As students prepared to head home from Penn State prior to Thanksgiving Break, Nittany Express Inc. launched a new program to make the departure process easier on students and parents.
This semester still posed the same travel problems, as well as new ones due to the coronavirus pandemic, to those students who require air travel to make their journey home.
In a socially distanced opening ceremony on Nov. 17, Nittany Express unveiled a two-year long project to streamline its transportation services to the State College area. Now operational are an expansive parking lot and shuttle service to the State College Airport, in addition to the regular transportation services offered.
Currently, Nittany Express primarily serves the Penn State student body, offering transportation services to and from the local airport and other hubs. However, according to Jalelah Sophia, vice president of operations for the company, the new initiatives are designed to broaden the scope of customers.
Another addition to the Nittany Express’s capabilities are online tools that will allow users a more streamlined process of booking and checking trip availability, Sophia said. Users are able to download the mobile app, Nittany Express Ride, or use its website to see costs and scheduled trips.
Perhaps the most important thing for customers, Sophia said, is the cost. Nittany Express charges a flat rate per mile, rather than fluctuating its prices based upon demand. Furthermore, all of Nittany Express’s vehicles are insured and its drivers are certified, making using its services a safe and cost efficient decision, Sophia said.
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For Dean Ranlof and Anna Frankhouse, the Nittany Express’s additions to luggage and shuttle services would have eased the stress of commuting home and to other Pennsylvania transportation hubs.
Ranlof (freshman-risk management) saw the benefit in having Nittany Express providing shuttle service, “especially to other hubs like Harrisburg and Philadelphia, where other methods can be either very costly or now unsafe because of [the coronavirus pandemic].”
Meanwhile, Anna Frankhouse (freshman-division of undergraduate studies), had to get home to Portland, Oregon, over the break, and would “definitely have benefitted from the hassle-free set of systems that Nittany Express can provide,” and “will really look into using them when she returns for the spring semester.”
In addition to the shuttle and ride services, Nittany Express also launched a body shop, run by auto engineers, for those who leave their car with the company on trips. Customers can request oil changes and routine check-ups from the shop.
Similar to many small businesses, Nittany Express has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as it had to close all business until early June and then slowly reopen.
But as small businesses closed around it, especially transportation services, the family-run Nittany Express felt that it had an obligation to both State College residents and those who have made the company’s goal a reality, Sophia said.
Over summer, amid a lull in coronavirus cases, Nittany Express was able to reopen by slowly hiring workers back, maintaining a strict ritual of cleaning its vehicles rigorously and enforcing mask-wearing, according to Sophia.
At this point, no workers at Nittany Express have tested positive for coronavirus, and the company maintains the rigid protocols put in place over the summer. In addition to protecting its workers, the company has expanded its system of protecting customers.