Although transit service has
existed in the Altoona area since 1882, buses didn't appear until June 29, 1923 when the
Logan Valley Bus Company (LVBC) was formed as a subsidiary of the Altoona & Logan
Valley Railway (A&LV) to server newly developed areas not currently served by the rail
operations. The A&LV was in receivership due to financial losses incurred due to the
The first buses consisted of
5 Garford and 2 Graham buses which ran on what was known as the Pleasant Valley line to
Hileman Heights. This line was instituted on July 9, 1923 and was followed on October 24,
1923 with 2 additional lines called the Third Ward line and the Fifth Ward line. December
23 of the same year saw the Juanita Gap line to Westwood Park start up as well.
By 1924, 6 additional coaches
had to be purchased to accommodate the expanding bus system. 3 more Garford buses were
added as well as 3 Reo buses. The Greenwood line was also added in 1924.
The LVBC, prior to the last
rail line being eliminated, had bus routes that ran jointly on the same routing or
supplemented the rail service as feeders. One such route that ran jointly was the Fairview
line. The PSC granted a certificate to the LVBC to operate buses on the Fairview line in
1928 while streetcars continued to run on the same line until 1940.
Many new routes were
implemented from the late 1920's through the 1950's but most of them didn't last long. The
routes that held on were the rail to bus conversions as well as some of the feeder lines.
The A&LV came out of
receivership in 1934 and capital improvements were based strictly on economy. This economy
minded thinking allowed for the purchase of the first Beaver Coaches produced for a
company other than the Beaver Valley Motor Coach Company. These buses were extremely
inexpensive and the A&LV as well as the subsidiary LVBC liked the bus. The LVBC
purchased 25 Beaver Coaches between 1924 and 1942. Rail improvements during this time were
not done due to the costs involved which resulted in 2 rail lines being converted to bus
operations in 1938.
The LVBC was awarded the
contract to carry school children for the Altoona public schools in 1940. Additional buses
were not needed for this service as the service was in off peak periods which allowed the
buses just sitting at the garage to be out earning additional income for the company.
Also in 1940, only 5 A&LV
rail lines remained while 10 LVBC bus lines were in operation. These rail lines were
planned to be converted to bus within the next few years and in fact, approval was granted
for the abandonment and subsequent bus replacement on the the Third and Second Avenue
lines but the ODT suspended that approval due to World War II. Also ordered was the
elimination of bus routes that largely duplicated existing rail service.
The war brought record level
passenger traffic to the A&LV and the LVBC due to the wartime gasoline restrictions as
well as having to haul workers to the PRR heavy maintenance facility. The highest
profitability of the parent A&LV was recorded in 1943 with shareholders in the company
receiving $5 per share dividends. The ODT also allocated the LVBC several Ford Transit
buses to handle the increased passenger loads.
Postwar saw the LVBC switch
from Beaver Coaches to GM transits. 3 GM Coaches arrived in 1947 of which 1 was a TDH3207
and 2 were TDH3610's. The LVBC eventually would purchase a total of 40 GM Coaches before
the end of its existence. The postwar years also saw a return to the joint rail-bus
The first postwar conversion
occurred on August 1, 1948 when the Second Avenue line was converted to bus operations.
This was made possible with the purchase of 15 TDH3610's, of which some were to replace
the older Beaver Coaches.
More conversions followed in
1949 when the Eighth Avenue-East Altoona Loop line as well as the Third Avenue line were
converted to bus. This left only the heavy hauling Hollidaysburg-East Junita line and the
Eldorado-East Altoona line left and those were also partially converted with buses running
the night service.
Between the years of 1946 and
1951, several fare increases took place to offset declining ridership. As with almost
every transit system in America, the automobile was starting to take its toll on the
LVBC. Urban sprawl also came early to the Altoona area which left ridership levels to drop
at dramatic rates.
The transit system became
somewhat dependent on the employees of the PRR shops and when the PRR shops were shut down
for the standard 2 week vacation in 1953, rail service also shut down for two weeks. This
also occurred in 1954 but the rail service was not restored after the PRR resumed
operations. This time, the A&LV applied to the PAPUC for permission to abandon the
remaining rail lines and replace them with buses. 10 new GM TDH3714's were purchased to
replace the rail lines. A ceremonial last streetcar run was made on August 7, 1954 which
then ended the era of streetcar service in the Altoona area.
1956 saw the first intent of
the A&LV, who was still the parent company to the LVBC, to want to close down all
operations. A petition of abandonment was filed with the PAPUC in December of 1956 citing
high operating losses due to the loss of patronage. The PAPUC denied the petition and
stated that each route had to be petitioned individually.
Besides the automobile and
urban sprawl, ridership losses occurred at the LVBC due to many of the PRR employees
forming car pools that in some cases turned to jitney style operations. Attempts at
stopping the jitney practice backfired on the LVBC as the PAPUC issued certificates of
operation to several of the operators based on the fact they served outlying areas,
carried only the PRR employees and ran only at certain times.
The A&LV announced that
it would discontinue operations on March 31, 1957, with or without PUC approval. This did
not occur but there were several city committees looking into various options to help the
company. This helped encourage the A&LV to continue on and even re-register
for the 1958 year although the PAPUC somewhat forced the issue.
An Altoona businessman,
Philip Handmaker, suggested the outrageous idea that the City of Altoona run the system
itself. At the time, this was unheard of in Pennsylvania even though it was totally normal
in many other states. This idea resulted in that on May 27, 1958, Altoona City Council
created Pennsylvania's first transit authority. They also persuaded the Commonwealth to
eliminate licensing fees from public transit authorities. which could save thousands of
dollars to the system. The registration fees incurred in 1958 for the LVBC were
approximately $7,000 for 41 buses.
The official authority name
that was created was the Transportation and Motor Buses for Public Use Authority and is
still used to this day although shorter acronyms have been used over the years. The
Township of Logan Valley joined in the authority in 1958 after it was formed.
The Altoona & Logan
Township Bus Authority, which was considered the trade name of the operation back then and
later renamed AMTRAN in 1977, assumed operations on November 1, 1959 after purchasing the
assets of the LVBC by a bond issuance direct to the A&LV. $300,000 for the company
assets and $100,000 for working capital was all that was needed for the first transit
authority in Pennsylvania to become a reality.