BRTA re-introduces Rt. 7 bus service for use by students, community

As of late August, the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA) revitalized bus service on the Route 7 corridor after a period, some estimate to be around 10 years, of discontinuation due to lack of ridership. The Route 7 bus service aims to stimulate economic development and bring local college students into the community. This service will continue until the end of the school year, at which point BRTA will assess the possibility of continuation.

“The service has been brought back in pilot form due to interest expressed by leadership of the area colleges (Berkshire Community College, MCLA, the College), local schools (Mount Greylock Regional High School, Lanesborough Elementary School, Williamstown Elementary School), businesses (Stop & Shop, Wild Oats) and health care and other non-profit organizations (Sweetwood, Sweetbrook, Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, etc.),” said Paula Consolini, director of the Center for Learning in Action.

The Route 7 “express route” has six fixed stops beginning at the Stop & Shop in North Adams. It continues west on Route 2 through the College campus and then moves south on Route 7, where it continues to the Joseph Sclesi Intermodal Transportation Center on Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield. There are also 10 additional “call/tell” stops where riders can call a number to request service at locations such as the Spruces Mobile Home Park, Wild Oats, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and Mount Greylock Regional High School. The fare for community member is $1.70, and students ride for free.

However, this bus route does not simply follow the standards of its predecessors. For this route, there are new state-of-the-art buses with security cameras on the inside and outside. The Route 7 fleet is also the first set of BRTA buses to have WiFi. Riders can receive schedule information with their smartphones by scanning Quick Response (QR) codes on the interior and exterior of the bus.

These new technologies on BRTA’s revitalized Route 7 were displayed during a bus tour event last Friday for local officials and the press along the north portion of the route. Riders at this event included President Falk, State Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) and State Representative Gailanne Cariddi (D-North Adams), among other community members. The participants were able to try out the new QR codes and WiFi on the bus. After the tour was over, Falk spoke about the value of service and the partnership with the BRTA as did State Rep. Cariddi and Sen. Downing. The College contingent at the event included students Bill Zito ’16, Gabriella Kallas ’16, Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, and Jim Kolesar ’72, vice president for public affairs. Zito and Kallas are particularly involved in the project as they work with Brayton Tutoring, a student group that frequently uses BRTA services.

“We’re really pleased in the role this system is going to play in increasing connections with our students and the community,” Falk said at the event.

According to Consolini, the College hopes to make it easier for students, faculty and staff to get to work and volunteer opportunities along the Route 7 corridor by reopening this service. In terms of ridership, the College is “hoping that more students will use the service, especially during Winter Study, when they’ll have more flexible schedules,” Consolini said. “We hope that there’ll be an overall increase in ridership across North County. If there is, it will be possible for the BRTA to further expand service making it more convenient for all residents in the region to use public transportation.”

In addition to the new Route 7 service roughly every seven hours, there are two other pilot services running. The first is the Route 3 expansion service, an additional bus running at the bottom of the hour (11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) to increase service frequency began last fall. Secondly, the College has created a Friday evening shuttle, which is a roundtrip bus service from Williamstown to Walmart and the Berkshire Mall. The College has discontinued both its Friday and Saturday shopping shuttles in exchange for students’ free access to all of BRTA’s north county/central county routes.

“We expect to continue to work closely with the BRTA to monitor and improve this pilot and the others we have with the agency,” Consolini said. “Students have been instrumental in the development of all of the pilots. We are currently drafting students to help review and recommend ways to improve the quality and rate of use of the service.”