By Shelby Otto
As of Friday, Feb. 8, Bieber Tourways abruptly closed its doors, leaving employees unpaid, bus patrons stranded throughout regions of Pa. and N.Y. and with only a note as the explanation. While Kutztown has now lost its only form of public transportation, the university and borough community have shared their own experiences with the bus company, compiling a broader narrative of what they truly represented.
“We saw [the closure] coming, but we didn’t expect it to happen as soon as it did,” James Schlegel, Kutztown’s mayor, said. Additionally, he expressed concerns from an economic standpoint, claiming that the loss of taxation on employee income in regards to the community and the school district creates a huge financial loss within the borough.
Schlegel also stated that the closure inconveniences local churches and organizations because they are now left to find their own methods of transportation for trips.
While publications like “The Morning Call” and “The Reading Eagle” have spotlighted the impact the closure has on populations like New York City and Manhattan commuters, the buses were also chartered through local riders for recreational purposes.
KU alum Megan Carey said, “Being an art major, I had no Friday classes, so Thursday nights and Friday mornings I recall piling on the bus to go home with passengers that were going to the Sands Casino and some became familiar faces and, I’m assuming, regular patrons to the company.”
Some members of both the university and community, like Professor Denise Bosler, expressed concerns for both environmental and communal health. With Bieber’s track record of two bus fires and two wheel detachments, she “feared for [the physical safety] of the passengers on the way to New York.”
Bosler also described the leakage problems the buses suffered due to lack of maintenance; she recalled one particular time when an ill-maintained university shuttle bus ran on schedule, tracking fuel throughout the entire campus.
“While I’m sad that they closed down for the ridership, I am not sad to see them go from the neighborhood,” she said.
Other community members, such as Schlegel, shared little concern for the welfare of the town’s natural environment. However, Bosler and other residents of West Walnut St. have made their own kind of response, formulating a Facebook page entitled C.R.O.W.W., “Concerned Residents of West Walnut.”
“They were bad neighbors,” said Dr. Daniel Haxall, art and art history department chairman and West Walnut resident. “I had to go over to the station and complain a bunch of times for fumes and idling.”
In accordance with borough laws and codes, the company was cited for breaking several idling restrictions.
“Although we didn’t expect them to stop operating, they didn’t seem to follow the proper procedures and codes. So, from that vantage point, I’m not sorry to see them go.”
The C.R.O.W.W. page served as a voice for those residents who live right next to the Bieber bus station and have witnessed firsthand the physical and environmental safety hazards that have taken place there over the last several years.
Bosler continued, stating that her own kitchen often smelled like diesel fumes due to idling buses. She and others dealt with constant noise pollution, as the buses would be running for hours on end, and watched as clouds of vehicle exhaust loomed over top of their homes and families.
So while some expressed relief at seeing the station’s closure, students at the university described other problems their absence creates.
“It really is a shame because it sure brought in a lot of money for the town,” stated KU junior Samantha Miller. She said that KU’s marching unit would often use the transportation company to travel to away games, parades and other events. However, that was prior to the organization’s change in charter bus companies which occurred last semester.
Despite the potential benefits that come along with Bieber’s absence, many have also reminisced about trips taken through this particular charter company.
“It provided a great resource,” Haxall said. “I chartered buses from them all the time to do field trips to museums in Washington D.C. and New York City.” However, he and other professors are hopeful that new companies like Klein will take over and keep these routes open.
“Bieber was great at the time,” Bosler said. “It was like the heyday of buses, and there is still a civic need in this town.”
“It’s kind of sad to be privy to the deterioration of a company that used to be so seemingly immortal,” ESL instructor and former Kutztown inhabitant Elisa Beatrice said. “It was a part of our lives growing up.”