After more than 70 years in operation, Bieber Transportation Group of Kutztown suddenly closed operations without warning on Feb. 8, citing a rise in expenses and a decline in ridership.

Bus service shut down so suddenly that passengers were left stranded.

Cynthia McElrea took an afternoon Bieber bus from Kutztown to Sands Casino in Bethlehem on Feb. 8. There were 36 people on the bus.

“We left Kutztown half an hour late. I was told they had cancelled several of the morning bus runs that week. When it was time to leave the casino, I found out there wouldn’t be any bus coming for us,” said McElrea in a Facebook post to Berks-Mont Newspapers.

Some took a taxi back to Reading and Kutztown.

“Luckily a woman from Bowers called her daughter and son-in-law and they gave four of us a ride back to Kutztown,” said McElrea. “I was really upset at first, but I was so thankful for the offer of a ride back to Kutztown where my car was parked.”

The day before the closing, Christa Laudenslager purchased round trip tickets from Hellertown to NYC online. On Feb. 8, they took the 3:15 p.m. bus to NYC but did not have a ride back.

“Thank goodness for TransBridge,” she posted, noting that they were able to get a ride back on a very full bus. “But what about the money we are out? I know they must have known when they sold us the tickets, which is infuriating.”

Others had purchased tickets in advance, including Lauren DeTurk who now has tickets to NYC that she cannot use.

Kutztown University Radio advisor and manager Michael Regensburger planned to purchase tickets to NYC.

“My crew relied on Bieber every March to get my students to and from NYC for the annual Intercollegiate Broadcast Convention in midtown Manhattan,” said Regensburger. “I literally almost purchased 16 Bieber round trip tickets last week but got held up doing other things and was going to buy them this week. Talk about good luck. From the stories I'm hearing, we may have never gotten our money back. My students were all messaging me Friday night worried about how I was going to get them to NYC in just a few weeks. Fortunately it looks like Klein is saving the day and it's likely we'll use them.”

For others, using Bieber was part of their commute.

Tamu Ngina of Kutztown said that all three of her sons have relied on Bieber since 2013 to come back and forth from university.

“It was convenient to be right in town,” she said.

Bieber bus has strong ties to the Kutztown community and its history.

The company dates back to its founding as a trucking company in 1928 by Carl R. Bieber Sr.

“Carl R. Bieber started up as a truck company and excavating business,” said Kutztown Mayor Jim Schlegel. “Many homes and businesses had their cellars dug out by Carl R. Bieber Inc. including when my dad built the home I own today in 1948. Carl R Bieber trucking hauled a huge amount of crushed stone to build the North East extension of the PA Turnpike.”

The company expanded to include charter bus service in 1946. Carl J. Bieber Jr. took over the company in 1976. The company was sold to Steven Haddad in 2001.

“They were a charter and common carrier bus business up until the end on Feb. 8,” said Schlegel. “Many folks, including me and my family, took lots of chartered bus trips to many wonderful destinations.”

The closing of Bieber Tourways affects the Kutztown community beyond the loss of a mode of transportation.

“The loss of a great local transportation company is devastating to the local economy including the loss of taxes for not only the borough but also the school district,” said Schlegel. “It affects the convenience of getting to and from Kutztown via mass transportation. There was a time you could get to anywhere in the USA and Canada via buses, all you had to do was make the right connections in Reading and Allentown.”

Schelgel said the closing of Bieber is sad.

“It was a company that was started here in Kutztown by the Carl Bieber family many years ago and it was a staple here in Kutztown. I'm sure the original family is also saddened by this,” said Schlegel. “Many local folks have lost their employment and may have difficulty finding new work. I personally will miss seeing Bieber buses on the highways of America and I will miss taking the Bieber bus on charter excursions to places like Washington, D.C. or ball games in Philly and New York.”

Schlegel added, “That all being said, I welcome the Kline Transportation group to Kutztown, PA.”

In response to the need for bus service between Reading and New York City, Klein Transportation in Douglassville is partnering with OurBus to provide daily express bus service along the same route previously offered by Bieber.

Starting on Feb. 11, Klein Transportation and OurBus offered bus service from Douglassville, Reading, Kutztown, Wescosville and Hellertown to New York City. Tickets are available for purchase on OurBus.com or the OurBus App.

Klein Transportation, also known as Klein’s Bus Service, Inc. is, has been family owned and operated for more than 60 years.

Kutztown University announced that Klein Transportation also has partnered with KU on a new, on-campus pick-up location as part of Klein’s new weekday service to New York City. Daily express bus service includes stops in Douglassville, Reading, Kutztown, Wescosville and Hellertown, which began Feb. 11.

KU also announced that Clydesdale Bus Lines, based out of Reading, have partnered with KU offering daily bus service to Philadelphia, beginning on Feb. 18.

Clydesdale will run 15-passenger vans and will use the same schedule as Bieber did to Philadelphia, which includes weekdays, weekends and holidays. View the full schedule at https://clydesdalebus.com/LVPHIL.pdf.

Pickup and drop-off locations on-campus will be the same as Klein Transportation’s service to New York City – KU Parking Lot B3 (adjacent to Luckenbill Road, across street from rugby fields).

@facebook.com/northeastberksnews/

Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

comments powered by Disqus