets people do what he wants to do,” he said.
The way Kilmer sees it, Horn wants to travel through several zones to the bus’s destination, then travel through several more zones to another destination, for free, instead of paying the several dollars it costs to go through zones.
Kilmer said the driver who let Horn ride to Marietta the first time told Horn he’d have to pay in the future.
Horn was also critical of bus service to the areas, but Kilmer said routes are dependent on demand and budgets.
“We don’t have an endless pot of money to provide service,” he said.
Information from: LNP, http://lancasteronline.com